I had a rich conversation with a long distance friend this morning via a 'coffee phone date.' We lamented the rash of divorces and separations in our communities. We questioned if it is in fact as epidemic as it feels or if we were simply getting older and reaching the age (40ish) when marriages either make it or they don't.
Our conversation was based on generalizations, not case by case dissection, but we discussed the stress and strain of young children and the havoc it can wreak on a marriage. Children are indeed a precious gift...but they are a typhoon that royally rock the boats of even the most steadfast couples.
I started thinking about what people do in trying circumstances--when storms rage all around, most instinctively seek shelter and/or cling to lifelines. Even as we take marital vows we pledge to leave our mother and father and cleave to one another.
But what happens when we cling to something else in the inevitable storms of life?
What if our shelter/identity comes not in Christ, but in our career?
Or we depend on a substance to empower us and develop secret means of coping rather than engaging in community where we can be real about our struggles?
Our affections and attentions are devoted solely to our offspring not our spouse?
We can't wait for a girls night to escape from our husbands instead of date nights to escape with him?
We are more filled up outside our homes than we are within?
What are you clinging to?
In many of the relationships I am mourning it seems that the most trying days of early childhood are over. Parents are emerging from their storm shelters and rather than finding themselves bonded from the trial, they are exhausted strangers. In many cases they have either left each other emotionally or have hurt each other deeply. They have fought each other instead of joining forces against their trials. Serious damage has been done. One or both are ready for a fresh start.
And I keep wondering what young couples need to hear to keep from getting to this place.
This will of course be an oversimplification of many complex issues, but tonight in my heart it boils down to this. Find shelter in your God and your spouse. Come what may cling to one another. "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Do not allow yourself to be deceived into thinking that clinging to anything or anyone else will work. It is a recipe for disaster.
Clinging does not guarantee that the journey will be easy. Life is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. I couldn't help but laugh to myself remembering the viral kid president video: "Two roads diverged in the woods and I took the road less traveled... AND IT HURT MAN!! Really bad. Rocks! Thorns! Glass! Not cool, Robert Frost!"
This is why God gave us helpmates--to bear the load. To fight as a team against the troubles of this world--NOT against each other.
Grab hold. Cling. Don't let go!
Then when the storms pass (notice it was plural) and you crawl out of your shelter, there will be a shared sense of overcoming. A true hard fought victory. A rainbow of promises kept.
*I just feel led to acknowledge that this is so much easier to write about than to accomplish. It is complicated by involving two sinful people in a broken world. I have so much passion for marriage because I hate the pain that the brokenness of these bonds continues to cause in the lives of folks I care about. I pray my heart's intent is accomplished here...encouragement not judgment.