Marriages are under a lot of pressure. So many are short-lived or never happen in the first place. Marriage, however, has tremendous potential to help individuals and society. The article “Marriage can fight poverty – but how do you promote it?” in The Christian Science Monitor (June 1, 2017) cites research that children living in poverty are much more likely to succeed if their parents are married. Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is quoted: “There’s a surprising degree of agreement that the country needs marriage.”
What can help marriage succeed? My short answer would be that the good we find in marriage really comes from the good – the love – we give. Unselfish love for each other and our children makes a marriage strong.
At our wedding, a friend read the Bible story of Isaac and Rebekah (see Genesis 24:1-19). He chose it because it’s all about unselfish love.
Here is how the story goes. Abraham sent his servant to look for a wife for his son Isaac. When the servant saw a young woman drawing water from a well, he asked for some. She – Rebekah – hurried to give him a drink and then, without further prompting, went on to draw water for his 10 camels. (A thirsty camel can drink as much as 30 gallons of water!) This was the sign of unselfish generosity that the servant was looking for in the woman who would marry Isaac.
Rebekah certainly had a giving nature, but we can all express this spirit of selflessness. Love is not a personal ability, bestowed on some more than others. The more love we give, the more love feels like divine grace, rather than being created by human effort. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and the Leader of the church she founded, wrote about the effect love has on us: “Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 57).
What’s behind this uplifting power is God, divine Love itself – and our true, spiritual identity as Love’s reflection. The Bible traces the love we express to its divine source: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16).
“Dwelling” in God, Love, was very familiar to Christ Jesus. He loved in the fullest way, expressing compassion and forgiveness not only to dear friends but also to his enemies. This doesn’t mean he gave in to unacceptable behavior; his love sometimes led to rebukes that paved the way for healing. He was true to his nature as the Son of God, divine Love. We, too, are being true to what we are as God’s spiritual child when we let divine Love lead us, perhaps prompting us to show appreciation for our husband or wife, be attentive to a spouse’s needs, or be patient and forgiving – and to find divine Love enabling us to stand up to wrong behavior for the purpose of healing.
There are times when a married couple must reach deep for the love it takes to continue together. Our endurance or kindness might seem too meager for the challenges that a marriage faces. But God is always present to lift our thought to His fullness and infinite love, and loosen the grasp of fear or resentment – and bring healing to the relationship when needed. Each inspired act of love, no matter how small, evidences that God is upholding all that is good in a marriage.
The world can use all the love that marriage can contribute. It is such a good place to nurture each other and a family, bearing witness to the power of divine Love to bring out the best in one another.