Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Elaine Storkey on Marriage, Community, and Intimacy

Here are three quotes about marriage from Elaine Storkey’s wonderful book, The Search for Intimacy. The book deals with far more than marriage, as the title suggests, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Maybe it is her British detachment from the American gender wars that gives this book part of its charm. But the most profound thing about her writing is how simultaneously intellectual yet emotionally rooted it is. This is a topic, and a book, of the heart. Anyway, her quotes on marriage (headers my own):


Learning the language of community even where the community is just two people, is essential in marriage. For the words themselves belie the reality beneath, the neither person has a monopoly on reasonableness and that each needs the other. Being able to admit to what one wants, and to be willing to have those wants challenged by another is a risky endeavour. For it exposes one’s insecurities and selfishness, as much as one’s lofty ideals and longings. But without such mutual exposure and sensitivity there can never be community, and without community marriage is at best a list of individually negotiated contracts. It is only in the learning to give that I can learn to love, and when I learn that, it is so infinitely more satisfying than having my own way.


Disappointment within marriage has one very clear answer: acceptance. The issue of acceptance is the core spiritual issue which lies at the heart of every marriage. For we are all failures. We are all disappointments. No one person can be all that another dreamed of. And so often we have to let go of our ideal of what a husband or wife should be like, and give ourselves in love instead to the one we actually have. We sometimes have to die to the hopes and ambitions on which we tried to build our lives, die to ideas and dreams of how we wanted to be happy, how we thought we should be loved. But these are painful deaths. They can leave us desolate and exposed. That is why it is often only possible to die these deaths when they are 'simultaneously huge acts of trusts in something beyond myself that I believe holds my life with care.' So say two authors who help people through this process of letting go. For it could be that God's purpose for me is far bigger than my own. Perhaps 'what God wants to do in me cannot be accomplished in the marriage of my dreams. Perhaps it can be accomplished only in the marriage I am actually in.'

Beyond Ourselves

Marriage is neither a social accident, nor a deliberate product of a patriarchal society. It is part of the very lifeblood of our humanness: given to us both in God’s created order of our lives, and in God’s redemptive provision for our healing. Characterized by love, faithfulness and commitment, marriage produces a powerful and inimitable structure for the expression and growth of intimacy in our society.

Yet marriage is under pressure, both from the emptiness of fragmenting society and from the restlessness of the human heart. That pressure cannot be relieved by declaring this to be an outmoded institution, ready to be replaced by less constricting relationships. It can only be countered by entering much more deeply into the fullness of what marriage offers us, and understanding the power it can give our lives and our society. Marriage is essentially an act of troth – of open, giving trust. It is the utter invasion of privacy, the unrelenting exposure of one to another. Its fulfillment lies in the time, care, respect and love two people are prepared to give each other. Its strength lies in its origins beyond ourselves.


Whisky Prajer said...

Tangentially related: thank you for posting the rotating "My Library" on your sidebar. I picked up NT Wright's Paul For Everybody. It is, to date, the book that has made the single most sense of Romans for me.

chris said...

Nice post. But I think you got the book title wrong. Amazon records it as The Search for Intimacy, Eerdmans, 1996. In fact it's in your Library Thing! Better get over here and get some coffee! See what happens when a day lapses without the bike path?

Jon Trott said...

Chris, Thanks. I fixed it.

whiskey, glad to be of help, esp. where N. T. Wright is involved.

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