Turbulent Seas

Last night while channel surfing DH stopped to watch a scene from a popular soap show. After trying to get my head around who was with whom now and whom wasn't with who I commented that some people lead mixed up lives.

Son#5 reminded me that it was only TV and not real life. I replied that what I saw in real life made what was on the screen look tame! We then went on to discuss how God's ways are always best (one of those wonderful teaching moments).

God designed marriage to be one man and one woman for life and when we go against God's plan we experience the consequences of our own foolish actions. What a lot of these popular shows don't show is the fallout from such lifestyles and particularly the effect on children. The show mentioned above shows well-adjusted children moving between two homes with an every-changing string of "step-mothers" and "step-fathers" moving through their lives. In reality, these children are usually anything but well-adjusted.

And because I see how real life imitates TV (or is it the other way around?) I'm disturbed by our modern-day view of marriage and s*x and relationships. But I've felt even more disturbed recently and sadly it's to do with Christian marriage.

I suspect I'm not the only one.

This week our church is holding a marriage seminar. I think it's important to support such events, regardless of whether you "need" them or not. But when DH was asked by one of the elders on Sunday if we would be attending he immediately replied, "My wife's left me". Apparently the elder answered with "That's good" (!) so I'm assuming he realised that DH was joking or else he decided to leave us to sort out our problems ourselves (I'd say definitely the former).

(Just for the record I was at a seminar all weekend and didn't get to church - I hadn't left him - but you can see what I have to put up with!!!)

In the early days of our marriage I read that marriage can be like heaven on earth, or like h*ll on earth, but for most people it is somewhere in between and for those that are in-between it slides up and down the continuum depending on other circumstances.

I'm sure this isn't a new thought. But something that is new for me, has been wondering if there is some point in our marriages where we decide that bad has moved into the realm of worse and we opt out? I've seen a few long-term marriages end recently - some that I thought were solid - and it's got me thinking. I need to be careful what I say, because I am fully aware that we can never know what goes on behind closed doors; that some couples are very skilled at putting on a "good front"; that there are times where staying together may not be the best option (such as where one partner is being abused). But I also can't help wondering if when we say "for better or worse" if we really only mean "for better or bad"?

I think most marriages have their bad times. Times when it seems that walking away would be easier than staying; times when the only thing holding us together is that we vowed before God and man to live together all the days of our lives; times when marriage really does seem like a life sentence to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Yet in my experience, those times pass, and you emerge with a stronger marriage than before. And when you look back you are thankful that you didn't throw it away when the going got tough.

As Christians we seem to have bought into the world's lie that we deserve to be happy and that if we're not happy in our marriage, well it's time to get out and find someone else who can make us happy. But marriage shouldn't be about making us happy. The purpose of marriage is to raise godly children. To not be alone. To cleave to another. To be holy. Nothing in there about happiness.

Perhaps we need to look at marriage as God sees it and throw away all the world's lies; to mean "worse" and not just "bad" when we make our vows; to take our marriage vows seriously; to love sacrificially, not concentrating on our happiness but on the happiness on those we share our lives with; and to allow God to use our marriages for His glory.

And remember: 'Smooth seas don't produce skillful sailors.' It's the rough waters that train us to be His disciples. He uses the turbulent times in our lives to prepare us for His purposes - if we'll let Him (Hannah talking to her daughter Beatrice who was contemplating leaving her husband in Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin).


SchnauzerMom said…
I totally agree. Marriage is hard work and I think most people enter into it with the idea that things will click right away and that there will be no serious problems that they can't handle. There are always problems we can't handle but the Lord can.
Jules said…
Well said, SchnauzerMom. I'm trying to decide if as Christians we paint a too rosy picture of marriage and then are too ashamed to talk about the difficulties thus giving the wrong impression. Take a walk around the Christian blogosphere and it's too easy to believe that all Christian marriages are rosy and happy and the only 'work' required is to bite your tongue when your spouse leaves the lid off the toothpaste. If only working at your marriage was that easy!

Do we talk enough about the difficulties or do we reveal too much? Are we honest or do we pretend that it's better than it really is, thus deceiving ourselves and others? I'd be interested to know what others think.
Unknown said…
Jules, you make an interesting point about Christians painting a rosy picture. When my hubby and I first got married, I had this romantic vision in my head of what it would be like. We had a rough first year because my vision was so opposite of what reality was! It was like that with parenting too. I had this romantic vision of rocking my baby peacefully, with a peaceful baby. I ended up with a baby who had colic for 4 months, so that rocking peacefully thing just didn't happen! I think Christians tend to not tell the whole story. I kept wishing someone had been honest about both marriage and parenting and told me that both could be just plain hard!! Maybe if people in the church did share how hard it can be, there would be less divorces. What is sad is that the church is no different than the world when it comes to divorce. From my high school Christian school class, almost 50% of them are divorced. The church should be showing the world that we are different, but sadly we are acting just like the world.
Jules said…
I agree with your points Jen. I know I felt betrayed when I learnt that a relative who had gotten very excited over helping me plan my wedding dress had an unhappy marriage. I couldn't understand why she didn't say something. But then again, when we were finding our marriage hard work and others got married I didn't say anything either. Instead I hoped that they would have an easier time of it (or else I envied them because they seemed so much in love, forgetting that we had been like that once too).

Marriage does take work. Some of that work can be fun like date nights and doing things together. But a lot of that work is just that: hard work. I don't think we should hide it.

I'm glad you've been honest about it. And it's great that you also share the other side because I know from your blog how much you love and admire your husband. I guess we just need a balanced approach.
busymomof10 said…
Great post, Jules! You've brought up some good issues. It breaks my heart to see so many marriages, especially Christin ones, ending in divorce!!! The children are the ones who suffer the most. We watched Fireproof again last night and were reminded that you Never Leave Your Partner Behind!