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For Better, Richer, & in Health, I DO! But the Other?
IN THE BEGINNING, marriage was God’s idea! He had a very specific plan and design to melt and mold together two distinct and unique personalities until they melded so perfectly that the two became one flesh. By design, you couldn’t tell where one stopped and the other began. He did it with a purpose. How and why He designed marriage this way is a mystery. But the Word clearly reflects that marriage is the prototype; it is the image of Christ and the Church. In fact, He said this in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
With the beginning fading into the distant past, we’ve shifted our thinking to “ONCE UPON A TIME…” Whether it’s a fairy tale or the big screen, starting with Cinderella when we were barely old enough to distinguish the story. in reality, the image of marriage is programmed into our minds. The boy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. As we got older, skilled novelists and screenwriters picked up the ball and amplified that image on the big screen. Many of us, when we were younger, bought into this image because we really didn’t want to believe that marriage would play out for us the way it did in our parents’ relationships that we watched in our young lives. Somewhere along the way, the thought arose that we were waiting for a picture on the big screen and we too would live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, we don’t live our lives on a storyboard or on the big screen. We live them in the reality of the moment. If a person grows up in a dysfunctional home, with no intervention, lots of prayer, and some education, the dysfunction is what they bring to the marriage. The situation is complicated by the fact that people tend to marry very young; the norm is somewhere between 18 and 21 years of age. Many have just survived the tumultuous teenage years of rebellion, when family and parental relationships are either broken or stunted by irreconcilable differences. From there they contract for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. If they last that long and the heart of the marriage is not shaped by Christ, the dysfunction is compounded and perpetuated, resulting in untold generations of victims.
It is clear that the sanctity of holy matrimony is waning. In addition to knowledge and a fairy-tale wedding, the road ahead is treacherous. When a couple starts out, money is usually tight and it’s hard to cover all expenses on a shoestring. When they start adding children and financial and emotional weaknesses, the stress at home goes through. When such stress overwhelms a husband and wife, aspects of their personalities that even they themselves did not know are revealed. At one point they look at each other and wonder, “Who is this person and where is the person I married?”
When this question comes to mind, what are the options available to not only survive the situation, but also overcome and move through life’s pitfalls and obstacles? Of course, there is always the option of ending the marriage and getting a divorce. When such decisions are made hastily in the midst of a personal or marital crisis, the consequences are always disastrous. Love is lost, and at a relatively young age, the couple has learned to avoid a bad situation rather than discuss it in order to gain a stronger place of maturity and strength in life.
A more appropriate solution would be to use a two-pronged approach. One or both partners must find the strength to put their faith and seek direction in life in a place of prayer. The second step involves seeking wisdom, advice, and counsel from a trained counselor or minister. This is necessary because in the midst of marital upheaval, partners lose perspective and often cannot distinguish truth from lies. The intervention of a trained and experienced, neutral third party can very often go to the heart of the matter. When the heart is open and both parties are willing, healing can begin.
If any or part of this scenario sounds familiar, let me prompt you with some thoughts. You can be sure that stress and problems will come. Remember that you love your spouse and the value of the relationship is greater than the intensity of the problems you are currently facing. Current challenges can be a testing ground, a place to learn and grow in maturity. On the other hand, they could be your undoing. You can control the result. You can take the first step and move forward to a better life. The choice is yours!
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