Sunday, January 29, 2012
I've written a post before on how the fairy-tale perspective, or even the view that tries to borrow from it and incorporate it into a marriage between Christians, is ruined by the reality of sin. I did this in the form of a story. I would like to write another short story, this time focusing on the spiritual and uplifting side of marriage, when marriage is going as it should from a truly biblical perspective (as in God's purpose/perspective, not man's, for marriage). However, I want to dedicate this entry to explaining its title, and hopefully in a separate post I can illustrate it through a story.
A fairy tale view of marriage centers marriage on the physical; by that I do not primarily mean the physical appearance of the man and woman, or sex, but the physical in general. Going places, doing things, walking, talking, socializing, working, etc. All these things, obviously, are important aspects of marriage, but, I am contending, are not the core. At least, they should not be.
The core of marriage- or if you will- the true, fundamental purpose of marriage that makes it unique and spills over into the physical, is the spiritual and sanctifying purpose of marriage. Two flesh becoming one is a spiritual thing and a physical thing, and sex is the physical representation of the spiritual reality that marriage is founded upon. And, as Scripture tells us, the mystery of marriage is a picture of Christ's love for the church, and the church's response of love for Christ (Eph. 5:22-32). Surely, then, it is indisputable that to have a proper, Christian perspective of marriage, it must be defined as a spiritual, holy thing. As holy and precious as Christ dying for His people.
Marriage then should teach us to love like Christ, and how to rightly respond to Christ's love for us. How to receive love and give love. Or, perhaps more basically still, marriage is, in many ways, a means of grace by which the husband and wife learn to glorify and enjoy God more. That's what marriage is for, for doing life together unto God's glory, and because it uniquely helps us understand Christ's love for us, and is a high spiritual calling, it sheds fresh light and meaning to physical things and their connection to the spiritual, to God, as well. That's what marriage teaches us. But the fairy tale, on the contrary, teaches us that marriage is the expression of already being in love, and that the purpose of marriage is to simply enjoy the best that the physical has to offer, standing alone, apart from the spiritual which gives the physical its actual purpose and significance. So God's purpose for marriage and the fairy tale perspective are diametrically opposed.
Now, can one pass from one level or degree of love to another? Absolutely, in fact, that's largely the point. No one is arguing that a dating/courting couple can't have some degree of affection, of love, for one another, prior to marriage. But the point and purpose of marriage is that in the working out of marriage, in the husband sanctifying the wife, in the husband representing Christ and the wife representing the church, as this beautiful drama plays out, love is found and formed, deeper, wider, and more greatly. As we grow in sanctification as Christians, we grow in love for our spouse in marriage by getting better at doing the very thing that sanctification is for- glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. And marriage is a powerful means by which we can do that.
True love is only found in Christ, in peace with God, in the Spirit living within our hearts. This then, must spill over into our marriage (as has been argued for the entirety of this entry) as its purpose, but also into the physical aspects of marriage. Again, by saying physical, it is not meant to be limited to sex or physical appearance, but all that the married couple does on this earth in the flesh- the walking, talking, living together, socializing, working, reading, writing, watching, visiting, traveling, etc. God must be found in all these things- spiritual significance must be found there, because Scripture says to do all to the glory of God, and unto Him. Indeed, Adam was created to tend the garden of Eden, and God gave Adam Eve to help him do this. So the spiritual and physical are intricately connected, because we were made to find in physical labor spiritual meaning and significance. This is why everything can and should be done to the glory of God, and if that is true for the single person, it is doubly true for the married couple!
The fairy tale perspective cannot do this. It cannot find eternal meaning, real spiritual significance, in the physical things of marriage, including but not limited to sex, because it is not rooted in anything spiritual. In fact it is not rooted in anything at all. It is but a fantasy, a delusional one at that, focused on physical things, whether sex itself or more broadly looks, personality, charisma, common interests, hobbies, etc., as the previous post on reality ruining the fairy tale illustrates. The fairy tale perspective on marriage is but making marriage into an idol, in the sense that those who are a married couple with the fairy tale perspective engage as one flesh in idolatry, in worshiping the creation rather than its Creator. And as the previous post points out, the remedy to this problem is rooting marriage rightly- on the spiritual. When the focus of marriage is placed there, is rooted there where it should be, all of the married couple's life, including and especially the physical in its totality, can be enjoyed to the uttermost, as freed from sin and strife and heartache as is possible this side of heaven. And the physical, which God has made and is not inferior to the spiritual or outside of God, can be more clearly seen for the spiritual dimension and purpose that it contains. The couple will meet God and find transcendent, eternal meaning and significance in the 'little' things of life, like walking in the park, playing board games, visiting friends, or simply fixing breakfast for the significant other as a sign of Christ loving the church and/or the church's response to the love Christ has given her. But of course, the 'little' things of life, taken as a whole, make up the totality of our physical life. Therefore, the couple better be living it for God's glory, doing it unto the Lord and taking spiritual delight in their physical lives together. Otherwise, they engage in constant idolatry, with the creation and each other, rather than constant worship through creation and through each other. The former results in emptiness and sorrow, while the latter leads to ever increasing fulfillment and delight.
But without this proper focus, charm and physical beauty shows itself to be just what it is- fleeting and deceitful (Prov. 31) when stripped of its spiritual dimensions and meaning. And if you have based your marriage off of the physical, off of charm and beauty, money and prestige, hobbies and common interests, what will you do when you discover that it was not what you bargained for, and that outside of Christ, outside of the spiritual, it has no true meaning, purpose, and cannot actually satisfy you as you thought it could?
So then, marriage is too spiritual to be a fairy tale. Indeed, marriage is too wonderful to merely be a fairy tale. It transcends the fairy tales and takes us closer to Christ Himself, and in growing closer to Christ, the married couple grows closer and stronger and deeper in their love for one another, as the marriage plays itself out, focused upward on the spiritual, and letting that spiritual focus give meaning and life and delight to the physical in its totality, as God has intended.