My new book, Living in Sin: Making Marriage Work Between I Do and Death, just released. You can order it here.
Here’s an excerpt from it, on the house:
Strike what I said earlier against advice-giving because here’s some. But this isn’t just marriage advice, it’s Christian advice, advice on how to see other humans in light of the gospel. Here it goes: seeing others as Ali sees me, as bound and unfree, is the easiest way to find patience and empathy for others. It’s when you mistakenly think people are free that you get pissed off at them. When you see people as active agents of everything in their lives, choosing the crap decisions they make, you can confuse what they do for who they are.
And I know this: you’re just like me. You have your own Angelinas, your own jars of pickles, and your own bags of Cheetos you can’t stay away from. You’re not an enigma, but you have plenty of them in your life. Every spouse knows it already. The only consistent thing about you is your inconsistency. You’re just like me.
The only fix for what ails us in our life with another is our willingness to receive and reciprocate a mercy that is as unmerited as it is unexpected, which means often it will stick in your craw, striking you as somewhere between uncomfortable and offensive.
When you vow “I do” to another, you are not promising “I can.” You’re not asserting an ability innate to you. Instead of the tit for tats that come so naturally to us, by your “I do” you’re pledging your willingness to volley and serve a grace that comes so unnaturally to us that it first had to come to us as God in the flesh.
The love that can make marriage work between “I do” and death, in other words, is the love with which Christ loved us—a love that died for us while we yet sucked.
Marriage is a means of God’s grace. God gets to us with his grace through the grace our beloved gives us. Forget what all the be-fruitful-and-multiply-family-values people vomit onto your TV screen, for my money this is the only Christian foundation to any formulation like Christian marriage. Like John the Baptist pointing his long, bony finger away from himself and onto Jesus, the forgiveness offered to you by your lover is a sacrament of that permanent forgiveness provided by Jesus’s passion. And just as I say with bread and wine at the altar table every week, the promise of his passion is that it delivers us from captivity to our propensity to screw things up.