Sunday, September 18, 2011

LOVE STORY, PART THREE

LOVE NEVER GIVES UP. Love cares for others more than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first', doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end." 
~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

"Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love."  ~William Penn

If agape love isn't defined as romantic love, then why is this passage from the Bible so common in weddings? Maybe in this day and age, with nearly half of marriages ending in divorce, it isn't the most appropriate chapter...I honestly don't know. I am no theologian. What I am about to share may be way off the mark. But here's what I think based on my own personal experiences.

More than once, I have heard that the divorce rate in the church is about equal to people who don't darken the doorways of a house of worship. To me, this is staggering. This suggests that there are A LOT of people who know God, but who aren't in touch with His agape love. If they aren't experiencing it for themselves, how can they be channels for it to flow freely onto others? If all of the people who have a walk with God could experience this agape love, how would it impact the divorce rates?

I am not going to tiptoe around this delicate subject. In fact, I am going to jump right in! God is not a fan of divorce. Hear me out! God does NOT think less of divorced people, but I don't think he likes the institution of divorce. He has made certain allowances for when it is okay; it makes sense that He does since He knows we are human, and we are going to make mistakes. But He sees the fallout and rippling effects of divorce, and it saddens Him. He dislikes the casualness in which we break these solemn vows. Again, He DOES NOT dislike divorced people ~ just the opposite! I think it's because He loves us so deeply that He hates to see us take paths He knows will go far beyond what our limited minds can see.

I have to make this personal. I have not been divorced myself, but I have lived with the rippling effects of divorce since the day I said, "I do". My husband was divorced when we met. He had two adorable little boys, and I fell in love with all three. We were fortunate ~ the relationships between the exes and their spouses was (and still is) amicable. Growing up, the boys got equal time in both households. If you're going to marry someone who's divorced with kids, it couldn't have been more ideal. Clearly, the boys' welfare was always first and foremost on everyone's hearts and minds.

That said, I saw the rippling effects of their divorce daily ~ two homes, two sets of parents for the boys. In our household, their schedules had top priority. After all, we didn't have them with us all the time, so when we did, we wanted to make the most of it. Even when we didn't have the boys with us, there was always sports and school activities that allowed us to be a part of their daily lives. As we built and added to our own family, the picture grew more complicated. I saw the "normal" for our own kids  living with part-time siblings. Keeping balance in our home became more and more difficult.

It was as healthy as it could be for all concerned. But still, it wasn't what God planned when He created marriage and families. How could there not be a fallout? This is a tough subject for me! If my husband hadn't got divorced, I would not have met him and we wouldn't be married today. I would have missed out on knowing and loving his two sons from his prior marriage. We wouldn't  have had our own two children. I love my husband and my family, and I am so thankful for all of them. Still, I know it wasn't God's desire for my husband and his two older sons to go through a divorce. Instead, it's a beautiful testament of God taking our not-so ideal circumstances and turning them around for good.

Yes, I agree that God is saddened by divorce. But I also believe that He loves all of us extravagantly and unconditionally. My husband has often wondered about why God gave him a second chance and a great marriage the second time around. I think the answer is in God's agape love that always wants the best for us.

If you have been divorced, I think you need to know that God's love for you is as wide and deep as it ever was. God is in the business of healing, restoring, and bringing life back into areas of our lives that seem dead or beyond hope.

For all of us who are married or contemplating marriage, perhaps we would benefit from growing closer to God, and learning about this mystery called agape love. After being married over twenty-five years to a man who's been through a divorce, I have come to see that divorce isn't a part of God's plan, but He lovingly works with it to create a new and beautiful canvas if we let Him.

If you are married and contemplating divorce because of abuse, again, I'm no expert or theologian. But my heart says this type of relationship is never God's plan for marriage, and I encourage you to get safe and find help. Marriage was never intended to be a place of fear, abuse, or control. All of these are directly opposed to what love and marriage is all about.

Does 1 Corinthians 13 belong at a wedding ceremony? I think so. With all that's going against marriages, I think that we are wise to grab hold of God and acquaint ourselves with this radical love called agape. Maybe then our marriages will stand a better chance of surviving...and thriving!

"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage." ~Martin Luther      
    

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