Marriage Approach A – This approach is to focus on the responsibilities for those who have married. Now you are married you need to look at this list of top tips for successful marriages. You need to be sure to put out the household waste, and mow the lawn, and do your share of the clean-up after meals, and help with tidying the house, and the list goes on. Any critique of this approach draws immediate fire because it is self-evident that the great list of married behaviours are true of great marriages and these chores don’t happen on their own and everyone knows you have to decide to wash the dishes or they won’t get washed. It is obvious.
Marriage Approach B – This has a different motor. Instead of responsibility, the driver is recollection. You are no longer a slovenly single living in a perpetual mess, you now have a new status. You are married! Now you just need to learn to live married. The key? It is not to look at lists of behaviours expected of married people. Those behaviours will come naturally as long as you remember that you are married. So don’t look at the lists, look back to your wedding day. Remember how stunning your spouse looked and how amazed you were that they married you. That stirring of gratitude within will bring about change in behaviours.
Isn’t there a third option here? Something more than looking at the list of household duties and/or looking back to the wedding day? To listen to some debate the issue of the Christian life you might think not. One side will emphasize the expectations of married people and declare the self-evident truth that if you don’t pressure married people to follow the list, then they will obviously slip back into slovenly single behaviours from their past. The other side will claim that the solution to old habits is not new pressure, but better awareness of the privilege of their marriage, combined with gratitude for what happened on their wedding day. Someone gripped by the wonder of who married them will naturally do the things on the list of expectations for married people.
Look at the list, or look at the wedding photos? Isn’t there a really obvious alternative that is missing here?
How about looking at your spouse? I’ve been married for fifteen years. I don’t have a list of instructions for being a good husband, but I do seem to have an engine driving me in my marriage – it isn’t simply an ongoing slog of self-discipline. I still remember the wonder of seeing my bride walk down the aisle toward me. But I don’t live with a permanent image of my wife in a white veil before my eyes. Instead I have a living and dynamic relationship with her. The cumulative effect of years of memories, shared experiences, dynamic interaction and our hearts being united by the Spirit of God at work in our marriage has, and continues, to transform us.