How Not to Divorce (some thoughts from a Christian perspective)

I read somewhere on someone’s blog a discussion about finding “the one,” the perfect soul mate, the right choice so that we can live life happily ever after.

Forgive me for my cynicism, but I really don’t think the point of marriage is to live happily ever after. In fact, if more Christians got the point of marriage, there may be less divorce among us.

When my husband and I were first dating, I asked him if he wanted to be married. He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to marry: he had been very happy as a single.

He then asked me if I wanted to be married. I said yes.  Then he asked me why and I replied that I thought marriage was the best arena in which to be sanctified.

He was so impressed and convicted (so he says) that he decided then and there he wanted to be married… and 10 months later, we were. 
I think there are multiple reasons for marriage. But sanctification — being made holy — is near the top of my list.

A former pastor of mine* shared one of the best metaphors of marriage that I’ve ever heard. He said Christian marriage is like a rock polisher. The rocks are the husband and wife. The polishing agent is the Holy Spirit. And the covenant of marriage keeps the rocks in the polisher.

You spend marriage knocking against each other and the Holy Spirit. It isn’t always fun.  It’s often painful. It’s rarely happier ever after. But those rocks get polished. It’s like  “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 17:17). That’s what marriage does: build character, transform the rocks.  And if a rock leaves the polisher, it won’t get shiny.

Marriage does lead to happily ever after: the rocks get polished. When things get tough in my marriage, this encourages me for two reasons.

First, a polished rock is easier to live with than a sharp one. So, if both of us yield to the character-building role of the covenant, then we will both become easier people to live with. We’ve all heard of those who have weathered the storms of marriage together for many years. They say that their love is far deeper and more profound than in the early years.

The second thing that helps is when I remember that my husband is not the ultimate source of my happiness: that’s God’s job (See God’s Goal for Believers ). The minute any of us think of our spouses or our jobs or our kids (as cool as ours are!) or our fame or our money or our blogs as the primary source of happiness, we have turned to idols, we have committed adultery against our first love.

How does this work? The rock polisher doesn’t just build character; it leads to repentance. As we repent, we draw closer to Jesus. We fall more in love with Him. We find that our ultimate satisfaction is in Him, and in nothing else. We find our Holiday at Sea.  We find Happily Ever After. While the human marriage is never perfect, we grow increasingly content in marriage and in life because we have found our contentment in our unearthly relationship with Jesus, the source of true happiness. And when two people in a marriage have both fallen in love with the same God, that’s happiness, too.

See what we miss when we divorce? If we realize that marriage is less about what we get than about how we are transformed, we might divorce less often.

Oh, Lord. How I need to preach this truth to myself again and again. Neither my husband nor my kids nor my job nor my ministry nor human approval nor anything can satisfy as knowing You does (Philippians 3: 8).

Help me to remember that the vicissitudes of marriage, the vicissitudes of life, are all the means by which you will break me and mold me and draw me into Your loving arms.

Help me to remember that while my marriage will inevitably improve (as it already has), the rock polisher of marriage will more importantly help me to find happiness ever after in You.

Praise You for Your goodness! Amen  

See my addendum to this post: Sinning as I Post (and a Note for Those Among Us Who Are Divorced)

* Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.

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10 thoughts on “How Not to Divorce (some thoughts from a Christian perspective)

  1. Pingback: Longing for a Holiday in Therapy « Necessary Therapy

  2. Great analogy about the rocks polishing each other. I can definitely relate this to having kids. Each personality knows how to push your buttons in the wrong way. Learning to rise above it all and ask what God is trying to accomplish here has been an awesome experience in sanctification.

  3. Hmmm… if I had heard this five years ago perhaps I’d still be married. Then again, if I had a relationship with Christ five years ago, maybe I’d still be married. 🙂

    I don’t think that the divorce pleased Him at all but, now that I think about it … I never really sought His counsel on getting married either. Oh, the tangled web we weave!!!

    Anywho, I will say that though not married nor dating. I am at my “happiest” (actually the word is content) right now, in simply seeking the Lord, having Him in every aspect of my life, Him leading, me following (though I do admit to still dragging my feet on occasion or having tantrums… such is the life of a child).

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

  4. Crap from God is way more yummy than any fudge I’ve tasted in Gatlinburg, TN. No exaggeration there. Thanks, Lorraine.

    Can’t decide whether to laugh or get sick! You know the best part of Gatlinburg is down the road: Dollywood!!

  5. You are doing your job, Lorraine. That’s a good thing.

    Although I don’t believe that there is a how-to in anything. At least not one coming from a fellow human being. Everyone travels a different path. Some people are able to take a scenic route. Some have to pass through hell to get to the same place. And it’s all God’s will for each one of us.

    But one thing I have learned from my divorce. I thank God for the pain and suffering… it is what makes me a more faithful person today than when I was married. And believe me when I say, I don’t regret it. My lot was to pass through hell. Amen. I embrace the excruciating pain every passing day. And it’s all good.

    However, who is willing to go through the pain of divorce to see what it’s really like? There is no amount of Biblical knowledge that can replace a single day spent on the other side. And on the other side is where the Teacher is found.

    On a lighter note, how the RSS thing going? 🙂

    Hey, Chris: Thanks for the encouragement. Getting the RSS thing down. I am following blogs here and in Yahoo, now! New way to waste time! LOL. Re the pain, I definitely think CRAP is one of God’s most useful means of grace… Don’t you?

  6. Marriage (and parenting) have been the two greatest tools of shaping in my life to be sure. Excellent practical thoughts on what a marriage is and isn’t…thank you

  7. L, you and Rick have not been married long enough to see that some of the fruit of marriage and rock polishing is joy. I love Karen and enjoy her more today than I did 46 years ago when we married.

    The first ten years or so were pretty tough but so are the first ten years of living with anybody. Your kids can not really love and appreciate you until they have kids of their own. As Mark Twain said, “The older I get the smarter my dad gets.”

    A part of the sanctification process is the fruit of the Spirit and joy, patience and so forth are all listed there. Altough I still relapse it is less and less as I grow in grace. Divorce tends to interrupt our growth but the pain that comes after divorce will keep pushing the divorcee to keep seeking God.

    Have a great 08! Count it all joy when you…

    Thanks, Gary. What a surprise for you to stop by. And I agree with your last comment. I have many friends who have weathered divorce only to grow closer to Jesus because of the pain. Hope you all have a great year, too!

  8. This was absolutely AWESOME. I have been a similar journey with my husband of 8 years. We have watched many Christian marriages around us fall. I agree with what you have said here, wholeheartedly. This needs to be taught in our Christian churches, youth groups, singles groups etc.

    Thank you.

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