Lessons in love

Anumati was married at 19. A marriage had been arranged for her elder sister but, the day before the wedding, her sister ran away. Wanting to save her family from shame, Anumati decided she would be married in her sister’s place.

The first years of marriage were very difficult. When choosing a spouse for one’s child a number of things are carefully considered. These include caste and family, education, employment and physical appearance. The general goal is to choose someone from the same culture and people group, who has similar expectations in terms of lifestyle and living standards, so as to minimise the potential for conflict.

Anumati’s husband was indeed an unusual choice for though he was from the same caste, he was from a village and she was from a city. This meant their lifestyle and expectations were very different. Like most villagers, Anumati’s new husband and his family thought she would stay at home and do all that was needed for the house and family to function well: keep the house clean, wash clothes, prepare meals etc. However, Anumati was well educated and career-orientated. She wanted to continue working and did not want to be responsible for all the domestic duties.

Both Anumati and her elder sister asked their father why he choose such a man to be their husband. His response was, “I liked him. I knew he was the kind of man who would take good care of my daughter.” His decision was not based on this man’s level of education or income but rather his character.

As it turns out, Anumati’s father made a very good choice. When Anumati explained that she wanted to continue working, her husband urged his family to allow her to do so, even though it meant she would continue to live in the city, away from him and thus unable to help with any of the domestic duties. This was not what he had anticipated from marriage, nor was it what his family had expected. But he was willing to endure his disappointment, as well as the pressure that came with the unfulfilled expectations of his family, because he wanted his new wife to be happy.

As Anumati watched her husband she saw great wisdom and gentleness. Not only did he defend her and her choices and preferences, he always provided good counsel family members facing decisions. He was the one able to resolve disagreements and conflict. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. In time, Anumati grew to love and respect him too.

Now, nearly 15 years on, Anumati is very happily married, certain that she could not have chosen a better husband for herself!

In the Bible Paul presents marriage as a portrait of the profoundly mysterious relationship between Christ and the Church. Living in a country where arranged marriages are the norm gave me a new lens through which to consider my relationship with God. It seems to me that this relationship is, perhaps, more like an arranged marriage than a ‘love marriage’. For while in a ‘love marriage’ the foundation is love and commitment follows, in an arranged marriage the foundation is commitment and, in that context, love grows.

When I committed myself to God it was a decision based on an understanding of who He is and what He’s like as well as an awareness of my own needs and His ability to meet them. I knew Him to be faithful and dependable, loving and compassionate, slow to anger and willing to forgive. I knew He was not only willing, but also able to protect and provide for me. I had no doubt that I would be better off with Him than without Him. It was not a difficult decision!

From my perspective it was a good marriage, one based on faithfulness and trust. But, looking at His letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus, it seems that God would find such a marriage very disappointing: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:2-3). God is not satisfied with commitment alone. He desires love!

Article by Natalie James

Anumati’s name has been changed. The given photo is not a photo of the lady written about but simply one of a typical Indian bride.