Friday, May 10, 2013

To Love or Not

Warning: this is going to be an unpopular post. I don't like to be controversial but when I see lies parading as truth and going unchallenged, I have to speak up. I know others have written about similar things - perhaps even the exact same issues I'm going to address - and have probably done so more fluently and succinctly that I will, but still I must have my say. So if you're in the mood for light reading, I recommend skipping this post.

This past week I've seen yet another marriage hit the dust. A marriage that was barely a year old; a marriage that had hardly begun, and now is over. I'd like to believe that it was an isolated case, but it's not. In the past few years I've seen other marriages crumble. Some were of very long standing. And in each case it made me want to weep.

So what are these lies I'm talking about?

One: We've fallen out of love.
I'm not sure if I want to shout "Nonsense" or "Join the real world". In the day to day of marriage, it's easy to lose that spark, to feel at times that you no longer love each other. But love isn't a feeling. And even if it is, what of the promise to love one another? This, I think, is where so many get it wrong. They think that as long as the feeling exists, then they love. But why would we make a vow based on feelings when our feelings can easily change? Surely if we made a vow to love then it's because it is possible to love - even when we don't feel like it. And if you loved once, why can't you love again?

Of course, then there's the argument where they say "we were never really in love" or "I only thought it was love" or something along similar lines. But it is possible to love even if it didn't exist in the beginning. In fact, I would go so far as to state that very few of us know what love is when we promise to love until death do us part. We might think we do, but real love, the love that endures financial difficulties, illnesses, children, job loss, grief, and just the nitty gritty of life, is something we only learn as we put it to the test and make the decision to love.

If we realise that love is an action word and start acting as if we love, we might be surprised at how the feelings follow.

Two: I'm following my heart. 
I hate it when this is used to justify hurting others. It's almost as if the person is saying, "It doesn't matter who gets hurt in the process because I'm following my heart and that's all that matters". Sometimes "following our heart" has more to do with what we ate for dinner the previous night or how much sleep we've had over the past week than with anything else. Following our heart should not be our guide. Our hearts won't always tell us what is right. We can only go to God's Word for that.

Three: I deserve to be happy.
Says who? Was that in the instruction manual that you were born with? Before you turn away in disgust, take a look around at your life now. Do you have sufficient food for each day, a roof over your head, and family and friends that love you? If so, you have more than many in this world. And you're still not happy? Perhaps then, too many of us have a distorted view of happiness. Perhaps we have a romantic vision of what happiness is that has little to do with reality.

Besides, marriage is designed to make us holy not happy. When it does both, great. But when it doesn't, that's still not an excuse to walk out. The Bible is clear on what grounds divorce is allowed, and even in those instances, some marriages have risen from the ashes to be truly beautiful and inspiring. I've seen some. So perhaps instead of thinking that we're not going to be happy with this jerk we're married to and moving on to greener pastures, we would be better to set about making the best of the situation we're in and realising that, as with everything, there will be good times and bad times. And didn't we promise for the good and the bad, anyway?

I'm sure there are more lies, and I've certainly fallen victim to a few until I've had to root them out and acknowledge them for what they are, but that's a start. If there was any one piece of advice I could give couples struggling in their marriage, it's this: Fight together for your marriage because it is so worth it and never ever leave God out of the equation.

4 comments:

winterwren said...

Hi, Jules.

It is funny that you write this because I have had many old friends divorce lately and it makes me sad and scared . In most of those cases one party walked out or had an affair. These people who I think are kinder than me or stronger Christians than me, and I think, what hope is there for me? How can I absolutely know that I would never do that, or that my husband wouldn't? I cannot see it happening, but then, I doubt anyone ever does.

When I was younger the wife of my pastor left him. I was single at the time and I remember talking to a married friend from church and saying, "if this could happen to them, then could this not happen to anyone?" And she said, "I absolutely think this could happen to anyone. We are just reliant on God's grace." I do not mean that to mitigate personal responsibility, but we are all so sinful that personal responsibility will only get us so far. I just pray that God will hold up our marriage when we cannot possibly do it ourselves. When I have really truly wanted out, it was not because I wanted to follow my heart or because I did not think I loved my husband or even exactly because I wanted to be happy. I always knew I loved him and I always thought if I left I would never be happy again. It was more that I felt like I could simply not take things anymore and keep living.

I do not quite think that the deepest purpose of marriage is to make us holy *or* happy--after all, marriage existed before the fall. I think holiness and happiness (or better, delight and joy) are both supremely important. But even more I think we were created for love, for intimate relationships--with God and each other. Perhaps I am expressing this poorly, because I believe that marriage (and indeed any sort of relationship) needs both holiness and delight to be what it is meant to be. But even at a point when we were in perfect union with God and presumably did not need something to make us happier or holier, God still felt it was not good for us to be alone. Marriage is God's good creation. That really, really drives home to me how terribly wrong divorce is.

I need to pray for my marriage more and also those of others. I hardly ever pray for other people's marriages until they have already fallen apart. Truthfully, I do not seem to know what is going on in other people's marriages. I have been so stunned by divorces around me and yet they could not have come out of nowhere.

Oh, well.

I just came to see how you are, not to write a book. I do appreciate your post. I have been feeling a bit gloomy about marriage lately. It is my anniversary this weekend, too.

Best,

winterwren

Nancy said...

" real love, the love that endures financial difficulties, illnesses, children, job loss, grief, and just the nitty gritty of life, is something we only learn as we put it to the test and make the decision to love." ---Amen!

Jules said...

Winterwren, I really appreciate your thoughts and you have helped me clarify some of mine. I've been stunned and shocked by some of the marriages I've seen fall apart - and incredibly saddened. I can see why God hates divorce. It destroys not just marriage but something inside all of us. And when there are children, the fallout is enormous.

I, too, have felt at times that I couldn't take any more. Sometimes I have felt that I've fallen out of love, other times that I was just so unhappy. But the thing is, those times pass, and marriage can be good again. It's hard to see it in the terrible times, but it is possible to get through those times and have something better than before.

Yes, we do rely on God's grace but I think we also have to be committed - through all the bad times as well as the good times. It certainly helps when couples share the same faith and can pray together and hold each other accountable. But even then, I've seen marriages fall apart that seemed perfect. Sadly, in some of those cases, outsiders could see what was happening and warned those involved but they failed to listen.

Yes, we need to pray for our marriages and for the marriages of others. Satan wants to destroy what is good, and marriage and the family are where he is going to attack. It helps to realise that our struggle is not purely in the physical world.

I hope you have a wonderful anniversary. I really do. Turn to God and your husband and, if nothing else, celebrate that you've made it this far. I think we've all had anniversaries where we were not overly thrilled about the idea, but we shouldn't let them go unnoticed. Pull out your wedding album and go over the photos together and remember how happy you were on your wedding day; do something fun like reconstruct your first date or something that you've always wanted to do but were afraid to; try a new restaurant; go shopping and find a gift for each other that reflects something about the other person but set a limit of say $5; just do something so that you mark the day. I wish you all the best and will pray for you.

Jules said...

Thank you Nancy for your comments. I was nervous putting this out there - not sure why - perhaps because I seem to be the only one saying that the end of a friend's marriage is NOT a good thing. Thank you for your encouragement.