Marriage In Rainy Days

It is nothing new to say that marriage has fallen on hard times.  Conditions in our contemporary world are not congenial to sustaining marriage.  These unfriendly conditions are like a never-ending rainfall flooding a land where men and women attempt to cultivate a life together.  We need to recognize this because these conditions threaten much of the mission of the family. 

On his album Still Crazy After All These Years, the singer-songwriter Paul Simon included a song called “I Do It For Your Love.”

We were married on a rainy day

The sky was yellow and the grass was gray

We signed the papers and we drove away

I do it for your love.

I do it for your love.

The rooms were musty and the pipes were old

All that winter we shared a cold

Drank all the orange juice that we could hold.

I do it for your love.

Found a rug in an old junk shop

And brought it home to you.

Along the way the colors ran

The orange bled the blue.

The sting of reason, the splash of tears

The northern and the southern hemispheres

Love emerges and it disappears

I do it for your love.

I do it for your love.

That was in 1975.  It was released around the time Paul Simon’s first marriage came to an end.  But the song doesn’t reflect his own troubled marriage only, it poetically portrays the dismal conditions for marriage in our western world as a whole.  It expresses confusion about why people get married and what holds them together.

“We were married on a rainy day. The sky was yellow and the grass was gray.”  The day of a couple’s wedding should be a bright, joyful day, no matter what the weather outside is, but the song describes the couple’s wedding day as dreary, surreal and uneventful.  There was not much to it. “We signed the papers and we drove away. “

Why do people marry and stay married?  According to the words of the song, people do it for love.  When you love a person, you don’t mind sharing that person’s cold through the winter in a musty apartment.  The desire to give and receive love helps you get through the dreary days. You find that living with another person changes you.  Not only do the colors of a rug seep into one another, but husbands’ and wives’ lives also mysteriously intermingle. A wise pastor friend of mine said “Marriage is the integration of two nervous systems.” We rub off on each other.  

There’s a great deal of truthfulness about the marriage relationship in the words of this song, but its general tone is pessimistic and full of uncertainty.  

“The sting of reason, the splash of tears

The northern and the southern hemispheres.

Love emerges and it disappears.”

Conflicts divide married people.  The objective logic of the one and the subjective feeling of the other collide head-on like trains in the fog of night. Gender gap and cultural gap divide us. We feel we are living in unconnected hemispheres.  Love is fragile. We are alone. The love that is sometimes there is suddenly not there. What’s left? Loneliness, bitterness, misunderstanding.

There are many factors in our time that cause the rain to continue falling on marriage.  One factor is a false ideology that we should seek and find self-fulfillment in marriage.  If we seek it, we won’t find it. Marriage is where we learn to take up the cross of Jesus and lose ourselves for the sake of another. What we can hope to find is joy in serving another’s well-being.  

Another factor is that our society’s laws don’t protect marriage.  No-fault divorce laws in every state of the United States mean that either party can call it quits for any reason.  No questions asked.  That means that our nation’s laws see no benefit in people staying married.  And many people choose to quit.  

The book of Genesis describes marriage as God’s gift. It’s God who gave Eve to Adam and Adam to Eve.  He made them a pure gift to each other. When God presented Eve to Adam, he shouted “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!  Name her Woman, for she was made from Man.” ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.’ (Genesis 2:23-24)

The 19th psalm portrays the sun movement through the skies “like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.” The implication’s clear: one’s wedding day is to be a day of bright light and exalted joy.  But when the divorce rate in a society runs near 50%, it’s not easy to be truly joyful. People have to wonder “Why are the odds of making a marriage work so low?” From a statistical point of view, getting married seems like flipping a coin.    Fear of a failed marriage casts a dark and foreboding rain cloud over the prospect of marriage. No wonder many people today decide to move in together and live by the words of Lennon and McCartney “All You Need Is Love.” But is love really enough?  

It’s not enough.  In a letter he wrote from prison in 1943 to his niece and her fiancé the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”  What does that mean?

It means that love in marriage is not sustainable from a human point of view.  Love does emerge and disappear.  So how can I continue to live in marriage when my love or my wife’s love disappears? I can do it because marriage is not based on my love or hers but on God’s promise. God promises a future to husbands and wives whose love wears out.  God renews all things, including marital love.

In spite of the rainy weather conditions in our time, God’s promise still causes the sun to emerge out of the clouds for married people. God’s light gives hope to laugh at the rain clouds that threaten marriage.  So if you are thinking about giving up on your marriage, think again. Your marriage is God’s mission. God’s Holy Spirit will give you the strength and courage to live it.

Donald Marsden

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