Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

I often wonder what it is my kids think about marriage. I wonder what they’ve learned by watching me and my wife live out the vows we recited to each other over 28 years ago. I wonder if the example I’ve given them is a good one. Do they have a high view of marriage? Or, like so many of their peers, do they view the institution of marriage with a skepticism that’s been fueled by faulty media depictions, the confusion of infatuation with love, declining sexual standards, a “feel-good” moral code, and the failure of marriage to work under the roof where they spent their childhood?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our center when it comes to matrimony. When we get around to choosing marriage, our expectations are way off. When we get into marriage, those false expectations bear fruit that leaves us feeling like failures. . . and then far too many marriages disintegrate. The good news is that even though this is the cultural climate of the times, a majority of our kids long to enter into a stable, loving, and enduring marriage. Eighty-two percent of our teenage girls say that having a good marriage and family life is “extremely important,” and that’s a number that’s been trending upward in recent years. While the boys lag behind, over seven out of ten share that desire. But how can we help facilitate a transition from great expectations, to seeing those expectations become reality?

I’m fully aware that marriage and individual marriages are extremely complex. But stated simply, the two best things we can give to our kids is 1) an example of a healthy marriage, and 2) constant guidance and direction before their married so that they are prepared for the marital realities than run the spectrum from good, to bad, to even ugly.

One of the things I’ve come to love about Dr. Paul Tripp is his realization that life is messy. He would be the first to admit that his own life has been messy. He also trumpets the theological reality that we are all deeply flawed people who are living in a deeply flawed world. Not only that, but it is the grace of God as evidenced in the cross that not only saves us, but saves us from ourselves while allowing us to live in marital bliss and marital lack-of-bliss as one flawed person committed to another flawed person. His latest book, What Did You Expect??: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway, 2010), is a vulnerable, biblically-based, realistic, and very hopeful guide that can set us on the path to healthy marriages, the setting of good examples, and healthy conversations with our kids about the nature of marriage.

Tripp recognizes that our marriages need “the regular rescue of grace” because we are sinners who are married to sinners who are trying to live the married life in a broken and messed up world. Tripp proposes that contrary to popular opinion, the secret to a successful marriage is not rooted in romance. Rather, a marriage of love, unity, and understanding is rooted in the worship of God. It is only when we are focused on the worship of God “that we find reason to continue” in our marriages.

After smashing the faulty and idolatrous notions of marriage that we so easily believe and embrace in today’s culture, Tripp shares and explains six commitments that flawed couples must keep if they are hoping to grow in their love for each other and build a marriage that endures. They are. . .

- We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
- We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
- We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
- We will commit to building a relationship of love.
- We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
- We will work to protect our marriage.

What Did You Expect?? is a timely book that I highly recommend. Of course, it’s one that all parents should read, discuss, and prayerfully endeavor to live. Youth workers would do well to give it a read? Why? Your kids are watching! Couples considering marriage will find the book especially helpful. And then anyone who wants to help young people hear and live a realistic and healthy understanding of this God-given institution will find more than enough good stuff to unpack and discuss with kids.

Tripp writes, “It is only when a husband and wife are in love with the same King and live in practical pursuit of the same kingdom that they have any hope of functional unity, understanding, and love.” Yes, God is in the business of rescuing us from ourselves and making all things new. . . including our marriages!

-- Dr. Walt Mueller

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