The realities of a marriage and a family inevitably fall short of the perfect. We do need those untainted images of the ideal in order to know which direction to move—to know our destination—but the day-to-day difficulties of the journey can be overwhelming at times. We start out broken and then begin the mending and rebuilding process. Robert Capon wrote:

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled. It is a very great sacrament indeed, and for all its troubles, its stock shows not the least sign of going down. Who can praise it as he should? Children like arrows in the hand of a giant; happy is the man whose quiver is full, whose wife is like the fruitful vine upon the walls of his house, whose children are like the olive branches round about his table. With sons like young plants and daughters like polished corners, he beholds how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

But be honest. The precious oil on Aaron’s beard doesn’t often reach the skirts of our clothing. It is hard to make a home. It is hard for one man and one woman to live together under one roof for as long as God wills. It is hard to raise a family—hard to manage the intractable results of bed and board without doing irreparable damage to somebody. And since it is nearly impossible to write about it without becoming clinical, pompous or gloomy, most of the published accounts of the matter are either depressing or dishonest—gray truth or rosy lie, but nothing very lifelike. It is hard to identify one’s self with most marriage literature. Among the stern realities of religion, amid the triumphs of togetherness and the successes of sexual engineering, poor common garden humanity goes dumbly like a little lost peasant among grand personages. The clumsiness of his bed and the gibbering idiocy of his board bear little resemblance to these gray eminences and disgustingly healthy specimens. And so he wanders off back to his house convinced, not that he is unique (which he is) but that he is queer (which he is not), and that he has somehow missed the boat, or the party, or whatever it was (he can’t quite recall now) that it was supposed to be all about. All he remembers is that it seemed like a good idea at the time. [Capon, Bed and Board, pp. 11-13.]

Men were created to be great lovers, but sin brought that to ruin. It’s the work of the gospel to restore us to our former greatness in Christ. This is a process, but it’s a process that has begun. The point of all this is not to beat us up or tear us down. There is redemption in Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. —Philippians 2:12-16