“Competing kingdoms will come,” the preachers should say on any wedding day. “Your need for sex, her need for connection, the Kingdom’s need for unity–these things can seem so at odds.” This is the sermon every bride and groom should hear, but I’ve never (not once) heard it, decorum and context being what they are these days. But this, I think, is the heart of the matter. Marriage is an exercise in recognizing competing kingdoms.
Heaven wants. (Doesn’t it?)
There is the Kingdom of Heaven (or so we say). What does it want but unity, longevity, eternality, beauty?
There are the base kingdoms of pleasure, happiness, and self-fulfillment, too; we know this to be true. Those base kingdoms, the self-centered ones, how are they found in the poorer, the sickness, the death? Where is happiness when the lips of your lover turn sour (or worse, venomous)? Where is self-fulfillment when the wedding-day vows become past-tense lies, when the sex becomes perfunctory or the marital bed sheened over in a duvet of ice? Where is the self-fulfillment when your lover carries cancer into the hospice bed? The baser kingdoms are so dependent, so fickle.
What are our marriages but competing kingdoms–the Kingdom of Heaven against the kingdoms of our own makings? If this is true, I wonder this: Isn’t marriage an exercise in uprooting our own kingdoms, in cultivating a Kingdom that’s somehow more permanent? This wonder leads me to a second sort of quandary: How could we ever do this on our own?
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