Almost sounds like “day no more”. Interesting. A fitting word for divorce. It’s from the French and literally means “the untying of a knot”. A divorce happens when one, if not both members of the marriage, have given up. To their mind, the relationship can go nowhere but down, the offenses in question are unforgivable and irreconcilable and any grass, anywhere, looks greener. As an aside, the actual part of a rope that makes up the braided, twisted part of the knot itself is called a “bight”.
“For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.” (Malachi 2:16)
When God does anything, there is the stamp of permanence, of eternity. He “only doeth wondrous things” (Psalm 72:17). This is why, from His perspective, divorce is the antithesis of what He stands for, who He is. No one who marries consciously thinks that one day they might be headed to the courthouse or law office to undo the vows they took with one another. But as the years drag on and they realize that they’d be happier alone or with someone else, the quick-release option of divorce begins to glow with possibility. The current divorce rate is around sixty percent. It’s the same for Christian marriages, indicating either God didn’t bring them together (“What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” Matthew 19:6, emphasis mine), or there’s something missing that would help the blind couple see their relationship in a better light. Again, if three out of every five marriages is statistically destined for failure, and God “hateth putting away”, does this mean God hates sixty percent of all marriages? Food for thought. Don’t choke.
“I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:26-27) There! See how easy it is?
Marriages succeed or fail according to the level to which each spouse is willing to know and love Jesus and in turn live out a Christlike attitude towards the other. An attitude of selfless service toward their respective spouse. And yet, this attitude, this integral component of our being (in a word, wholeness) is supposed to have been worked into our life in the years leading up to the day we met Mr. or Ms. Right.
Here’s the thing, we as Christians—male and female alike—make up the bride of Christ. There’s a Japanese word, naijo. It literally means “the inner help”. It refers to the role of a woman in seeing her husband has everything he needs as he lives out his life of service to his liege lord or Shogun. The same principle is found in the Bible. As the man attends to the needs of God, seeing that the family is steered in the direction God would have it, the woman (generally more adept and adroit in matters emotional) is in charge of the invisible realm of the hearts of her husband and children before the Lord. Much has been written and argued over the roles of gender and I’m not here to do the latter. And predictably, there is controversy among contemporary Japanese women who view the status of naijo as demeaning and subordinating. In America, the same attitude is leveled at a biblical view of marriage that insists that the man is head of the house—under God. Though, I believe that equality in marriage—Christian marriage—is still retained in spite of clear roles defined for either gender–we complement one another. And I believe that when those lines—those roles—are disregarded and disrespected, the dissolution of the marriage is only a matter of time. This being said, if the man is askew in his reception of God’s voice, the wife should be able to call him on it. He needs to listen.
Divorce happens for any number of reasons, too many to list. If there was one overarching rule I’ve observed, starting with my own parents’, it would be an unwillingness to admit they were wrong in some capacity—and then talk about it, being willing to give up everything to save what God started. I can only imagine the ensuing confusion when one thinks, not that they were wrong in doing something that upset their spouse, but in marrying them in the first place. Who knows? God knows. “Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) The word “trouble” there implies pressure. We shouldn’t be surprised when we feel pressed and frustrated in our marriage, but don’t let it get out of hand.
Like a broken bone, a broken marriage can heal and become stronger than it was starting out. And second marriages can in turn be better than a first. But until we learn to “attend upon the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35), we won’t know how to respond to our significant other. Seen as a love story, we must realize that it takes time and patience and skill to drive a narrative (our marriage) from its opening scenes, on. And to see that the story continues.
“Happily ever after” costs everything.
“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)