Marriage in American culture is the butt of jokes, portrayed as a ball and chain, an end to sex, a deprivation of liberty, a “settling down” and a way to get better medical benefits and tax write-offs. It is a slippery institution, usually defined according to the whim of the person who is describing it. Most definitions, however, share unspoken assumptions that are very similar, if not identical, to each other. The biggest assumption is that it is a contract, either for life or for the duration in which partners remain “in love” or “compatible”, but something that is rooted in mutual agreement between two parties. As a contract, either before God, where it becomes sinful to break it unless certain conditions apply (depending on religious affiliation, usually), or between the state where it may be broken according to lawful conventions, the logical conclusion is that it may easily be broken ultimately for nearly any reason and without much consequence.
Marriage: The Mysterious Union
Christian tradition, however, has never understood marriage as something that is merely contractual, but it is understood rather as a mystery – not the kind of mystery that you solve, but the kind that cannot be solved because it lies beyond our capacity to fully understand it. It can only be entered into, which is why Paul compares the relationship between Jesus and the Church to the marriage between husband and wife. While essentially mysterious in its purpose, marriage does have a contractual aspect, of course, and it wants the commitment and effort of the husband and wife who participate in it, but as an essential mystery it also serves a greater, deeper and more meaningful purpose than can be found in its contracts or obligations.
Marriage is a Journey
Marriage should never be seen as a way to “settle down”. In fact, it is just the opposite. Real marriage is a journey, a pilgrimage in which two people grow in mutual love and respect for each other, but also one in which both are transformed through the marriage as they participate in their personal relationships with Christ. It is a path of sanctification and personal growth. When both partners have this in mind, marriage has the potential to become the most rewarding and fulfilling trip you ever take- the pilgrimage of your life.
The basis for hope in a Christian marriage is its foundation in the reality of who God is and how he relates to us. Because we are sinful, finite and limited creatures, we are often confused about the purpose of marriage. Because many are lacking understanding, the potential for marriage to become what it should be is not fulfilled in the lives of many couples.
Christian marriage counseling helps navigate the bumpy road and brings couples to a place where the latent prospects God has placed in them becomes a reality. Couples begin to understand in practical ways how personal growth in Christ is richer and fuller when they are together than it would be if they parted company. Counseling provides the opportunity to discover and embrace who you are as a unique person, engaged and deeply connected with another unique person in the same process of mutual growth and fulfillment. Marriage partners grow closer together while retaining their own personhood and personality. The marital bond is strengthened as each partner discovers how to be one by first becoming two.
Find the Purpose of Your Marriage in Christian Counseling
Unlike the way in which popular culture often characterizes marriage, Christian counseling provides an alternative and deeper perspective. Christian counseling helps you to seek to find the true purpose of your relationship with your spouse and to discover the benefits of putting holiness before happiness. You will begin realizing how marriage is in some sense the mode through which God pinpoints our flaws, our selfish tendencies, and ultimately changes us. Counseling can help provide the context to be in a marriage the way that God intends.
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