You marry; confident it’s forever. The wedding day was simply the beginning of the rest of your life. It turns out that divorced or married, your life is never so clear cut as to be mapped out from one event.
Maybe you were sold a myth that Christian marriage would be forever, even if other marriages broke down. Marriage was the ultimate goal, that you’d ‘achieved’: life was set. Yet it ended and you felt you’d been sold a lie.
Maybe you married, feeling that somehow it wasn’t quite right, except it was the ‘right’ thing to do, a logical step and the next part of the relationship journey. Perhaps now you feel the ‘right’ decision would have been to walk away beforehand, but instead your lives have been torn apart by divorce.
Divorce as an experience of marriage can impact how we feel about marriage itself. Is it worth it? Is everyone actually miserable? Can it work? How do people stay together?
Marriage is God’s promise to us reflected in an earthly form: love given without guile or demand for return.
The trouble with this concept is that your marriage has broken down, so if this is God’s mirror of love on earth how can we end up so broken-hearted? God, Adam and Eve’s experience in Genesis was the ultimate let down – the three of them had previously walked together through the Garden of Eden, naked, as vulnerable as we can imagine. Eve, then Adam, betray God – doing the one thing he’d asked them not to. Yet still God loved them, and loves us, so much that he sent his only Son to die: “Greater love has no man, than he lays down his life for his friends.”
God’s intention for marriage was a mere glimpse of how God loves us. Total forgiveness, even at our worst, and being loved regardless. Love is a choice sometimes, a commitment always. I let God down, He loves me anyway. God’s love for me shows me the perfect marriage that I am made perfect for through Jesus’ death; marriage I experience on earth will fall short, imperfect as I am.
Maybe the thought of getting married again terrifies you. Maybe it appeals and you hope to one day celebrate a long-standing anniversary with another.
What divorce teaches us about marriage, is how hard it is. We know that it’s an each and every day commitment. That marriage is routine, the late-night washing up, the ironing. The marriage that’s the discussion of finances, what to do next, where to go on holiday. Marriage that’s the laying out true emotions even when they aren’t what the other person wants to hear. Some days it might feel worth it. Some days it won’t. Marriage is a choice sometimes, a commitment always, and sometimes it can be hard to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, you walked away from it.
Marriage isn’t easy. It ended sooner than intended. Even if it had lasted till death parted, it wasn’t going to have been perfect; no earthly marriage is.
It’s because it isn’t easy that I pray for the marriages of those close to me, for their prosperity, communication and commitment to one another. I want them to thrive in the routine, the unexpected and the wonderful. Because divorce also teaches us how marriage is worth fighting for, committing to and how wonderful it can be. It’s what made us try to keep our marriages whole. It’s what makes us hope for that to be true again.