For the last few weeks, I have taken an involuntary hiatus from Religion and Story. This break is the result of a wedding, a honeymoon, a new house and a new city, and some devastating news—both regarding friends and family. It has been a challenging few weeks; I feel tired and, if it wasn’t for my new wife, I’m sure I’d feel a little sad as well.
As my life changes and my peace is shaken, I have sought out constants—purpose and goals to ground me—and have found rest in the meaning of marriage. I remind myself of what marriage is designed to do, and this knowledge gives me something to work for and to appreciate in my own marriage.
Alas, I think this meaning is not widely known. The meaning of marriage is often lost or muddled against the many other benefits of the institution. Sometimes we claim that marriage is designed to fulfill one another; other times we claim it is suppose to make each other better or help each other as we strive toward God; for some it a manifestation of love for another; and for a few it serves the practical purpose of reproducing.
All of those are true, and they are all virtues of marriage. But, they are not the ultimate meaning of marriage. It’s meaning is found in what it was originally designed to do. In Genesis 2, when the institution is first founded, it is created in response to the problem of loneliness. “It is not good that the man should be alone,” God says. Our Lord is aware of the pain inherent in existence outside of him and, in his grace, has given us marriage, the opportunity to bond with another individual and to subdue loneliness. In Eden, he saw the problem, and he gave a gentle solution.
Now some might say that the conquering of loneliness cannot be the ultimate purpose of marriage, because that is what God does—in the Lord, we find our identity and experience true relationship. And while that is true, it is obvious that God recognizes that his creation needs physical and tangible relationships in the now (something that is hinted at in 1 Corinthians 7).
This knowledge allows us some comfort regarding marriages between those we wish would not join. While we cannot have the same joy as we do for those who join together with the same purpose—to glorify God—we can celebrate in the joining of nonbelievers or same-sex couples because the root of marriage is being experienced—the universal evil of loneliness is being expelled.
Remembering that the institution of marriage is a God-given gift to battle loneliness spurs me on to strengthen my relationship with my wife and to offer her a rewarding relationship. It also helps me in recognizing what marriage is doing in my life.