One of the places the church needs to take a role in our culture is in holding up a positive example of commitment to the covenant of marriage. Marriage isn’t only about your happiness, although in the wedding I just officiated last weekend on a farm near Spencer, IA, I affirmed that God created marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind as a part of our Presbyterian liturgy.
Debra Fileta in her book Choosing Marriage shared a story about her fiancé who was a medical school student at the time and needed to save up enough money to buy an engagement ring. He made the choice and commitment to show his love through a bologna sandwich. Well, it was actually through a whole bunch of bologna sandwiches, as he ate them every day for two months in order to cut his grocery budget down to ten dollars a week so he could save up enough money for an engagement ring.
When I hear this kind of a story, it gives me confidence that this is a couple that will carry through with the kind of commitment it takes to build a strong relationship that can last a lifetime. The truth is that marriage has a cost and it is important to be willing to pay the price from the very beginning and continue to do so over the years to come.
When you think of the cost of marriage, what comes to mind?
I did a little checking, and while I find it very hard to believe, the average wedding in the U.S. in 2016 was $36,329! Here in Iowa $16,000 seems to be kind of an average number, although I think it has to be lower in our area. Now, that’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the REAL cost of marriage. Because like it or not, marriage will cost you MORE. It will require a price much higher than the money you spend on a ring or a wedding ceremony or a honeymoon.
If your marriage is going to flourish, it will cost you how you think about your life, and how you think about yourself.
I heard someone on a TV show talking about whether or not he was going to stay in his marriage. The line the writer had given him was, “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy…” and it just hurt inside to hear that kind of seed being planted in the hearts and minds of everyone who was watching the program. One reason that is such a big problem is that, unfortunately, it is a rather accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in. Many people believe that their main goal in life is their own personal happiness. What an unfulfilling way that is to live. If you’re getting married with making yourself happy as your main goal, you will be greatly disappointed, and that disappointment will likely come very quickly.
Marriage is not really about your happiness, it is self-centered to think of it as being about you. It’s about love, which we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, and forgiving, and then continuing to live out those attitudes over and over again even as Jesus encourages us to forgive “seventy times seven times” in Mt. 18:22. In other words, we are to continue to do so without limit.
No wonder so many choose divorce over commitment…because most of the time, we’re choosing personal happiness over real commitment – over real love.
Marriage can teach you a great deal about selflessness, because at the heart of it, real love, the kind of love God has for us, is all about sacrifice. It is about giving of yourself in ways big and small. That’s what marriage will cost you. It’s about offering forgiveness when you yourself have been hurt. It is investing your time especially when it is inconvenient. Maybe it means cleaning the bathroom or continually cleaning up a messy kitchen, while you might feel that others in the family are making the messes. It means choosing to respond with kind words when you feel like snapping back in frustration. It means offering a listening ear and focusing your attention, when you’d rather watch what is happening in the ball game or TV show, or just feel a desperate need to go to sleep. It means putting an other’s needs and desires before your own, or sharing your favorite dessert or last bit of your favorite candy, just so your spouse can enjoy it. It means that you don’t focus on your own rights, but you make the effort to be sure you don’t step on the rights of others. The list could go on and on, but it is all about putting WE before ME.
That sounds a lot like our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It sounds a lot like our connection in the church at large and especially our local church family. It is More about WE and less about me. The more we give, the better we become. Real love is not self-seeking, and will always cost you. Jesus was willing to lay down His life for ours. That is our example to follow as encouraged in Ephesians 5:1-2, 22-33 (please read it, the whole chapter is important to encourage us in our relationships). May God grant us the desire and courage to put in the time and effort in our daily lives, and I trust that God will add blessings beyond what we could imagine.