Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be seen as reflecting on my marriage to the lovely Judith, which has for 60 years been perfect, without spot or wrinkle, 100% fulfilling, 24/7. (Is that the way you wanted me to say it, Dear?)
“Falling in love” is one of the most talked-about and least lived-out of human phenomena. For most people, it’s more the subject of longing and anticipation, of nostalgia and regret than of actual current experience. Much time and attention are spent on dreaming about it, reading romance novels and binge-watching Bachelorette or 90 Day Fiancé. But the magical relationships don’t seem to come up often in real life; as the old song puts it, “Falling in love with love is falling for make believe.” Sadly, there are some people who would have to summarize their actual experience of being in love as fifteen minutes on a Saturday night in the Fall of 1994.
But our falling in love often leads to marriage, for which the human race is thankful. When people say, “I do,” they are either in love or remembering those fifteen minutes when they were, and they’re hoping that making these promises to each other will guarantee them a lifetime of being in love. Sometime during the honeymoon, they get on each other’s nerves, and they realize it’s not going to be quite that simple.
In the film Hollywood Ending, Woody Allen’s character meets his ex-wife, played by Tia Leoni, at a social gathering. They share this moment of reflection:
- Tia: “Our marriage wasn’t going anywhere.”
- Woody: “Where do you want it to go? Where do marriages go? After a while, they just lay there. That’s the thing about marriages.”
Actually, during the time in a marriage when the in-love fireworks are not going off very often, the marriage doesn’t have to just lay there. There’s a lot going on all the time. The key that many couples discover is that marriage is so daily. It’s the little things that are said and done (sometimes the things not said and done, as one partner swallows an unkind word or turns a disapproving frown into an affirming smile) that sustain a marriage over time. If we learn this lesson, we can maintain and renew our marriages through the years based on a deeper level of being in love than the constant fireworks we thought we were looking for.
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Has it occurred to you as you have been reading this that there is a parallel in our Christian journey? We come to Jesus because we want to experience the new birth he promised to those who accept him (John 3:3-16). Some of us have experienced a dramatic conversion, with strong emotional release, even ecstasy, and a new sense of spiritual awareness. For others, our religious high point has come in a special moment of worship, when we felt the powerful presence of the Lord as never before. But in either case, the experience faded, and we’ve spent a great deal of energy and time in prayer trying to recreate it. That’s fine, but these spiritual highs do not define the Christian life. The Christian life is so daily.
Why has the Lord’s Prayer become such a comfort to believers in every time and place? Because it stresses everyday aspects of a person’s relationship with God, rather than the dramatic and supernatural:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come;
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Daily bread is a symbol for all our basic essentials — food, shelter, protection, family, community. These needs are daily, not just when we feel spiritual and worshipful. By mentioning forgiveness, Jesus was showing that our relationships with one another are in constant need of repair, and this too is daily. Also, he speaks of temptation and evil so that we will daily remind ourselves of the fact that we exist in a mysterious and sometimes dangerous world.
In the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus gave us this prayer, the quiet, simple faith expressed in its words are contrasted with the more dramatic expressions of those who proclaim bombastically that they are in love with God, the religious leaders who show off their donations to charity (verses 1-4), their eloquent prayers (verses 5-8) and their sacrificial fasting (verses 16-18). The essence of the Christian life is not in these dramatic outbursts of piety, but in the quiet expression of constant dependency on God. It’s so daily.
(Just think of you and the Lord doing the dishes together.)
— Pastor George Van Alstine