“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.”
unhappy in its own way.”
-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Last week I posted the question that was shared with me from a good friend. She happened to be single lady who wondered aloud why so many couples seem to choose their children as a priority over their marriage? She also ask the question; “should couples stay married for the sake of the kids or divorce and try to find happiness?"
The question was posed with no personal advice needed, just the desire to share a reflection and observation.
When she ask me to comment on the sensitive topic with my Truth Be Told Tuesday forum I was flattered and honored, but I was also concerned if I were the right person to post my opinions on Facebook. I recognized my multiple marriages and even more children might make me some kind of authority on the topic, but I can assure you it does not. In the end, my main goal, as always, is to instigate conversation not a religious like conversion to my beliefs and opinions. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m quite sure I don’t know all the correct questions to ask either.
It's about conversation, not conversion.
After I requested the aid of the readers in sharing their thoughts, opinions and comments poured in, running the gamut of motherly advice to contemplating the economics of such a decision.
My favorite, if not one of the best responses, borrowed from the airline industry, are the words stewardess share countless times a day with their passengers: “If you are traveling with small children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance...."
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
It goes without saying our beliefs on any topic are shaped by how we were raised, our vast amount of past experiences, and by our philosophical and/or religious beliefs. In the end, much could be written in relation to this subject, but brevity is rewarded in forums such as this.
In response to this personal request I believe simply sharing a few Bible verses to support my belief and shouting, “ God, Wife, and Children” to be an unattractive approach in speaking to this dilemma. The Bible carries tremendous weight with me and many other Christians, but not everyone subscribes to the belief that God’s word is a referendum on how one should live his or her life.
I respect that.
What I would like to do is provide one example, share from personal experience, and pass on one piece of scripture from the Bible that provides more than a glimpse into how relationships are to be lived out here on earth, whether married or not.
Allow me to share.
Last Thursday, while I was riding my driveway of snow, I began to listen to a Ravi Zachariah podcast entitled The Christian Privilege. As it were, on this evening, when the sky was a canvas painted black, with only little white dots representing the stars and moon, I listened to the podcast for the hundredth time.
It was a message that detailed the horrific account of a family torn apart by the decision of a husband/father who decided to abandon his family to be with another women. This decision was done only after he did the unthinkable to his wife.
It was on this night that the powerful message spoke to me in away it never had before.
The story finds it starting point with Ravi being in Auckland, New Zealand, and after finishing his talk a young woman, with eyes full of tears, approached him and shared her haunting account with him. She was an Indian girl that was in her twenties. She told Dr. Zachariah that it’s often too difficult to share her story because of becoming overcome with emotion, finding it almost impossible to talk. But this day would be the day she would give a detailed history of her horrific experience because she was seeking help, and believed Dr. Zachariah to be the one who would fully understand her pain and dilemma.
The young girl went on to unravel the story that centered upon her mother’s almost heaven like beauty and her father’s inflamed jealousy that left him almost paralyzed, and rendered him helpless more times than not. She went on to explain that her mother had married a man that was extremely jealous of her and couldn’t accept the fact that other men to great notice of her mother’s beauty. He was crazy with paranoid thoughts, continually accusing her of countless acts of unfaithfulness and cheating.
And though her mother would often say, ‘I love you and I’m married to you,’ it was never enough to ease the demons that resided within her father.
So as awful fate would have it, her father came home from work one day with his briefcase in hand, and he asked his wife to come in the bedroom to talk with him in private. Unbeknownst to her mother, her father opened his briefcase and removed a bottle full of acid and threw it on her face. She screamed and screamed as she endured the pain of her skin peeling off her face like rubber on a tire when it skids on the hot summer pavement.
Her face was completely burned and would be horribly scared for life.
This once beautiful face, one that was looked at with awe and praise, is now looked at with faces that cringe and eyes that squint. The young lady went on to say that after the horrid incident her father took off and left her mother with the momentous task of raising seven children alone.
She didn’t talk or see her father for years, but one day her mother received a phone call, it was her dad. Her father explained to her mother where he was now living, and that he was dying of cancer. He told her he had no one in his life to care for him, and ask if she would take him back?
She said yes.
Families can recover and make it. It takes work, but it can be done.
And as the young girl cried uncontrollably, she told Ravi that she was angry with her mother and couldn’t seem to relinquish the grip of anger that she so desperately wanted to hold on to. She held on to Ravi like the father she never had, one she desperately always wanted, and simply asked him to pray for her. And as Ravi held her like a young child in his arms, as she heaved and struggled to gain any composure, he said these wonderfully wise words to her:
“Salmbia, let your mother do what God is telling her to do. It may be a love that the world will never understand, but it is a love that would normally supernaturally engendered, if that mother of yours is as Godly as you says she is let her be the Godly women that God wants her to be. Don’t stand in her way.”
To have the type of response the young girl‘s mother displayed takes a standard of belief that is greater than any parental upbringing or guidance. It would take more than believing in the words of a Greek poet or Roman philosopher. No quote, earthly friendship or government law could galvanize one into making such a selfless decision. That brave choice is made only when one has a standard that is all knowing, powerfully perfect, and has the ability to transform the mind, heart and soul.
That standard is Jesus Christ. Abiding by this type of standard can only be accomplished by the “renewing in the spirit of the mind.” – (Eph. 4:23).
Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!
On that cold night, where the awesome beauty of nature provided a type of peace and serenity that is only reserved for those who are open to receiving it, I realized the power of transformation. No different than the majesty that is recognizable when the summer turns to fall, or when winter becomes spring, I intimately acknowledged “spiritual metamorphosis” to be an extraordinary thing to observe.
Whether the revolutionary renewal of the heart takes place within us or the reconstruction of the spirit takes shape in another person’s life, transformation, true transformation, is a beautiful thing to observe and experience.
When a women that has her face burned by acid is willing to lend a helping hand to the culprit of her pain speaks volumes of a heart that has been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ. Her behavior/decision is not a natural one, but a supernatural one that can only be gained by accepting the power of God’s love in your life, and even then a decision like hers is no guarantee.
Rev. Billy Graham's daughter, Ruth Graham, has been divorced twice. Like I said, there are no guarantees.
To achieve a life that merits masterpiece status one has to have a standard that is higher than a desire, want, or motivation. Time after time those short-lived inclinations and motivations are destined to become no more than ashes from the burning fire of realism, temptation, and the uncomfortable heat of hate, revenge and bitterness. The transformation that God provides has the ability to change unforgiveness to forgiveness, hatred to love.
It’s unexplainable, but it is true. It’s real.
Should we stay or should we go?
I can’t tell an individual what or not what to do when it comes to their marriage, but what I do know is that “leaving” is often not the problem, but merely the consequence for giving up long before. What I do know from personal experience is that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but the fact still remains you have to cut it. The fact that the divorce rate for remarried people with children is over 70% supports the “grass isn’t always greener” theory.
Without children the divorce rate is over 60%.
“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds
for divorce. The trick
for divorce. The trick
is to find and continue to find grounds for marriage.”
― Robert Anderson
― Robert Anderson
Christian and non-Christian alike suffer the same fate of divorce when they consciously begin to distance themselves emotionally, spiritually and physically from their spouse. Do you want to limit the potential of ending a marriage? If the answer is yes, then take every precaution when you first notice the other person is letting go of you, or vise verse, by prioritizing other things over you.
That includes children.
No one should stay married for the sake of the kids, no more than you should love your spouse because it would please your in-laws. When a parent seemingly chooses to be more involved in his or her child’s life than their spouse’s life is not because the love is greater for the child. Many times it has more to do with one, or both spouses, avoiding the hard work and heavy lifting that is involved in loving another person deeply when one is hurting and they're participants in an unfulfilled relationship.
It has more to with avoidance than it does with priority.
Putting our kids first will at times let the parent off the hook emotionally because of the positive emotions we’re awarded with for our good intentions. No one can fault anyone for loving this or her child right?
Remember, Our children only get one childhood. Only one.
In the end, staying for the kids or leaving and breaking up the family are poorly limited options. It doesn't have to read like a scoreboard with only a home and visiting team. The option of seeking help and counsel that could aid in saving a marriage must be an option – obviously there are massive limitations in the success of a marriage if one partner chooses to leave.
Personally, I failed at creating more options that could’ve saved my first marriage, setting me up for nothing short of failure in my second marriage, a marriage that was created 6 months after my 1st divorce. That marriage was doomed before it even got off the ground. Many times leaving one relationship in search of another often entails carry with us unresolved issues like carry-on luggage on airplane. I was the passenger that was trying to shove everything in the overhead compartment of life, trying desperately to close the door with no success. I was exhausted, emotionally/financially broken, and spiritually lost. All I did was take those issues from one airport gate to another when I left my first wife and married my second.
Finally, God’s word in Luke tells us to love our enemy. Sadly, there are times that our spouse can become the enemy. It also tells us to refrain from judging. Unfortunately, many times judging a spouse occurs more often than loving a spouse.
Luke 6:27-42 says these things.
Love for Enemies...
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others, as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to marriage but I do believe we can find guidance in those scriptures when it comes to our relationships and marriages.
I really should read that piece of scripture every day.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
It goes without saying, my opinion finds it source and inspiration in the gospel, but in no way is my opinion the gospel. My belief is fueled by reflection, an introspective perspective, and personal experiences that have a firm foundation built upon the concrete slabs of failure, not the limestone of success.
With that, I believe the airline industry gets it right. We need to help ourselves before we can help someone else. That includes our family.
We have to love our self with a healthy dose of humility and courage- seeing our self as God see’s us- and begin to put the oxygen mask that is God’s love and salvation over our nose and mouth, and take all of His glory in. It is when we begin to inhale God’s spirit we are able to give more freely, forgive more often, and love more openly.
And aren’t those the qualities that every marriage - and family - needs to survive?