By Mark A. Taylor
Last year, just before my daughter’s wedding, a friend e-mailed me about the big day.
“My daughter’s wedding was the most exhilarating and exhausting day of my life,” he said, and soon I would know what he meant.
But it occurs to me that exhilarating and exhausting describe the whole gamut of married and family life.
For example, it’s exhilarating finally to hold a newborn baby, especially after an exhausting labor and drawn-out pregnancy.
Likewise, each milestone of the new preschooler’s life is exhilarating: first words, first steps, first everything! And keeping up with her is exhausting for the frazzled parent trying to adjust to life with perpetual motion.
This is how it goes with each new year. The on-task parent is exhausted again and again—helping with homework, traipsing to practices and games and lessons and recitals, monitoring chores, teaching good habits, tending to bad behavior, coping with illness, navigating school, encouraging church.
And then come the teen years when that sweet darling turns sullen or the friendly chap suddenly quits talking. We’re so bamboozled by this stranger in our house we forget they’re as upset by it all as we are.
But each conversation and confrontation adds another brick to a foundation that can become a great friendship by the time this child becomes an adult. And that new, mature relationship is exhilarating.
What’s true for rearing children is just as important in building a marriage. Good communication, shared goals, mutual pleasure, and ongoing satisfaction don’t just happen because two people are eating and sleeping in the same house. Good marriages, like healthy children, develop when involved parties work to make them flourish. The result can be exhilarating, but the process is often exhausting.
Last month, amid the hubbub over the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, I thought about all the things we can do, we must do, individually to defend our own marriages.
Of course we’re unhappy with the judges and other government leaders who have turned their back on an ages-long understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman. Of course we’re disappointed, maybe even devastated, that they’ve ignored the Bible’s simple description and prescription: a man and a woman leave their families to cleave to each other and become one flesh.
But let’s concentrate on what we can control, and we can control this: We can defend our marriages against the devil’s relentless attacks against our marriages. We can recruit a friend to hold us accountable to keeping our commitments. We can wake up every morning with the conviction to make our marriages a place where God’s at work. We can remind ourselves daily of all the things we love about our spouses. We can persevere through all the change time throws at the two of us.
And if that sounds exhausting, remember this: It’s easy to moan about the decline of our culture and to document the failure of our government. It’s easy to write off one segment of society because we’re confused or disgusted by same-sex behavior. It’s easy to pray for God to bless America.
But if every Christian couple would commit daily to defending their own marriages, I’m guessing the result would send fresh air throughout our neighborhoods and around our institutions. And the result would be . . . exhilarating.