Sunday, July 10, 2011

The arranged marriage of my faith.

First let me say the tradition of arranged marriage is unfairly demonized. And yet I feel it's a pretty bad idea's just that it seems no less effective in accomplishing whatever the ubiquitous "institution of marriage" is trying to accomplish, than its free-wheeling, Western-styled sister is out to do.*

Today, I had another, subtle change in attitude toward something I'd once perceived as mundane, necessary or even somber. My first was probably at age 16 when I looked at my Bible sitting on its marble windowsill and I no longer saw a textbook. Instead I saw a guidebook that had been given to me for my personal benefit. This time, it was communion. I looked up from my chair, saw the wooden trays and thought "yay communion!" and then "did you really just think 'yay, communion'?" As I child I...had mixed experiences. When I was very young, it meant my mother would be singing in the choir, so my brother and I got to sit with her over in the corner. To this day, I tear up when I hear "Come ye Disconsolate" or "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus"...songs I've come to associate with my mothers's gentle, second soprano voice and its framing of my childhood. As a teen, it became the part of service that took church from long to REALLY long and left all us kids itchy in our seats, passing notes back on forth on TI-82s. Today though, I came to genuinely see it for what it was. Time to commune with someone I love and am learning to love more...and I was excited.

I make the comparison to arranged marriage because Christians that are raised in the faith have similar orientations to those who entered into marriages that were decided for them by someone else. They don't get the big, "impressive" stories of how they met completely by accident on a plane to Nevada or stories of constant, new and exciting revelations about seemingly superficial details about the lives of their partner.  They end up forming a relationship not of their choosing and working through it for years, sometimes for better, sometimes for a lot worse.

Still though, there persist stories of couples, who, despite not having left their romantic lives up to fate, found loving and fulfilling relationships. Like a woman betrothed, I didn't choose to go to church on Sundays as a child. I didn't choose to attend a school that included a course on Biblical study. I didn't choose to pray with my parents. All of that was chosen for me. I really didn't start executing choices until I was in high school. And yes, it's something for which I am grateful. Not because of the direction it was pointing me in...though that I am thankful for, because I had parents that pointed me toward the faith of Christianity moreso than the religion...but mostly instead because it makes the transition easier.

There are spiritual disciplines and concepts that are hard. They just are. Financial discipline, serving, Biblical study, prayer, personal sacrifice, controlling of the tongue, controlling of the body, regular service attendance, patience, forgiveness and understanding with other members of the body of Christ. Those take time, effort and sacrifice to learn, put into practice and make habits of and I'm willing to bet none of them come instantly with salvation. Kind of like love seldom comes instantly in arranged marriages. Sometimes it grows. Sometimes it never comes. Sometimes the relationship turns into resentment and hatred of something familiar and confining.

In any case, I'm an thankful for the arrangements that have been made...and honestly for how they were my life.

*I make a very stark personal distinction between marriages God has "endorsed", and those that are done simply for the sake of being married or not being single. The latter is what I'm referring to in this post.

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