where the self dies

Forget prenuptial agreements. Legislators in Mexico have proposed a new kind of marriage license—one that lasts just two years.

“The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,” says Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill.

But like a prenuptial, there would already be an agreement about how the stuff was divided up. Just walk away if it’s not working out. No word yet about the kids.

photo by mettsphoto.com

This takes marriage of convenience to a new level, but not a higher one. It’s marriages of commitment we need. Covenant relationships. Sacred oaths. Integrity and perseverance.

What we have instead are “starter marriages,” as Elise Arvidson Schnaars notes over at jounelise. A newly wed, she has been thinking about commitment and culture. And about marriage. Clearly she is aware that sacrifice and service is essential but not easy.

At the other end of the spectrum is Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules. This new book by Pamela Haag explores marriages based on obligation, partnership and convenience. (You can see her “five new kinds of marriage” in a slideshow over at Time magazine.)

Really? Temporary marriages are probably no worse than meaningless ones. But neither is better than the serial polygamy we have practiced so long, where you can have as many spouses as you want just as long as you don’t have them all at the same time.

The meaning of marriage comes from outside ourselves, however. God made it, Christ reinforced it and the church sanctifies it, as a practical demonstration of God’s own love for his people.

Every effort to cheapen it weakens us, not marriage. It revels our selfishness and our shortsightedness—something painfully obvious to a generation of young people who remember the day their parents told them they were getting divorced as the worst day of their life. And then failed themselves.

You don’t have to go far to find articles about how to split up, find yourself, remarry, and be happy. But you usually have to go a little further to find someone who will say what Jesus said: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

This work of God is also a gift from God. We are diminished when we squander it, neglect it or trivialize it. We have a culture that does exactly that.

Children certainly, and wives generally, are worse off after divorce. Despite our best efforts to rationalize such a soft, spongy perspective on marriage, the 2009 census details how much more likely children and women are to be on public assistance, to live below the poverty level, and to live in temporary or at least rental housing.

But are we not all poorer in spirit in a world were sacrifices are not expected or even respected? Where love is merely a sentiment and not a commitment?

What have we taught our children and what will our grandchildren do? Can we teach them that the hard thing is often the most precious thing? Can they see this thing with hard edges and hard won rewards?

Marriage is the place we finally learn to forgive, to not take ourselves too seriously and to actually need each other. It is the place where love is nurtured and the self dies.

You can’t learn all that in two years.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

7 Responses to “where the self dies”

  1. “Marriage is the place we finally learn to forgive, to not take ourselves too seriously and to actually need each other. It is the place where love is nurtured and the self dies.” It is difficult to describe the rich rewards of a marriage where self has died–never easy, never a process fully complete, but always deeply satisfying. Thanks for another great post.

  2. To the questions, “But are we not all poorer in spirit in a world where sacrifices are not expected or even respected? Where love is merely a sentiment and not a commitment?”, I would agree. In our present society and as in many societies prior to this era, to the supposition that we are all “poorer in spirit” is a quite accurate. But for those who have come to the understanding that “the place where love is nurtured and the self dies”, there is wealth untold.

    When one looks through the thoughts presented from the contemporary media regarding marriage, it rarely devotes or promotes the importance of developing positive examples. By using illustrations and descriptions, the media offerings generally comprise of detailed dialogues surrounding elaborate descriptions of failure. Whatever happened to writers and communicators that see marriage as a form of opulence and wealth?

    It would be encouraging to see discussions how couples encounter challenges of different sorts and how those experiences enhanced and magnified the marriage experience. Seldom do we hear about the couple struggling with the intimate approaches of someone of the opposite sex and how the couple intelligently handled the situation. That which may have led to the destruction of a marriage actually encouraged the original marriage commitment and becomes a catalyst and bond that strengthens, and affirms what Jesus intended, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  3. A 2 year license. That’s just sad. I’m not one to talk. It took me until my 3rd marriage to figure out that it is a commitment and a decision to love. We celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday. It surprised me to look at him and realize that I love him more now than I did when we married. It’s because I decided to love him, no matter what may come.

  4. Yes, marriage is a very strong commitment in front of God. And ‘every effort to cheapen it weakens us, not marriage’ agree…
    This 2 year marriage contract story is sad… 😦

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