Our last question is a doozy:
What's the purpose of marriage?
The purpose of marriage being one, some questions are too big to have one answer. I think that’s a life-giving lesson for theologians like us who are trained to think with unforgiving precision. Don’t think I’m shacking up with relativists. I’m sure there is absolute truth somehow. But I do think some questions have a few good, small answers.
The purpose of marriage is learning to take it slow.
I don’t know if it’s true of every human, but it seems everybody I know is in a closet affair with new things. I heard recently that evolution rewards our pursuit of novelty with dopamine washes. Something to do with hunting for new food or avoiding being hunted by predators, I guess. It’s why we can’t step away from the blue light, scouring our phones for new facts, new updates, new headlines, and new validations.
Marriage isn’t very distinct, and it certainly isn’t new. It binds you up with one body and destines you to numbing familiarity. Sure enough, it’ll leave you searching for novelty now and again. There is nothing wrong with newness. It is, in fact, at the very heart of our Christian hope. But just as that hope affirms that the world is good and it will actually play host to redemption, so marriage affirms that this singular person, this singular covenant relationship is very good and it, too, plays host to unexpected intimacy, infinite beauty, and redemption’s work. Neither need be crumpled up and thrown in the trash in favor of something unblemished.
Marriage is the penultimate slow game. Next to the redemption of all things, there is nothing that experiences more birth pains, nothing that grows slower, nothing that requires more slogging work, nothing that pleads for more prayer, and nothing easier to abandon for the new and different thing. Next to the redemption of all things, there is nothing whose fruit far outweighs the labor that grew it. The grander the hope, the longer you must be willing to labor for it. It offends my fast-food sensibilities, too.
Marriage teaches you to play it slow. You don’t wake up from your conflict nightmares with a finger’s snap, and you suck at listening until you realize you actually suck and put in hours trying to get better. If you’re stuck, chances are it took months getting there and it’ll take months getting you out. At its best, marriage lifts you toward gratitude; at its worst, it drives you to prayer.
There is no better training in redemption.
photo: chillin' with the fam. on a side note, is it OK if my only photo poses are smile, duck face, and finger mustache?