Is it the strength of the relationship?
Is it spending lots of money on a big celebration?
Is it people thinking you make a 'great couple'?
Is it survival? Through pain and betrayal and loss.
Is it romance and being in love?
Throughout the world, marriages are made in a myriad of ways.
Stripped back, what makes marriage?
The word I arrive at is Covenant. A religious, slightly jargonish word.
Persevering commitment to love and serve.
Deep down, we all want to know that there is someone we can count on, no matter what.
What a great blessing, what a comfort it is when our marriage brings us that experience.
But marriage does not always deliver. Not because it was poorly designed, but because we are human. We are not always able to persevere unswervingly in our commitment to love and serve. Big and little betrayals, personal failures, terrible storms and trials, touch many, perhaps most, marriages.
Sometimes our dream of the perfect or fulfilling marriage distracts us from being really available and listening in our imperfect human marriage. Disappointment with my husband usually springs from unfair or selfish expectations in my heart.
Marriage is an earthly shadow, showing us God's love for us. A metaphor for Jesus serving his people. A gritty, hard-work, mix of joy and struggle. A touch of heavenly grace mixed with the messiness of human hearts.
It is easy to idolise the shadowy reflection, while missing the reality it illuminates. We need words like covenant as we talk about marriage, because they remind us of the covenant-maker. We need forgiveness and grace in our marriages, to reflect the forgiveness and grace of Jesus among his people.
And when our marriages fail to give us what we need or dream of, we need Jesus. The one we can count on, no matter what.
Richard Beck posted about 'traditional' marriage, linked to a column in The Atlantic.
It is actually a compliment to marriage, and the importance people attribute to it as a unique commitment, that same-sex couples want to get married. People look at marriage and see a love that they want to have.
Perhaps a desire to marry can reflect a desire to participate in the forgiving, committed love that God has for his people.
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32