Marriage as a calling

November 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm 5 comments

One of my Old Testament professors, who is completely blind, was discussing his marriage last week in class. He is a fairly young man and has been married for several years to a woman who is probably 20 years older than he is.

In class, this professor suggested that anyone who marries a blind person—or any disabled person, really—is doing it because of a calling. Not that these two don’t love each other, but he recognizes that the marriage is not a conventional scenario of marriage for love.

His is a rather untypical view of marriage, obviously, and doesn’t really fit with Western conceptions of love and marriage.

On the other hand, I think this professor and his wife do love each other, and from all appearances, they are happy.

Thoughts on this? Should marriages be for love, or is it acceptable to view marriage as a calling? Is it only marriages of disabled people that are a calling, or should every marriage be viewed primarily as a calling?


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. doclucio  |  November 2, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I am called to pastor…and I love my calling.

    I think marriage is a calling. But that doesn’t exclude love. This smacks of a typical Jane Austen dilemma.

  • 2. Jake A. Smith  |  November 8, 2007 at 2:58 am

    I’m not really sure how to answer that one. Isn’t marriage supposed to be a sort of example of our relationship with Christ and His love for us? If you look at it that way, then you could say that it’s all about love.

    What does the Bible specifically say about marriage? I’ll have to look it up.

  • 3. Stephen  |  November 14, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Should marriages be for love, or is it acceptable to view marriage as a calling?

    I’d prefer to have another option, besides those two!

    Not that I have anything against marrying for love. But I think this is a relatively recent, Western ideal — not a universal value. I have long thought that arranged marriages actually make a lot of sense. People who act on romantic inclinations can make very bad choices. Perhaps a family which is making a dispassionate analysis is better positioned to choose a good match. Love can come later: one can grow into it, the fruit of shared experiences.

    But I wouldn’t advise anyone to marry as a calling.

    My first marriage was a bit like that, I ruefully admit. I was aware that my partner had some emotional problems. I thought I could help her get over her issues by giving her enough unconditional love. Instead, she pretty much crushed me with her problems. She became almost a caricature of her worst traits, and I ended up depressed. Then we divorced.

    “Calling” is language that ought to be reserved for a job. You can do your calling 40 hours per week, or more if you want. But when you come home, that should be a place of rest and rehabilitation. It shouldn’t be an unequal relationship (OK, all relationships are probably unequal; but the ideal is to keep the inequality to a minimum!) in which one person is needy and the second person’s role is to meet the first person’s needs.

    I’m not sure if that was a coherent answer. I guess I’m saying, marry for love or for pragmatic reasons — either one is fine by me. But don’t try to be the Messiah who will save your spouse. That’s a big mistake. (And presumably it isn’t quite what your professor meant. I’ve gone off on a tangent because of my personal history.)

  • 4. Kathy  |  November 15, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    It seems the professor’s wife married for what she could could give to the other person. I like Ty Gibson’s idea that love is a principled, “other-centered” view of reality. God says we should love–He never says to like. Sounds like the professor’s wife has experienced the best of both worlds (literally), love and like. Loving anyone, including a spouse, is a calling. Liking them is a result of responding to the calling.

    If arranged marriages have merit, can we also learn or chose sexual-attraction?

  • 5. Jamie  |  November 18, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Stephen: I agree that arranged marriages make a lot of sense–I wish western culture allowed for more parental arranging when it came to marriage.

    [D]on’t try to be the Messiah who will save your spouse. That’s a big mistake.

    Valid point, and well worth mentioning. I am quite sure that my professor wouldn’t support “Messiah” marriages, but I think there might be a difference between marriage as a calling and marriage as a rescue mission.

    To me, the word “calling,” when applied to marriage, connotes not so much the idea of rescuing, but more the notion that two people are suitable partners for each other (aside from superficial feelings of attraction). If marriage were viewed as a calling, then, the key question in evaluating a spouse would not be “Do I feel chemistry with this person?” but “Are we suitable partners for each other, and can I build up this person’s ministry?”

    From that perspective, I doubt it’s such a bad idea to view marriage as calling. Not that chemistry isn’t important (I think it is), but that’s not where the emphasis should be in marriage-making decisions.


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

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