Relationships are the most wonderful and, often times, most frustrating things in our life. Like many things there are seasons to these relationships that we need to learn to recognize in order to make them long-lasting. It is rare these days to find friendships that span many decades and we all know the rate of divorce but most of this is because we fail to recognize the seasons. Change upsets us. It can cause fear and panic, and often leads to rash and wrong decisions. I'm not a relationship expert or a psychologist but I am an observer and a student of the Word, and I have observed these seasons as I have experienced some of them.
The most important relationship a person will ever have is with their spouse. It is not with your children because children are temporary in their dependence. One day they will move on with their life, always keeping a place in it for you but, as a parent, you will take a secondary role. It's all part of the seasons. However, your spouse has been intended for life; more than a lover, more than a friend, more than a companion, a part of you. God said it in the beginning and Jesus repeated it for clarity:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one." (Matthew 19:4-6)
There are seasons to marriage, wonderful, beautiful seasons that if understood can be celebrated and enjoyed. However, many refuse to accept change (which is really a maturing of the relationship) which causes confusion and insecurities and can end up in a broken relationship. Now understand that when I say broken I mean ripped apart. In a divorce you never end up with two single people but instead we have two halves. Jesus made it clear that divorce was never part of the plan when he put things in motion. However, sin entered the world and distorted everything beautiful that God had created and the closer we get to the end of time the worse the situation is getting.
Relationships are not an easy thing and each season brings new challenges that couples need to work through. Unfortunately many people put it into cruise after the first few years when the children have arrived and much of the relationship becomes about parenting. However, even in the season of parenting there are changes as the children get older. If couples are not aware of the seasons, the changes, and fail to make adjustments as they go along, they will wake up one day next to a stranger. Couples have to grow together with the seasons of life or they will grow apart. One thing for sure, separation and divorce should never be part of a couples vocabulary. There has to be determination that no matter what they face and experience they will do it together with a guarantee and promise that they will never give up on each other. God joined "male and female" together for life; it is a spiritual covenant that displeases God when broken and carries with it consequences that everyone needs to consider.
Marriage takes work, so much so that Jesus said that some may be better off not getting married in the first place. Give it serious consideration. Can you make the kind of commitment and sacrifices that marriage will require of you? To become half of one is not an easy thing and to become so dependent and connected to a person that you don't do anything without considering your spouse first is not so easy for everyone. When the disciples heard this teaching on marriage and divorce they declared it would be better not to marry. Jesus responded:
“Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)
What I think we need in the Church is more marriage coaches. We need more successful older couples who are willing to disciple younger couples so that younger couples will realize that a lot of what they are experiencing is normal. Younger couples need to be helped in adjusting to seasons, so that they can appreciate them and adjust to them. My favorite season is the Spring but I enjoy Summer and Fall as well. However, I have learned what to expect in those seasons and I have learned how to dress to enjoy them. I dislike Winter but I have learned how to adjust to it to survive in it so it doesn't kill me. But it took a mother and father to teach me and now I am teaching my children. We need a lot more "mom's & dad's" to teach others about the seasons of relationships so more couples will survive the winters.
We need to start taking this more seriously to save people from breaking a covenant that is as old as the dawn of time. This covenant is not found in a ceremony and it certainly is not some man made document or contract. This covenant is etched in the spirit as the two become one. As one this couple can face any adversity or adversary understanding that Jesus is the strength they need, but they need to be taught. To make myself perfectly clear here, they need to be taught in every season, so even at the age of 60 they still need coaches to come alongside to help them through. This is part of the purpose of the Church, to build each other up, to encourage one another, to cheer each other on. Let's get the coaching team in place and perhaps we can stem this tide of failing marriages.