The Work of a Lifetime
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.
It is hardly news that traditional marriage is in trouble. And its main competition is not from all the inroads made by its exotic rivals--same-sex marriage, open marriage, polygamy—as we might fear. These days, traditional marriage might just be its own worst enemy.
Both in and out of the church, marriage generally follows a predictable pattern: engagement (“have you seen her ring?”), planning the wedding (a la Bride magazine), the honeymoon (Sandals or as Sandals-like as the credit card will bear), saving up, then buying the dream home (with the nightmare monthly payment) and bringing home baby (to the Pottery Barn nursery).
What happens when someone loses their job, a serious illness strikes or one of the kids becomes an unrepentant rebel? It is then we discover that exotic getaways don’t really get us away from anything and our beautiful home might as well be a cardboard stage-set.
If we look again at our Genesis verse, we see something in the three events it portrays: a man leaving his parents and being united with his wife is accomplished in the ceremony of marriage. The third event, the becoming one flesh, is the work of a lifetime. It is not accomplished by the marital act; it is symbolized by the marital act. It is the objective of marriage, only attained by a lifetime of mutual sacrifice and give and take.
One of my favorite podcasters recently cited a study from a publication called The Journal of Happiness Studies. In a study on marriage, the authors wrote that marital happiness is U-shaped. It is happy when two people are first married, less happy during the challenging child-raising, career-building years and happy again during the later years. The reason, the authors believe, has to do with the deep satisfaction that comes with a lifetime commitment and “knowing that someone has your back.”
There is nothing wrong with the dream wedding or the over-the-top honeymoon, but they are not marriage. Marriage is nothing less than two people who come home to the same house at the end of the day and who spend a lifetime honoring vows that are bigger than they are in order to leave an example to the world and a priceless legacy for their loved ones.