Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Cannot Marry the Right Person

Stanely Hauerwas, a Duke Ethics professor, infamously said,
Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.
No groom in their right mind would ever propose to his bride to be in this manner.  I can't imagine sitting on the beach with my wife almost 13 years ago and saying, "Look, I know you aren't the right person.  Well, no one is.  And since no one is the right person for me, I have decided that I would like to marry you."  I am pretty sure my life would have turned out differently if I had ventured off into that territory.  The truth is that when I asked my incredible bride to marry me on that beach I knew that she was the one for me.  I couldn't wait to start our life together.  But the professor is right.  Marriage teaches you in time that Stanely understands human nature.  No one can marry the right person--at least not defined by our definition.

One you put two human beings together in the closeness and intimacy of marriage, good and bad things are bound to happen.  I had no idea who I was marrying on June 10, 2000.  Laura had no idea who she was marrying.  If it is possible I had my best foot forward on June 10.  I thought Laura had pulled out all the stops on our first date--but this was different.  She was stunning.  Her dress.  Her hair.  Her body.  Her glow.  She was an angel indeed.  Our life was playing out with a soundtrack and a live studio audience.  And yet, we were strangers.  We are all strangers on our wedding day.  Even those who think that living together somehow makes them familiar bedfellows.  It's a lie.  Satan is the master of lies after all.  Marriage changes everything.

What happens is that marriage reveals who you are and what you are.  I recently heard a pastor speak about a spouse as an irritant.  He didn't mean it in the way that you might think.  He compared a spouse to a grain of sand.  A grain of sand in our eye produces tears and frustration.  A grain of sand in an oyster produces a pearl. The sand brings out the natural properties of the oyster and the eye.  The sun melts butter and yet it hardens clay.  It is the same sun that brings out different properties in butter and clay.  A spouse in the context of marriage brings out the person that we actually are.  We don't change so much as we are revealed.

Marriage truly is learning to love the stranger that you married.  You can't remain strangers forever.  The best marriages are those that are intimate on every level--sexual, emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritually.  If you want intimacy you have to let the stranger in.  On our wedding day I eventually had to take the tuxedo off.  Laura's wedding gown had to be hung up in the closet.  Eventually we couldn't hide any longer.  Strangers had to become great friends.  Great friends became an intimate husband and wife.

I didn't marry the right person.  I am not the right person for Laura.  Why?  Because we live in a fallen and broken world with fallen and broken people.  I can't begin to guess the depth of sin in my heart.  But I also can't begin to guess the depth of God's grace that covers a multitude of sin.  Diving into God's grace is what draws Laura and I together.  God's grace allows two strangers to remove the masks, the makeup, the wedding clothes, and everything else that we try to hide behind.  There is no shame behind the mask because we know our sin has been paid for.  We both strive to live in a Gospel centered marriage.  We are never able to hold a grudge or our rights over the other when we look through the lens of the Gospel.  Jesus paid for the garbage that I have brought into the relationship.  Jesus paid for my pride and sin.  If I can be forgiven I can certainly forgive my wife.  Jesus makes the wrong person right.

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