Friday, April 8, 2011

A Different Perspective on Divorce

This past week I was reading a sermon online and came across an insightful quote on marriage from an issue of Newsweek Magazine dated June 11th, 1979. I wanted to share this quote as more than 30 years later, the sentiments still ring true as we try to deal with the rising rate of divorce not just among society at large, but also among professing Christians. The article segment is called, “My Turn,” and its author is Suzanne Britt Jordan:

“My friends after 18 years of marriage are getting a civilized divorce. I object. I think people should be upset about so serious a thing as divorce. There is a redeeming quality in the honest screech and howl that I miss in our psychoanalyzed together generation. My friend says that they are more like friends or brother and sister than husband and wife and she says the marriage has no spark and no oomph. She's very much interested in the spark business.

Perhaps I was in the kitchen slinging hash when the decree went out that marriages in the 20th century required pizzazz, romance, thrills. Perhaps I've got old fashioned notions about this once venerable but now crumbling institution. But my insides tell me that what everybody else is doing is not necessarily right, and what folks have dumped on marriage in the way of expectations, selfish interests and kinky kicks needs prompt removal before the marriage fortress is crushed by the barbarians.

Marriage is nothing more or less than a permanent promise between two consenting adults and often but not always under God, to cling to each other until death. It sounds pretty grim I know, but then we have a perfect model in our children and relatives for how marriage should be viewed. I cannot at any time send my children back to some other womb for a fresh start. I've got a few cousins and aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews with whom I might like to deny kinship but I can't, any more than I can change the color of my eyes. My parents are my parents whether I speak to them or not, in the same way the husband and wife are one flesh forever. If I divorced my husband I am in effect cutting off part of myself. I think we have forgotten the fundamental basis of marriage, a notion that has nothing to do with moonlight and roses and my own personal wishes.

Marriage is a partnership far more than a perpetual honeymoon and anybody who stays married can tell you that, it may be made in heaven but it's lived on earth. And because earth is the way it is marriage is often irritation, alliaceous, unsatisfying, boring and shaky. I myself as a human being am not always a prize. (Ha) Some days I wouldn't have me on a silver platter. But, those seekers after the perfect marriage are convinced that the spouse will display perfection, the perfect mate, despite what Cosmopolitan says, does not exist no matter how many of those tests you take.

We have all sorts of convenient excuses for not staying married these days. We are informed that marriage should be a place where we can grow, find ourselves, and be ourselves. Interestingly we cannot be entirely ourselves even with our best friends, some decorum, some courtesy, some selflessness are demanded.

As for finding myself I think I already know where I am, I'm grown up, I have responsibilities, I am in the middle of a lifelong marriage. I'm hanging in there sometimes enduring and sometimes enjoying. My original objection was primarily to the flippancy with which we say good-bye to a mediocre or a poor marriage. We are so selfish we want our fun and we want it now. We value pleasure above fidelity, loyalty, generosity, and duty. My friends might have remained married if they had stopped clutching greedily at pleasure. The spark might have returned if they had gently fanned the fire, and even if the spark never returned they might nevertheless have lived lovingly and patiently and kindly together. There are worse fates not the least of which is finding another even less satisfactory second mate.”

I was only five years old when this article was written so it was somewhat sad for me to read that people in 1979 were throwing away their marriages as carelessly as we are today. I suppose this should not surprise me given the decade that preceded the 1970’s was a watershed moment in the history of the United States as the young people of the 1960’s began to revolt against the conservative norms of the time, thereby, creating a social revolution of epic proportions. It was also during this time that Feminism began to rise and women were told that they should leave the home to pursue the workforce.

While it would be easy to blame all our economic, marital, and family issues on one generation, the depressing fact remains that we are in this predicament because as a nation we have forgotten God and really everything hinges on this decision. Once a society decides that God’s Word is no longer satisfactory in governing life than we are left to do it ourselves and that never presents us with a fair or equitable solution to life’s most pressing issues as the Psalmist so eloquently reminds us in Psalm 119:104-105, "Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

I hope in the coming weeks to discuss this topic in more depth. But for now, let me say there are few individuals like Ms. Jordan in any generation. I do not know whether she is or was a Christian, but many of her thoughts are in line with the Word of God when it comes to the sanctity and purpose of marriage as after all, God invented the institution even if today’s politicians pretend He didn’t. But in terms of Ms. Jordan, people of her ilk are rare; the ones that step up to the plate and say what needs to be said in the face of fierce opposition. As people that profess to know Christ as their Savior, we should be this mindful to never compromise the Bible as it is within its pages that we find the abundant life contained in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Savior. Live it proudly, speak it boldly, and always share it in love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. It is nice to see that there are some people that truly value marriage even if it was back in 1979!