I’m the kind of guy who likes to chat with taxi drivers en route to my destination, and recently, I had two drivers who provided a little bit of perspective on marriage.
The first one was a 37-year-old Christian from Ethiopia, and when I asked him if he was married, he told me he had been engaged for four years.
“Why have you been waiting so long to get married?” I asked.
“We’ve had some immigration issues, so it has been hard getting her over here.”
He explained that although they didn’t know each other well when they got engaged, they had made the commitment to get married. He said that it had been stressful waiting faithfully for each other, but they had made the commitment, so there was no other option.
My next driver was a middle-aged Muslim from Afghanistan who said he had a wife and two kids and then proudly boasted, “My wife and I have been happily married for 19 years.”
I asked how he met his wife, and he said that when he was back home for a visit 20 years ago, he met her while spending time with his family. After that, he decided he wanted to marry her. Period. It wasn’t an arranged marriage; he just liked her and decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. When he saw the shock on my face, he explained, “Many people in this country couldn’t stay together if they met like that, but we are Muslims, so we just stay married.”
As I’ve thought about these two drivers and their unconventional views on marital commitment, it strikes me that as Westerners, we’ve bought into a very capitalistic model of marriage. We survey the market for candidates, factor in the realities of supply and demand, make our selections, and purchase with the implicit understanding that we can always return the product — I mean, person — if we want a refund (a.k.a. divorce). No doubt, in the evangelical church, we preach a better game on marriage, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen too many believers drift apart and seal their discord with divorce papers.
The contrast between Western culture and those two taxi drivers reminds me of a Focus on the Family broadcast of Ravi Zacharias’ sermon called, “I, Isaac, Take You, Rebekah.” In it, Zacharias, who is Indian, talks about his incredulity upon learning that his brother had opted for an arranged marriage. He says that when he pressed his brother on it, his brother replied, “Ravi, love is as much the act of the will as it is an emotion.”
After nearly seven years of marriage, I can tell you this: Ravi’s brother is right, and those two taxi drivers are onto something. Getting married is a choice to adopt a new family member, and although it’s very different from having a child, it should be similar in this way: Once we’ve brought a new person into our family — whether a child or a spouse — leaving them should never be an option. So even if you’ve come from a family that’s scarred by divorce, choose something different. Choose to see marriage as an invitation to a world where the economics of capitalism have no say, where you’re willing to pay the ultimate price to love and be loved, no matter how much it asks of you.
Photo by Paul Perkins