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I’m not sure if I really should say anything on marriage. I have a good marriage, but I’ve seen failed marriages (including in my own past, to be honest) and sometimes I wonder: What went wrong there? How did they get off the rails so fast?

Nicholas and I were talking about romance the other day. We are not romantic people. There’s no need for weekend getaways, or champagne and roses, or even greeting cards in our relationship. There was a time we might have thought “That sounds great!” if someone talked about such things, but now we’re both very practical and down-to-earth.

I see two major problems in most marriages, Christian and otherwise. One is that most people have huge expectations about the material side of adulthood and marriage. They want the moon.  They want the lifestyle they see on television and in the magazines. They may say they don’t, but secretly they do, because they shop, and shop, and shop. Maybe they can’t afford Rodeo Drive, but they wish they could. They start with the over the top wedding (the kind that drives clergy crazy) and then they expect it’s going to be “Bride” magazine from now on. Honeymoon in Hawaii, first home in a nice part of town, furniture, electronics, and so on. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, and pretty soon they don’t have enough money. Husband takes a second job. Wife works overtime, then takes a retail job weekends. They never see each other. The money flies out the door to pay bills and to keep up the consuming lifestyle. (I mean the irony in that phrase.) They don’t work to support themselves, they work to support their debt, and it’s a cuckoo in the nest, pushing everything else out and eating its head off. This marriage will fail. Even if they stick together, it soon fails internally, because they were not serving God. They were serving the world and its master, Satan. The love God intended between two people in marriage is lost very quickly, if it ever was there. The next step is almost always an affair by one party or the other, with the excuse that they “feel unloved.”  That’s because possessions can’t love anyone, and all the “love” is love for the world, nothing but desire and passions.

Often the materialistic marriage ends in poor health, as well, as the worry and physical stress of trying to keep it all together causes illness.

Immaturity is a leading cause of marital failure. One partner (sometimes both) expect the other to be a substitute parent, and probably not a responsible parent, but the parent who spoils and expects nothing from the child.  Husband and wives are equally guilty of this. Some people marry so as to have no responsibilities, not to take on the unique set of responsibilities of marriage and family. The symptoms are expressed as competitiveness (“if you can have one, so can I”), secrecy (just like little kids sneaking cookies from the kitchen), and contempt, as the immature adult who doesn’t get his or her way belittles the other partner. Immature relationships are marked by fights and tantrums, as the partners try to assert control. Many “romantic”‘ relationships are just immature partnerships. The partners appease and bribe, demand and take, and what looks like a constant round of “we’re in love” events are just payoffs.

Nicholas put it this way: Modern people aren’t looking for good partners in life. They look for a pretty face, a nice figure, and  a good income. They look for romance and excitement and sex. They aren’t looking for the attributes that carry one through a long life: Maturity, ability, intelligence, temperment. No one seems to care if the wife can cook, the husband can work, or that either of them has one clue about raising kids.

Life is not going to get easier in the next years. Even those who aren’t end-time prophets can see the changes in the weather, figuratively and literally. The world is a mess. And many people are ill-equipped to deal with it. When they lose the job, the house, and the car, when they can’t go on vacations or buy the latest plasma screen tv, they will fall apart. There’s no depth of strength in many people, and they can’t support themselves and their families emotionally when the hard times come. They can’t support their families at all, because they don’t know how to grow food or bake bread or care for chickens. They don’t have a grasp of the basics, spiritually or otherwise.

Christian marriage is about trust. It’s about trusting God first, that is, true belief that God will not fail us, even if death overtakes us. True marriage doesn’t give up. True marriage is a mutual gift. It is irrevocable. Marriages that fail may not have been true marriages in the first place. Christians, when they marry, must expect that it will be until death parts them, even if the road is rough and it’s not much fun all the time. God intends marriages to last a lifetime.

True marriage is honest, totally honest. Nothing hurts a marriage more than secrets. Some learn this the hard way, by weakening the trust between husband and wife by keeping back something. It could be major (past illness or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy when young) or it could seem minor (an unpaid bill, a dented car) but secrets will take on a life of their own and haunt the secret keeper. It’s possible to rise above that kind of harm, but it will take time and understanding, and not everyone has that kind of strength all the time.

A Christian marriage is Christian love, charity at heart, and self-sacrificing. It is the ultimate traditional marriage, for some of our patterns for marriage go back to the early days of humanity captured in Genesis. Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekka: these are our models for marriage. Above  that, we have the model of Christ and the Church, His Bride, for whom He gave His life, and it is for Him that the Church lives.

What excuse can a Christian—a servant of Christ—give for wearing ornaments? Does one wear ornaments and superfluities to please God? If we are living to self, ornaments are understandable, but we cannot serve two masters: if self is on the throne, Christ is not. Why dost thou wear that ring or that necktie, young man, or why those earrings and painted lips, young woman? Please answer the question to thyself in all soberness. What necessity does a Christian have to follow the styles? College and high school students are not shamed to show to what school they belong. Are we ashamed to acknowledge ourselves the followers of Christ? Oh, but we must not be conspicuous, some will say. We cannot let our light shine and remain inconspicuous. We are to be witnesses for Christ, and it is the devil’s doctrine that we must be inconspicuous and must keep still and not speak up for Christ and only show by our lives where we stand. The followers of Christ do not belong to the world—Jesus said so himself: then why would we try to look like the world? Some say the outside does not matter, but both Paul and Peter thought otherwise, and admonished Christian women of their day against the wearing of gold and pearls and costly array. Some people don’t know that these words of caution are in the Bible (I Tim. 2:9 and I Peter 3:3). 

from Kenneth Morse, borrowed from Quaker Jane. Please follow the link to the left under Blogroll to see more excellent Quaker material, old and modern.

Life seems to be in something of a holding pattern lately. We go about the usual things, we have our routine, which is occasionally interrupted, and in many ways we are at peace with our life. We’ve had our struggles and those dark days of heartache and longing and tears (strangely, in restrospect many of those weren’t grief but willfulness) even recently, but mostly we’re on an even keel. All right so far!

And tomorrow has to worry about itself…so we try not to be anxious and we try to place everything on God. But we know we are not surging ahead into wonderful new endeavours and if we didn’t have each other, (Thank God for that!) we would be pretty lonely and blue.

Shall we say we’ve had worse times in our lives? Of course – illness and bereavement and extreme poverty; we have a roof over our heads for now and food in the cupboard and we are mostly reconciled with those around us. It might be that we could get a little complacent in all this. It’s not wealth, although we have spiritual riches, as St. Peter said in his first letter to Asia Minor, riches that others brought to us, the apostles and martyrs and followers of Christ through the past. “Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.” (I Peter 1:12.)

This time in between the calls to action, between the great spiritual battles is this time: “Your minds, then, must be sober and ready for action; put all your hope in the grace brought to you by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Do not allow yourselves to be shaped by the passions of your old ignorance, but as obedient children, be yourselves holy in all your activity, after the model of the Holy One who calls us, since scripture says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you address as Father him who judges without favouritism according to each individual’s deeds, live out the time of your exile here in reverent awe.” (I Peter 1:13-17.)

Reverent awe! This is a great gift of the Holy Spirit, that we would be given a glimpse of what is worthy of reverent awe.

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