Why is the proliferation of divorce in our culture a threat to marriage commitment between a new bride and groom? I answer that question in today’s post.
From Terry Years ago, I posted the poem I wrote for my son’s wedding on my blog, but I didn’t add commentary on marriage or provide much of a context for it. Here you’ll get a close-up look at my thoughts on marriage commitment, and what I said to the bride and bridegroom before I read the poem during the ceremony.
In 2004, my older son, John Mark, and his fiancé exchanged vows on a grassy knoll overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He invited me to say a few words during the ceremony. For five minutes, before reading a poem I wrote for the occasion, I unpacked the following statement. It may seem self-evident or even nonsensical.
Divorce is the primary reason for divorce.
What did I mean?
The prevalence and acceptability of divorce in our contemporary culture makes it easier for a spouse to seek a dissolution of the marriage. Compared to previous generations, there is less stigma, less reproach associated with a marriage breakup.
Some brides and grooms approach the wedding with thoughts similar to this: “I think he (she) will make me happy, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll get a divorce. People break up all the time.” Few individuals would admit such a thought, but it lingers in the back of their minds nonetheless. Perhaps that attitude explains why the divorce rate for second marriages exceeds the rate for the first one (67% compared to between 40-50%). They perpetuate the tendency to escape when things get rough.
That mindset in itself increases the likelihood of eventual divorce. When inevitable conflicts occur or a person sees irritating traits or habits in a spouse that weren’t as evident before they lived together, he or she is more likely to bail out of the relationship. Their mate doesn’t fit their idealistic (but unrealistic) perception of the perfect spouse.
They may repeat the traditional phrase “for better or for worse” in the ceremony, yet a firm commitment to withstand the worse is missing. When entering a marriage, viewing divorce as a viable option keeps the husband and wife from engaging in the difficult work of ironing out differences and forgiving each other. There’s less resolve to keep the relationship intact.
I grin as I remember what Ruth Graham said to a reporter. Asked if she ever thought of divorce during the long marriage to Billy, her evangelist husband, she replied, “Divorce? Never an option! Murder? Yes!”
That was Ruth’s humorous, down-to-earth way of citing the iron-clad commitment she took into the marriage. She anchored her commitment to Billy in the words of Jesus, who added a remark to His quotation of Genesis 2:24: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).
I know quite a few godly, faith-filled people who went through divorce through no fault or sin of their own. A spouse’s abuse, infidelity or abandonment, along with the mate’s refusal to work on healing and restoration of the relationship, resulted in termination. To save a troubled marriage requires grace-motivated effort on the part of both husband and wife.
The poem I wrote as a gift to John Mark and Jennifer was my way of encouraging them to view their marriage as a forever commitment. May our Lord enable you and your married children to love each other for “as long as forever.”
As Long As Forever
How long should you love this beautiful bride?
How long should you stand by Jennifer’s side?
How long is her favor too precious to lose?
How long should you hold her when she has the blues?
How long should the Lord reside in your heart,
keeping you two from growing apart?
How long should you take time for a walk?
Listen whenever she wants to talk?
How long should she smell the flowers you’ve sent
and thank God for you when filled with their scent?
How long should you keep from raising your voice?
Should putting her needs first be your choice?
How long should you greet her with hugs and a kiss?
How long should she stay number one on your list?
How long should her joy be your endeavor?
The answer is simple: as long as forever.
As long as the waves lick the sand on the shore,
retreat, then repeat the cycle once more.
As long as the leaves sprout green in the spring,
turn red in autumn before they take wing.
As long as the sun arrives with the dawn,
reflecting off dew asleep on the lawn.
As long as the moon reflects the sun’s light,
teams with the stars to illumine the night.
As long as sparrows serenade the trees
and puffy white clouds hitch rides with the breeze.
I’ll pray for a bond that’s too strong to sever.
How long should love last? As long as forever!
If both you and your spouse demonstrate a strong commitment to the permanence of your marriage, thank God for this resolve. If not, plead with the Lord to change you and your spouse as needed. If your marriage has ended, ask your gentle Savior to keep healing your broken heart and to remove any tinge of resentment (if needed). And intercede often for the current or future marriages of your children and grandchildren.
“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
Will you adapt the words of this prayer and make it your own?
O Lord, instill within my wife and me the perseverance needed to finish well in our relationship. Let us never take for granted the indwelling sin of believers and the potential for grievous sin even in old age. And please, woo Dolly and me to cultivate intimacy with You, so patterns of relational sin will not take root in our attitudes toward one another. In the name of One who said, “What God has joined together, let no man separate,” amen.
What does Love look like?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Real love, the Bible says, instinctively desires permanence.
Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.
— Both quotes from Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage