What you think of marriage….


….will shape how you approach marriage. What is a metaphor that comes to mind for marriage?  A unity candle? A battleground? Iron Sharpening Iron? Peas and Carrots? Peanut Butter and Jelly? Oil and Water? And when you think of these metaphors, whose marriage are you imagining? Your own or someone else’s?  One of my favorite spiritual writers from the Catholic tradition suggests these images for a good marriage:

  • A good marriage is a warm fireplace. The love that a good marriage produces is felt by the two in the marriage but also by those who come near it. A good marriage warms beyond itself.
  • A good marriage is a big table, loaded with lots of food and drink. A good marriage feeds more than just the two in the marriage. It is a banquet that has an abundance that overflows to others.
  • A good marriage is a container that holds suffering. Having a partner in life helps each in the marriage bear suffering. But not only that, the good marriage helps others bear their suffering as well.
  • A good marriage is an image of Christ’s body or God’s presence among us. This image goes deep into Christian theology of the incarnation. Just as Christ was on earth to bless the world, a good marriage “is a constant source of moral, psychological, religious, and humorous nourishment” (Rolheiser, p.89).

What Rolheiser does in this reflection is challenge us to understand marriage as a blessing both for the individuals and into the greater community and world. Marriage is a covenant meant to be a blessing! We rarely contemplate this. In fact, with the individualistic pulls in our culture, we tend to ignore the invitation to a greater purpose. What would it be like if this were the dialogue around the meaning of marriage in our society today?

How does this understanding of marriage line up with your own conscious and unconscious metaphors? And how to Rolheiser’s images challenge you personally? Is your marriage or your contact with others’ marriages a place(s) where warmth is felt and radiated? Where blessing is feasted upon and shared? Where suffering is born and held for others? Where others are loved and nourished as if by Christ/God? I hope so! If not, let’s work to internalize these images into our hearts and relationships.

Ron Rolheiser’s book that I’m referencing and quoting is Against and Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in our Everyday Lives.

For a challenge to those whose marriages lack some of the above, check out my colleague, Elise Rittler’s, blog this week; Predicting Divorce.

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