Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Marriage is for life

I never gave divorce much thought.  In all honesty, I saw it as an American phenomenon.  No one in my family was divorced.  That’s not to say all marriages were blissfully content, but divorce was just not an option.  Without a doubt, the strong Catholic foundation of most Polish families plays a role in my attitude.  The Church treats Marriage as one of seven sacraments; it’s a covenant between the spouses and God.  But the teaching against divorce is not a Church mandate; it comes straight from God, as found in Holy Scripture.

Jesus clearly states His views of divorce: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife […] and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9) and “if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery” (Mark 10:12).  There’s sufficient other Scriptures to support that lifetime marital fidelity is important to Jesus:  Mark 10:12, Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:31-32. 

Even the Old Testament already expresses God’s dislike of divorce in Malachi 2:16: “’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel.”  Jesus explains in Matthew 19:8 that Moses only allowed divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  Clearly, divorce is seen as a sin in the eyes of God, for He reminds us of this when we take our marriage vows: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

According to statistics, 40-50% of married couples divorce.  Of those who identify themselves as Christian (but rarely go to church), 60% divorce. Regular church attendance stabilizes marriages somewhat, but of these Christians, 38% still divorce.  Though about 47% of the US population “is Christian”,  there’s an important distinction between religious affiliation (or church attendance) and whether or not one takes one's faith seriously.  

Religious values and statistics aside, divorce is nothing more than the willful separation of oneself from a person originally taken in as a family member.  If we do not take marriage seriously, we cannot hope to stay in marriage when things get tough, as they inevitably do.  If marriage is nothing more than an “official” boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, a way to get conservative relatives off our backs for living together, an opportunity for sexual relations to be sanctioned by parents or religion, then we cannot expect to avoid high divorce rates.

Why is it OK to legally separate oneself from a spouse, but not from other family members?  But, wait! This is not the case!  Children can be emancipated from their parents before they turn 18.  Parents disown their children for various reasons.  And sadly, even little children are not guaranteed to stay with the families they’re born into: parents legally relinquish their parental rights to their children when they place them for adoption with other families, and some parents have their rights taken away from them for neglect or abuse.  In these cases, not all families have relatives willing to step in to take in a niece or nephew, cousin, or grandchild to prevent splitting families. Is family no longer sacred?  

Marriage is meant to be the beginning of the next generation within a family, the joining of two families, an establishment of a new family.  If we don’t take that relationship seriously, how can we take any family relationship seriously?

People tend to have similar objections to arguments against divorce as they do those against premarital sex:  What if I don’t like the person I marry?  If we stop doing things the moment we stop liking them, we prevent ourselves from the opportunity to grow, mature, and learn from life.  But growth, maturity, and learning is “hard”, and there is no good reason to do things that are difficult, things we don’t like, right?

If we enter into marriage without taking seriously the vows “for better or for worse”, how can we actually get through those tough times?  Likewise, if we don’t remain open to life when making love, we can’t be surprised at the number of abortions, newborns placed for adoption, and children born out of wedlock to single parents.  

I stand by what I said as a high school freshman to a senior who tried to convince me otherwise.  Upon being questioned as to why I was a virgin (at 14 years old!), I said, “sex is for making babies”, to which she replied, “you’ll change your mind once you do it.”  I have not changed my mind.  Sex belongs in marriage, as do babies.  The three go together. 

Easy access to divorce means that marriage is not forever; it’s only until one of the spouses gets tired of the other one. We live in a society where one’s word means nothing.  You stand in front of your family and friends and God Himself (usually captured on video or by photography as proof of our intentions), and promise to spend the rest of your life with the man or woman before you.  Then, when the honeymoon period passes and you realize that a real relationship is real hard work, you bail.  Don't make promises you can't keep!

Alex and I want our marriage to be a beacon of hope in a dull, muddy cesspool of rotten relationships.  Marriage for life is still possible, and it is still the best option around.  God knew what He was doing when He established marriage.  It’s worth the preparation, and it’s worth the wait!

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