Episode 1. Drifting Apart
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In many countries, including my own, about 40% of marriages end in divorce. 40%!! How does that happen? I mean, have you ever wondered, how does this couple, this man and this woman, go from the …
In many countries, including my own, upwards of 40% of marriages end in divorce. 40%!! How does that happen? I mean, have you ever wondered, how does this couple, this man and this woman, go from the courting and romance stage, through to the marriage commitment and honeymoon stage … on to, the divorce stage? Have you ever wondered that?
It’s an interesting question isn’t it. How do two people go were once madly, head-over-heels in love with one another, end up in the divorce court? When a man and a woman are standing at the alter, as it were, being married, the last thing on either of their minds, is divorce, right?
And yet … in the west at least 40% of marriages are ending in divorce. And in countries where divorce is culturally unacceptable – places like India for instance, where there’s a very low divorce rate, around 1.3% I think – in those countries, many couples are technically married, they’re living under the same roof, but their relationship, if you could call it that, is strongly reminiscent of the mutually assured destruction between America and the Soviet Union during the cold war that I grew up in.
Well, you know the cycle. It starts with romance – head over heals, madly in love, you can’t get enough of one another. You marry, you go on the honeymoon, you become one flesh as the Bible says, and everything’s great … until the kids come along. Until the day-to-day pressures of life tear away at the Achilles heel of your marriage. Until your soul mate’s weaknesses start driving you crazy. Until the grass starts looking greener on the other side.
There’s a book in the OT of the Bible called the Song of Solomon or the Song of Songs as it’s sometimes called. It’s about the relationship between a man and a women. And this is what it says, Song of Songs 2:15:
Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards—for our vineyards are in blossom.
In other words, it’s the little foxes that nibble away at the base of the vine that kill it off and rob it of its fruit. That’s what happens. It’s like Chinese water torture where they used to tie you down and drip little drops of water on your forehead. A drop of water is nothing. But keep doing it to someone for day after day without stop, and each drop of water starts to feel like a brick being dropped on your head. There’s a sense of accumulation … a build up of frustration and disappointment and pain … that will eventually harden your heart .
It’s like when you’re out in the garden digging a whole, or putting up a fence or laying bricks. Your hands develop calluses, to protect your flesh. That’s exactly what your heart ends up doing, it hardens itself, to protect you from a world of pain. And that’s how many people feel about their marriages – it’s a world of pain.
It’s something that Jesus spoke about when He was questioned about divorce. Matthew 19:1-9:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there. Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”
Why was there a concession through Moses all those years before, to allow a man to divorce His wife? Why? “Because of their hardness of heart”. God’s plan is that marriage is a life–long relationship, of two imperfect people who never give up on each other, but if we allow our hearts to harden, eventually we do give up on one another.
Think about it. Your heart doesn’t harden to someone overnight, not normally. Sure there are exceptions. If someone were to punch you in the face, or hurt one of your children, or steal something from you … sure, your heart would harden instantly. And for those women who have suffered abuse and are suffering abuse – I totally get that. We’re going to talk more about that tomorrow on the program.
But for most of us, this hardening of heart is this accumulation effect. A combination of the stresses and strains of life in general – work, finances, the mortgage, children, the commute, tiredness, exhaustion, sickness … just putting food on the able – and on top of all that, putting up with your marriage partner’s weaknesses and failures. And let’s face it, we all have those.
So somewhere as we swim through that toxic cocktail of life, we decide that this isn’t fair. A few years ago there was a very popular song on top of the charts, called ‘What About Me?’ Here’s how the chorus goes:
What about me, it isn’t fair, I’ve had enough now I want my share
Can’t you see I wanna live, But you just take more than you give
There’s the anthem of a person whose marriage is headed for the divorce courts. People say that they’ve drifted apart. Perhaps, maybe … but the bigger problem is that their hearts have hardened, as they decide that they’re not getting their fare share. We make the mistake of thinking that marriage is 50/50. No, divorce is 50/50, marriage is 100/100.
So that’s the problem – this hardening of hearts. Question is, what do you do about it? How do you combat it? How do you stop it happening in the first place. Well, there’s a simple answer to those questions, although while the answer is simple, living it out isn’t. The answer is forgiveness. Forgiving your wife or your husband every time they do something that annoys you or frustrates you or hurts you. Every time, as quickly as possible.
Peter the Apostle had a question about forgiveness. And here’s how Jesus answered it, Matthew 18:21-22:
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
Okay, that question was asked in the context of church relationships. But if he’d asked it in terms of marriage relationships, I’m sure Jesus would have said, “Not seven times, but 7,777 times!” Here’s how that’s supposed to play itself out.
I am married to a wonderful woman, Jacqui. Now, she’s not perfect (anymore than I’m perfect) but she is the most wonderful wife. So, here’s the decision I’ve made. Whenever she says or does something that frustrates me, or angers me, or hurts me, I have decided that I am going to forgive here – completely forgive her, completely wipe the slate clean – just as quickly as I can. Like, within 10 minutes, or worst case a half an hour. Forgiveness – quickly and completely.
No, it’s not always easy, but that’s what Jesus told me to do. And would you like to know what the impact of that is on me? Every morning I wake up with a new love for her in my heart. Just as God’s mercies are new every morning, so my mercies toward her are new every morning because I didn’t let the sun go down on my anger. Ephesians 4:26:
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
I don’t execute it perfectly every time, sometimes it involves prayer for God to help me forgive. But I believe that whilst she is not perfect, anymore than I am, she is God’s perfect provision for me. And so help me God, I am going to love her until we’re old and grey and potty and dotty … so help me God. Forgiveness stops your heart from hardening, it stops your relationship from falling apart.
Forgiveness is the antidote to a decaying marriage. So, in your marriage, what will you decide to do?