Whatever Happened to Marriage

What ever happened to marriage?

I’ve been thinking a little lately about marriage. Maybe its because my son is engaged to a wonderful young woman. Maybe its because I work with a bunch of smart twenty-somethings. But lately, I’ve noticed a trend.

I’m the black sheep. Or worse: a dying breed.

Most of the people I know are divorced. Most of the singles I know have a view of marriage that is one part fear and one part abhorrence that they might have to give up anything – last names, finances, property, nights out, whatever. Marriage is that thing someone does when they want to be miserable. Love is that thing that you hope happens but you’re really suspicious of. Commitment is that thing that if you formalize becomes the beginning of the end.

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Golden Anniversaries, Tarnished Divorces, and the Stuff In Between: Is God in All of It?

Some families function like a slick ad campaign for successful Christian marriages: their histories boast the blessings of longevity and faithfulness. Other families are so speckled with dirt and dysfunction that God is nowhere to be found. But if you’re like me, you might find yourself surrounded by both.

I wish my family could have stuck with one story; it would make my theology so much simpler. If my Christian ancestors were twenty couples deep in 50+ years of happiness, then I could claim God’s promises to be true: that godly people are always blessed with strong, impenetrable marriages. Likewise, if my family boasted nothing but broken, banged-up fairytales, then I could claim without much opposition that the Bible’s mandates were nothing but an idealistic dream. 

But here I am this summer with multiple narratives in my head, none of them showing the kind of cause-and-effect I had expected as a child. 

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One Flesh: Committing For Life

Seven years ago, my wife and I were struggling. Things were dark and getting darker. The dance we had created during the first ten years of our relationship was no longer working.

            Things were magnified by the fact that we had just begun our life as missionaries in Australia. Ministry was thriving. Everyone was counting on us. That was part of the problem.

            That's when my wife hit me with one of the hardest, yet most life giving statements I have ever heard. It is in large part what saved our marriage. Karie said this, “You are my soul mate. You are the man I have committed my life to, I’m just not sure I can live with you.” And with that, Karie began to pack her and Lily our two-year-old for home.

Lash Me to the Mast

I just watched another marriage blow into pieces. Kids are involved, and I fear that they are at the age where the shrapnel from the explosion in their world will do the most damage.

There was no good reason for the pin to be pulled but pulled it was and the party wanting out of the marriage made sure to do so in a very strident and bloody fashion.

And I know what happens now: craziness.

The abandoned spouse, now temporarily stunned, sooner or later will feel the full weight of remorse, anger, guilt, mourning, emptiness, imbalance, fear and loneliness. The one who pulled the pin will at first feel euphoria mixed with guilt to be followed later by blame, loathing, anger mostly directed toward others.

Emotions will be raw, the hurt palpable, understood only by those who have experienced them.

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Musings on Dating

So one thing I’ve shied away from discussing on this blog are my experiences with dating.  When I was going through my separation from my wife, I made a conscious effort to not  date, or even really allow myself to consider who I would date if the opportunity arose.  My heart was on saving my marriage, and dating would just complicate things more.  Even when it was clear we weren’t going to reconcile, I refrained from dating.  To finalize our divorce, we had to sign paperwork and then wait for 6 months.  I used that 6 month period as a transition - praying honestly for a marriage revival miracle, but also preparing my heart for a transition back into the life of a single man back in the dating world.  


I’ve got to tell you - it was scary.  I was never much of a dater in high school.

The Demise of Marriage

I have lately heard several stories that have just made me hurt.  One of them was a story of a married couple getting a divorce.  The story was one of a long time married couple with several children.  The husband filed for divorce and ran off with his new lover.  Not long ago, I heard another such story. 

Not that divorce is uncommon, but when I hear of dear friends getting separated or divorced, it just hurts.  Sometime perhaps I will explore the theological and Biblical dimensions of divorce, but for now, I would just like to say that in my mind, the biggest reason that the Bible says that God hates divorce is that it hurts people.  I have not heard of a divorce yet that doesn't leave people battered and torn.  Whether we feel that there is Biblical precedence or not for divorce, that to me is not the issue at hand.

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Cracked Fairytales, Divorce, and the Holy Bible

Even that hideous ogre in Shrek finds love. With no instruction manual except for a donkey-as-therapist and the twists of fate, the guy still manages to create his own fairytale.

Some Christians aren’t so lucky.

Like many children’s picture books, our American marriage myths are often more about pretty illustrations than straight talk. Christian marriages take the folklore even further, promising mythical wedding-night pay-offs in exchange for chastity, or automatic monogamy that comes free with pastor’s signature on the marriage license. But the tales of love often betray us, leaving authentic followers of Christ with a cynicism they weren’t expecting.

The real question is not whether marriages are in trouble (they are). The more important question is whether the Bible’s principles are trustworthy enough to still hold up under the cynical weight of all those broken, banged-up, and unfixable fairytales.  The best answer is not the easy one that we learned at Junior High Camp (God said it, I believe it, that settles it), but the answer that still holds true when the prince has left the story. 

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Overcoming Family

I love my family.  I have two loving, supportive parents who have been married for over 40 years.  I have two older siblings, two older sibling-in-laws, a beautiful niece, and four rambunctious nephews (five, when you include my step-nephew).  We’re blessed enough to live within 20 minutes of each other - and even though we don’t see each other nearly as much as we should (given our proximity!), our family gatherings are fun, rowdy, stressful, and entertaining.  (This is where I should mention that my niece is 9, two of my nephews are 8, and the other two are 5ish.  That’s a LOT of kid energy!).

Growing up, our family dynamic was slightly different than most - I’m the youngest kid by nearly 9 years. My experience of growing up was a hybrid of being the “baby” in the family, while also feeling like the only child - since my older siblings were grown up and in college by the time I was entering 4th grade.  The glue holding us together though, were my folks.  Married young, my parents had a couple decades of marriage under the belt when I came on to the scene.  Though they certainly had their ups and downs, they stuck things out (and still do!) and I’ve witnessed their marriage grow and flourish because of it.

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'That Isn't Right'

I miss my grandfather. One night, in 1994, he went to sleep and never woke up. Instead, I woke up the next morning, received a phone call and cried. I miss him for a variety of reasons and I am sad for many reasons as well. My wife never met him and I hate that. My children never met him and I hate that too. I think that my family may understand me more if my grandfather were still around. Why? Because in his own simple way, he made sense of the world in which we lived. And sometimes common sense is in short supply. And for me, he made sense out of chaos, not because of his simplicity, but because he understood chaos better than most.

Now, he came from a generation that isn’t known for conversation and emotional dialogue. Tom Brokaw called it the ‘Greatest Generation.’ He fought in Asia and was wounded in battle. He worked on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad for over 40 years (a photo of that engine hangs above my son’s bed) was married for fifty years and fathered four children. He had a Marine tattoo that simply looked cool. He was tough, but in a way that was unassuming. He once drove himself to the hospital because he had, what he called, a ‘stomach ache that wouldn’t go away.’ The doctor diagnosed it as a ‘coke can size’ hernia in his stomach. An urgent surgery was performed and a few hours later, he drove himself home.

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The Thick of Pain


In church a few weeks ago, my pastor talked about what happens when a person dies within a Jewish community.  The friends and family of those left behind travel to the grieving’s house and simply sit with them.  They don’t make pat comments, they don’t swoop in and try to fix everything, and they don’t come in armed with an array of distractions.  They respect their grief and just sit in silence.  


Earlier today, I was watching the movie “Sunshine Cleaning” - a story about two sisters that form a bio-hazard clean up business, cleaning up the messes often left behind when people die.  In one poignant scene, they arrive at a house and find the frazzled widow waiting to give them the house keys.  Amy Adams’ character senses the grief of this old stranger and offers to simply sit with her. She reaches over and clasps the old woman’s hand - just as I imagine occurs in those grieving Jewish homes.  

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