Giving Marriage a Chance
The Last Kiss portrays an anemic, yet all-too-common, view of marriage that needs to go.
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Last week I went to see The Last Kiss. The plot intrigued me: An unmarried man grapples with turning 30. Many of my friends are in this same boat (or quickly approaching it), so I guessed the story would be insightful.
In the film, Michael, a 29-year-old architect, finds himself exactly where he planned to be by 30 — successful in his career, in love with his beautiful girlfriend of three years and … anticipating the arrival of a baby. With this unexpected development, Michael is thrown into uncertainty. Attempting to reassure himself, he half-heartedly concedes of his girlfriend, Jenna: “If you have to settle down — if you have to have the baby — this is the girl to do it with.”
On the brink of commitment, Michael panics. Viewing his three best friends — one trapped in a demoralizing marriage, another recently dumped and devastated and a third living it up with multiple sexual partners — Michael is terrified that his exciting life is grinding to a halt. He has stepped on the human conveyor belt where each step is planned and nothing surprising will ever happen again.
With this discovery fresh on his mind, Michael is drawn to a beautiful and vivacious younger woman. He allows himself to become involved with her, risking everything he has built with Jenna. The resulting chain of events is painful to watch.
I can’t recommend this movie because of liberal sexual content and profanity, but its message both resonated with me and troubled me deeply. Most twenty-something singles I know, particularly men, seem to be grappling with this same premature mid-life crisis. Marriage and family seem inevitable but not enviable.
A major contributing factor to later and fewer marriages is a lack of motivation. Many in our generation have been witnesses to their parents’ divorces. Others have watched moms and dads endure loveless, stifling or bitter marriages. As one friend told me, regarding his parents’ recent divorce, “They probably shouldn’t have married in the first place.”
Television and movies compound the problem, portraying marriage as boring, enslaving, difficult and dreary. No wonder our generation is marriage-resistant. When Michael realizes marrying his girlfriend and establishing a home with her is inevitable, he says, “This is it. This is the end.” Media fairly screams: “Marriage isn’t worth it. Why bother?”
While Michael ends in making an uneasy peace with the idea of marriage and commitment, we are left with the impression that marriage is an alternate depressing reality — albeit potentially richer — to the even more depressing reality of singleness. Michael chooses the lesser of two evils. As the credits rolled, I thought, something is terribly wrong with this picture.
The idea of marriage as useless has become so deeply engrained in our culture, that it is difficult to see anything else. While many singles desire marriage and continue to hope in its ideal, they receive little positive reinforcement of its desirability. In order to reclaim the value of marriage, you must ask yourself: “Do I believe God meant what He said about marriage?”
Scripture elevates marriage as a relationship ordained by God at creation and one that is deeply satisfying. Consider these basic truths:
“It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Not only is this a statement uttered by God at the inauguration of humanity, but it is something I feel daily on a personal level. God did not create humans to live in isolation. He designed us to long for and experience companionship and love. And marriage was the first context — apart from Adam’s relationship with God Himself — the Lord established to relieve loneliness.
“I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). As a remedy to Adam’s loneliness, God created Eve. God designed her to be Adam’s helper. At a women’s prayer group, I recently heard a single woman pray, “Lord, you created us to be helpmates.” I was stunned by this reminder. My desires to nurture, encourage and assist were instilled by God for the purpose of being a companion and helper and are best exercised within the context of marriage.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Because God created woman for man, marriage is the next natural step upon leaving one’s family of origin. In fact, this verse seems to indicate that a man should ideally create his own family shortly after leaving his family of origin. This is rare in today’s society, where the average marrying age is over 25. But waiting 10 to 15 years opens up an unnatural window where a single is not supported by his family and does not have a companion. This limbo fosters sexual temptation, loneliness and confusion.
“Children are a gift of the LORD” (Psalm 127:3). This phrase is thrown around a lot and seems to have lost its impact. With a tolerance for abortion and a prejudice against women who choose family over career, society seems to place value only on children who are wanted and who don’t impede personal success. And yet, of all the blessings God wishes to bestow on His followers, children are at the top of the list. Their value is mentioned repeatedly throughout Scripture. They bless their mothers. They are a delight to their fathers. The kingdom of God belongs to them.
The Family Gift
According to our God, marriage is not brutal responsibility; it is a belonging that models God’s character. This is seen in a man loving his wife with devotion or a woman nurturing her husband’s dreams. The heavenly Father’s love is expressed in a baby nestling against its father’s chest or a child kissing her mother’s face. These revelations are far from ordinary. They thrill and satisfy in ways unknown apart from family life.
Even flawed families reflect God in some of His deepest aspects. The prophet Hosea’s love for his unfaithful wife, Gomer, provided a picture of how God unflinchingly loves a rebellious people. The story of the prodigal son demonstrates the committed love and forgiveness of a heavenly father. Families who work through problems bring just as much glory to God.
I was blessed to grow up in a family where many of the benefits of family life were realized. I had a father who showed in every action that nothing delighted him more than his wife and children. I had a mom who listened, tenderly brushed away tears when necessary and spent late nights speaking words of wisdom and truth to me. I had siblings who made me laugh and cry and mostly be extremely grateful for their friendship, which was unfailing. I know what is possible.
Many have not been so fortunate. They have seen only brokenness and heartache in their families. And yet the fact remains that the Father is glorified in godly families committed to Him at any cost. For these relationships reflect Him. God is our father. We are Christ’s bride. Knowing God requires that we become like children. The imagery is breathtaking. And God has invited us to be a part of it.
The idea that marriage is not worth the effort is pervasive, even among Christ-followers. Men (and women) like Michael find little motivation for marriage, because they are not basing their perspective on truth. Satan is pulling perhaps his biggest scam yet — to erase the God-imagery found in families by destroying them — even before they begin.
Yes, marriage is a commitment. Yes, marriage brings greater responsibility. Yes, family life requires sacrifice. But as believers, we have a compelling reason to pursue it. Marriage bears witness to an incredible God, who has made us part of His family and loved us passionately. If this is the case, Michael was mistaken: entering into marriage is not the end; it’s only the beginning.
Copyright 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, who is a family pastor, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.