November 28, 1995
A popular talk show host says three years in a marriage is a long time. Thousands of couples divorce within five years and many do not make it to their first anniversary.
What happened to marriage? One writer says commitment is the key to make marriage last, combined with seeing ourselves as givers. He says, “too many come to marriage looking for a handout, someone to take care of them, keep them happy, make up their deficiencies. They come with their umbilical cord in their hand looking for a place to plug it in.”
If commitment is key, whatever happened to commitment? Sociologists and psychologists may differ, but at the risk of oversimplification, maybe the problem is the current “if it feels good, do it” philosophy. Commitment eventually means weathering through some tough times. Too many want to leave “for better or worse” out of their vows.
The biggest ingredient in any commitment is seeing ourselves as givers. However, children are now encouraged to be takers. A mother told me her preschooler goes to many birthday parties and although the children are expected to give a gift, they each must go home with one. They even arrive with their hands out asking, “What do you have for me?”
Commitment and being a giver is easy when it feels good. Over a year ago, my husband and I made a commitment to bring my parents into our home and care for them. For several weeks, we discussed both pros and cons of such a move, anticipating some joy and a few difficulties. Although the joy is there, emotional benefits could never keep us going — some days being a care giver is simply not fun.
My mother holds a biblical philosophy: “No one is ever really happy unless they are doing something for someone else.” She is right, but emotional enthusiasm is an unstable base for decisions. Besides, as personal comfort fades into oblivion, my commitment level trembles and threatens to leave home with it. Some days I am desperate for privacy, or for moving at a faster pace, or for just a break in routine, yet commitment argues — you decided to do this! The decision to do something for others is always a matter of the will, not feelings.
Long term marriages work because there is a will to make them work and because each decides to give 100%. Giving is not a fifty/fifty, I-will-if-you-will proposition. Jesus would agree. He set His will to do the will of His Father (not a bad goal for couples) and determined that He would be a Giver, even if it killed Him.
And it did. As He anticipated the horror of the Cross, He sweat drops of blood and asked His Father if salvation could be accomplished some another way. Nevertheless, He added, “Not My will but Thine be done.”
Jesus obviously saw Himself as a Servant, totally willing to do whatever His Father asked. He fulfilled the role promised by the prophet Isaiah: “... My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.”
Jesus committed Himself as the Servant of His Father but His commitment was not joyless. The Bible says, “For the joy set before Him... He endured the Cross...” He has a happy heart because He kept His promise and served 100 per cent.
Jesus continues to keep His promises and still offers Himself as Lord and Savior. Those who unite themselves to Him find that He has His hand out but He is not looking for someone to care for Him. Rather, He cares for those who take His hand, keeps them happy, and makes up their deficiencies. He is the place where the needy can “plug in” — the One who enables couples to keep their vow “for better or worse, until death do us part.”