I recently was confronted with a loaded question that I’m embarrassed to say, at the moment, I couldn't formulate the right words to give an adequate response. I walked away kicking myself for not being eloquent and informative.
The question you ask?
More precisely: “What's the difference between marriage and just being in a loving, committed relationship? Can't I have the same thing everyone else has without all the hassle, formalities and paperwork?”
Mulling this over, I realized I shouldn't be so hard on myself because this question isn't one that can be answered with a smooth one sentence response. Marriage is far too complicated, too important and deserves serious contemplation.
What I find interesting, is that there seem to be three camps when it comes to the thought of marriage:
1) All for it- would give anything to be married and believes a worthy custom;
2) Scared to death and avoids it like the plague or
3) Indifferent, assuming the same benefits can be achieved without the commitment.
To answer this question (regardless of your camp), one has first to understand what marriage is and why it matters.
God designed marriage to highlight our need for Him, our need for relationship and intimacy. Marriage was the very first social institution that God created to implement His purposes for humanity. In marriage, we are best able to reflect God's image. It is in our oneness that we can mirror the unity of the Trinity. Within marriage, we are to reproduce a godly heritage- not just children but a legacy of righteousness. Through marriage we are to reign over creation, caring for the world to bring God honor. To achieve these goals, God intended marriage to be a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. To stand before Him and vow to do life together trusting that God will work all things together for our good.
(Mind you, none of the above can be achieved through a simple piece of paper!)
In 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, the Apostle Paul discusses marriage and divorce. I would encourage anyone contemplating either to read it carefully.
Sadly, many people avoid marriage or enter it lightly, falsely believing that marriage is supposed to be a picture-perfect love-story. Honestly, there hasn't been a marriage that existed that was picture-perfect!
But to aid in answering the question of why, I’ve listed out some pros and cons and ask that you weigh them yourself and decide what’s best for you.
Pros to Marriage:
Fully accepted and understood;
Maturity (someone to grow with and tackle each season of life);
A trusted companion to weather all the storms;
Safety (being with someone who can be trusted, dedicated & faithful);
The sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed;
Being respected and honored;
Raising a family united (should you choose);
Partaking of life and creating memories together (better than any buddy);
Caring & being cared for (during sickness & health);
Sharing of responsibilities (two are always better than one);
Stability (there is no place like home);
A permanent date for all occasions (wink);
Someone to grow old with when gravity sets in, wrinkles dominate & your body slows to a crawl AND
Sharing in a bond that is created and powered by the living God. A bond that causes your souls to become entwined so that you may experience & magnify the very love of the Holy Trinity.
A word of caution: The above are only possible (to their fullest potential) when both partners understand the intent of marriage AND understand that marriage was NOT designed to be performance-based, rather faith-based- relying on God for its success. For that….God has to always be in the center.
Cons to Marriage:
Committed to ONLY one person
(This one seems to be a considerable hang-up (especially for the guys.) ONE woman for the rest of their life? What? If we as a society understood the sanctity of marriage and God's design, we wouldn't be casually having sex outside of the marriage commitment. Then men (and women alike) would so crave the intimacy of sexual relations they would race to get married and understand the joys it brings. I remember one of my grandmother’s saying, “Why would a man want to buy the cow when he can get all the milk he wants for free?” (Not the best analogy as no woman wants to be compared to a cow, but you get the point!);
Sharing of finances & life decisions (you can’t always just think about yourself);
Dependence (you can no longer just come & go as you please);
Compromises (done routinely);
Co-Habitation (living with another's pet peeves, habits, and invasion of personal space);
In-laws, extended families & friends (need I say more J);
Maximum Effort (marriage takes a ton of hard work, dedication & determination) and
Failure & divorce (it happens.)
What is your takeaway when you read the above? As the Apostle Paul would say- “marriage ain’t for everyone.”
Marriage is a very personal decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It has the power to bring immeasurable joy or devastating pain, and once the bell has been rung, it cannot be undone.
If you are in a relationship and contemplating marriage, or if you are newly married or even if you’ve been married for many years-
Marriage done God’s way is always the right way!
For it is within God’s design of marriage and through His power that we can achieve indescribable and incomparable love. A love that can then be reflected to the world!
It isn't easy, but with God’s help, it is possible.
Father, thank you for the beautiful gift of marriage. For creating an institution that we may utilize to fulfill your purposes for humanity and to mirror your love to the world. May we understand your intention for marriage and may we seek your guidance and help along the way. For it is only when there are three in a marriage that it can be made strong and be the successful design you intended.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."~ Genesis 2:24