Marriage is Like a Precious Gem
A lot of people are confused about marriage these days. In the eyes of many, the institution of marriage has become irrelevant, an archaic relic of a simpler and more naïve time. They question whether marriage is still a good idea, particularly in today’s more “liberated” and “enlightened culture. Concepts such as honor, trust, faithfulness and commitment seem old-fashioned and out of touch with modern society. Many people change partners as easily as they change shoes (and almost as frequently!).
This confusion over marriage should not surprise us, considering the bewildering barrage of worldly attitudes and philosophies that hits us at every turn. Every day books, magazines, movies and television soap operas, sitcoms, and prime-time dramas bombard us with images of wives cheating on their husbands and husbands cheating on their wives. Unmarried men and women hop into bed with each other at the drop of a hat, and just as quickly hop out again to find their next partner.
People today shop for relationships the way they shop for clothes. They “try something on for size” and if it does not fit they simply try something else. When they find something that suits them they wear it for a while until it fades or goes out of style. Then they throw it out or hang it up in the back of their closet and rush out to replace it.
We live in a disposable, “cast off and throw away” society that has largely lost any real sense of permanence. Our’s is a world of expiration dates, limited shelf life, and planned obsolescence. Nothing is absolute. Truth exists only in the eye of the beholder and morality is the whim of the moment. In such an environment, is it any wonder that people ask, “Doesn’t anything last anymore? Isn’t there something I can depend on?”
One major symptom of a sick society is when we attach to our human relationships the same attitude of impersonal transience that we display toward the inanimate and disposable items that we use in everyday life. Marriage is the deepest and most intimate of all human relationships, yet even it is under assault. Is marriage still viable in modern society? Does it still make sense in our transitory world? Is marriage still a good idea?
A GEM OF A MARRIAGE
How then should we define marriage? If marriage is not primarily for sex or procreation, then what is it? As always, we can find the answer in the Bible. God’s Word is truly amazing; nothing we read there is there by accident. The basic Greek word for marry or marriage is gameo, which derives from the same root as our English word gem. That root word literally means to fuse together. Fusion of different elements into one describes the process by which precious gems are formed deep in the earth. That process is also an apt description of marriage.
Precious gems such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are formed far underground out of ordinary elements that are subjected to great heat and massive pressure over an extended period of time. Heat, pressure, and time working together can transform even the most common material into something extraordinary. Take coal for example. Coal is formed when partially decomposed wood or other plant matter is combined with moisture in an airless environment under intense heat and pressure. This process does not happen overnight, but requires centuries.
Marriage as God designed it is like a precious gem. First of all, it develops over time. Diamonds don’t form in ten years; they require millennia. It takes only a few minutes to get married, but building a marriage requires a lifetime. That’s one reason why God established marriage as a permanent, lifelong relationship. There must be sufficient time for two people with separate and distinct backgrounds and personalities to become fused together as one flesh.
Secondly, Godly marriage becomes stronger under pressure. A diamond is the hardest substance on earth. Millions of tons of pressure over thousands of years fuse and transform carbonized matter into a crystal that can withstand any onslaught. A diamond can be cut only under certain conditions and using specially designed tools. In a similar way, external pressures temper and strengthen a Godly marriage, driving a husband and wife closer together. Just as pressure purifies a diamond, so the everyday problems and challenges of life purify a Godly marriage. A husband and wife face the pressure together. The harder things get, the stronger their union grows. Marriage fuses two different people into one so that under pressure they become so hard and fast that nothing can break them.
Godly marriages and worldly marriages respond differently to pressure. In the world, when the going gets tough, partners split up. Like those two pieces of wood glued together, they are bonded but not fused. The heat and pressure of life break them apart. That same heat and pressure fuse a Godly couple together so that their marriage grows ever stronger, until they become inseparable and unbreakable.
Marriage is never just the coming together of two people, but a collision of their histories. It is a clash of cultures, experiences, memories, and habits. Marriage is the beautiful accommodation of another lifetime.
Building a strong marriage takes time, patience, and hard work. One of the hardest adjustments anyone faces is moving from single life to married life. Let’s be honest: People do not change overnight. When you marry someone, you marry more than just a person; you marry an entire family, a complete history of experiences. That’s why it is often so hard at first to understand this person who is now sharing your house and your bed. Both of you bring into your marriage 20 or 30 years of life experiences that color how you see and respond to the world. Most of the time you quickly discover that you see many things quite differently from each other. Difference of viewpoint is one of the biggest sources of stress and conflict in young marriages. Adjusting to these differences is critical to marital survival. Unfortunately, many marriages fail on precisely this point.
Over time and under the pressures of daily life, a husband and wife come to understand each other more and more. They begin to think alike, act alike, and even feel alike. They learn to sense each other’s moods and often recognize what is wrong without even asking. Gradually, their personal attitudes and viewpoints shift and move toward each other so that their mentality is no longer yours and mine, but ours. This is when the gem-like quality of marriage shines most brilliantly. Fusion creates oneness.
A godly marriage is like a precious gem in another way as well. Normally, we don’t find gems simply by walking along looking on the surface of the ground as we would search for seashells on the beach. To find gems, we have to dig deep into the earth and chisel through hard rock. In the same way, we will never obtain God’s kind of marriage simply by going along with the crowd, doing what everybody else does. We have to dig deep into the heart of God to discover His principles. Precious gems are rare and so is a genuine marriage. There are no shortcuts, no easy 1-2-3 formulas. We have only God’s Word to instruct us and His Spirit to give us understanding and discernment, but that is all we need.
So what is marriage? Marriage is a God-ordained institution, a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman. Over time and under the heat and pressure of life, two people under the covenant of marriage come together and are lost in each other to the point where it becomes impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Marriage is a process, a fusion of two distinct and different elements into one, a sparkling jewel of love, faithfulness, and commitment that shines brightly in a world of short-lived fads and impermanence.