Last year I watched as two of my friends grieved the end of their marriages. They struggled to help their children cope. They fought to establish a new life. They went through counseling and stood in court rooms and signed lots of formal documents to dissolve their vows.
How can this be happening? I asked myself. We are too young for this. We should be exempt from this.
But we aren’t.
This is the fact no one wants to admit: Any marriage could end in divorce.
Some people find this sort of thinking harmful. “Don’t consider failure and it won’t happen to you,” some might say. But ignoring something never makes it go away. The reality is that you could get in your car tonight and die in a tragic accident. And since you don’t want that to happen, you turn on your headlights, you mind traffic laws, you wear your seatbelt. You do your very best to make sure you don’t end up in the ditch.
And this should be true for our marriages as well. Instead of putting on our blinders and pretending that failure is not an option, we should contemplate the fragility of our marriages. This relationship, this union, this beautiful gift is vulnerable. If you know how precious and valuable something is, you are much less likely to waste it or throw it away.
I used to believe I was exempt from divorce because I was a Christian. Because I waited until marriage. Because I prayed for God’s timing. I married for love and compatibility. But the truth is none of that can shield you from reality. Any marriage is susceptible to failure.
Relationships require attention and effort. Marriage is an orchid not a cactus. When we live in ignorance and we stop watering, pruning and nurturing, that is when we are the most in danger of losing the thing that should be most dear to us.
When I was a teenager I heard someone say “Marriage is a room without exits.” But that is a lie.
I have seen marriages crumble, hearts grow bitter and friendships erode. But I have also seen God restore and heal and love couples back together. Culture poses another lie at the other end of the spectrum. It is the false assumption that in our society, divorce is inevitable when heartbreak or infidelity occurs. And that’s just not true either.
I wanted to believe the lie that we were immune from divorce.
Michael and I were engaged when he told me point blank that we should never assume it couldn’t happen to us. Trust me, this is not what you want to hear when you are about to get married. He said this because even some of the best and happiest marriages fail.
People who really love each other get divorced.
People who really love God get divorced.
But we believe to this day that if we work selflessly and water this orchid with patience and support and love and foster it with creative energy, it will undoubtedly flourish. We are grateful as we lean into God’s grace and his goodness with every anniversary. Grateful that we know the sad reality that our marriage is not immune but we are building a very strong defense every single day.
That’s the best advice I have as we once again head into wedding season. Realize the fragility of this relationship. Hold it dear. Protect it with everything you have. You are not immune. None of us are.