Yesterday my beautiful DIL#3 posted a message on Facebook to the effect that she has enjoyed being married to her best friend for the past year and looks forward to many more years to come. As a mother and mother-in-law - who wants the best for her children and their spouses - it warms my heart when such things are expressed and I would love to think that it would always be so.
But as a marriage veteran of thirty years, I know that the chances of it always being rosy are small. While there are some folks who may sail through marriage with few hitches, the majority of us hit some pretty big obstacles along the way. We've all seen the couples who seem to be so in-love when they first marry that some of us who have been married for what seems to be eons, feel slightly envious of their happiness, only to see the same marriage hit what appears to be insurmountable obstacles a few years down the track. There are other marriages that seem to struggle on, the couple holding it together year after year, until finally one spouse decides that enough is enough and turns their back and walks away.
Even after all this time, seeing marriages crumble, and knowing the extreme pressure marriages are under (and how a society longs for a quick-fix and divorce meets that criteria), it saddens me immensely whenever I see or hear of another marriage that has come crashing down.
Saddens me, and even frightens me a little. Because I have sons who are married. I have beloved granddaughters who I want to always know the security of a loving home that is not damaged or splintered by divorce or bitterness. I want the best for my children and their spouses and their children.
And I know firsthand how tough marriage can be. Because I'm married. Because I know me. My temperament, my struggles, my difficulties, my disappointments. Because I know that even though the bad times don't last forever (even when it seems as if they will and there's no way out) and even though I believe with all my heart that it's worth sticking it out, I still have my moments.
And even though I'd like to consider myself unique, I don't believe I am. Not in this regard. Otherwise why are so many Christian marriages crashing at such an alarming rate? Marriages that seemed so secure ... so happy ... marriages we looked to for inspiration ... marriages that seemed to have it all together.
Perhaps this is what is so frightening. If it could happen to them, what's to stop it happening to those we love ... even to our own marriages?
There are perhaps many answers and no one-fits-all answer but perhaps it's also time for some honesty from those who are married.
As I have just shared, I have my moments. And sometimes it's more than just a moment. Even though it happens less frequently than in early years - those years when you're often juggling child raising and one income and not enough time as a couple - there are still times when it all seems too hard and I want to throw in the towel.
Times when it seems too much to ask of one human ... too much of a sacrifice ... when it seems impossible to continue ... when I feel that I don't have the strength to go on. I may even begin to convince myself that I don't have to go on.
It is then that that still quiet spirit nudges my soul.
When I'm thinking it's too hard - I can't take it anymore - that it's too much to ask to bear the slights, the misunderstandings, the whatevers, I'm reminded of all that Christ endured on my behalf: the pain, the suffering for my sin. He was blameless yet He willingly took my punishment upon Himself. How can I saw He asks too much of me?
When I think that I can't do it anymore - that I don't have the strength to go on - I am reminded that through Christ I can do all things.
When I begin to list all my spouse's imperfections, I am reminded that I am called to love as Christ has loved. Can I honestly say that I do that? All the time? Ever?
And then, when in my rebellion, I say that despite knowing all this I've still had enough and want to give up, I'm reminded that the sacrifices that God desires are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. If my desire is to please God, to do His will, how can I willfully do what I know to be wrong?
But, you may say, our God is a loving God, a forgiving God, a God who understands. And, yes, I agree. But this is not justification for doing what we know to be wrong. Our God has also promised that He will not send us more than we can bear and that He will give us the strength to endure all things. Do we doubt His Word?
I know there are situations where the safety of a spouse or children are at risk. I'm not addressing those situations. I'm not even writing to those that are married to an unfaithful partner. I believe, at this stage in my understanding, that God has given you a way out if you find you are unable to forgive and continue with the marriage in such a situation. No, I'm writing to perhaps the majority of us who find that marriage at times seems too much like hard work with no reward in sight, perhaps at times it even seems like a life sentence, and I am encouraging you to search your heart before God ... just as I have had to again and again and again (and no doubt will have to again and again and again in the future).
Perhaps if more Christians were truly honest about marriage ... perhaps if we admitted that at times we don't always feel as if we loved our partner ... perhaps if we admitted to our struggles ... the times when we wanted to walk out ... perhaps, then, others wouldn't give up on their marriages feeling that they were failing when the rest of us had it all together.
I don't know. But surely I am not alone in this?
(P.S. It is my prayer that next year Son#3 and DIL#3 will get to spend their anniversary together and not on separate islands! and that they will celebrate many, many more anniversaries together.)