I got engaged about a week ago. It’s still new and delicious, but because life is real and keeps going, and we’re on a tight timeline, the Fiance and I have already planned about 75% of the wedding. (!)
An unexpected side effect of this life change is that, when I explain why I have a beautifully sparkly ring on my left hand, other people are more willing than normal to tell me about their own love lives. It’s been somewhat of a mixed bag. My parents are still together, happily so, and a lot of my friends growing up came from stable homes. But among my social circle from the last week and a half, the trend is overwhelmingly different: married twice, now divorced and single; two kids by first marriage, divorced, with a boyfriend; just married, future uncertain; single, exploring options on Tinder.
The Fiance and I have been reading “The Meaning of Marriage”, by Tim and Kathy Keller. I just finished the chapter on the difference between a consumer relationship and a covenental one. Consumer relationships exist as long as both parties are happy and receiving goods or services (or sex, or emotional fulfillment) that are to their liking; when conditions change and you are no longer pleased with the relationship, it ends, one way or another. As the Kellers point out, this is entirely appropriate in many contexts (did the plumber actually fix the sink? your landlord raised the rent?) but marriage, biblically speaking, is something different.
Marriage, according to the Bible, is a covenant — a solemn vow between two parties that they will keep their word regardless of changing conditions, emotions, or circumstances. When things get tough, or one party isn’t “feeling it” anymore, covenants act as a safeguard for the relationship: you promised to stick it out, so do it. Act loving and married, even if you don’t feel like it. American society still seems to view the parent/child relationship as covenental (you’re stuck with each other, unless one party outright disowns the other) but marriage…that has largely slipped into a consumeristic view, the Kellers argue.
My little poll seems to agree.
And, for myself, on the brink of such a life-changing threshold, watching so many people around me end up breaking their vows is very sobering.
So today, it was a sweet breath of fresh air to hear another person at work say she’d been married for 30 years, that it was hard at times, but you make it work.
It is sweet to see my sister, deeply happy, loving and respecting her husband of (almost three!??) years; sweeter still to see my parents, working hard to know each other better and go deeper in the third decade of their relationship.
And it is sweetest of all, to know Jesus; to know His unchanging, inescapable love. He is the original Covenant-Maker, and the best Covenant-Keeper.
God is still at work, friends. He is sustaining marriages everywhere. And if you’re reading this, and you’ve made marriage vows, and it’s hard, let me encourage you (weird as this may be coming from a starry eyed engaged lady) God can give you the power and the strength to act as if you respected your husband. As if you loved your wife. As if the biggest problem in your marriage was your own selfishness, and not his. God often works best in times like these, where we are weakest and most incapable.
This is not to say divorce is always wrong; there is strong Biblical evidence that sometimes divorce is godly and appropriate.
But if you’re married, and it’s not one of those few “divorce is biblically sanctioned” situations — please. Lean into Jesus. Ask Him for help. Stick it out.
He will not fail you or forsake you.
And by His sustaining grace and power, I believe the Fiance and I will be able to make it work.