Recently I heard that the missionary David Brainerd prayed to be utterly repulsive to the opposite sex. That was so intriguing to me that I borrowed The Life and Diary of David Brainerd from the library just to check it out.
I never found that quote, but I did find this passage:
“Took pains to describe the difference between a regular and irregular self-love; the one consisting with a supreme love to God, but the other not; the former uniting God’s glory and the soul’s happiness that they become one common interest, but the latter disjoining and separating God’s glory and man’s happiness, seeking the latter with a neglect of the former. Illustrated this by that genuine love that is founded between the sexes, which is diverse from that which is wrought up towards a person only by rational argument, or hope of self-interest. Love is a pleasing passion; it affords pleasure to the mind where it is; but yet, genuine love is not, nor can be placed upon any object with that design of pleasure itself.”
Now that’s something you don’t hear every day! 🙂
This is all well and good, you may be thinking, but what does this have to do with multicultural marriage?
I think the natural tendency for single people, especially for girls, is to think that once you’re married, all sexual temptations and crushes on the opposite sex will magically melt away. I know that was my assumption. After all, you’ve found your soulmate and everything is going to be perfect, right?
Well, yes, I have found my soulmate. And unfortunately, no, everything was not instantly perfect! There have been times (as any married couple will tell you) when we have had disagreements, heated words, conflict and emotional estrangement.
And external pressures on our relationship never go away. Finances, raising children, time management, household errands … these are all good things in themselves, but they can place strains on us as we navigate life together.
I think having a child has reinforced for me the “dailyness” of our marriage vows. I promise to be faithful in sickness and health (yep, been there with the baby in sickness); for richer or poorer (babies have a way of putting extra strain on the family budget!); for better or worse (babies tend to make things “worse” before they get “better”); etc.; etc.
In each of these situations, I must remember to choose to be faithful regardless of how I may feel at that moment. Life isn’t all romantic candles and one-on-one moonlit conversations. Often I’m so tired that I can’t even stay up past 10:30 p.m.! (says the girl who used to go to bed around 3 a.m.)
God’s glory AND your happiness
When the pressures in marriage come, it’s inevitable that one’s happiness meter begins to wane. The “pleasing passion” that was so easy and natural in the honeymoon phase of love now seems to be something you could actually miss, or not have at all.
When that happens, I have a choice: Will I choose to do the action of love – seeking the other person’s best, putting that person’s needs above my own, etc. – even when I don’t seem to have the feeling of love?
In other words, as Brainerd explains, will I choose to love a person (seeking God’s glory) and not desire just the pleasure that love will bring me (my soul’s happiness)?
I now realize that when I’ve focused on what I’m feeling – tired, for instance, and not feeling emotionally close to my spouse – and then acting upset, frustrated and/or depressed as a result, I’ve actually been seeking my own happiness (an “irregular” self-love) at the neglect of God’s glory.
The amazing thing is that I’ve also experienced the converse: when I focus instead on what I know to be true, to act lovingly and compassionately toward my spouse even when I don’t feel happy, or haven’t had a good night’s sleep, etc., I eventually find myself feeling love all over again.
God’s glory and soul’s happiness, unite! 😀