Marriage is a school for learning chastity
Consider that when one marries, one promises before God and the community that he or she will be faithful to the marriage partner “until death do us part.” This is not a small thing. It is a solemn promise to find sexual satisfaction in one’s spouse – and only one’s spouse – until God takes one of them. Keeping this promise requires forsaking all others; it requires sacrificing sexual gratification with all other potential mates in order to form an exclusive bond with one person. Marriage, in other words, cultivates the virtue of chastity. Believe it or not, chastity may well be the easy part. A genuine marriage is going to involve a lot more than mere sexual fidelity. It is going to require that one love his or her spouse for as long as the partners live. What does that mean?
Marriage is a school for humility
Let us start with what it certainly does not mean. To love one’s spouse for as long as we both shall live certainly does not mean that one feels warm and fuzzy about one’s spouse as long as both are alive. In many, perhaps most, marriages the fleetingness of warm and fuzzy feelings is experienced by the time they return from the honeymoon. So many small and unexpected frustrations are realised early on in a marriage – the hair in the sink, the loud snoring, the hours in front of the mirror putting on make-up. All of this can lead to impatience, unkind words and ultimately the need for the partners themselves to ask forgiveness and make up. Feelings come and go, but what holds the marriage together is the willingness to humble oneself, apologise and ask for forgiveness.
Humility is a virtue, and speaking from my own experience, marriage has taught me not only how many flaws and faults I have, but also that I have to ask for forgiveness for my failings when they hurt my wife. I hurt her pretty regularly and sometimes pretty badly. If I didn’t humble myself and apologise, there is no way my wife could have stayed married to me for these 12 otherwise wonderful years. Marriage teaches humility. It has taught me humility.
Marriage is a school for learning patience
Your spouse, because he is a fallen human being and because she is a fallen human being, is going to let you down. No matter how many times he asks, she is still going to park the car too far to one side in the garage. And no matter how many times she asks, he is still going to leave his clothes on the floor beside the bed. But he squeezes alongside the badly parked car and she picks up the clothes yet again because he loves her and she loves him. When performing these acts, they are not feeling warm and fuzzy. But if they pray for patience, it is possible that they might genuinely grow in this most essential virtue.
Marriage is a school for learning forgiveness
Perhaps more than any other virtue, a lasting marriage is going to require that one learns to forgive. It is the nature of human beings to disappoint and hurt each other. Sometimes this happens out of fits of rage, sometimes out of carelessness other times out of sheer weakness. Inevitably, however, spouses will hurt and disappoint each other, and if there is not a willingness to forgive, and forgive, and forgive, the marriage will fail. It may fail all at once, or it may fail by attrition, a little at a time over an extended period of time, but it will fail. To succeed at a marriage is to grow in the virtue of being able to overlook another’s faults, both small and large.
Marriage is a school for perseverance
As time goes on, partners in a marriage are apt to feel that they cannot take their spouse one more day. Perhaps they cannot take the behavior they loathe, or they cannot take the behavior they crave, but are denied. Inevitably, however, they feel as if they have reached a breaking point that they cannot live with any longer. Quitting would be the easiest thing to do. That, however, would mean breaking a promise, a promise made to God before the gathered community and a promise made to the spouse. From God’s point of view, quitting is not an option: “Let no man tear asunder what God has joined together.
by Dr.Mark Disher
(Dr.Mark Disher works for Great Hearts Academies in Phoenix)