Testimony from a Witness.
The problem of divorce is not only limited to Westerners. The gangrene is eating the toes of every people and every religion. As such, I will suspend the lesson Living Sacrifice to shed some light on this one. Having solved many broken relationships and guided many young people who are experiencing successful and happy marriages, I feel I can share with you these same principles. Please, feel free to write me (even anonymously) if you have any problem. Marriage seems a jump in jump out situation and seeing that there are many teachers nowadays who have nothing to teach, I asked a 65-year young lady to tell me her testimony which I am going to analyze and expose some biblical truths.
Shirley was born in 1939 and got married in 1957. That means she was 18 when she got married. They are still married until today praise the Lord! Let me first start by defining love and infatuations. Love could be defined as: the tender and affectionate action or thought from one person to another. While infatuations, are the mere admirations for someone with the sole intention of having sex. The differences between love and infatuations are as follows: love thinks of others while infatuations think of self. Love is commitment while infatuation is convenience. And infatuations think only of sex while love thinks of the person as a whole. There are eight qualities of true love; patience, kindness, absence of envy, love is not proud, love does not boast, love is not selfish, love is not easily provoked, love is not rude. Now that we have a background, we can then go back to Shirley’s testimony in bold.
God intended for us to be married all our lives once we committed ourselves to marriage. The world is sinful and as a Christian, we must emphasize not marrying anyone who is not a Christian, but the fact is they do marry, just as I did. I had never heard of unequally yoked.
The very first thing is that she knows that God intended for marriage to be till death (Gen 2:24). Once we have this mentality, then with hope we can fight to make our marriage work. Marriage has with it at least three purposes. Firstly, for a help meet or companion (Gen 2:20). Secondly, it is a medium of fulfilling the sanction of multiplication (Gen 1:28) and lastly a means to avoid fornication (I Cor. 7:1-2).
The question that pops up immediately is why did Shirley succeeded though she married young while nowadays 90% of marriages that occur in her age litter the courts with divorce papers. One would say they live in a different era. That is definitely true! During the time of Shirley, you did not need to be a Christian to have decorum and probity.
Nowadays even the Christians find it absurd to live christianly especially with “safe by grace” in mode. She did not know much, so she had a cool head. Whereas today, women start to have a cool head only in their late 20s or 30s or even after two broken hearts.
The second thing is finding a like-minded person (2Cor. 6:14). This begs for the question “does every Christian marriage then succeed”. Or “why do some unbelievers make better marriages than some Christians”? On a Christian website this same question was asked and the most frequent answer was that; the devil already has the sinners and so would not trouble them anymore.” That at once negates Rom 8:37; I Jn. 2:13-14, I Jn 4:4. But hold your fire. Why are they not divorced if their marriage was not too good? A question quickly arises: who then is the victor and who is the vanquished? In this case, the Christians are the losers. They have been beaten by the devil to bad and broken marriages. To preclude that the devil is the one spoiling Christian marriages is not different from saying that; this Christian is possessed by the devil. He owns him. That is why he can do and undo with their marriage. The simple answer is that; either it began on a wrong foundation or the principles of a successful marriage are still neglected. The password to a lasting friendship, marriage or family is love (not puppy) and like-mindedness because every relationship warrants a dieing to self.
Make no mistake; while there is no perfect marriage on earth, there is surely a happy marriage that we term successful marriage. While there is no problem-free marriage, yet living a problem full marriage is not happy either. So somehow, we have to abandon this escapist attitude and existentialist philosophy in saying that there is no happy marriage out there. Divorce or single hoods are not the primordial intentions of God for man (Gen 2:18, Mt. 19:3-9). If we follow the principles of marriage that God set from the beginning, then we will expect at least a happy marriage. Prov 18:22 suggests a process of seeking: deep search.
Therefore, we have to search for our mate. Then, when we find one we have to avoid premarital sex because it is cheating and cheating begets cheating. By having sex before marriage, we open the door for the devil to come into the house. What about the forgiveness of sin after all, we live by grace you ask? The Bible says what you sow is what you reap (Gal 6:7-8). God has established it like that. When you steal in Saudi Arabia and they amputate your arm, even when you give your life to Christ, you will not have a new hand. You still have to carry the consequences of your sins. That is, at some point in life, our sins have to find us out (Num 23:32). Therefore, we are going into the marriage having sowed the seed of infidelity because we have treated the middle cord Person unfaithfully. Justify yourself with living in grace how you like, the truth of the matter is that; in so far as you practice premarital sex you will have an unhappy marriage.
However, if both of you got married and had premarital sex while non-Christians, it is considered a time of ignorance whereby God winks at (Acts 17:30). If you get married to an unbeliever like Shirley did without knowing, it is still considered a time of ignorance and the husband is sanctified by Shirley the wife ( I Cor. 7:13-14). Yet you must keep your own part of the bargain with God, which is to be holy. Shirley did just that when we read:
I knew my husband 20 months. He was Air Force and was overseas. I waited for him. We did not have relations before marriage.
Take note; they dated or courted for 20 months without having sex. This statement too questions the validity of long engagement as a recipe for a happy marriage. Dating or courtship does not matter on how long you date as far as the people stay true to themselves and have the principles of God guarding them. Might be not being near was an ingredient that helped and which still argues favorably for distant relationships that they could help the two parties to keep a holy relationship until they meet. It is emotionally draining to be having sex with no love because life becomes empty, and we soon regress to the universal need of espying for love in a new relationship or adventure.
Still, there is a problem with picking a partner. Some Christians believe that only the man should make the first move! In Shirley’s case, I am not quite sure who made the move but guessing, it was not Shirley. Considering the epoch she grew up in. Whatever may be the case, I hold a different opinion from the general and common view that; only the man should approach the woman. This is because in the Bible, we see different approaches.
Firstly, the parents could decided for the kids like when Hagar selects for Ishmael (Gen 21:21). Abraham through his servant selects a wife for Isaac (Gen 24). Laban does same for his daughters (Gen 24, 38:6, Gen 29) and Mr. and Mrs. Manoah did same for Samson (Judges 14;2).
Secondly, the man could make the first move (Gen 29 and Gen 2).
Thirdly, the woman could make the first move (Gen 38:11-30; Ruth 3). Yesteryears, customs restricted women from taking a forthcoming approach but nowadays women have been emancipated to be more forthcoming.
In some cases too, daughters were given to marriage by the edicts of the king (Est. 2:2-4, 8-14).Wives could also be gotten by purchase (Gen 29:20; Ruth 4:10; Hosea 3:2; 12:12) or by kidnapping (Judges 21:21-23).
Nowadays, the last two will not pass through the legal eye of most nations but for purposes of explanation, we still had to include them.
In every marriage, the parents must and should be involved because they are the terrestrial custodians that God has given us here on earth (Eph 6:1-3). You choose your wife or husband, but you cannot choose your parents. Then by doing that, it even erases the raison d’etre of elopements: running away from parents to get married secretly. Some people say “why bother if they elope and get married? Is it not their lives”? Listen to me; the dog that barks belongs to the household, but the barks go to the entire community. Others say, “are they not eloping to fulfill the sanction of God”. Fulfilling the commandment of God does not exempt us from the canons He has set. When we run away from parents, we destroy the fabric of the home through which we could knit a successful marriage. I still believe, if one has nothing to hide, they will not elope? Why run away from your parents? What dotards could see sitting down, youngsters cannot see while standing on a hill. More so, in every marriage ceremony, there must be witnesses (Ruth 4:1-11, I Sam 8:1-3). Therefore, that again annuls the existence of elopements.
“when is marriage considered marriage”.
The general view is that when approved by the courts. I believe marriage becomes marriage when the two people make the pledges to one another in the presence of witnesses who are their relatives. That again peters out elopements. There are many steps in most countries to be married and be recognized or blessed by the church. In some places, the church would not marry you until they see the marriage certificate. In other places, before you go to the courts, you must go through traditional marriages.
For those with traditional marriages, we have to realize that they do not supersede the laws of the land because when there is a problem for inheritance they always ask for marriage certificate. That means customary marriages gain their power only from the legal marriages. In the west, it would be very unwise for anyone to claim being married without a marriage certificate. So while in the west it will be courts and church, in oriental societies especially Africa, it would be tradition – courts - church. One is not obliged to have their entire church present. They could have the pastor, their relatives and church leaders. However, there must be witnesses who are relatives and the church authority too for the Christians.
Managing the home and resolving conflicts
I and my husband split, but for some reason, we always worked it out. We have 3 adult children and one passed away March 7 with brain cancer, so we have two left. My husband supports me in whatever I do. I sing with a trio, and we travel to places sometimes, but he still supports me in that. I encourage couples to work things out no matter what it takes. What he does that I hate is being messy. I have come to terms with that. He is just messy. LOL. Another thing I love about my husband is that, he is a good provider and has always been. I have never needed anything I couldn't get. God has blessed me and watches over me.
Shirley again in her testimony brings out some Bible truths. While we are blind during courtship or dating, marriage becomes our eye-opener! I had earlier said that; there is no perfect marriage. There were difficulties, but they always found a way to be united until death do them part. Difficulties will always show up even in a relationship where God showed the people the signs and revelations to them and others. The will of God does not exempt trials and temptations. One other thing is the idea of kids.
We do not marry to multiply only. Procreation is a benefit that comes from marriage. However, it does not mean that if we are having difficulties having kids, we should divorce. That is not a ground for divorce. When we consider the other party as a blessing or a package that God gave to us, then we have no reason of not being thankful to both them and God. You see, Shirley knows her husband is messy, but the fact that he is a great helpmeet covers his mess. How many people forget the good of their spouse in face of a little problem? Immediately they call them unworthy or good for nothing. Then some as if to mock God, say they want to get married, but they do not want kids. If you do not have a child during marriage, it is acceptable but to refuse having one becomes a sin because you are resisting the command of God; multiply and replenish the earth. That is why marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.
The difficulties in marriage could stem from kids, difficulty in having kids or lack of support. Her husband supports her and her ministry, in-laws, friends, jobs, platonic relationships. That is; he helpmeets her needs emotionally, spiritually, economically and physically. Shirley would encourage every couple to work things out no matter what it takes. That is what the Bible calls “dieing to self”. Or sacrificing for one another until you become dead to yourself. The reason is because if they don’t they will divorce.
Factors which can destroy marriage.
Let us start with jealousy: When we rejoice in our spouse’s mistakes. We want them to fail so that we always stand out as the best.
Lack of support; no matter what your spouse does, it is never good or correct. There is lack of trust; when one spouse does not trust the other. Or when you suspect his or her friends, where they go to, why they came back home late, with whom he or she comes back home and many others. Negative interpretations; you always give a different meaning to what your partner says. If it is not clear ask him or her to clarify.
Lack of mutual respect is one cause. When both of you disrespect each other. Using invectives and always seeking for opportunities for nagging. Lack of improper communication; lack of communication brings suspicions.
Language is so ambiguous that at times, it tends to set ablaze the very fire it was trying to quench. Some couples do not speak together and when they speak, they yell. Others do not even speak at all. They do not tell their partners what they intend to do. That is something that can destroy marriage. Some people do not just talk because they claim they do not want to waste their energy. Those things will destroy love.
Another factor is domination. When one person wants to control the relationship, love could break down. He or she wants to decide and make all the major decisions. Avoidance: Some people just avoid their partners. They run away from facing the real problem. Extra marital affairs; each time there is extra marital affairs in a relationship it brings in distrust, bitterness, revenge and sometimes leads to even the death of one of the partners or both partners. Lack of attention; some men spend time reading their newspapers or going out with their friends. Some women spend time going to family meetings, clubs, fitness centers, njangi groups or internet. All of these make the other partner feel abandoned. They get angry and this translates in them looking outside for greener pastures. The level of difficulty in the house is maintaining the home. One party could be messy, like Shirley’s husband, or they could just be outright disobedient. While the husband has to love the wife as Christ loved the church up to dieing for her, the wife has to submit herself to her husband as if they were doing it in front of the Lord.
Why did Shirley marry and still marries this messy man but great provider? Though he helpmeets her needs, the love for her kids surpasses her love for herself (Jn 14, 15). Both chapters talk about great love for others than us. Knowing that:
When couples divorce, the children are torn and most end up with step parents and some are not so good to them. For that reason if for no other, couples should stick it out. It pays off. If I had divorced my husband, he probably would have never gotten saved. Praise the Lord, he is.
Nevertheless, in case one partner divorces even if it is because of adultery, they are not supposed to get married again. They are to stay single. If they want to stay married, they must merely forgive their partner. In case there is a problem in a home and the partners separate to wait for divorce papers, they are not authorized to date other people while waiting for a solution because they are still married or under covenant. A woman should submit to their husband who is obliged to love them as Christ loved the church that he died for it. It would be preferable to forgive our partner if we want to stay married because divorce will not be better either. Furthermore, we are not permitted to remarry. One should note that it is possible to commit adultery without genital contact.
Nonetheless, if your spouse wants to run away let he/she go. If they go, you can remarry because she/he is considered dead; for breaking the covenant. Each time there is death God reestablishes a new covenant with the living. That is, until your spouse dies you are not free and ready to mingle. We should not also close the idea of divorce as not permitted by God. God permits divorce in case there is adultery. No one should divorce a person because they were never really in love and could not love their partner too. Divorce has no place in such a reason. That is why we should consider well before we make the pledges. In case one was not a Christian and one of them becomes a Christian they should not divorce. The church did a great harm to the society by encouraging divorce because one of the partners has become a Christian. Even in the case of Polygyny (a man marrying many women), one should not encourage divorce if they were polygynists when they were non-Christians.
A person cannot divorce, remarry, then divorce, and go back to their former spouse. The Bible does not permit that either! When we get married, we must sever our old relationship. That is, we have to stop spending time alone with people you formerly dated or went out. It is a sin to desire someone of the opposite sex when you are married.
Shirley’s testimony concerns all of us if we want to be married for 47 years to the same person and even until death do us part. I want to appeal to each of us to go out, seek for our partner, avoid premarital sex until we get married, make up a family, and helpmeet the needs of one another with the husband loving the wife as Christ loved the church and the wife submitting to the husband as unto the lord until death do us part. Let us try by all means, to solve our differences for ourselves first and for the betterment of our kids. I wish you a happy marriage!
Until then, you too could be married for 50 years if you so desire.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk.