Divorce, Inevitability, and Grace

Divorce. Sometimes it just seems inevitable. By the time they get there, most couples feel like it is the only option. But the reality is that somewhere along the way, the divorce could have been prevented. Strong coulpes don’t wake up one morning and decide to end it. Usually it is simply a series of poor choices and misplaced priorities, and not enough effort to repair what is damaged.

That divorce is so prevalent is a symptom “what matters most is getting what I want when I want it” mentality that pervades our society. We don’t give a though to the consequences, we just make choices in the moment, believing those choices to be right because we feel like it.

Now, before you say, “Well, you just don’t get it. You don’t know my situation,” let me just say that you’re right, I don’t know what you’ve gone through. I can’t say if you were at fault or the other person was, what choices you could have made and didn’t. But here’s what I can say – somewhere along the way someone had a choice to either do what was best for the marriage or not, and they chose not. It could have been prevented.

Of course, by the same logic, sin could have been prevented. And it really could have. Adam and Eve could have made different choices. Adam could have been more proactive. Eve could have stopped listening to the serpent. Sin didn’t have to happen. But it did.

God uses the picture of marriage throughout Scripture to help us understand how he relates to us, and I think it’s an apt picture. He had a perfect relationship with his creation. One sinful choice broke the relationship, but God, in his infinite love, was not willing to leave the relationship broken. With firm commitment to doing whatever it takes, God stepped in and reconciled himself to us, restoring the relationship and covering over our sin. Like a husband who wants to be reunited with his estranged wife, God comes to us and says, “I forgive you. Be mine.” Through constant, consistent grace he does everything needed to repair the damage our sin caused.

I think it is for this reason that marriage is the biggest issue our society – or any society – faces. There is no area of our lives where we more clearly see a picture of how God relates to us. There is no human relationship more intimate than that of a husband and wife; there is no spiritual relationship more intimate than that of God to his beloved people. There is no human hurt greater than when one spouse betrays another; there is no spiritual hurt greater than to turn away from the one true God. There is no human love a beautiful as a spouse who forgives the unforgiveable; there is no spiritual love as beautiful as the God of free and faithful grace saying, “I will remember your sins no more.”

When we make a priority of doing all that we can to prevent divorce from ever becoming an option, we both reflect the gracious love of our God, and demonstrate it in micro for all those around us. In light of that, how could we not make every effort? How could we not set aside the “what I want when I want it attitude” and instead adopt the “What does God want” attitude?

It’s February, and if you’re in a relationship you probably don’t need to be reminded that you have about two weeks to come up with something romantic. Maybe you like to make the excuse that Valentine’s Day is just a contrived holiday made up by greeting card companies to sell more product. But let’s be honest – is there a wife out there who legitimately doesn’t like to be given some little gift of love on Valentine’s Day? I’ve never met one.

Make the most of every opportunity. Let the grace of God flow through your marriage. Show the love you’ve been shown.

Does Marriage Need Redemption?

Supreme Court decisions regarding the state of marriage in our country are starting to become passe, which might explain why there isn’t nearly the amount of upset about the recent one as there has been with previous cases. Depending on where you fall on this issue, though, you may feel either that the institution of marriage is bleeding out, or you may feel that the state of marriage in our society has never been more hopeful. Or maybe you’re among the growing group of people that has completely given up on caring what the government and the courts say about marriage, and you’re interested solely in making of it what you believe is right.

Whatever your stance on the issues of politics and marriage, there are a few things we can’t ignore:

  • For every two couples that get married today, there is a couple somewhere getting a divorce. While this doesn’t quite imply the often quoted 50% divorce rate, it does amount to the expectation that about 41% of all first marriages will fail. That is a tragedy.
  • The number of couples living together outside of marriage has steadily increased for 20+ years. Virtually every graph you look at will tell the same story – more and more people are giving up on the idea of committing to one another before moving in together, and the number keeps going up.
  • The definition of the word “marriage” is changing. A word we used to think applied to a unique relationship, and required certain specific elements (like one male and one female and all that) now is much less specific, and we are seeing a constant stream of people eager to claim it to describe whatever relationship they feel strongest about. But when you force a word to mean anything you want it to mean, you drain it of meaning entirely.

For those of us who cherish traditional marriage and what it means, these facts alone can be a little disturbing, not to mention what we feel when we pile on things like pornography and erotica, overloaded schedules, and apathy.

I do believe marriage needs redemption.

But I don’t believe that all this is actually a new problem. I think it all goes back to the very first marriage, a marriage that was broken when two people believed a lie and turned away from truth. When a man who was supposed to defend his wife stood back and watched as she came under attack, and then let himself get dragged down as well. When they immediately began to blame each other for their own faults.

That’s when marriage really began to fall apart, when a system designed for perfect people was filled with only broken people.

And yet, I believe marriage can be redeemed. In fact, I believe it has been redeemed. And I believe that we can find that redemption for our own marriages, for marriage in our society, and I believe we can even find redemption through marriage.

How? Well, there’s a lot of ground to cover there. But as this week is leading up to Valentine’s Day, I can’t think of a better time to start the conversation. So during this week – and hopefully several weeks to follow – I want to talk about marriage and redemption, and I hope you’ll join the conversation.

National Marriage Week: Day 1

It is the beginning of National Marriage Week, a week in which family care organizations, churches, and many other groups will be celebrating marriage and seeking to strengthen couples. At St. Paul’s, we have a variety of activities planned. One that I’m particularly excited about is the video series and discussion guides we are producing. Each day we’ll have a new video and guide to help our couples grow. Check out today’s! (Click here for the discussion guide)