September 19, 2014

iMonk: “Marriage = Running Wounded”

The Marriage at Cana, Vos

The Marriage at Cana, Vos

From Michael Spencer’s classic post, On Running Wounded

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Ask anyone who is married. We really are running wounded, and sometimes nothing seems more ridiculous than the proposition that we can really bring about more good than harm, or experience more love than suffering in this vulnerable relation called marriage. The reality is written in marriages every day. We celebrate their inauguration, milestones and perseverance, but who has not marveled, as you sat at an anniversary gathering, what it took to get there? What terrible price was paid to stay together? I’ve watched a spouse walk out of a hospital room after seeing their partner of fifty plus years pass on, and I wondered, how could they find the love and grace to make it this far?

We just seem too wounded for such a long run.

I’m not a pessimist about marriage in particular. I am a Biblical realist about human nature. C.S. Lewis said the story of history was like a machine built to run on one kind of fuel, but forced to use another. It runs, maybe even well, for a while. Then, it “conks.” So the highest human aspirations to love, selflessness and faithfulness seem to run well for a while, then sputter and conk. In some cases, the marriage ends, in other cases it survives in a sort of cold truce. In some instances it evolves into something truly terrible, wreaking havoc and harvesting pain for generations.

And yet, despite our fallenness, smallness, arrogance and stupidity, there are marriages that truly resemble the glory that must have existed between Adam and Eve. There are, in most marriages, glimpses of heaven, hell, and both sides of Eden. In some marriages, the glimpses of Eden prevail, and become constant. In some marriages, there is even a taste of heaven on earth in the love between two people. Scripture seems to echo this, even as it describes in many places the display of human wretchedness that marriage can become. It is far more optimistic than Genesis 3 would lead you to believe.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

The Catechism of the Catholic church says that marriage persists, though seriously “disturbed.” O how much lies in a single word! The Catechism also says what anyone knows: Marriage, if it is to succeed, needs God’s help.

Comments

  1. The dearth of comments about Spencer’s observations in this post evidence the truth of what he says; marriage has a way of unearthing our original woundedness, and part of that woundedness is exhibited by the fact that we’d just rather not talk about it. That Spencer did talk about it personally in the post is a tribute to his courage.

  2. In order to heal, our original woundedness does have to be unearthed.
    I picture the wounds in various stages of partial scabbed over, with rocks and debris, and infectious material (gore!)
    If we refuse to face them, they can’t heal well, but rather they continue to cause trouble.

    In our relationships, indeed, past wounds have a way of re-surfacing and causing trouble. Especially in relationships with those we are closest to.
    It takes a measure of desparation, courage and trust to allow the wounds to be examined and painstakingly cleansed. We may not tolerate it, or may need it done slowly, bit by bit with rests in between.

    A relationship that has been through this, with both partners exposing their wounds and submiting to healing, and gently supporting each other, that is a relationship that is greatful and relieved, and treasures each other.

    A few years back, at our 25th wedding anniversary, my mom gave me an old set of salt and pepper shakers inscribed “25th Anniersary) in sliver. She didn’t think of them as much of a gift—-she’d found them as she cleaned up the rejects at a rummage sale at church. I realised after she gave them, that I wanted them—–as a trophy for 25 years hard fought and won. We have been through much, and come out more healthy, with less wounds, and more trust and courage to continue to submit to healing knowing that we would support each other.

    There will no doubt be more wounds that come up, but having come thus far does help make the journey easier.
    I can’t prescribe for others. I know that it does not always go so well. But I can speak to the possibility that it can be difficult, painful, and even ugly, and turn out well. Worth it all, and blessed.

    • obviously, I am spelling impared. I am sorry. I hope that you can understand what I’m trying to write.

  3. I have spent the weekend terribly and humbly thankful for the kindness and love of my husband of 33 years……and last weekend I would have happily taken a baseball bat to his noggin in frustration and anger. And so goes the dance of the long married.

    God brought us together, and holds us together in this sacrament, and I can see His fingerprints all over our relationship, which dates back to our adolescence….even when it was clear that WE had no clue about each other or Him.

    I selfishly pray daily that I die first, as I am not sure how my life would go on without him, and I somehow sense that he might fare better. BUT….that is the Lord’s to decide.

    • You made me laugh. I know the feeling well – I spend this weekend feeling hugely thankful for my husband of 21 years but this morning my exasperation just bubbled over with him. It is indeed a dance.
      There’s something in the longevity of marriage that reflects God in a way nothing else does – but you only realize this the longer you are in it.

  4. I thought I was marrying a child of God. Sadly, I got a feminist.

  5. Judy in Canada says:

    Thank you for this, my head has been filled with nasty words that will thankfully not be spoken this morning. 2 broken people trying to make it together in a broken world. It is a wonder any of us survive to celebrate and yet we passed 35 years this summer. It is the grace of God.