There’s something to say about marriage as settling down. For some, it is a literal settling down — i.e. living a much quieter life compared to the life of being single. For others, it is the beginning of settling in — becoming gradually familiar with this new way of living because you are going to live that for the rest of your life. Whatever it is for people, we hope marriage is not about just settling — i.e. accepting life even if you’re not completely happy or satisfied with it.
We hope marriage is much more than that.
We hope marriage is vocation — where the two parties can find joy — the deep kind — and find that this is the way they can live out their best possible life. Some people live life directionless until they get married, and then they hit their stride, and you just realize that this person was meant to be married. There is a word for that: it is to settle once and for all — to establish on a permanent basis, to find stability. Marriage settles onto a couple like peace settles on a people, like sunlight settles on a farm field during summer. It is gradual, sometimes you don’t feel it, but it is there, all encompassing. It embraces and holds you, until you cannot imagine life without it.
Some people live life without meaning, until they find the right partner, and then you realize that this person was MEANT to be married to that person. They just… FIT. Marriage settled them down like sediments settle down onto the bottom of a pail and makes the water clearer. To settle in this case is to come to rest in one place, and then to reach clarity because of that settling.
We hope marriage is much more than accepting life even if you’re not completely satisfied with it. That is not what makes for a happy marriage. That is marriage that will surely end in disaster, but for the grace of God. We hope marriage becomes a sacrament — a visible sign of the invisible grace of God working in the lives of married couples. And while it sounds like just a dream, I know that is possible. I’ve seen it in my parents and in my parents-in-law’s lives. I’ve seen how their living life together — with all its difficulties, but also with all its joys — show me God’s love. It is real. They make God’s love palpable in the way they care for each other, in the way they hold hands, in the way they depend on each other, but also in the way they let each other grow and be. That is when settling is about putting things into order. You settle your affairs that way–making sure life is in order and nothing is left to chance and everything is left to God.
For some, marriage is akin to settling debts–an you owe it to yourself. Some people get pressured by society, or family, (or aunties during family reunions!) to get married. But it just doesn’t work because love–or life–is not about debts to be paid. You never owe it to yourself to get married. That is recipe for disaster or divorce.
When you settle, you talk about once and for all, you talk about final decisions. And so with marriage. You make a final decision — this ONE PERSON, for the rest of my life. This ONE PERSON, forever. We make brave promises to stay together even if we do not have a hold of forever. But we are settledby the fact that we are not making promises alone. Forever is possible only because love is possible and love is forever. That is the ‘solution’ to all these hemming and hawing. That is when your hearts settle down and you come to freedom and peace of mind. Because settling down and settling in only makes sense in the context of true freedom. Oswald Chambers says it beautifully, “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”
Allow me to share a part of my vows during my own wedding a month ago. Because it is only in the context of the One who is leading that we are able to say vows at all:
I desire to be a kind husband so that you can always find a home in me when the rest of the world is cruel.
I want that when your friends see you, they say, “You’re so blooming Jean!” Because that means you are inspired by life, you are inspired by us, you are inspired by me.
I want to be the spiritual leader of our family, so that when we’re together you are always reminded that God is near.
I want to remain hopeful and to always choose to see the good in situations, despite the temptation to despair, so we can both face the future with faith, instead of fear.
I want to be a good person, because I want to be a good example to our kids (if there are kids,) so they can grow with their hearts in the right place, and live life with honor, and know the difference between price and worth.
I want to listen to you, always, not just to the words you say, but to what you don’t, not just because you need to be heard, but so I can learn from you.
I want to support your dreams and let you grow to be the best you can ever be, because it would devastate me if you clip your wings and you live life with regrets. (Not on my watch.)
And lastly, I want to glorify God by being fully alive, by being the best I can be, because you deserve nothing less from me.
And so here we are, in a strange country, enjoying, as Robert Brault would say, “the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Marriage settled our hearts, grace settled on us, love allowed us to settle things once and for all, but it is definitely not a settling down. It is just the start of things to come!
[by Eric Santillan]
About Eric Santillan
AngPeregrino lives with his wife in Shenzhen, China. He is currently on sabbatical to think about his next big step, knowing that he’s in a country of mind boggling opportunities. Before that, he was a management consultant specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and culture management; and did counselling. He remains to be a writer for The Mindanao Current, and a retreat giver.