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Marriage is a Work in Progress

We are surrounded with soooo much good reading material but I recently decided to re-read Pat Gundry's book (written back in 1980!) 'Heirs Together'. For me, this is still one of the best handbooks on Christian Egalitarian marriage and is a classic. I'm only into the first couple of chapters and I take her point that marriage is work. She doesn't suggest that it is 'hard work' but it is work. Good marriages don't just happen.

Even if you have the perfect partner and enduring love, love alone will not sustain a marriage. Life is in the habit of not necessarily running according to plan. Somehow we have to navigate, together, the twists and turns that may be our lot in life. It won't always be plain sailing!

Unforeseen circumstances, like a tragic death or debilitating accident, still birth, cot death, an autistic child the dreaded cancer or an unexplained illness can come upon us out of the blue and change the course of our lives forever. We don't have all the answers but we are on this journey together with God. We don't know all of the possibilities when we sign up so to speak, and it's probably good that we don't or we'd have second thoughts. But, having embarked on this journey together for life we can be confident that God will be present with us as promised.

Sometimes, it isn't those catastrophic things at all that come our way but it is something that visits us from within the dark past of one of the marriage partners. Abuse, bad, or absent parenting, possibly some other childhood trauma like a family breakdown or the horrors of war etc. These things can emerge despite our best intentions. Or perhaps a depressive disposition falls like a mist upon a partner robbing them of joy and a zest for life. Medication is seen as the only solution and the person is no longer the person that you married. We may ask, "Where is God in all of this?" It is reassuring to know that despite our circumstances Jesus has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. That's when marriage becomes work.

As a Christian Pastor I have seen all of these things and more happen to genuine lovers of God. The rain, fortune and misfortune, falls on the just and the unjust. We may question why and even have moments of anguish that place the blame with God. But it is better to know that despite these things happening, as they do in a fallen world, we still have God. We can go to him in all of our troubles because he cares for the brokenhearted. We can go to him together in a marriage and find his way through our difficulties rather than abandoning something because it appears too hard. That is the way of the world that has no hope in God.

Among the most tragic things I have ever witnessed is a husband or a wife abandoned because the going was perceived by the departing partner to be too tough. Instead of helping and supporting one another through a crisis, that was uniquely their own, one of the partners decides that they have had enough. They may go off, seeking another, happier life, leaving the other partner to battle through illness, tragedy or depression alone. That was never how God intended that it should be. Perhaps one of the partners is unfaithful and now he or she is more sensitive to the emotional needs of the new person in the relationship than the feelings of the one being cast aside. Jesus described the abandonment of marriages like this as happening because of the 'hardness of hearts'. Marriages break down in tiny increments. We don't just wake up one day and decide that we want out of a marriage.

Equally so marriages are maintained and strengthened in tiny, daily, affirming increments. I agree with Pat Gundry, marriage IS work. Liz and I have been working at it for 46 years and I can tell you that whatever the hiccups along the way the rewards are out of this world. Living with no regrets and having a heritage of children and grandchildren is the very best thing.

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