Perhaps the most potent fuel thrown on our ever-increasing and nationally-embarrassing divorce rate is the over-thinking of marriage. We think of it as such a commitment that we forget it is only a commitment because it is an adventure, and there is nothing more difficult to walk away from than an adventure. We hold it to be such a sacrament -which it is- that we forget it was only made a sacrament because something as impractical and daring couldn’t be sustained otherwise. And I say impractical because it truly is, aside from those outdated aims no longer important in the modern world: civilizing men, making love, raising sound children and such trifles. It is biologically impractical for us to be built for monogamy, and physically, socially and just about “everythingally” impractical for two fallen human beings to pledge to love each other until they are killed-or kill each other.
That is why marriage is so awesome and beautiful: it can only be a mad act of passion, and because we have elevated it to such high heights of the sacramental, it is one of the few acts of passion with a wonderfully good chance of success. The liberals grumble about it being an antiquated, oppressive and inescapable institution, and while this cynicism does not always cross over to the Christian camp, the fear does. It is what leads to the careful evaluation, sorting and testing which make the thing as exciting as tap water or a demotion. The happy truth is that, yes, it is indeed an institution! Not antiquated, but so clearly correct and durable that it has survived long enough to be called such. The inevitable truth all forward-thinking progressives must face at some time or other is that the “old-fashioned” must have survived much greater attacks than progressivism to be awarded the status of “old-fashioned”.
The fact that marriage is indeed an ancient institution only further glorifies it. It is only in moments of insane passion that man creates sane institutions. We like to think of a child as wild and free, and in some senses this is true. But it is the same wild freedom of the child that would create the most rules the world has ever seen. It is the child that creates the sacred institution of don’t-step-on-the-cracksism, and we’d be hard pressed to find more oppressive dogma in all the churches of the world. Give a child a game with no limits and you’ll bore him; give him limits on where to step, what not to say; give him an oppressive institution and you’ll have a happy child. Only out of the madness of the French Revolution came something as institutionalized as the Republic.
So it is with marriage. Unless it comes from the insanity of love and the spirit of adventure for which it was meant, it will never become the solid and steadfast institution that will stand the test of time, children and mortgage. No amount of time will ever tell us what living a lifetime with someone will be like. It is something that, by its very nature, simply must be done.