Who is audacious enough to claim credentials for writing about marriage, since it touches so many areas of human experience: the heart, individual purpose, human rights, the crucial development of our future’s progeny, and wallet issues?
The fact is, millions of us have legitimate credentials, including Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor’s founder. She endured highs and lows of marriage that many know all too well. Her first husband died after only six months; her second deserted her after years of infidelity, which all ended in divorce; and the third, whom she loved dearly, died after five years.
She later answered the question, “What do you think of marriage?” in this way: “That it is often convenient, sometimes pleasant, and occasionally a love affair. Marriage is susceptible of many definitions. It sometimes presents the most wretched conditions of human existence” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 52).
No one wants marriage to be a “wretched condition.” And many people want it to be a mutually supportive contract offering companionship and more. Mrs. Eddy continued her response: “To be normal, it must be a union of the affections that tends to lift mortals higher.”
Relationships demand the best of humanity. Today, definitions of marriage that focus primarily on physical aspects of relationships overshadow that demand. But the best that humanity has is actually spiritual. Expressing spiritual qualities blesses human unions.
Spiritual qualities don’t emanate from, and are not subject to, the whims of physicality, but they lift pleasures and pressures of physicality to higher affections. The qualities of integrity, fidelity, emotional and moral strength, tenderness, thoughtfulness, intelligence, are actually qualities that each of us is created to express. Those qualities, developed individually and lived, will lift marriage to a more spiritual level.
Living those qualities individually and expressing them in a marriage establishes completeness – not a completeness that comes from putting two halves together, but a “union of the affections,” a sweet sharing in which husband and wife express to each other each one’s whole identity as a child of the Creator, already complete.
A friend once told me of a challenging family experience that was harmonized when she turned to God for a more spiritual view of family relationships. In prayer, the thought came to her: “God governs the association of His ideas.” She understood that God’s ideas, His children, never lose the capacity to express the spiritual qualities of God, Spirit. And each idea, or child, is governed as an individual and in one’s associations, by God.
So how can a marriage that’s broken be restored to support both individuals’ happiness and progress? By accepting the original, untarnished completeness of oneself and one’s partner, and living it better today than yesterday. Then a trustworthy “union of the affections” will support each partner’s spiritual progress.
A marriage can gently be elevated to a union of affections that continually grows. Such a union supports the originally created, spiritual nature of both partners.
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