I was hoping for something light and fluffy today. But another one bit the dust today. In this war zone of life, cannon blasts of divorce are hitting closer and closer to home. Some rattle the walls of our little shelter more than others. The shaking, the quaking, the knowledge that at any given moment even the best marriages are only one choice away from the end or at least the beginning of it is felt withing these four walls.
We'd all like to pretend it wasn't happening to "better" Christians than you and I. We want to save ourselves by separating "us" from "them," but one choice is all it takes. In or out? Out is the easy one. It's so much harder to stay in. With this in mind, I am going to share the following post with you. I borrowed it from the wonderful folks over at (in)courage.me. It may not apply to you or your marriage today. Maybe it never will. Maybe it did once. Maybe it will someday.
The same principal can apply across most crisis situations though, so read on.
The first time my husband asked me to marry him, I wore the engagement ring a week before giving him my answer: maybe.
I still remember the diamond’s sparkle as I admired it on my left finger, and oh, how I wanted to say yes. But even though I loved him, I was hesitant. Marriage was forever, and once you were in, there was no out.
I believed then (as I do now) choosing whom you marry is the most important decision you’ll make in life.
At the end of that week, he returned for my answer, and I said…
Not just yet.
I couldn’t say yes but I couldn’t say no either.
I loved him.
But he returned the ring the following week.
The months that ensued were often heart-breakingly painful for me–I’ll not get into juicy details here–but I’m still thankful I had the resolve and strength not to say “yes” when I was uncertain.
Because marriage is hard.
* * * * * * * * *
The next time he asked, I said yes. Billy Joel was crooning “I love you just the way you are” on the radio and my heart skipped three beats. Every time I’ve heard it since, that moment is as fresh as yesterday. It’s one of my favorite memories.
* * * * * * * * *
Fast-forward almost 24 years later:
The divorce rate in America hovers around 50%, even in Christian marriages.
The majority of my friends have confided their own marital conflict and struggle; good people, mature believers.
And years ago, during the lowest point of my marriage, a veil was lifted and I understood how a wife could not only leave her marriage, she could be willing to leave her children behind as well. Please hear me on this–I wasn’t contemplating divorce or even separation, but my emotions and despair enabled me to understand those choices.
Even though I had no desire to leave, understanding made me feel like a monster.
* * * * * * * * *
This isn’t a marriage advice post exactly…and it’s not for everybody. I’m sure it’s for someone, thought, I just have no idea who. Do you ever have those gentle promptings that redirect your actions? I was 75% into a post about Harry Potter when it became clear I was supposed to write this instead. Within a two-week span, four friends confided varying degrees of issues in their marriage, one with divorce looming. After listening to their wounded hearts speak, you wanna know what I told them?
I don’t mean that flippantly, and it’s not passive, either. Breathing–slowing down–requires resolve and intention. It means understanding and esteeming covenant above everything else because you love God and want to honor him. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis likened divorce to a surgical procedure, “like cutting up a living body,” an “operation [some say] so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases.”
It is almost easy, even understandable, to take action…to make decisions in the midst of conflict or depression or anger. But even if justifiable, the choice to divorce will have consequences that affect everyone who knows and loves you; for the rest of your life and into the next generation.
In wanting to help others, I’ve sought the perspective of two friends–one divorced and the other married to someone who was divorced with a child. Both urged me to encourage friends struggling in marriage to work it out; that the reality they’re living is compounded by the consequences of divorce. The pain that informs their council is palpable; it’s convincing.
I realize some of you are living dreadful, “extreme cases”; others have been devastated through adultery or abandonment or I don’t know what else. Some readers are divorced. (My heart aches for each of you.) Others will simply take issue with what I’m suggesting.
I say this again with much love and respect and as gently as I know how–every post isn’t for everyone; this one is for the wife in a struggling marriage who needs to hear ~
Give it time.
In that space, it’s okay to be angry; it’s fine to want out. But instead of acting on those negative emotions and feelings….
Bathe in the word.
Pursue Godly council.
Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
Leave time and room for forgiveness and healing and redemption.
Lift high the sanctity of marriage for Christ’s sake and glory.
Sometimes you can’t go around the mountain and sometimes you can’t get over it…sometimes you just gotta get through it. The sense of urgency will pass. Time will ease the tension. Feelings and emotions will change. Eventually.
And I promise, there is the other side to that mountain, and it can be better and more beautiful than you imagined.