Is your marriage meaningful or mundane? It’s easy to skip over that question. An honest answer to that question might not be what we want to hear. But if we’re brave enough to ponder it, the question will lead us to ask another question. What makes a marriage meaningful?
I recently read a post by Donald Miller about what makes a life meaningful. In the post he referenced Dr. Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps. It was these experiences that led him to consider what gives life meaning. Is it fame, family, wealth, or pleasure that gives life meaning? When such things are taken away, does life lose it’s meaning?
With everything taken from him and facing slave labor and torture, Dr. Frankl still found a way to live a meaningful life. How?
Donald Miller summarizes Dr. Frankl by saying that anyone who wants to live a meaningful life must have:
- A project that demands attention. We are on this earth to contribute; to make a difference. You may pass this off thinking you have nothing to contribute, but everyone has something to contribute and everyone’s contribution is needed! Everyone makes a difference in multiple lives and multiple situations. It may seem small to you, but it’s not to others and it’s effect is amplified as it ripples out from one person and situation to the next. Everyone has a difference to make and reason to get out of bed each day.
- Unconditional friends. Some people have a lot of good relationships while others have just a few, but even the most introverted among us needs one or two good friends whom we care for and who care for us. We were created for this. It’s how we’re wired. Meaning comes in the context of relationship.
- A redemptive perspective on suffering. Even Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” No one can go through life without experiencing difficulty at best and tragedy at worst. It’s part of the fabric of reality. Without the ability to see how such things can be turned and used for good, we are left to swim in a sea of dread and discouragement. Scripture addresses this when Romans 8:28 reminds us that all things…even the dark things…and be turned into meaningful good.
As I finished reading Miller’s post on Dr. Frankl, I realized that the three factors that make for a meaningful life could also apply to the making of a meaningful marriage.
A meaningful marriage needs a project that demands attention. A meaningful marriage lives for more than a nice house, a good job, great kids, a secure bank account, spoiled grandchildren, and a nice retirement. A meaningful marriage lives for something more than itself. A meaningful marriage makes an positive difference in other marriages, in the community, and in the world.
A meaningful marriage needs unconditional friends. Too many marriages live in a vacuum. Oh, they may hang out with other people and other couples, but too often they’re hesitant to really let people into their lives, preferring rather to push the button on the garage door and sequester their real selves within the walls of their urban sanctuary. But just like people were not created to go it alone, marriages were not created to go it alone. They need the mutual support and encouragement of other couples.
A meaningful marriage needs a redemptive perspective on suffering. Marriage is hard and there will be struggles and trials. Successful marriages are able to eventually find meaning and purpose in the difficulties, rather than feel sorry for themselves and take it personally when trials come. Meaningful marriages are able to see the good in the bad and build on that.
When our lives and marriages lack these three ingredients, we are left to just go through the motions; chasing after more but missing out on meaning. But a meaningful life and a meaningful marriage will leave a meaningful legacy that will endure for generations to come.
So back to the original question…is your marriage meaningful or mundane?
I encourage you to go out to dinner with your spouse and talk about these things. You may not typically have such weighty conversations, but give it a try. You may be surprised where the conversation takes you.
Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg