It may seem redundant because I have already reflected on my marriage in a recent edition of this column, but the subject of marriage has been very near and dear to my heart lately, and specifically, my marriage. We both are still basking in the afterglow of multiple celebrations with family and friends and the encouragements that continue to buoy our spirits for the journey ahead.
Fifty years ago, a young computer programmer/analyst married a restaurant dining room manager, and they began an adventure that continues to this day. That journey has taken them through 10 states, four years of graduate school, and several church ministries, but most importantly three children and six grandchildren.
Thinking back over those 50 years, as many of you who read this column already know from your own personal experiences, I can honestly say that there have been many high points and many low points. It has not all been a bed of roses. I remember a counselor friend of mine saying that if two people agree on everything, then one of them is unnecessary!
But working through those disagreements is part of the process called marriage. And coming out victorious makes it all worthwhile. But tragically, that is not so in most family circles. The thought of long-term marriage is a far-out dream to many, if not most, couples. “Till death do us part” are words that are not taken seriously anymore. One writer proclaims that, “Marriage is viewed as a convenience rather than a covenant or a commitment.” So quickly we succumb to the mentality that if it doesn’t work, it must not be valid. Even for those who do manage to celebrate long-term marriages, it seems to be more a case of endurance and survival than of enjoyment and excitement.
Marriage is also very close to the heart of God. An old, wise theologian once said, “Look at what is begin attacked by Satan, and you will know what is close to the heart of God!” Marriage is introduced in Genesis, the very first book in the Bible, and is celebrated in Revelation, the very last book of the Bible. It is the first institution introduced after creation and the last event celebrated before Christ’s second coming ushers us into eternity. One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Proverbs 18:22 – “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” I, for one, cannot fathom where I would be had we not met and married.
I praise God for the example I grew up with of a father who truly loved my mother. He loved the Lord and would sacrifice anything for Mom. They lived together, worshipped together, played together, worked together, served together and yes, even fought together. They provided for their four children the marvelous illustration of a marriage that worked.
When I think of that, I also remember another wedding. This one occurred a few years before ours, on June 13, 1525. It was the union of a former nun and a former monk. The ex-nun’s name was Katharine von Bora. The ex-monk’s name was Martin Luther. He claimed he was marrying to please his parents, who wanted grandchildren. To his great surprise, he ended up loving married life.
A clergyman with wife and children seems normal to us, but not to the people of that time and Catholics mocked Luther for marrying and fathering six children. He was, Catholics said, a “sensualist,” a man who did not keep the vow of celibacy he made when becoming a monk. Luther had deduced from the Bible that it was fine for clergy to marry, and he and Katherine became the prototype for the Protestant parsonage.
Catholic priests had become notorious for fathering children by their housekeepers, and as Luther saw it, it was far better to marry and bring up children in a Christian home. He came to believe that Christian marriage pleased God more than celibacy.
The Luther home was a full house with six children plus Luther’s colleagues and admirers. Katharine, whom Luther sometimes called “Master Katie,” proved to be a good household manager. She could be difficult at times (so could Martin), but, for the most part, the marriage was a success. Luther wrote that the command to love one’s neighbor applies doubly to a man’s wife who is his nearest neighbor. He advised husbands, “Make your wife sorry to have you leave,” and told couples that once the early “intoxication” of physical pleasure wore off, real marital love could begin. He also wrote that “union of the flesh does nothing. There must also be union of manners and mind.” Certainly, his own marriage was an inspiring model of that spiritual union.
When I think of our own marriage, I praise God for His remarkable, and very undeserved gift. My constant prayer is that our marriage would be a warm and inviting model of deep and abiding love. Thank You, Lord, for Your remarkable gift!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He may be reached at email@example.com.