Marriage, What Is It Good For?
Alright, I am fresh off some very interesting conversations… actually I did more “mmmhmmming” and “uhhh huhing” than talking. I just listened. Also, after listening to the news today, I heard the statistic that one in four New Yorkers (New York City, that is) has herpes. That is roughly TWO MILLION PEOPLE in a city of over eight million. Personally, that is not a shock. Most other New Yorkers agree that it is not shocking. Others have been shocked. I bring this up with good reason, which will make sense further along in the column. The more disturbing part of that statistic is that some of the very people who react with shock and awe have the disease themselves (since 90% of the people who carry the virus don’t even know they have it).
Nevertheless, the subject of the conversations was always marriage and how it is more insignificant now more than ever.
The prevailing sentiment these days seems to be that marriage is just a piece of paper; that it does not measure one’s commitment to the other person in the marriage and vice-versa. Technically speaking, this is true. In practice, of course it is now. Nevertheless, within the context of the conversations, this statement is often made as an excuse to forego marriage (often to continue a lifestyle of fornication and aloof non-commitment).
This bothers me for obvious reasons.
First of all, people are always quick to tout these statistics that are often bandied about by people who already abhor everything (they believe) marriage stands for. Why anyone in their right mind would forego a loving relationship and the security that comes with it for all the uncertainties that go with a non-committed relationship is beyond me. What good is sex if its meaning doesn’t go farther than the physical? Why risk impregnating/being impregnated by someone who might very well not be there tomorrow? Why risk all the diseases that come with such encounters? And the most fascinating aspect of it all is the fact that many women (especially) enter into such relationships looking for security and certainties, when such a relationship is the antithesis of it all. It makes no sense. We have heard about all the misgivings and malfeasances that men have committed toward women over the years. There is no need to rehash that. Two bad deeds do not undo the first.
But to me, I’d rather be part of the solution than continuing throwing fuel on the fire. If marriages are failing at a rate of 50%, then be committed to be the one that it doesn’t happen to by entering into a relationship soberly and with proper motives.
Yeah, yeah I know. That’s just me. I’m different. Sure. However, that principle can be applied to all aspects of life: be part of the solution, not continuing to propagate the problem.
The bottom line with this subject — beyond the fact that we have hit the absolute nadir of marriage in America — is there are two prime reasons people are misguided on this issue.
1. Knowing God through Christ; and hence, knowing what love is and how to love.
2. People are more “me-first” now than ever.
How can someone know love when they don’t know the God of love? If you do not know Christ, you can’t know God, and you can’t know love in its purest form. Why then, do so many people build a foundation of marriage on basically sinking sand? One or both people involved either doesn’t know God, or does and refuses to exhibit the love He’s shown them in their lives.
People ignore what God’s Word says more than ever also. Sound teaching is something that is lost on most professed Christians (no offense to non-Christians), so how can you can be set apart from others when the very thing you should be framing your life around (the Word of God in the Bible) is non-existent in your life? Does that not explain some of the divorces we have all witnessed? Yes, finances, travel, infidelity and the other usual suspects are the straws that break the camel’s back, but they are all the products of reason #2 preceding the former paragraph.
Also, a healthy fear of God is more prevalent today as well. People generally weigh their options — doing whatever they please and let the pieces fall where they may — or recognizing what God says about it and acting accordingly. Of course, we are not perfect, and God knows that; He does not expect us to be. Indeed, He gives us the grace to repent if we confess our sins and are contrite. But as the apostle Paul stated in the Bible, “shall we abuse this grace and continue to sin (knowing God will forgive us)? May it never be!”
I recently had a guy try (I’m sorry, aside from anointed teachers and people who God sends to give me a Word, regardless of who they are and their stature — I am not going to listen to some 22-year old knucklehead!) to tell me that I “need experience” (i.e. fornicating recklessly with women). I rolled my head and eyes because I’ve had other peers try to take me down that road. He goes on to ask me a laughably pseudo-theological question, “what is the only sin that God does not forgive?” I answered accordingly (blaspheming/rejecting the Holy Spirit). He says, “Exactly”. As if that justifies doing whatever we please, and then halfheartedly asking God for forgiveness later. I could not believe someone who knows who I am and what I am about would stand there and seriously try to have this conversation with me. My knowledge and wit (filled with double and triple entendres) would run laps around most. It was at that point where this column’ format was hatched.
I bring this scenario up to say this: the very mindset that was exhibited in that exchange is the same one that gets many people in trouble. We all have our lulls where we feel we can do whatever we please, even talk ourselves into justifying it — then going to God and talking halfhearted repentance (which is not true repentance after all). What is this??? Yes, God forgives, but we are not to abuse His grace, either.
Along with this are all the more superficial reasons people divorce: financial disputes, infidelity, lack of quality time spent together and just a general lack of trust and honesty. Again, these all can be traced to the self-serving generation of today which tends to look out for one’s own self first and foremost; then others by default, if at all. Take a look at people who have been married 40, 50, 60 years. Their ability to forgive, to want to serve their spouse rather than their own selfish desires and communicating effectively — these all stave off the divorce bug.
No relationship is easy, but the alternative to a God-ordained marriage? What? Fornication? Promiscuity? Adultery? Is the grass truly greener when you have people with sexually-transmitted diseases (some of whom do not even know they have it, some others know it and keep it to themselves), more transgender people than ever (no offense to those who are) and a boatload of other pitfalls?
I once heard Bishop T.D. Jakes state the parameters of the 80/20 principle. Loosely paraphrased, it states that you should be satisfied and happy to get 80% of what you want in a mate, because if you had the other 20% (which technically isn’t possible, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say it is) you would make an idol out of them and smother them to death. This was many years ago. I heard it again in Tyler Perry’s movie “Why Did I Get Married?” It is a viable principle to live by, because so many people are looking for this perfect person to come into their lives and “complete” them (somehow). Men sometimes find themselves succumbing to lust (which can mostly be traced to their desire to find this 20% physical quality that their wives do not possess) and women often spend years waiting on Prince Charming (who in his classic form in the fantasy realm is not humanly existent), turning down men who are 80% of what they want/need along the way.
The ones who have the 80% sometimes find themselves stepping out trying to get that 20% from someone else (grass is greener?). It never works and it’s never worth it; especially if you have a great relationship with the person with the 80%. What if more people subscribed to this line of thinking? Hmmm.
Just something to think about.
It is interesting to note that most people have enough discernment to know a quality person very quickly, but few readily commit to building something with them. Either they try to strike it down (more so women doing this than men, because the statistics show there are fewer available “good” men than “good” women — so their belief is “he must be too good to be true, so I’m going to try to poke and prod and as soon as I find the first flaw, I’ll have my ‘aha’ moment!”) or they pass on the person and resort to the grass-is-greener line of thinking (which is what men do more than anything else — knowing the converse is true; there are more available women and to most men, that means there is more for the taking — not thinking that they have more candidates from which to choose to commit to and remain with for life.
I’m definitely not pointing fingers at any one group or gender or ethnicity, all have their drawbacks. No one is perfect. But my one exhortation, regardless of what you have experienced with marriage — if it is a part of your religious faith (and there aren’t many whose belief doesn’t put marriage and family at its center) then why do away with this sacred institution?
Finally, if you have a good man or woman in your life and you know that you know that you KNOW it is right, don’t bail on them or pass, thinking they’ll always be there — there are plenty of people who have done that, and lived to regret it — thinking the grass is indeed greener on the other side.
It never is.