Christian marriage is meant to be a place in which love can flourish without fear. It is intended to create families into which children can be welcomed, to provide a secure and life-giving context for sexual relationship, and to set in place a nurturing and supportive relationship between husband and wife. It is meant to be a setting in which human beings grow together into a love that is shaped by God’s own love for his people.
But we live in a fallen world, and this does not happen automatically. The best of marriages are marked by shortcomings and imperfections. And when marriages go bad, they can go very bad indeed. The children of such marriages tend to be very deeply marked by the sorrow and suffering they have endured. They want so desperately to do better themselves and are often deeply skeptical as to whether better things are really possible.
In circumstances like these, how can we find the courage to love? One way to begin might be to remember the continuities between marriage and Christian life in general. Sometimes, what a marriage or any relationship needs is not an injection of big doses of excitement or inspiration. What it needs is more of the basic things that form the substance of the Christian life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.
Children are unable to provide for themselves. Not unlike travelers in the ancient world, who often depended on the kindness of strangers for meals and shelter, children are born into the world naked and hungry and dependent for their very lives upon being taken in and fed and clothed and otherwise nurtured by people they have never met before, namely, their parents. They depend, in other words, on hospitality.
Hospitality does not require perfection on the part of those who offer it nor those who receive it. It can be tempting to believe that it does. The perfect host or hostess, we imagine, is one whose house is immaculate, whose table is beautiful, whose food is elegant, and whose parties always come off without a hitch. The perfect guest, in turn, is well dressed and well behaved, a charming and witty conversationalist who always pleases and never annoys and goes home promptly at the end of the evening.
And so we are sometimes inclined to believe concerning parents and children. A good parent, we suppose, is a perfect parent. Good parents know all of the answers and never make any mistakes. They are endlessly patient, endlessly nurturing, endlessly loving. And good children are perfect too. They are beautiful and healthy and intelligent and obedient. They never demand more from their parents than the parents are prepared to give, and they always reflect well on the families of which they are a part.
(From Are You Waiting for “The One”?, pg. 168)