“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains the love.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer”
In an interview in the Wall Street Journal today, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses her new book: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.
Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray Love, is in her second marriage. She has a prenuptial agreement and says “sometimes it is an act of love to plot an exit strategy before you enter the union, to make sure that not only you but your partner as well knows there will be no WWIII should hearts and minds, for any sad reason, change.”
But clearly she has made peace with the idea of marriage, which has, she says “a Darwinian ability to endure.” In her view, our modern notion of a private and romantic union still carries the weight of tax laws and religious implications, which guarantees an almost instant social legitimacy, a “huge shortcut to social respectability” with “countless tangible and intangible benefits.”
Her tone is not cynical, however, and she makes some compelling points. She makes a distinction between a wedding and a marriage, for example, and wisely points out how the wedding itself can by idealized in ways that are neither practical or beneficial.
She says “Marriage is not a game for the young,” because maturity brings the ability to survive its contradictions and disappointments: “Marriage is, among other things, a study in contradiction and disappointment, and inside that reality there is space for us to truly learn how to love.”
But as much as I applaud the respect she gives it, in a culture that often seem to give it none, there is much more to it than that. It’s not about us in the end. It’s not about the respectability and responsibility of being committed to each other.
When the Apostle Paul says marriage is a mystery that refers to Christ and the church, he is saying the ultimate purpose of marriage is to picture this truth—that Christ is in an eternal, covenant relationship with his people.
This is the argument of John Piper’s new book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
“Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world….That is why all married people are married, even when they don’t know or accept this gospel,” Piper writes. For him it is a momentary gift, a mere shadow of eternal realities.
That marriage is God’s work and that it results in His glory should come as no surprise to us, but it does. Piper hopes his book will help set us free from “small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, romance-intoxicated, unbiblical views of marriage.”
Gilbert finds marriage “miraculous and kind of inspiring.” Piper finds it a momentary but glorious gift. His is an eternal perspective that trumps evolving social conventions every time.
And makes me glad Jesus has no pre-nup with his church. Or with me.