I remember taking a survey of my Spanish class to find out whose parents were still married when I was a junior in high school. Of the class of approximately 25, five of us had parents who were still married, though two of them were twins and the parents of one of those weren’t on their first marriage.

As a child, I felt odd that my parents weren’t divorced. Not envious, mind you, but odd.

When Susannah and I got married, there were a couple of people who made comments to the effect of “When you get divorced…”

Even stranger — and more heartbreaking — was one Wednesday night when the students in our scripture memory class at church asked us when we were getting divorced, not because we were fighting (we don’t fight) but because the child assumed that divorce is a natural part of marriage.

Every week as part of my job I go to the local courthouse and gather marriage and divorce records. The marriage licenses often say that one or both of the parties have been married four, five or — in one instance — six times previously. It’s sometimes astounding to see a divorce filed for someone whose marriage license I had previously copied — I’ve only had this job for a little more than two years.

Likewise, I often write down information from a marriage license that was issued the same month as is listed under the “previous marriage ended” slot.

I’ve seen 18-year-olds on their second marriage. I’ve seen 22-year-olds on their third marriage. People I went to high school with are divorced; people I attended college with are divorced.

We live in a culture of divorce.

And it complicates things.

As a teenager, I saw lots of people manipulate their parents by threatening to move in with the other one if the child didn’t get their way. I’ve seen divorced parents play their children against the other party, and I’ve seen some really nasty personal laundry aired in court for no reason that I could see other than to damage the ex-spouse’s reputation.

Those spats continue to have reverberations.

Susannah’s parents are divorced, and while things are pretty peaceful these days, they can still be complicated. Though we enjoy spending time with everybody, coordinating holidays is a nightmare, and we recently had to explain to our four-year-old that sometimes people don’t stay married.

I know that every marriage — and divorce — is different, and that a lot of factors can play into the tearing asunder of what God has placed together. I realize that. I do.

And while there are legitimate instances that God (and the Church) grants approval for divorce, it seems like a lot of divorces — I say this anecdotally — are the result of “We don’t get along anymore.”

I don’t think that the cultural problem with divorce has to do with the flippancy with which people approach marriage, though that is a factor. I think it has to do with the fact that, while many a conservative will claim that the USA is a Christian nation, we are a Christ-less culture, consumed with selfishness.

Did it really take the movie Fireproof for Christians to realize that if you don’t treat your spouse like crap and instead love them more than you love yourself, they won’t want to divorce you?

(A few months ago, I heard approximately an hour-and-a-half worth of testimonies interspersed with music on K-Love about how Fireproof changed so many people’s marriages.)

I’m not a big fan of that movie, but it has a point — if you don’t don’t approach a relationship with a framework shaped by Christ, it is going to be flawed. This isn’t to say that I think non-Christians can’t have a happy marriage, but at the core of the issue, I believe every relationship will be flawed if it is not Christ-shaped and centered.

And that’s something even Christians fail to do, often and not-so-far between.

I’m guilty of it. You probably are.

But Christ has given us victory. He has given us the means to live a Christ-shaped life though the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments and the scriptures. Let us turn from our sin of selfishness and live in that victory. Let us proclaim it in our churches, and let us emphasize it in our pre-marriage counseling.

And yes, let us shape our marriages by it.

Advertisements