Forty-four years ago today, June 25, 1971, I married my high school sweetheart. I am proud that we have managed (with God’s help) to hold it together all these years. We worked hard at it. It was not easy. My reason for writing is not to brag that I have been able to stay married this long, but to lament that so many have not.
Marriage is a sacred, beautiful thing if you can tough it out through the hard times. Of course, I am not advocating staying in an abusive or dangerous relationship. Also, if a spouse is unfaithful and wants out of the marriage, or a believer is married to an unbeliever who wants out of the marriage, it is necessary to let go. However, these are not often the reasons for divorce. It deeply saddens me that marriage has become as disposable as paper plates in our culture.
Such a relaxed attitude about fidelity in marriage is teaching each new generation to respect the institution less than the previous generation. Thus, we see an increased number of broken homes each year. What troubles me even more is the continual rise in the number of divorces among Christians. It was never meant to be so.
The other day, I explained to my four-year-old grandson why we have rules. I told him we make rules to keep him safe and healthy, as well as to help him become the best person he can be. It is the same with God’s “rules.” He created the institution of marriage for our benefit and the benefit of our children and community. Period. We tend to want to add our own spin or justification to God’s rules. Where did we get the right (or wisdom) to do that?
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Leaning on our own understanding is like allowing a three-year-old to decide what he wants for dinner. He will choose candy or cookies or ice cream every time. Compared to God’s insight and wisdom, we are much like that three-year-old. What we want may seem like a good idea at the time, but shouldn’t we clear these kinds of decisions with what God says?
Getting back to my own experience, I have not had a perfect marriage. Like I said, it was not easy. Perfect marriages do not exist, mainly because there are no perfect people. Stories and movies (and poems) about perfect marriages are pure fiction.
There were many times (some of those were extended periods) that I did not like my husband very much. (I can see the shocked look on your face, but I have to be honest here.) Of course, he can say there were times he did not like me very much either. (Not as many times, I’m sure.) The thing is, we knew we were stuck together like glue, and we had to work it out. We did not allow ourselves any other choice. So we persevered. And we grew. And we became stronger. And we became happier. We opted for love, and our love deepened. I believe we also have the advantage of having taught our four children how to stay married. They, in turn, will teach their children.
I realize that a person cannot go back and undo what has already been done. No need to become depressed about the past; you can start where you are now and do things differently. God is always ready to meet you where you are. He can change things in us that we cannot change ourselves. He is good at it.
Here is the “peanut” of what I want to say: If you are married or considering marriage, be willing to fight and work hard for the permanence God intended you to enjoy. Talk to your spouse, or spouse-to-be, about the permanence you want to work toward. Pray that God will help you both be willing to do the work it will take. If you need to, get counseling from a qualified, Godly minister. Your marriage is a diamond in the rough. It is up to you to cut and polish it until it becomes the thing of beauty it was meant to be. It will take time and lots of work. It will hurt sometimes, but it will be well worth every bit of laborious effort and pain you endure. It gets easier as time goes by. I know; I’ve been there.