You’ve heard the old saying “familiarity breeds contempt”. Merriam-Webster defines it as a :the act of despising : the state of mind of one who despises : disdain b : lack of respect or reverence for something. I’ve been thinking about that phrase for a while in reference to marriage. A friend told me about a study she read finding that a major reason intimacy declines in a marriage, is that couples just stop kissing. Between careers, housework, running kids all over creation and other everyday busyness they become essentially roommates. I would like to suggest that familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it just breeds apathy.
Marriage takes work. It takes intentionally choosing to love. The law of entropy states that everything tends toward disorder. Your marriage will not naturally tend to get better with time. You need to think back to that time of courtship and all those things that you did at first to romance your spouse. Women, you were careful about your appearance. I spent a full hour on my elbow length hair when I was dating my husband 20 years ago. Now he’s lucky if I spend 5 minutes. Usually it’s comb it while it’s wet and throw a headband on to let it air dry, so I can get on with my day. AND it’s only chin length. I only put on makeup if I’m going out. You know what I’m talking about. I’ve got to get better about that.
Do you still date? One thing my husband and I have been doing more frequently now that there are teenagers in the house to babysit, is go out. Usually it’s dinner and a trip to Lowe’s. Not very romantic maybe, but it’s what we both love. We get so much more talking and dreaming done than if we had gone to a movie. It’s cheaper too. There’s not much worth seeing these days anyway. We’ve been married for almost 20 years now. It works for us 🙂
Thinking about marriage got me thinking about God. Our pastor has been preaching out of Revelation, the letters to the churches. In chapter 2 God says to the church of Ephesus- “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 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. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Pretty harsh words. You do all the right stuff, but your heart is not toward me, so I will take away your place. This is not a church that has fallen into sin or apostasy, they’re not preaching some false gospel. They’ve just gotten complacent, apathetic, familiar. They’ve lost that first love that will go anywhere and do anything, just as long as it can be with the one it loves. When I was dating my husband, we would talk on the phone for hours, till 3 am sometimes. Why can’t I spend a few minutes each day reading my love letter from God and talking to Him, the one who made me and died a horrible painful death, and rose again, just to be with me. Shouldn’t He be more important than anything else I might need to do. Besides, things tend to go much better when I spend that time with Him.
Familiarity… food for thought. Guard against losing that first love and falling into complacency, with your spouse or with your God.