Let’s look at last week’s quote from Richard Baxter again today, and think more about his comparison of the human body to the marriage relationship. Baxter said:
“[Marriage] is a relation of love that you have entered. God hath made it your duty for your mutual help and comfort: that you may be as willing and ready to succour one another, as the hand is to help the eye or other fellow member, and that your converse may be sweet, and your burdens easy, and your lives may be comfortable. If love be removed but for an hour between husband and wife, they are so long as a bone out of joint; there is no ease, no order, no work well done, till they are restored and set in joint again. Therefore be sure that conjugal love be constantly maintained.”*
As a Bone Out of Joint
Experience and observation tell me Baxter is very accurate when he describes the lack of love in a marriage as having a bone out of joint. It is miserable. I know couples who have been carrying on for decades as proverbial bodies dragging themselves around with shoulders, knees, and hips all out of joint. Without true, biblical, committed love, marriage doesn’t work.
Even the best marriages probably have days in which a proverbial bone comes out of joint – or nearly does. While on this earth, we are each prone to succumb to our selfish, sinful flesh. We are going to let our husband down. We are going to sin against him. And our husband will let us down and sin against us, too.
Because of this, it is so important to keep short accounts. To confess our wrongs, repent, make amends, forgive — and set our relationship back in joint again. When couples check their relationship and their hearts often, big ‘dislocations’ are less likely to occur, and small cases of ‘nursemaids elbow’ and such are able to heal quickly, with no terrible harm done.
This is what maintenance is about. That something must be maintained implies that it will break down, fall apart, become dirty or overgrown, etc…without consistent care. Relationships must be maintained, just like so many other things. So, as Baxter said, we must “be sure that conjugal love be constantly maintained”. We diligently maintain our marital love so that, among other benefits, “[our] converse may be sweet, and [our] burdens easy, and [our] lives may be comfortable”, because our relationship with our husband is healthy, in joint, and in harmony.
And, even if our marriage is crippled at some point with a major ‘dislocation’, if we are willing to diligently cooperate with the healing process, from confession through forgiveness through restoration, then that relationship can, by God’s grace, walk in good health again.
*Baxter, R., & Orme, W. (1830). The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter: Volume IV (117). London: James Duncan.