I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I am sort of a marriage … fanatic?Â I’m a big believer in the sanctity of marriage.Â But like Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what you think it means, and that causes a lot of confusion.Â
Here’s a short list of marriage-related issues that I don’t get upset about:
- Gay and Lesbian Marriage or Civil Unions
- Movies and television shows that depict infidelity
- I’m pretty sure there’s more, but those two are enough for a decent discussion.
Here’s the thing.Â I think marriage is sacred.Â Yes, I do.Â I think it was created by God as our intended way of getting through life together.Â I think marital fidelity is a critically important issue, and that the lack thereof is a cancer that is destroying families and individuals from within.
Marriage is what it is; a sacred unbroken covenant between two people.Â I can call my Chevy a Honda; but I can’t get Honda to pay the warranty if it breaks down.Â I can call the tree in my front yard Joe Bob, but it won’t answer me when I call.Â God created marriage, gave it a name and certain characteristics.Â If people want to call something that isn’t what God made marriage, it doesn’t really change the real thing that God made.
God made, for lack of a better term, real things.Â He made trees and water and wonder and imagination and kindness and compassion.Â These are all real things.Â Genuine, pure things.Â People make “brands.”Â We make intellectual constructs.Â We make idols.Â
The problems often come when we try to pretend that the things we make as a representation of the real thing God made is the real thing in substance and fact.Â The legal construct of marriage is not the same thing as the marriage God made, any more than the burrito you get at Taco Bell is the same thing as a real burrito from some Mama’s kitchen in Guadelajara.Â I think people understand this whether they can articulate it or not.Â
Real marriage is leaving your family of origin, including all their assorted baggage, behind.Â Even though it’s not comfortable.Â Even though you think there might be some stuff in that baggage that you need.Â You leave it behind.Â
Real marriage is forsaking all others.Â Forsaking fantasizing about the model in the magazine.Â Forsaking daydreaming about the hero in your romance novel or on your favorite soap.Â Forsaking even thinking “If I wasn’t married to Joe Bob,” or Sue… and any trains of thought that hitch up to that engine.Â
Real marriage is making the decision, every single day, to be married.Â Whether you like it or not.Â
I don’t get upset if a gay couple wants to call their relationship a marriage.Â To me, that says they see something in the God-spawned institution of marriage that’s worth having.Â Maybe they’ll follow that line of thinking to good places.Â I don’t think they’re expecting spiritual blessings from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Â Or maybe they are; I think if they desire those blessings, that’s automatically a good thing that leads good places.Â I think maybe they’d like decent insurance coverage.Â Can’t really blame them on that one; it’s hard to come by these days.Â
I don’t get upset when I see shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives or House, where infidelity has played a prominent role in the plotline.Â Let’s be real here; infidelity happens.Â More than it should.Â More than people who haven’t experienced it want to know.Â Does television portray it in an unrealistic and glamorous way? Yup.Â They do the same thing with cleaning the toilet, or haven’t you ever seen a Clorox Toilet Wand commercial?Â (They can’t even be honest enough to call it a toilet brush or scrubber.Â It’s a “wand.”Â Oooohh.Â Ahhhhh. Magical.)Â
Anyone with half a brain understands that reality is generally much less fun and glamorous than television.Â I prefer not to watch when shows portray infidelity in a romanticised light.Â I find there is a miraculous device called a remote that enables me to avoid those shows.Â I also understand that taking infidelity off television would do nothing to remove it from the real world.
Do I believe as Christians we need to stand up for marriage? Absolutely, positively, without question.Â Every time you publicly praise and encourage your spouse, you stand up for marriage.Â Every time you refuse to badmouth them when they’re not in the room, while the rest of the guys or girls are complaining about “the old ball and chain,” you stand up for marriage.Â Modeling and living real marriage is the only thing that people who don’t believe in it will ever hear.Â
Let me say that again: living a real marriage is the only thing that can show people what it is, and isn’t.Â Shouting, protesting, irate blogging and legislature are remarkably ineffective ways to change someone’s beliefs.Â It’s no more convincing to people who don’t believe marriage is sacred than the Toilet Wand commercial is convincing me that I will someday enjoy brushing and flushing.Â
I think people want a little voodoo doll they can hold and feel in control.Â They think if they can define marriage and make everybody else agree to that definition, it somehow protects them from marriage-gone-wrong.Â Like we can legislate enough to make people stop cheating.Â Or stop being homosexual.Â Or heck, put the seat down.Â But the U.S. Congress can’t make God’s real marriage any less real or meaningful, because it can’t make it any more real or meaningful, either.Â They’re not the same thing.Â The only thing that can guarantee me a real marriage is for Chris and I to decide, every day, to be really married.Â To incarnate God’s creation of marriage in the real world.Â
Another thing about real stuff.Â Real stuff changes people; their minds, their hearts, and their beliefs.Â Sometimes, even their actions.Â