Before They Say, “I DO!” (Published in my monthly Column “Family Matters” for The Colorado Catholic Herald, November 2010)
I remember an old song that goes: “I wanna a girl just like the girl that married dear ‘ol Dad.” Those were the days! But the idea of marrying someone just like our mom or dad is not the stuff of legend and old wives’ tales. And, in fact, research tells us that we are more likely to marry a person who resembles the parent with whom we have the least resolved conflict. Yikes! Now that’s a sobering thought.
Marriage is a risky enough proposition without dragging excess baggage from your past into it. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you connect or reconnect with your son and daughter right away and help them to enter into a right relationship with you. There is great truth to the axiom: “Marriage is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person.”
When our sons and daughters enter into marriage less than whole and happy people they can be very needy and dependent, or aloof, resistant and too independent. Their expectation can be, “My spouse will give me love,” and they may give little attention to their side of the agreement: “I will give love to my spouse.” And so, this emotional immaturity in marriage becomes one-sided and the goal becomes receiving, not giving. Another may say, “My spouse is there to do for me. I do my own thing; it’s none of their business.”
Take husbands, for example, unfortunately all too many have a distorted view toward sexual identity and marriage.
The Bible teaches that in Christian marriage the husband is to take the initiative in love; he is made responsible for the right kind of married love. In short, he is the “lover”. In Ephesians 5:25 the command is: “Husbands, love your wives.” Dwight Harvey Small, in his book Design for Christian Marriage (Spire Books, 1974, pp.86-90), says:
Paul proceeds to set forth just exactly how husbands are to love their wives. It is “as Christ loved the church.” Amazing! What loftier ideal could ever be put before husbands! The fullness of Christ’s love for the church suggests five major characteristics for husbands to emulate by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Christ loved the church realistically. He was under no illusions when He sought us in love! It was not a romantic sentiment that moved the Son of God to love us…Husbands, then, are to love their wives realistically…. It must embrace all of the faults and failures, the unlovely and disagreeable elements. For this Christ’s love is adequate!
- Christ loved the church sacrificially. He “…gave himself for her” (verse 25). How costly is love! …Husbands must love their wives sacrificially. They must be willing to give up all that is required to fulfill the life of the beloved. This may involve giving up some of their interests, their time, their pleasures, their ambitions, their friends…. Since it was a costly thing to accomplish redemption, and it was a costly thing to strive for holiness, the word (sacrifice) has come to mean “costliness in achieving some end.” How appropriate is this word, for marriage success is a costly thing, and the end is a holy end.
- Christ loved the church purposefully. His purpose was “that he might present her to himself a glorious church…holy and without blemish” (verse 27). The purpose of Christ is the eventual perfection of His church…. In Christian marriage the husband is ever to seek a deepening unity with his beloved in thought, expression and in the shared life. This he finds possible to accomplish through the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the union is established and sustained.
- Christ loved the church willfully. With no motivating cause outside himself, God willed to love us…. The mind, the heart and the will (of the husband) must cooperate in loving.
- Finally, Christ loved the church absolutely. His love for us was without limit, without condition, and without reserve…. On the same principle all (the husband) does for his wife shall return in blessing upon himself.
If I practice what I preach, my children will see a man who makes it his goal to balance sexuality with care; strength with compassion. They must bear witness to their mother returning love to me when I am realistic, sacrificial, purposeful, intentional, and faithful in my love for her. For my children to see this is to prepare them to achieve the kind of marriage every Christian young man or woman dreams about.