Disclaimer: I understand there are circumstances that DO warrant divorce. I also believe it happens too often in situations that do not. So here’s just some food for thought.
A friend wrote me about someone’s failing marriage.
She said they both felt inspired, guided, and knew they were supposed to get married before they had an opportunity to fall in love, and that they were divorcing because they ended up being so wrong for each other.
Wait. I understand that things get cloudy and desperate when tensions are high. But I need to get something off my chest, and it comes from all the hard times, frustration, and tremendous tension that my own husband and I experienced (and worked through) over nearly 30 years of marriage. There were times we weren’t sure how we could possibly continue, but we did, and are really glad now that we did. We learned through the hard times that love is not something that happens to us, but something we’re supposed to DO.
Love is not a location, it’s a verb.
Marriage is a commitment to learn how to love—it’s a lifelong pursuit, even in the best of marriages. The marriage covenant is what binds us together during those times when we don’t feel loving—it’s the glue that keeps us together until we come to ourselves and try loving each other again—else what is the promise for??
It’s the bond that holds the family unit together during the rough patches when only one of the partners feels like doing his/her part. This is what marriage is—a contract that society is leaving behind.
Maybe they were expecting a fairy tale. All the fairy tale lovers who wake up one day and wonder where the magic went, what they wouldn’t give to have had a sure answer from God that they chose right (like these two say they did).
Even if they had felt the “fall in love” feeling in the beginning, nobody can expect that “fall in love” feeling to always be present. And if they knew it was right before God even without that “feeling,” then oh, what a gift they received. Thereafter, it was simply their opportunity to create the feeling.
To think it needs to be there from the beginning and forever after, let me tell you: that’s a fairy tale. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel more and more deeply in love as you go. You should! But you create that fairy tale love by paying a price: by working through challenges, sacrificing for one another, and sharing your life together.
Here’s where sometimes it goes wrong:
The price for that kind of fairy tale love cannot be paid without challenges to work though, sacrifices to make, and sharing a life while working and sacrificing. So, the sooner you can look at the challenges as a gift, and tenaciously do your best to respond well to them, your love will grow.
No matter what twitter-pated lovebirds feel before having an opportunity to prove their love through hardships, what they feel up front can NEVER compare to the feeling that comes as a reward for letting challenges bring them together instead of apart.
But it takes charity, as described by the apostle Paul in the Bible. If they both had a confirmation that they should marry each other – what a revelation! What knowledge! What a mystery revealed!
But now this:
“…though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
In other words, the revelation of who to marry is worthless if they do not continue on in charity toward each other. But if they do, what love can be built!
Here is the best marriage advice ever given:
“…Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
Show me a person who lives by this creed, and in time, you will find a person who experiences something more grand, more rewarding, and more everlasting than any fairy-tale love. Yes, even if only ONE of the partners lives by it. Jesus Christ showed this kind of love to the vilest of sinners, never once receiving it to the same degree in return. He is the bridegroom, and showed us by the way he treated the church how we must treat our spouse.
And this kind of love changes people.
With this Christ-like love, hearts soften, wounds heal, inadequacies are filled, and injustices are eventually compensated. Yes, it’s a lofty ideal, but it’s worth the effort to achieve it.
The adversary has developed tools that twist reality (movies, books, porn, etc) to confuse us about what we should expect out of marriage. I hope your friend is smart enough to know the difference between reality and fiction. Some people just don’t get it, but I really hope he does.
Love is a choice. It’s something you DO. It’s not something that happens TO YOU—at least not the kind that lasts.
(There is at least one exception to this: the love that Christ has for YOU. That love is freely given, and yours without condition. It is something that can happen TO you, as you allow it. Seek Him. And as you feel it from Him, you’ll more easily have it to give to your spouse and others.)
If only people could take the thousands of dollars normally spent on the wedding, and instead save it to celebrate the marriage after they’ve made it 25-50 years. Oh, what a worthy and deserved celebration that would be!
For more on this topic, read Third Option.