Manliness and Marriage

Marriage is a deep ocean and a wealth of treasure.

There is love. Fidelity and sacrifice. Commitment, forgiveness, and grace. And pleasure. In marriage you learn the mystery of Christ and His bride. Any man who embraces the biblical teachings, examples, and imagery regarding marriage will experience life-change.

Marriage is not entertainment. It’s transformation. Want to feel manly? Go hunting. Want to become a man? Get married.

It’s interesting to gain wisdom from odd angles. The following excerpts are pulled from a Time magazine article on unfaithfulness. Sanford, Ensign, Spitzer, Edwards, Gosselin, Woods — marriage took a shellacking this year. But see what you can discover about its inestimable worth and meaning from Caitlin Flanagan’s powerful narrative:

In the e-mails exchanged between the governor [Sanford] and his girlfriend, they trip over themselves to praise the other’s virtues. // These two humanitarians were engaged not only in worshipping each other’s high-mindedness but also in destroying another woman’s home, hobbling her children emotionally and setting her up for humiliation of a titanic proportion.

The squalor and pain that resulted from the Sanford and Ensign midlife crises make manifest a bleak truth that the late writer Leonard Michaels once observed in his journal: “Adultery is not about sex or romance. Ultimately, it is about how little we mean to one another.”

A lasting covenant between a man and a woman can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world — or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children.

An increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principals, the intact, two-parent family remains our cultural ideal, but it exists under constant assault.

There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers’ financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation’s underclass.

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. // Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. “The mom may not need that man,” Kefalas says, “but her children still do.”

We recognize that [marriage] is something of great worth, but we are increasingly less willing to put in the hard work and personal sacrifice to get there. // A lasting marriage is the reward, usually, of hard work and self-sacrifice.

The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it . . . simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren’t many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.

Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood? // Who is left to ensure that these kids grow up into estimable people once the Mark Sanfords and other marital frauds and casual sadists have jumped ship? The good among us, the ones who are willing to sacrifice the thrill of a love letter for the betterment of their children. // What we teach about the true meaning of marriage will determine a great deal about our fate.

Wow — talk about both barrels! Did it effect you? What would happen if we taught (and modeled!) the full-blown matrimonial resolve this article demands? There’s timeless truth in this. The kind of truth that ignites the grit and timbre of manliness in young men. Men, after all, in the deepest part of their being, want to become what God designed them to be. Examples of Himself, for His glory.