20 August 2013

Marriage: Freedom or Ball-and-Chain?

Sub Tuum.

We have all heard it said that a man's last night of freedom is the night before he marries. Thereafter, it is said, he is permanently shackled to the so-called "ole ball and chain," his wife. Similar thoughts abound that suggest a great lack of freedom in marriage for both men and women. Is this really so? Or is it instead the case that a true marriage brings freedom to both spouses? I believe the latter is the case. 

Marriage in most of the world is in a deplorable state today. It has largely been reduced to a mere social and legal contract. Many are choosing to forego marriage altogether and instead cohabitate or move from partner to partner. This today is sadly perceived as freedom. It is not. 

Consider relationships like gardens. Everyone is allotted a space for a garden. In one scenario, we have no divisions between our land and our neighbor's. At first glance, this appears to be freedom. There is nothing telling us or anyone else what to do with respect to our gardens or anyone else's. If we run out of space to plant in our garden, we simply go and use the land belonging to someone else. If we tire of what is growing in our garden, there is nothing stopping us from going to take what was grown by others. And, likewise, there is nothing stopping others from planting on our land and taking what we have grown. When we leave our land at night to rest, we do not know what we will find in the morning, for there is nothing protecting the sanctity of the soil we have tilled and that which we have planted. Perhaps we awake to find all as we left it. Perhaps we awake to find that others have taken the fruits of our labor. There is no stability is this. There is no security. Ultimately there is no freedom. 

In another scenario, we each jealously build a fence around our garden. This not only keeps others out, but it keeps us in. We are forced by the fences of others to stay out of their gardens. We are forced by our own fence to remain within our own boundaries. Perhaps to some this appears as a lack of freedom. Yet, what we plant, what we tend and nurture, and what we harvest is for our nourishment and enjoyment. We need not worry that our labor will be stolen by others. We need not concern ourselves with taking from the gardens of others, as we are kept out by their fences and kept in by ours. Our minds are freed to tend our own garden. We are free to commit our entire selves, heart, soul, and body, to its success. That is stability. That is security. That is freedom. 

It is obviously the fenced in gardens that represent what it means to have a true marriage. With the indissoluble bond of matrimony, there is a fence that both keeps others out and the two spouses in. They are thus freed to build their own life together. They are free to put whatever they wish into the relationship and receive from it accordingly.