Thursday is for Thinking
We are prejudiced about books written before last year. We are prejudiced by our passions, our experiences, our likes, our dislikes, our friends opinions, the politically correct climate, the desire to be liked, the desire to fit in. All of it keeps us from being what we ought to be—adventurers for truth, passionate pursuers of reality as it is rather than how we want it to be. This offering from C.S. Lewis via Kairos Journal is one of those perspectives from the past that we neglect to our own hurt.
During the autumn of 1942, during the dark days of the Second World War, the Christian writer and academic C. S. Lewis broadcast a series of eight talks on the BBC on Christian morality. When they were published the following year under the title Christian Behaviour,1 Lewis added four more short essays on other subjects, one of which was on Christian marriage. Here he explained that he was reluctant to discuss marriage, partly because the Christian doctrine on the subject was so unpopular. As he said:2
. . . Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There is, of course, a difference here between different Churches: some don’t admit divorce at all; some allow it reluctantly in very special circumstances. It is a great pity that Christians should disagree about such a question; but for an ordinary layman the thing to notice is that the Churches all agree with one another about marriage a great deal more than any of them agrees with the outside world. I mean, they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it can’t be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment.
The second reason why Lewis was reluctant to discuss marriage and divorce was because at that time he himself was not married. Nevertheless, he showed a deep understanding as to why so many people are prepared to break up their marriages in search of a happiness that continues to elude them.3
People who are defending easy divorce often say, “Surely love is the important thing in marriage.” In a sense, yes. Love is the important thing—perhaps the only important thing—in the whole universe. But it depends what you mean by “Love.” What most people mean by Love, when they are talking about marriage, is what is called “being in love.” Now “being in love” may be a good reason for getting married, though, as far as I can see, it is not a perfect one, for you can fall in love with someone most unsuitable, and even with someone you don’t really (in the deeper sense) like, or trust. But being in love is not the deeper unity which makes man and wife one organism. I am told (indeed I can see by looking round me) that being in love doesn’t last. I don’t think it was ever intended to. I think it’s a sort of explosion that starts up the engine; it’s the pie-crust, not the pie. The real thing, I understand, is something far deeper—something you can live on. I think you can be madly in love with someone you would be sick of after ten weeks: and I’m pretty sure you can be bound heart and soul to someone about whom you don’t at the moment feel excited, any more than you feel excited about yourself.
If you disagree with me, of course, you’ll say, “He knows nothing about it, he’s not married.” You may quite possibly be right. But before you say that, do make quite sure that you are judging me by what you really know from your own experience and from watching the lives of your friends, and not by ideas you have derived from novels and films…One thing people get from books is the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change—not realising that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one.
1. This, together with the other short volumes Broadcast Talks (1942) and Beyond Personality (1944) were eventually collected together to form the basis for the well-known work Mere Christianity, first published in 1952. 2. C. S. Lewis, Christian Behaviour (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1943), 31. 3. Ibid., 32-33.
If you are having difficulty in your marriage, if you are thinking about throwing in the towel, if you feel justified in turning your back on vows you made before God—seek help; go to your pastor; recruit some prayer warriors; and find your way to the God who gives both hope and help.