Momentary Marriages

In what seems to have become almost a weekly occurrence, I learned this week of yet another divorce in our congregation. Once again, it was a seemingly healthy and happy marriage. Why is it that so many Christians consider marriage to be disposable? Our God certainly does not. Our marriages are designed to image the relationship that Christ has with his Church. Our reverence for marriage ought to be one of the primary ways in which we distinguish ourselves from the world. It ought to be the sweet aroma of Christ to those around us.

Instead, Christians have, by and large, bought into the idea that marriage is a contract, rather than a covenant. We treat marriage as if it exists for our convenience, rather than for Christ. Any number of reasons will suffice for discarding what God has commanded should not be torn asunder.

The thing that baffles me most, though, is how so many divorced or separated couples will sit together on Sunday mornings, as if nothing is wrong. How many more still-married husbands and wives sit side-by-side in the pews with smiles on their faces that belie the tension and unhappiness in their marriages? Why is it that we feel we must hide our troubles from the very community which exists for our support, accountability, love, and friendship?

One of the most common reasons I hear from divorced men for the separation of their marriages sounds something like this: “We just grew apart.” Well, I call “baloney” on this ironic choice of words. Ironic, because the very name by which married men are called — “husbands” — is the same word we use for someone who tends to growing things (think “husbandry”). This word tells us of our role to keep our families together. We are a “house-band”. If we “grow apart” it is because we have failed to cultivate our marriages with the care that they require.

One might object that I am placing too much responsibility on the men, but I believe this is the responsibility placed on us by God as the head of the family. Even in cases in which it is the bride’s unfaithfulness that breaks the fidelity of a marriage, it is still the responsibility of the Christian husband to reconcile this marriage. We are to pursue our wives no matter what their sin, just as Hosea pursued Gomer. Just as Christ pursues us, his unfaithful bride.

When it is the husband himself who is unfaithful, this is even worse. What kind of image do we project of our Lord, who has said that he will NEVER leave or forsake his bride? Nothing sickens me more than the infidelity of Christian husbands.

Brothers, we MUST hold one another accountable for our marriages. I hope and pray that I will always have Godly men in my life who will ask me how I am loving my wife, just as I pray that I will love others enough to do this for them as well.

Christians, our marriages will not be perfect while we live in this world of sin. One day, we will have a perfect marriage, when the real Husband returns for his Bride. Until that day, let us not feel the need to put up false pretenses, but to seek encouragement and counsel from those with whom we are united in Christian fellowship. We must foster an environment in our churches in which married couples can confess their struggles without fear of judgment, mockery, gossip, or condemnation.

God HATES divorce, and so we must. May we rely completely on God’s grace to love our spouses as Christ loves them. On our own, we are incapable of this kind of love, but in Christ, all things are possible.

3 comments on “Momentary Marriages

  1. Emily Williams says:

    John,

    Interesting you should write this post at this time. Just last week our pastor forwent his planned sermon and interupted his sermon series to present a message on his heart about marriage. He didn’t have a lengthy theological discussion on the subject, but was broken before his congregation at the marriages in the church that were being broken and in trial. As the pastor of a large church he is obviously aware of the many phone calls that come in from a husband or wife who is having struggles in their marriage and rencently more than one of the Bible Fellowship teachers had to step down from ministry because of trouble in their personal lives. We had a time of prayer as a church congregation and a time to come forward to ask for help if it was needed. It touched many people and was a very needed time of lifting up our broken human relationships to God.

    However, the question you brought up about why we are not able to be real with the church, that which God has established here on earth to be a support group for each other, is a good question. I have often thought of this myself. This is needed, and in my impression would help a lot to restore broken relationships. Satan works in the dark and secret parts of our lives to destroy us. When we tell others of our struggles and seek help his power over us is greatly diminished.

    I am burdened for marriages today. For my own marriage, for the marriages of those I love, and for the church as a whole. I have no easy answer. I think it’s more than just “staying together”. Being married legally is not the issue. A couple can stay legally married, but not have a marriage relationship. It’s the relationships that need to be rescued.

    I read John Piper’s book on marrage a few months ago. I thought he had good things to say about how a marriage should be, the role it plays in Christianity, etc. However, when one doesn’t seem to be able to achieve this, no matter how hard they try, this is where it gets tough. People don’t know what to do, that’s why they quit, whether physically or just emotionally. Sin is getting in our way and it is wreaking havoc.

  2. Stephen says:

    John,

    So newly married, and so passionately defending marriage. I applaud your enthusiasm, and I, too, am burdened by how easy it is for marriage to be discarded. But I think it’s a little more complex than that.

    Oh, John, if only it were so simple. For many, “We grew apart,” is the only explanation they understand. Do they understand how they grew apart? Do people understand where the separation began? No. And it’s hard to pinpoint. But I would bet a lot of money that the beginning of a rift is very seldom a conscious choice. It’s focus. Plain and simple.

    When things are going well it’s easy to take things for granted. How many automobile accidents have been caused by people looking away, even briefly, to attend to something which, at the moment, seemed more pressing than making minute corrections to the vehicle’s course. “Everything was going fine, then all of the sudden, we were in the ditch.”

    How many sporting events are lost because one team became confident in their lead and lost focus, allowing the other team to rise up and defeat them? “We had them at the half; I don’t know what happened!”

    Marriages are no different. When things are going well, when people are happy, and when everything is working correctly, it is easy to take your eyes off of the road. And it’s easy because most of the time, everything is fine. You focus on work for a short time, and you return to a happy, functioning, well-adjusted relationship. You focus on a ministry for a time, and you turn back around to find you’re working side-by-side, and everything is fine.

    But there are some times when a course correction is VITAL. What if an important need arises when you’re not focused? What if your wife is feeling lonely and needs your attention, but you’re working late on that big work project? What if your wife sees you working hard, knows in her head that you love her, and wants you to be successful, so she doesn’t say anything? Or what if she is afraid you’ll feel like she’s being demanding, because that’s the way her father made her mother feel? And what if she doesn’t communicate the need?

    You continue to think that everything’s ok, but you’re not on the same page anymore. You return your focus to the marriage thinking things are just as they were, but they’re not. So now there is a rift. And it starts to grow. The wife doesn’t want to mention her feelings of betrayal because she thinks it’s silly. It’s not another woman. It’s not even a regular occurrence. It’s one time, with one project. But it hurt. The husband doesn’t know anything’s wrong! Deep inside, maybe he does, but he too thinks it’s silly.

    Maybe he feels the rift beginning, but doesn’t know what’s wrong. Maybe he tries to fix it with flowers, with extra attention, or whatever. But until he knows how he hurt her, he can’t fix it. She can’t let it go until she knows he knows what he did. And if she can’t explain it to him, he’ll never know. So she’ll be appreciative. She’ll thank him for the flowers, she’ll respond to his extra attention, and she’ll try to bury the hurt. “It’s silly. I’m being ridiculous.” She might even forget what it’s about. But it’s still there.

    Unless the two are very strongly metacognitive, they will probably NEVER fine the source of the problem without help. But help means counseling. And counseling mean’s “We’re in trouble.” And we’re not in trouble. That’s ridiculous. (Him) “There’s nothing wrong. We’re fine. I’m happy. She’s happy. Why should I spend $150 apiece per week for someone to tell us nothing’s wrong. We’re just tired. It’ll pass.” (Her) “I should be happy. This is silly. Why would I go to a therapist. He’s just going to tell me this is silly. I just need to let it go” (Both) “No. We’re not in trouble. We don’t need counseling.”

    “Growing Apart” is so easy to do. And it’s so hard to fix. And NOBODY better think he’s immune to it. Nobody. But it can sit and cause hurt. It can cause rot. It can cause heartbreak. And sometimes by the time the hurt is accepted, embraced, and expressed, one or both parties are unwilling to risk putting themselves back out there again. This hurt a LOT. And THAT MAN hurt me. (In this example the man was the one who lost focus. Could go either way.) WHY would I trust him not to hurt me again?

    “If we ‘grow apart’ it is because we have failed to cultivate our marriages with the care that they require.”

    Yes, John, that’s certainly true. But the problem is much more sinister than you give it credit. It just takes one moment. And it can fester for years and years before it’s big enough to take your marriage down.

    If you ever get hurt, express it. If Laurie ever comes to you with a hurt that you caused, no matter how petty you think the offense was, EMBRACE IT! Apologize for it! ACCEPT IT! She gave you a gift. She probably just saved your marriage. Because once it comes to light on its own, it’s a long way past an easy fix.

    Above all else, ALWAYS keep your focus on God first and your Spouse second. After that, the rest of your priorities, ministry, job, children, etc., will sort themselves out. But get things out of order, and you enter treacherous waters. Put your ministry before Laurie, and you’re in for trouble. Put your job before Laurie, and watch out.

    And if she EVER comes to you with a hurt, dang it, listen to her. She may not even get why she’s expressing it. She may feel dumb saying it. This will make the tiniest ridicule – a twitch of the corner of your eye, an involuntary flaring of the nostril – into confirmation that she’s dumb. You HAVE to listen. And you have to fix it.

    I’ve typed in circles. But it’s late and I’m not going back to edit. Just don’t be fooled. The enemy doesn’t come in through the front door.

  3. […] Marriage Be Held in Honor By All Upon further reflection after writing yesterday’s post about marriage, there are a few points I want to […]

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