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A New Bride Reflects on Preparing for Marriage

Posted by Theology of Home on
A New Bride Reflects on Preparing for Marriage

Photo: Monica Weinkopf Photography

By Abigail Richard

It’s interesting to prepare for marriage in times like these. As I prepared for my own last year, I spoke to a lot of people about marriage, trying to gain advice and understanding. I poured over Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married, and was struck by how differently Sheen speaks about love for the modern ear. 

It’s an understatement to say that society is far less centered on Christian values. Hook-up culture is the norm on most college campuses. Influencers promote a life of making an obscene amount of money by objectifying themselves online. Divorce and marriage don’t really mean much of anything anymore, and in fact certain celebrities have called it chic to get divorced before you hit 30, prompting at least one magazine to do a roundup of stars who fit the bill of divorcing while they're still "hot."

It’s harder for a Christian approach to marriage to go unnoticed in such a climate. When it is noticed it's often with hostility, weaponizing the call to love against us. The perennial understanding of permanence and fidelity in marriage is practically seen as a dog whistle for bigotry and intolerance. 

We walk the line of trying to embody love of our neighbor while also trying to hate that which God hates. Unfortunately, that which God hates, the world often loves, leaving Christians fearful of being judged or of being seen as judgmental.

This is an understandable fear, and it is true that we are not called to judge the hearts of others (Matt 7:1). But we are meant to foster a hatred of sin (first and foremost, our own). Fear must not keep us from following Christ and sharing His word with the world. It might feel hateful to acknowledge that sin exists, and we might want to dilute or deny that it does just to make sure others don’t feel judged by us. While that is understandable, we should not pretend that it is loving.

Sin does exist, but it exists in me first. My own failings are what I know best, and preparing for marriage made me stare into that mirror deeply. Christ didn’t walk among us to make us all feel content with staying “true to ourselves." He fought sin to the death out of love for us. This love challenges us to become better, not make us more content to stay where we are. Love should radically change us internally.

In his book, Three to Get Married, Sheen talks about how the will, through love, lifts us higher. “Love goes out to meet the demands of what is loved. The intellect pulls higher things down to its level; the will, which is the seat of love, lifts itself up to the level of the good which it loves.” If we love Christ, our very lives should point the way to Christ. Our hearts should strive to rest in Him, and not what our own weak or disordered affections might pull us toward. Love does not contentedly sit with darkness, but shines a light to dispel it.

My search for guidance throughout engagement and early marriage brought along many enlightening conversations -- some unintentionally so. One night I found myself chatting with an older gentleman outside of a concert venue and asking him for his best piece of marriage advice. His response was: never stop putting yourself first, because you came into this world alone, and you’ll leave it alone. 

His words to me represent how so many people see love and marriage today: casual and temporary, and ultimately keeping the self as the number one priority. Why improve or sacrifice for the sake of someone else when you are the most important person in your life?

Christ came to show us sinners a different path. He did not come to affirm our feelings or our sinfulness, but to guide us out of the cave. True love extends a hand to the other and prompts us to take that path. This love is an action; we cannot say we carry the love of Christ but act with merely the love of self. The world tells us not to self-deny, but to self-worship. We need to combat this, not succumb to it.  

The Path of Christ is narrow and the Cross is heavy. Yet real love makes the narrow path expansive and the heaviness of the cross somehow far lighter than not carrying it at all. Love lifts us higher. 

Abigail Richard is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and works as the programs assistant for the Claremont Institute. She and her husband live in New Mexico and are expecting their first baby in October. 

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