The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason (Book Notes)

Because yesterday was our fourteenth anniversary, and since I've been co-teaching a Sunday School class on Rejuvenating Your Marriage, marriage is on my mind. I mentioned last Sunday that Mike Mason's Gold Medallion award winning book The Mystery of Marriage is one of the best books on marriage I've read. Here are some of the quotes from the book that made it to my notes. Maybe these will whet your appetite for more.

“Marriage, as simply as it can be defined, is the contemplation of the love of God in and through the form of another human being.” (p. 38)

“Are there problems in marriage? Every one of them results from the partners trying desperately to renege, however subconsciously or surreptitiously on a choice they have already made, a choice to which they have been led by love.” (p. 42)

“To know the Lord is to be brought into a personal relationship so dramatic and overwhelming that marriage is only a pale image of it. Still, marriage is the closest analogy in earthly experience, and that is why the Bible so often uses the picture of a wedding, and of the bride and groom, to convey something of what it means for human beings to be united to God in love.” (p. 43)

“Marriage comes with a built-in abhorrence of self-centeredness. In the dream world of mankind’s complacent separateness, amidst all our pleasant little fantasies of omnipotence and blamelessness and self-sufficiency, marriage explodes like a bomb. It runs an aggravating interference pattern, an unrelenting guerrilla warfare against selfishness. It attacks people’s vanity and lonely pride in a way that few other things can, tirelessly exposing the necessity of giving and sharing, the absurdity of blame.” (p. 53)

“[Marriage] is one of God’s most powerful secret weapons for the revolutionizing of the human heart. It is a heavy concentrated barrage upon the place of our greatest weakness, which is our relationship with others. We cannot possibly, it is true, in any practical way maintain a commitment to every other person in the world: That is God’s business, not ours. But marriage involves us synecdochically in this mystical activity of God’s by choosing for us just one person, one total stranger out of all the world’s billions, with whom to enter into the highest and deepest and farthest reaches of a sacrificial, loving relationship.” (p. 54)

“What is hard about marriage is what is hard also about facing the Christian God: It is the strain of living continually in the light of a conscience other than our own, being under the intimate scrutiny of another pair of eyes.” (p. 93)

“Marriage means being in the spotlight, being under the unceasing scrutiny of another person, just as we are all under the constant gaze of the Lord our God. Marriage is about nakedness, exposure, defenselessness, and the very extremities of intimacy. It is about the simple unadorned truth between two human beings, truth at all levels and at all costs, and it does not care what pain or inconvenience must be endured in order for the habit of truth to take root, to be watered, and to grow into maturity.” (p. 94)

“A marriage is not a joining of two worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed . . . . Marriage involves nothing more than a lifelong commitment to love just one person – to do, whatever else one does, a good, thorough job of loving one person.” (p. 103, 112)

“Clearly [God] has planned, through marriage, for the demands of love to be made so concrete, so immediate and particular, so focused and intense as to become inescapable. It is His way of turning love into a do-or-die situation . . . marriage inevitably is a trap, a very cunning trap in which two people are caught in the absolute necessity of loving one another.” (p. 116)

“Holy matrimony, like other holy orders, was never intended as a comfort station for lazy people. On the contrary, it is a systematic program of deliberate and thoroughgoing self-sacrifice. A man’s home is not his castle so much as his monastery, and if he happens to be treated like a king there, then it is only so that he might better be enabled to become a servant.” (p. 150)

“Marriage turns out to be through and through an act of acquiescence, a willing compliance, both with God and with one other person, in the difficult process of one’s own subdual and mortification. It cannot succeed without, first of all, a profound acceptance of the conditions of struggle, the state of personal siege, in which it must be lived out, and secondly, without an ever-growing realization that one’s own self cannot and must not emerge as the winner of this struggle. ‘He who is least among you,’ says Jesus, ‘he is the greatest’ (Luke 9:48) and marriage at its best is a sort of contest in what might be called ‘one-downmanship,’ a backwards tug of war between two wills equally determined not to win. That is really the only attitude that works in marriage because that is the way the Lord designed it. He planned it especially as a way for men and women to enter wholeheartedly, with full consent and consequent peace and joy, into the inevitable process of their own diminishment, which is His worship and glorification.” (p. 151)

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