I visited Mrs. Faudi in her hospital room. Because she was in the first bed as I entered, I stood with my back to the door. Our brief conversation was low-keyed and pleasant. But, suddenly she looked past me and I saw her eyes light up. I turned to see that her husband had just entered the room. It was obvious that this was the visit she was waiting for and that the fires of love still burned in their hearts.
The Faudis were retired farmers who had recently moved to town. Mrs. Faudi was slight and looked frail and ashen in her hospital bed. Mr. Faudi was a slender man, and both had weather-beaten features reflecting long years of toil on the land. But in that exchange of looks, something flamed up, the indicator of a loving bond that must have renewed itself again and again over more than fifty years of marriage.
I recall that moment sometimes when I read of the attack on marriage so common and intense in our post-modern culture. I hear this often: sack it; live together without it; let’s hear it for “open marriage” where vows are taken that allow latitude for trysts with other partners; why not same-sex marriages or even several partners at the same time? Regarding this evolving effort to blur the boundaries, we haven’t heard it all yet.
In our fallen world there can be no complete assurance that a Christian covenanted marriage will be everything God intended it to be. But recalling that moment in the hospital room makes me want to point out to young people some ways to greatly increase the likelihood.
I’m all for romance! But when pondering the suitability of a mate, romantic feelings are not enough. There is a “judgment” aspect to choosing a life partner that must not be neglected. For example, it should be asked: Do we share a common faith and is it genuine on the part of both partners? Sometimes it is necessary to seek Christian counsel on this specific matter to help us see past our romantic feelings. After all, for good reason the Bible clearly forbids an “unequal yoke” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Is the love we profess unconditional? That is, do we intend from the depths of our beings to make this marriage “until death us do part?” Or are there unacknowledged reservations that we are keeping out of sight? There is a quality of commitment which when held by both partners gives a basis for working through all sorts of struggles and reverses that arise along the path.
There is also a sort of pre-wedding dreaminess that can threatens the likelihood of long-term love: One might say: “I’ll fix that when we’re married (sometimes it’s I’ll fix him/her);” Or, “I’m going ahead because this may be my last chance;” Or even, “I see some developing storm clouds but they will go away by themselves if I pay no attention; right now I have to think about a great wedding; I’ll think about a great marriage later.”
Couples like the Faudis – and I’ve known a lot of them across a lifetime – stand as a constant testimony that in the realm of matrimony there is a love that can last a lifetime.
But I also know that that kind of marriage doesn’t just happen. In my opinion, the most successful marriages in Christian circles are characterized by a deep and mutual faith in God, a romantic flair that makes the very countenance glow, and a grounding in judgment that launches the enterprise thoughtfully and with integrity, keeping it on track.