An interesting article at Touchstone reminds me of what marriage means to a Christian. (link)
I want to add a few words.
I suppose you can list various “levels” of marriage.
Level 0 would be no sexual relations, no marriage, no commitment whatsoever. No children, no responsibility as well. This is the default level that every man shares with every woman.
Level 1 would be sexual relations, without any form of commitment. Sometimes the woman bears a child, but if she does, then the man is not there to help in any form whatsoever. In this scenario, the woman bears a tremendous burden, one that if she can’t fulfill (and the chances are low), society will surely have to support. If not, then bad things happen, namely, children are raised improperly and grow up to be delinquents.
Level 2 would be what I could call “civil” marriage. The man and woman commit to each other but only in body. They take responsibilities for their kids but do not give absolute fidelity to one another or their offspring. While the chances of their children growing up into a healthy adult increases significantly over Level 1, it is still not optimal.
Level 3 would be what I could call “religious” marriage. The man and woman not only commit to each other physically, but in every other imaginable way as well. This is the Christian ideal of marriage. Not only do you save your body for your spouse, but you save your heart and soul as well. Just as Christ laid down his life for the church, the husband sacrifices everything for his family. And just as the church serves Christ, the wife should serve the husband. I can’t imagine any higher form of marriage than this.
Since people chance, relationships change, too. A Level 0 relationship can turn into a Level 1 or a Level 2 relationship. Relationships need not progress through each other. You can go from a Level 0 directly to a Level 3 relationship. It’s also possible for there to be asymmetry. Perhaps the woman is not as committed as she could be, and so she is living a Level 2 while the man is living the Level 3.
The point is that there is a good-better-best, even among the good.
The other point is also that we, as a society, as individuals, as parents, must teach that the only worthy form of marriage is the Level 3 marriage: complete fidelity in every aspect of one’s life. You simply cannot compare people who can only sacrifice a part of their life for their family with those who give it all up for their family.
There is no higher ideal than the ideal of Christian marriage. There is no greater good than the good that can be accomplished in the home. It should be the goal of every man, woman and child everywhere. Any goal less than that is a lesser goal which will achieve lesser good. It is, in fact, a choice for evil, since it would replace the greatest good with something else.
I saw a clip from Sean Hannity where a man lectures a woman about what will make her happiest: Being a mom at home with a loving husband, and dedicating her life to her family rather than her career. She gets really upset and bitter about this, I guess because he had the audacity to voice such a simple truth. Her hatred became clear at that point. Meanwhile, he was relaxed and happy. She said something like, “Why would I want to come home to you?” and he responded, “Don’t come home to me. I’m already taken. Go find someone hunkier than me, someone who you want more than anything else in this world.” He demonstrated by his attitude that he knew what he was talking about. His life revolved around his wife and his two-year-old daughter, and that gave him meaning and purpose and joy.
Folks, it really is this simple. Find a spouse. Dedicate everything to him or her. Raise a family. Make it the #1 priority. You will be happy. It is guaranteed. It is when we fail to achieve this ideal that we find sorrow. No one regrets giving their life to their family.