Would "I Do" That Again?
I read once a tweet that went something like this: “I don’t care how strict you think your parents are, I would give anything to have both my parents still living together.” The student went on to say, “If you are a child of parents who are still living together after all these years—count your blessings every day.”
It was obvious to me that this particular young person was reliving the pain of divorce and the breakup of a family that continued to grieve them. Statistics say that it happens to 4 in 10 families, even in the church. I’ve never tested those stats, but as a pastor I have certainly seen the representation.
Those tweets caused me to reflect upon my own life. I grew up only 10 minutes from both sets of my grandparents. I saw each of them stay steadfastly married until death parted them. My own mother and father have not only survived each other over 52 years, but they did so raising a stubborn son and willful daughter and another son who was physically handicapped. I don’t think either of my siblings ever felt slighted—I know I didn’t. It is obvious to me now that I was given certain things by the faithfulness of others, and it had entirely nothing to do with me deserving it.
And yet, in the midst of such a stable family circumstance, I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped to really count how grateful I was to live there. I took it for granted. I assumed it was the way it’s supposed to be, and frankly it is. But I should have been more grateful. I wonder sometimes if my wife and I are more determined in our own marriage to stay the course because each of us saw our parents do the same. I never saw anything else, and neither did she, so how could we really know? I do have friends however, who know all too well the deep pain of separation and loss.
There are at least two ways for us to provide care and understanding to those facing the effects of divorce. As a church, we must at least pursue this together. One is to embrace those who have experienced it and share their grief with them as much as we can. Some will need our comfort, while some will need courage to repent of the things that caused it. Of course we all need reassurance of the forgiveness that can only come from our relationship with Christ. Many going through divorce need that reassurance in the most compassionate way.
Another way we respond, and even more so in our current culture, is to hold out God’s special standard and purpose for marriage. As a church we must always keep it clearly before us—God brings a man and woman together for much more than their personal happiness. Marriage is the relationship that reveals best the character of God in this world and especially the essence of Christ’s relationship with the church, His bride. Biblically, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and we should do all that we can to keep it from happening
I have paused this week in light of our current study on marriage “Would I Do That Again?” I’ve given thanks for the people in my life who loved each other with an obedient determination—at times even gutting it out. I pray that we all will not only be grateful but more articulate in our understanding that marriage is the earthly representation of the unbreakable covenant-love Christ has for His bride. When Jesus says, “I am with you always, to the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20), may we also take up the same commitment to our spouses.
For those of us torn by the pain of divorce, may we anchor deeply into the restorative forgiveness that comes only from our Savior. If there is one thing that I have learned clearly from the slow growth of discipleship, it’s that the more public our obedience or rebellion does not make us more righteous or condemnable. God is after our hearts entirely. A righteous life will follow. May our spouses bear witness to this transformation first.