By Dr. Harold Sala
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
“If a disease were to afflict the majority of a populace,” says veteran poll taker George Gallup, Jr., “spreading pain and dysfunction throughout all age groups, we would be frantically searching for reasons and solutions.” Yet broken homes have become so common, contends Gallup, that the issue is not only neglected; it is ignored.
What Gallup describes is not an isolated phenomenon but a world-wide scourge today. In the former U.S.S.R. one marriage in three ends in divorce. In the United States one in two becomes a statistic. In China, the problem is growing in proportion to the degree of exposure to the west. In the few Catholic countries where church-related pressure has succeeded in disallowing divorce laws, broken homes still tear families apart.
The issue is marriage, and the stakes today are higher than ever when it comes to keeping it together and making it work. In most of the world, February 14 is a lovers’ day, bearing the name of St. Valentine, a Roman priest who lost his head under Emperor Claudius II, who didn’t take well to the priest’s converting people to Christianity. Nonetheless, if St. Valentine, who died about 270 A.D., knew what was happening to families today, he would roll over in his grave with disgust.
In the past three decades the number of broken homes the world over has increased by a factor of 2.5. Now, almost a generation later, we have come to realize that the mad quest for happiness and fulfillment usually ends in a bitter illusion, which has devastating consequences for the generation of children who have grown up without a daddy in the home.
Women have learned through bitter experience that child support–to say nothing of emotional support–is usually sadly lacking when a marriage fails. Bone weariness, excruciating loneliness, financial difficulty and emotional fatigue have challenged the idea that independence is the best thing. Reality has destroyed the myth that “miserable parents make miserable children!” We have tragically learned what God taught us long ago. Marriage is not for perfect people, but imperfect people who need each other; and, no matter how imperfect a husband or a wife may be, or how imperfect the institution of marriage may be, it is still the best way to meet human needs and pass on values to our children generation after generation.
In recent days, walking away from a troubled marriage has lost some of its glamour and its boldness. As a 28-year-old newlywed put it, “My divorced mother wound up bitter and lonely. I’m going to do everything it takes to stay married for life.”
Today begins a series of commentaries which I’m calling “Marriage Savers!” Let’s call Marriage Saver #1 “Commitment.” For when it’s all said and done, nothing is more important to a marriage than the attitude which says, “No matter what our problems may be, we’re committed to this marriage. Someway, somehow we’re going to find a solution!”
Commitment is an inner attitude, not an external form! It is more than coming home to a mate, or refusing to let your eyes roam or your thoughts fantasize; it is the absolute refusal to even think of another person. When Dr. and Mrs. Harold Jeffries celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, someone asked if they had ever considered divorce. With a sparkle in her eye, Mrs. Jeffries replied, “Divorce–never! But murder, often!” That’s commitment. And that’s what it takes to stay happily married for more than 60 years.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 7:1-7