Whenever someone I’ve known is Christian and is going to get married, I will often send him or her this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
How I read it before is that from now on, it is your commitment, the vow you’ve made before God and men, that will sustain the love. Not your love sustains the marriage. For those who are married, you know the ‘loving’ feeling comes and goes.
But today, I realize I read it all wrong.
It is not my commitment to Wai Jia (marriage) that sustains my love for her.
Dietrich was making a point that it is GOD who is the sustainer of marriages, not man (or woman). Our commitment, no matter how noble and how trying, can, and will fail.
I am proposing Dietrich is pointing to God because of the context in which he spoke that quote. Here is the bigger portion in his wedding sermon in 1943 (during World War 2):
In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to His glory, and calls into His kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. As you first gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
Notice, he compared marriage to an office. He is saying the very fact that marriage comes from God, and it will be Him who sustains the marriage. Well, how committed is God in sustaining marriages? He is as committed to sustaining marriages, my marriage, as Christ is to the Church (Ephesians 5:32, anyone?).
Wow, mind blown!
For those who like to read his wedding sermon, you can find it here.