Marriage as a Crucifixion

Most of my life I have been questioned about finding the right girl. Relatives will leave familial hibernation to probe this very issue. Marriage, “the climax to growing up”… Why can’t there be smaller events to get people excited on Facebook? Like buying flannel sheets or reading ‘War and Peace’? Because of this I have begun contemplating a photography career. I would specialize not just in weddings and baby pictures but in sweet sixteens, chicken pox, honeymoons, vows to celibacy. Magnifying the overlooked celebrations could give family and friends more to talk about.

A lot of my friends have already reached their marriage climax. It’s strange at first. The individual you know, forever accompanied by another. I find it puzzling – like a human person inside of a woman’s belly. Soon, with their children, they will look like a Sega RPG game where everyone meticulously follows the leader (Cup you know what I’m talking about). There is also that small chance that your friends will never be seen again. This part sucks. The person they love was secretly a holographic portal to a black hole. I think we can all agree marriage shouldn’t be the elimination of community but a gift and ability to love people better. Swag.

I think I am however beginning to understand why marriage is so invaluable. It’s paradoxically the emptying and fulfilling of an individual. C.S Lewis notes in Four Loves that,

“The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church – read on – and gave his life for her (Eph. V, 25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is – in her own mere nature – least lovable.”

“Most like a crucifixion.” That sounds horrifying. It’s not though. Like Christ, its loving someone more than life. More than pain. More than yourself. Thomas Merton, a prolific Catholic monk, writes in regards to love:

“True happiness is found in unselfish love, and therefore, the potential happiness of such love is without limit. Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.” (No Man is an Island)

We are created to find ourselves in another. Marriage isn’t just a relationship – it’s a spiritual formation – it’s communion with God. The more I empty myself to my beloved the more I will see His face in hers. The more I will share in “His inner life”.

This isn’t a call to masochism (Jeff :)), but a narrow way that leads me down to the marriage altar. Perhaps my relatives were right in their eagerness. They noticed that my greatest fulfillment, greatest climax, would be in giving myself completely to another.

Dustin Risner is a scholar and a gentleman. Currently working on an M.A. in Theological Studies at Denver Theological Seminary, he loves culture and raw foods. When he’s not reading Kierkegaard he’s on fire in NBA Jam.

14 Comments

  • Reply February 25, 2011

    Daryl

    First, if you read War and Peace and mention it on FB, I will be excited.

    Second, Sega: awesome.

    Third, I was just at a wedding where the pastor droned on and on about the wife's marriage duties (submission, servitude, etc), and then when we got to Eph 5:25, he looked at the husband and said, "Of course, we know this is impossible. But try." And moved on.

    Fourth, Jeff. LOL.

    Lastly, every girl wants to find a guy who approaches marriage with Matthew 26:38-39 on his lips. You're a catch!

    • Reply February 26, 2011

      dustin risner

      Daryl – Are you being sarcastic? There would be two ways to interpret Matthew 26:38-39 in this context. Either, 1) "Take this cup from me" – "I don't want to marry this woman but your will be done" or 2) I am willing to love this person through any circumstance. ?

      • February 26, 2011

        Daryl

        I definitely meant the first one, so… yeah, sarcastic. The second option, in the context of Matt 26, is still "I'm willing to love this person through any circumstance [even though I don't really want to, but you're calling me to do it.]" Of course crucifixion is a good metaphor, as long as you're talking about it metaphorically and not literally; somehow, I think if you're going into a marriage and thinking it will be like a crucifixion, you should probably find a different woman! Paul is, after all, talking to already-married guys.

      • February 26, 2011

        Dusty Kat

        Gosh I wish this wasn't so far over on the page. It's looks like when your doing an outline and you've got way to many sub-points. Anyways, I hear what your saying. No one should go into a marriage if they view it as a literal crucix. My point is more in its symbolism. Besides pain, the cross is a symbol of complete abandonment."For the joy set before He endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). If there should be crosses in the relationship – pain, injury, ugliness, back hair – there is still a joy set before us…Communing with God through a selfless marriage relationship.

      • February 26, 2011

        Daryl

        Odd how so much about "enduring" in marriage and bearing a cross in marriage and "communing with God through a selfless marriage relationship" is usually applied to women, not to men. Even your examples fit that bill: how often do you hear someone say to the man "you need to stay through that pain and injury and ugliness"?

        If we post a couple more, we can get to the holy grail of one

        word

        per

        line

        .

        :-)

  • Reply February 25, 2011

    Cuppy

    Wow. Fantastic, sir.

    It seems to me that most often I hear christians apologizing about the "submission thing" that wives are taught to undergo from some cultural view, and then afterwards I hear them saying, "Because really Paul meant mutual submission…" It drives me nuts because few people talk about what the man has to do: love his wife like CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH. And I don't see any men looking anything like Christ in that way, so its gotta be hard. It's not that the mutual submission thing is wrong, its just the fact that there is supposed to be a different focus, a focus to many people miss.

  • Reply February 26, 2011

    alex

    tommy merton quote: one of my favs.

  • Reply February 26, 2011

    Juli

    I think this view is often missed by people entering into marriage. The most beautiful thing about marriage is not necessarily just finding someone who fits you well enough to spend the rest of your life with, but finding someone who allows you to experience God in a way that you, otherwise, would not. God being revealed to you through the life, love, face, and soul of another. The sacrifice of self in a marriage is such a beautiful and monumental step on your journey of becoming more Christ-like. Giving up yourself no matter what pain or even forsakenness may come, all for the love of another. To me, the phrase "a marriage should most resemble the crucifixion" is the most precise truth of a God based marriage. Well done, my dear. I love the way you think : )

  • Reply February 28, 2011

    Jodi

    Well, well, well said, Dustin! And for those who make this a well-lived truth in their lives, the outcome is one that can bear up to the scrutiny of being a living example of Christ & the Church. I am beyond grateful that I have known that kind of sacrificial love for more than 36 years now. (Go, Don!) By the way, can I join the tribe leaving "familial hibernation" to check up on you and this issue now and then, as an honorary member, of course! :) Kidding…kind of!

  • Reply March 1, 2011

    Kimberly Beasley

    The book Sacred Marriage speaks to this topic perfectly. It's a great read you should check it out

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    Shane

    Nice post Dustin. My only comment would be that this cruciform relationship is not just the man self giving but equally the women, who also models herself on Jesus. Mutual and truly equal submission.

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Dusty Kat

      I definitely agree.

  • Reply March 11, 2011

    DR

    If find it interesting that Paul describes the scene of Jesus' crucifixion (1 Peter 2: 21-25) directly before he writes his message to wives and husbands (1 Peter 3: 1-7).

    Of course, my Bible has things like subject headings and chapter breaks so I usually miss things like that.

  • Reply March 11, 2011

    DR

    Wow.

    I just realized that I attributed the writings in 1 Peter to Saul from Tarsus. I know there are some who believe the Pauline corpus comprises the only significant portion of the New Testament (outside of the Gospels, of course) but I am not one of them.

    My bad. My writing is obviously neither infallible nor inspired.

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