The big C: marriage, divorce and the meaning of life
It’s 3:30am, no time to be awake, but I can’t sleep. I’ve just had two days away at the bach marking, dealing to the pile of assignments just before the next one is due – sleeping fine, even at their best student essays don’t shake the world! I came home to an evening of wedding-planning. Our son Thomas is marrying Melissa in ten days, and I’m to conduct the wedding. So we sat at the dining table and first talked about the shape of the liturgy, and who does what. Then some practical stuff about what to eat and drink…
It’s all got me thinking, is it so different for them? Sure the world has changed… My parents’ generation made legal divorce a less painful process. My generation has run behind, and overtaken them - the statistics are terrible. Marriages don’t last (at least not in the affluent egotistical West). Among our kids’ friends from school there were always more “broken” or “blended” homes, than those with parents still till-death-do-us-parting. Churches too, seldom slow to learn bad ways from the world around, are full of separated and divorced halves of what once were couples. And one has to admit, people concerned are often the better for it.
Daya Willis had an op ed piece in the Herald last Saturday, summed the social context up nicely:
Clearly, the baby boomers cocked up the whole marriage thing. They got hitched too young, felt unfulfilled en masse, split up and occasionally repeated the process.
Later she goes on:
My beloved and I will get married when we’re good and ready – and only because we can see the value in celebrating our commitment to each other with all the people who matter to us.
What’s more we’ve already taken the ultimate leap of faith – we had a baby together. Having both emerged (slightly dented) from broken homes, it’s our sworn mission to maintain a happy whole family for the sake of our son.
From other things she writes it’s clear she sees this as totally different from the dreams and ideals of the generation before. Perhaps it is. Though, it shares with the boomers’ the belief that a couple “should stick together for the sake of the kids”. And like theirs it is also, in its own way, totally different from the Christian view of marriage.
When a couple promise each other (however they word it) to love, and cherish, and share their lives, till death alone parts them - it’s not “for the children”, it’s for each other. It’s all about the big C, the word neither the boomers nor their successors can say: commitment.
Oddly (in a time of “Civil Unions”) it is the story of two women that best illustrates what it means. Ruth and Naomi:
Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home.
Where you go, I go;
and where you live, I'll live.
Your people are my people,
your God is my god;
where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried,
so help me GOD--not even death itself is going to come between us! (Ruth 1:16 17)
Isn’t that what Gen 1 and 2 tell us the Creator planned for marriage – partnership with no holds barred. I hope and pray, that when Thomas and Melissa watch Barbara and me locked in fiery argument, they see the for-richer-for-poorer-in-sickness-and-in-health commitment that undergirds our lives and even feeds the flames!
Marriage isn’t about “a perfect match”, it’s about commitment – promises that you’ll keep, and those that you can rely on.