Let’s Call It Off
A good friend forwarded an article to me about the demise of a marriage. Written by Sandra Tsing Loh, the author told her husband she wanted a divorce and then wrote, “sadly and to my horror, I am divorcing.” Married for 20 years and a mother of girls still at home, she describes the decision to end her marriage to a good man as cataclysmic and heart-shattering.
The story of another marriage ending did not surprise me. It’s really nothing new.
But her conclusion left me thinking long after I moved on to the next email: “I did not have the strength to ‘work on’ falling in love in my marriage again. Given my staggering working mother’s to do list, I cannot take on another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance.” Her words percolated in my mind. She was saying she’s too tired to try any more, as if working on a marriage requires purely physical strength.
In the author’s defense I want to say how much I understand and empathize with her situation. She is in her mid-forties, juggling a career, kids with schools and lessons and appointments, bills to pay, meals to prepare, and pets to feed. It’s a crazy time of life. I remember those years of my forties as being some of the most stressful I’d ever endured. During these years a woman teeters between youth and middle age, experiences the turmoil and rejection of teenagers who used to adore her, deals with aging parents, faces personal health issues, and figures out how to manage a marriage that often has become stale or at least challenged in this season.
But as difficult as this season can be in a marriage, I differ with her as to the solution. Just as the last miles of a marathon are the most difficult, when runners are most tempted to quit, so these miles in a marriage are often the most difficult to traverse.
Giving up on your marriage may be the easiest decision to make at the moment, but it will not prove a good one in the years to come.
Marriage problems are nothing new. My own grandmother struggled with them in her forties. Her marriage had been reduced to a stagnant predictability. She felt no hope of it ever changing. She, too, felt in an impossible place. So she left my grandfather when her last child went off to college. But she said to me years later after she and my grandfather had both remarried that it was the greatest mistake she had ever made. And my mother said that, even though she was an adult when it happened, it was crushing and she never got over it.
One of Jesus’ most famous dialogs in the New Testament was on the subject of divorce. When He quoted the Old Testament He pointed out that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites under his care. Divorce is as old as the earth and so is the reason: a hard heart. Declaring a marriage to be impossible is like saying a marathon is impossible or sailing around the world is impossible or landing on the moon is impossible. All of those challenges are difficult, but they are possible. They have been accomplished by others, proving that they can, in fact, be done by still others.
The question of fighting for a difficult marriage is not one of impossibility, but of willingness.
A hard heart is an unbelieving heart, perhaps even a stubborn heart. Might it also be a selfish one? To open the door to divorce is to invite into one’s home and life a torrent of unforeseen destruction and debris. The momentary pleasures found at the escape hatch of divorce are like the treasures that appeared on the coasts along the Indian Ocean a few years ago when the ocean waters receded with the coming tsunami. Many people rushed onto the newly exposed sand to recover long-buried loot, only to have the tsunami waves come crashing in to drown them, not only them, but also their families!
If this author follows through with her decision to divorce, she is choosing to close her heart to the damage she will cause her daughters. As one songwriter penned in lyrics about his parents’ divorce, “I will always be weird inside, I will always be lame.” Divorce is crippling an entire generation of children, teens, and young adults. It is an epidemic, like the crippling effects of polio to the children of the 1950s. Today’s parents must choose to vaccinate their children’s souls by keeping their promises in marriage no matter how difficult the race becomes. They must vow to protect their little ones from a lifetime of being lame.
To those who are discouraged in marriage like this author, I challenge you to think long-term, to refuse to consider your own marriage too difficult, to choose to believe that nothing is too hard with God. Yes, it will take much work, but any relationship of value requires sacrifice and effort. I know from personal experience that there are times when marriage does require more effort than we ever imagined. But the reward is to the finishers of the race, not to those who stop running and walk away.