[reprinted from May 8, 2012]
Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to trick him. They asked, “Is it right for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he chooses?” Jesus answered,”Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, ‘he made them male and female.’ [Genesis 1:27] And God said, ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.’ [Genesis 2:24] So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.” Matthew 19:3-6 (CEV)
I am no expert on marriage, whether from a theological or sociological viewpoint. I have had some experience from a life-lived view. And I have spent a fair amount of time praying and studying about what God has and has not said about marriage. I have learned to keep going back to Jesus’ classroom to listen more about subjects that trouble me and areas that I need more from Him. Marriage is one of those. Marriage is not easy. I need all of Jesus’ help I can get!
Out of the 57 years of my life, I have been married 31 years. I was divorced after 19 years of marriage. I am now remarried and have been so for over 12 years. I have learned from my mistakes. I do not want to make those again. And while I have no doubt that I will, at best, make plenty of “new” mistakes, I pray daily and humbly for God’s Presence in our marriage to guide us in His wisdom and with His extravagant love and forgiveness.
A “Covenant marriage” is an essential. To me this means, that God and Henry and I entered into an agreement together. God will be the head of our house. It is God that we both seek first in prayer. No item is too “small”. It can be the “little things” like making time to talk to each other or pray together that can grow into a huge wall that separates and destroys. It is this covenant that also takes the pressure off that we in our frail humaness have to make this work. Henry and I have had times in our marriage when I thought “Uh-oh, what can I say to fix this? I don’t understand him!” and God has intervened and we have had an extra-ordinary conversation when suddenly our words become clear.
God can bring you through days of great trial. I’m not going to go into details because I believe many who are reading this have their own stories of great trials and discussing which trial is greater is not only silly but irrelevant. It is a personal experience and can only be quantified personally. I will say that there were days of grief and many days of putting one foot in front of the other with no end to the difficult path that we were walking when Henry and I were so depleted individually that we had nothing left to offer each other. It was God who had the strength to reach out and draw both of us in and kept us going.
There are no shortcuts and marriage must be in your Top 3 Priorities. Here are the Top 3 Priorities in my life. They have been the Top 3 for the last 13 years and they will not change.
- My personal relationship with God
- My mission that I have been called to do by God for His Kingdom
- My relationship with my husband, Henry
You can ask Henry, but he will tell you that he is OK to play #3 behind God. The reality is that when I am where God wants me to be in the first two, my marriage is also where it needs to be because Jesus has been teaching me about things in my life that will make my relationship with Henry – better than “good”. And where are my children and grandchildren? Right after Henry. Whether my children are grown or infants, if I do not put time and effort into my relationship with God and my relationship with my spouse, then I will not be successful with my children. I speak from personal experience. Children need to learn at an early age that their mother and father spend time with God and it is important. They need to see their parents pray and study with Jesus. They need to know where their parents turn for answers and what it means to make a commitment. Children need to see their mother hold their father as a priority in her life. And that their father holds their mother in high esteem and respect.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 19 that divorce came about in the days of Moses because our “hearts were hard”. That is still true today. Divorce is a part of our fallen world. A marriage succeeds because all three parties in the covenant commit to keep their promises. God is faithful and will always keep His part and is willing to help us keep ours. It’s the other two parties who decide their “way” or their “pride” is more important. In my life and in the lives of those whom I know who have gone through divorce, one or both parties fall away from their commitment to each other and their commitment to God and decide not to put in the hard work it would take to reconstruct the covenant. There are no shortcuts and we can’t be lazy in our intentions.
As I read back over this devotion, I can read phrases that may seem harsh. I don’t mean to be judgmental and I certainly do not have all the answers or even now have a perfect marriage. I have a covenant marriage and I would pray that for everyone who is or wants to be married. It is a glorious gift to know that God, all-powerful, all-loving is a party in our marriage. It’s the best wedding gift I have every received.
The Wedding Song Written and Sung by Paul Stookey (1969)