Practice for Divorce

The Barna Group reports that

50% of pastors’ marriages end in divorce[1]Dutch_Painting_in_the_19th_Century_-_Van_de_Laar_-_The_Divorce

Our modern society… including the church, has implemented forms of getting married that are, literally, practice for divorce. Oh, they don’t go by that name, but they follow that pattern, they implement those principles. Practically all modern systems of getting married, be they called ‘dating’ or ‘courtship’ or even ‘betrothal’,  have fundamental principles, never found in Scripture, that lay the emotional and philosophical foundation for divorce.

What are the principles that lead to, or allow for, divorce? Might I suggest there are at least three. Firstly, it is all about me. Divorce doesn’t work if the person doing the divorcing isn’t thinking about themselves. They have to literally think, “I have the power, I have the decision, to make a divorce. Or at least I should. I’m not happy, I want a divorce.”

Secondly we have to believe that our spouse needs to measure up to some standard in order to believe that they don’t measure up to that standard. I have to be happy enough. He has to love me enough. She has to be cute enough… or I’m out of here. Divorce is about me, and them. I want this, they aren’t giving it. I want happiness, they aren’t making me happy.

Thirdly, divorce is about trying again. Whether it is being a bachelor again, or getting married, again, divorce is about ‘another try’; another choice, another person or state.

So, how do our modern principles of getting married work out as practice for divorce? Well, let’s see:

Our little boy is four years old
And he’s quite a little man
So we spell out the words
We don’t want him to understand
Like t-o-y, or maybe s-u-r-p-r-i-s-e
But the words we’re hiding from him now
Tears the heart right out of me
Chorus:

Our d-i-v-o-r-c-e becomes final today
Me and little j-o-e will be going away[2]

It’s all about me. One of the most certain things in a modern American romance novel, movie, or discussion of marriage, is that it is an unalterable wrong for someone else to pick your spouse. It may, in the right kind of comedy, turn out that the picking ends up working… but only because the person involved ‘falls in love’. The initial picking was obviously wrong.

Post anything about matchmaking or the like on the internet, even among the most conservative of (modern American) young people will be quick to state, “But the young people have to have a choice.” Even if the young person is heartily reformed they will still promote a radically arminian view of their own marriage. Even the most parent honoring young person will still draw the line, without hesitation, at their own spouse.

What of ‘not good enough’? Well isn’t that the point of getting to choose? You get to examine the person; either initially or over time; and decide if they are ‘good enough’. If they’re not… out they go: Stop dating, end the courtship, break off the engagement.

Try, try, again. Why that might be the very definition of dating, and it is pretty common in courtship, too. You try… nope, that doesn’t work… so you try again… nope, still not right. This one lasted longer but, nope…

So when you finally say ‘I do’ or the equivalent  get in the car, go on the honeymoon, and wake up to… what?! All of your training kicks in. This isn’t good enough! He isn’t loving me right! I want to try again…!!

And you know, or you used to know, that you can’t. But the world, the flesh, the devil… and your friends and much of the church now say you can. Try again. He wasn’t right for you. He isn’t pleasing you. You have to do what makes you happy…

st-john-baptising-the-people.jpg!Blog

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

I Cor 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

… which is almost the exact opposite of what God teaches. He teaches that life isn’t about us; it is about Him. That our job is to do what glorifies Him. Perhaps we have been forcibly inducted into the harem of a pagan king (how much farther from the courtship model could you get?). Well, you might be there for just ‘such a time as this’ and end up saving your whole people. Or you might be a castrated slave in such a court; and end up praying for the return of your people to the land God promised them.

And God doesn’t care about ‘good enough’, he tells you how to cope with the ‘not good’. He specializes in it himself. A non-Christian husband? Obey him all the more scrupulously and without a word, so that you might win him, by your quiet obedience, to Christ [3]. Divorce him? Nope[4]. Oh, and your body belongs to him[5].

And as for ‘trying’. God hates divorce[6], and he doesn’t exactly teach ‘trying’ in the small stuff, either. Let your yes be yes. Do not defraud. Keep your vows.

Godly marriage, like so much of Godly life, is founded on principles in opposition to ‘me’, ‘not good enough’, and ‘try try again’. A Godly marriage is supposed to reflect the marriage of Christ and the Church. The couple is not bound together by twenty-seven indices of compatibility  but by the one flesh relationship. The Godly couple is not drawn together through acts of service and kindness, through expert communication: they are bound in covenant.

Nowhere do we read that Christ sat up in heaven checking out various possibilities for the church until, finally, he found one that He liked. No, we read that He came to get the bride that His Father had chosen for Him.

Still less do we read that the church dated Christ until She felt good about accepting His advances. We read, instead, that He paid the bride price while she was still dead in trespasses and sin, lost in hatred for him.

We do not read that we are in some wimpy ‘engagement’ period; where at any moment we could back out of the marriage and go our own way. We read instead that we are bound in covenant to a covenant keeping God.

There is a saying in sports, the military, and the like, that you need to practice what you will be doing. You cannot practice tennis in order to get good at soccer. Hours of ping pong will not make you good at chess or baseball.

We need to practice what we believe. We need to teach our children when they are young that, just as God the Father picked a bride for Christ, so will their fathers pick a bride for them. That as Christ did not ‘date’ the church, nor will they date their husbands. That as the church was not courted but bounded in covenant, praise God, so will they.

That these things are your hope and prayer, and that they may happen at a young age, and that God will bless them with fruitfulness.

[1] http://www.eurweb.com/2013/04/preacher-stats-50-of-pastors-are-divorced-70-dont-have-a-close-friend/

[2] http://www.poemhunter.com/song/d-i-v-o-r-c-e/

[3] I Peter 3

[4] Mark 10:2-12, I Cor 7

[5] [I Cor 7:3-5

[6] Malichi 2

Von is a father of six, husband of one. He has been a schoolteacher, missionary linguist, and now is a nurse and an EMT (ambulance driver). He is reformed baptist, full quiver, family integrated and theonomic, among other things. He enjoys writing on practical theonomy; and particularly on what Scripture says about the path to marriage (Hint: he doesn’t believe in either courtship or dating). He is the author of ‘What are you Doing?’ and ‘The Covenant of Betrothal’, both of which can be downloaded free from Lulu.com. He also writes for truelovedoesntwait.com.

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