Chris Watkins: What Divorce Taught Me About Being Married
February 16, 2011 1 Comment
A lot of what you read is wrong, at least, it seems that way to me. For example, you often hear people say, “If you can’t be happy being single, you will never be happy being married.”
There is, of course, some truth to that. No one can make you happy if you are not predisposed to be happy. On the other hand, if you do have the capacity for happiness, having people in your life sure can help. For me, that is mostly about a wife. There is a reason the most severe punishment our penal system measures out is solitary confinement. I get why it is such a harsh punishment.
I hate the thought of being alone. On the other hand, sometimes I
think I could be a hermit and be content. But mostly, I hate the thought of being alone.
On occasion, we go to Louisiana for a week to spend time with Cindy’s family. When I cannot go, she flies out and takes Caleb, our 3 year old, with her. That leaves me alone for the week. My other two sons will come and go through the week, depending on their schedules, but my “free” time increases drastically with my wife and little one gone.
To be honest, I experience some anxiety at the thought of them both being gone for a full week. At the same time, the prospect of catching up on other areas, (projects around the house, working on my truck, movies that need to be seen, etc.) is appealing. For about a day.
I drop them off at the airport and on the way home begin to think about what to do first. It all seems well and fine until I walk in the front door of our house.
“It’s just way too quiet in here.”
My cat, Ripley, purrs and rubs on my leg, somehow knowing she has me all to herself for the week. The house seems to know something is wrong and begins to creak more than usual. Turning on the TV seems to help a little. So I turn on the one in the bedroom too. And the one in the boys room. And crank up the volume. It does my heart good to hear the movie “Cars” echo through the house. Caleb and I quote movie lines from it. I hear Mater, the tow truck character say, “I’m good.” In my head I can hear Caleb saying, “I’m good.” Counselors call this “coping”.
I think that being alone is sometimes appealing, but only in theory. I relish the thought of some down-time, in theory. I look forward to watching whatever channel I want, in theory. I think about the joy of eating wherever I choose. Just theory. In reality I want to take whoever is in the car to wherever they want to eat. But no one is in the car. I want to ask someone, “What movie do you want to watch?”, but Ripley doesn’t care. I want to wake up in the morning and look at my sweet wife and say, “What would you like to do today?”. But I am alone.
We were not designed to live alone.
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
The longing of a man’s heart is to be with his wife. That is obviously an arguable statement given the fallen state of man and modern day dispositions toward marriage. However, I am speaking from the position of a guy who wants God’s best for his life. When I am closest to God, I want to love my wife. When I drift from God, I want to love myself. Another truth I have learned from being divorced is that I want to be married. I want to be in an exclusive love relationship. I want to share my life with my best friend. I want my wife.
Going through the pain of divorce has taught me several lessons about being married. The greatest of which is that it is good to be married. As Christians, our most noble desire is to give. To be sacrificial for the benefit of another.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
If being married is so wonderful, then why do more than half of them end in divorce? Because most people are bad at marriage. We start out crazy in love, thinking that it will never change. And then it does. We develop dreams about the future, yet do not plan to ensure that the future we have dreamed of includes both parties at the end. We assume that since we started in love we will end in love. You know what happens when you assume…
A friend of mine sent me an email the other day. I had told him about a book we were working on about marriage. He said that on one Christian bookstore website there were over 800 books on love and marriage. His question was, “Why do we need one more and why should I read yours?”
I have heard Josh speak about the fact that studying one plane crash is more beneficial to the prevention of future crashes than studying 100 successful flights. That is why I am writing in this book. That is why we need one more book on love and marriage. That is why you, the reader, should give attention to what we are saying. Being divorced is one of the most painful events a human can experience. Being married is one of the most wonderful gifts a human can experience.
I have personally known people who found peace with God and spouse as far in as a fourth marriage. A man who was in his third marriage once asked me, as his pastor, “Can God bless a third marriage?” I asked him, “Is God blessing your marriage?” He thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Yes. Yes He is.” He walked away with a little more spring in his step and a little less stress in his life.
As spiritual leaders, our job is to help people find the grace and redemption of God. In doing so, we set a standard that will in time be reflected by our congregations. The older I get, the more appreciation I have for forgiveness and restoration. People have the ability to commit the most heinous crimes. Often times, after the crime has been committed, these people search for forgiveness. Sometimes they find it and sometimes they do not. It is our commission to make sure that they have the opportunity to receive not only God’s forgiveness, but also the forgiveness of the Christian community.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”
2 Corinthians 5:18
When we communicate to divorced people that they are disqualified for Christian service, we do the Body of Christ a great disservice. People who have gone through divorce have insights and abilities that others do not. I understand much better now than ever before just how frail I am. I not only preach the grace of God now, I cling to it. I recognize all people as being in need of not only the saving power of Christ, but also the sustaining power of Christ. Many times I have known people who I believed needed the saving power of Christ in their lives. I have realized that I feel that same belief for people in the church regarding the sustaining power of Christ. Some church people I have known seem to believe that God saved them, yet now the burden is on them to walk the walk so as not to lose what God gave them.
“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”
They are trying to perfect a salvation begun in the Spirit by a straining in the flesh. It will never happen. That disposition will always result in pride or depression. When a person perceives success, pride is present. When a person perceives failure, depression is waiting. A walk in the Spirit proves successful every time and the glory is God’s alone with the believer experiencing the benefits. Walking in the Spirit produces a light step while walking in the flesh only gets heavier.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18
This is true for the married and the divorced. Remarriage seems to be a hot topic in many Christian circles. At one of the churches I was pastoring, I was meeting with the deacon body regarding the prospect of ordaining a man who was divorced and remarried. One of the deacons at the meeting referenced Matthew 5:32, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
I then directed his attention to a verse he had obviously skipped over in preparing his case.
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
I admitted my own guilt in this department and furthermore confessed that I wasn’t too sure about any man who was not guilty of that offense. For a red-blooded American man to say that he has never lusted after a woman, he would have to live on a deserted island with no access to women or pictures of them. Even then it would be difficult. So if adultery disqualifies anybody, it disqualifies everybody.
I am not a proponent of divorce. I am an avid proponent of grace. Grace that is to be administered in every situation, even divorce. Not just grace that forgives the past mistakes, but also grace that provides another chance at living life as God intended. A man and his wife, until death parts them.
Marriage is good. It is good to be married. Even if you have gone through a divorce. Maybe even especially if you have gone through a divorce. Sometimes it takes failure to compel us to try again and succeed. To do better this time. To give attention to detail this time. Divorce has taught me that I do not want to be alone, but that I very much want to be married. I do not simply want an occasional date to go out to eat with and then on to the movies. I do not want a companion every once in a while to talk to and get advice from. I want the one God has designed for me to live with for the rest of our lives. I love my wife and I want to grow old with her.
I heard a pastor from New Orleans once say that his church has a simple policy regarding physical contact within any relationship. Before marriage, hands off. After marriage, make up for lost time. I can’t say that I have always kept the first part of that policy, but I am definitely working on the latter half. Divorce has not only taught me that I never want to be divorced ever again, but also that it is good to be married to the woman I love, til death do we part.