A few weeks ago, I published my review of Dorothy Greco’s Making Marriage Beautiful. “But what does that mean?” asked a friend with a puzzled look. “Isn’t that like saying soup is wise?” For him, somehow marriage and beautiful didn’t go together in the same sentence.
Since then I’ve been thinking about how to describe marriage as beautiful, and about how marriage is like fine china.
When my husband and I got married, we didn’t register for any particular china pattern, but we received several cups and saucers, coffee mugs, small plates, and a teapot all in the same richly coloured Old Country Roses pattern, enough to make an afternoon tea set. I also have my mother’s Aynsley dinner china which is pale and delicate, with double-handled soup bowls. The two china sets are quite different, each with its own beauty.
Marriage is meant to be beautiful too. Not just the wedding day. Not just the bride’s gown and flowers, and all of the beautiful memories There is a special kind of beauty in marriage itself when a husband and wife join together in a life-long relationship of love, mutual respect, and partnership.
In the ancient story of creation in Genesis 1, God creates humanity as male and female, and Jesus himself says that in marriage a man and a woman become one–what God has joined together, let no one separate (Matthew 19:1-6). Marriage is meant to be a beautiful and life-long partnership.
For all of its beauty, my fine china is also fragile and needs to be treated with care.
A number of years ago, my husband and I moved from our house into a townhouse. We were downsizing but not really, since we no longer have as much yard work, but our town house with basement is actually larger than our house. We had the best movers, who said we could leave all of our clothes in our dressers, and all of our files in our filing cabinet, and they would blanket and shrink-wrap each piece for the move. We packed all of our books and other household items in cardboard boxes collected from various stores. Those boxes got stacked in the moving van with the furniture, but the china I carefully wrapped in tissue paper, nestled the bundles in separate boxes, and took them myself in our car.
In the same way, marriage needs to be treated with care. It doesn’t exactly need to be wrapped in tissue paper, but a healthy marriage needs time and attention, it needs nurture, it needs faithfulness and forgiveness on the part of both husband and wife.
As Ephesians 5:33 says:
Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself,
and a wife should respect her husband.
And in 1 Corinthians 7:4:
For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does;
likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
In marriage, both partners are called to treat one another with love, respect, and mutual submission.
With care, fine china can stand the test of time. My mother’s Aynsley china is still beautiful all these years, for her lifetime and my lifetime, and in the years to come.
My husband and I became good friends while we were both in high school, started dating after graduation, and six months later we were secretly engaged. Our relationship was so new, romantic, and exciting. Now years older, we know that what we had as 18-year-olds has stood the test of time—through poorer times living in student housing and richer times in our own home, in times of sickness and in health, through many disappointments and disagreements, through the valley of the shadow of death as we’ve experienced the deaths of all four of our parents. We have a much deeper relationship now than when we were both 18, and come what may, I know it will continue to deepen in the years ahead.
Just like fine china, a fine marriage is beautiful, fragile, and yet enduring. That’s what makes it so precious.
There is one notable difference though. While I do use my fine china on occasion, it mainly sits in the china cabinet and I like to look at it. But marriage is for every day–not just for special occasions, not just for show, but day in and day out, a precious and practical, fragile beauty.
For more on beautiful marriage, I recommend Dorothy’s book, Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You, and her series of posts on how do you make your marriage beautiful:
Writing/Reflection Prompt: I chose fine china as a way to describe marriage – what analogy would you choose, and why?
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Categories: Spiritual Practice