Wednesday, August 31, 2005
There is a very tender part of my heart reserved for those of my grandparents' generation who have endured more than my generation can imagine...and lived and loved through it all.
Growing up with two divorces showed me how relationships end before I even know how to see them start. It wasn't until I became a Christian and realized that marriage was created--not only for companionship and all the other wonderful perks that come with the package--but especially as a means of allowing us the privilege of demonstrating the spiritual reality of God's unconditional love. As we love another imperfect person, and receive their love, we are reflecting the relationship between God and His bride, the Church. As Christians, we fail, we stray, we are unfaithful. Yet God remains. And He loves. He doesn't say, "I'll only love you if you love me back." He doesn't say, "I'll be faithful as love you as long as you are faithful to me." He says, "I love you. Period."
My pastor preached this week on I John--Perfect love is made complete not when we receive God's love, but when we relay it to others. Perfect love is not only reciprocal, it radiates. Complete love is not the mushy emotional stuff of Tom Cruise movies (and real life), it's love that is both received fully from the Source, and relayed freely to those who surround us. This is why Jesus, when asked the greatest commandment, gave two: "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your and mind" AND "Love your neighbor as yourself." The true test of how much you love is not how much you feel, but how much your love flows.
One of the most destructive dangers in divorce is that it dams up our ability to receive God's love and it dams up our ability to demonstrate love to others. We're stuck with hardened hearts through which love cannot flow.
When mom and dad tell us that they loved each other once, but no more, and yet they tell us they love us, so we learn that love is something that goes away. Naturally, it follows that if our parents, who are "supposed to" love us, and can see and touch us have a love that fades, what a leap to believe that a God we can't see or touch would love us any more. Our ability to receive love is blocked. Our hearts cannot express what they do not contain. If we are not filled with love, we will look to others to give us what we wish to be able to give ourselves. Our relationships are motivated by what we get from them rather than an outlet of sharing what is overflowing within us.
When mom and dad divorce, we learn to measure out our love to those we think "deserve" it because they've "earned" it. Love is a precious commodity that cannot be wasted. But then, what we think is love is simply kind reciprocations. True love requires risk, vulnerability and a willingness to be devastatingly disappointed. "Love" maintained on a balance sheet is a matter of convenience, and when the balance is unprofitable, the account is closed.
The book that forever alters my understanding of God's unconditional love and the spirituality of marriage, and really gave me a vision for what marriage is meant to be, is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book is my obligatory gift for engaged couples or is part of my wedding gift. The subtitle, "What if the purpose of marriage is to make us holy more than happy?" is enough to demonstrate what distinguishes this book from most fluffy marriages books on the market. Whether single or married, I highly encourage you to check it out.
IT IS A CLOUDY MORNING IN BALTIMORE. I just hopped on a plane headed for a family reunion of sorts. The point to acknowledge is that my grandparents have lived for 80 years, and even more significant, they have labored in marriage for 60 of those years.
I am headed to a celebration. I find that as years pass and as we continue to celebrate the great accomplishment of years and the profound mercy and grace surrounding the life of my grandparents, the celebrations become a bit more sobering. They become less of a cheer and more of a sigh of relief. I am so thankful that they have lived this long, and I cannot believe that they still find ways of loving each other well. It is affirmation of something that seems to be constantly eroded and discredited—the idea that marriage can last, and that there truly is enough grace to cover the wounds, even the deep ones.
There are many reasons why people do not stay together anymore. I have watched relationships crumble, and I have been in orbit around couples that never realized they didn’t know each other and didn’t even have the desire to dig in. They slowly constructed parallel lives with huge embankments and heavily decorated medians. And then the roads split off with no apparent convergence in sight. And it all happened without much drama. If you asked them, they would say that they just had different goals and that they were fine with the separation.
I think some of our cultural ideas can be poison for relationships. We seem to operate on two basic ideas: what we deserve, and who we can blame for not getting it.
There seem to be more “Christian” marriages that dissolve slowly or end quickly, and I am amazed that even counselors, who are provoked in their vocation by the Gospel, tell couples that the situation they are in is just too corrupt to be reconciled. I have often wondered what this truly means in light of the Gospel. I look at those who have stood the test of time, and after wading through so many back-handed comments and justifications that dismiss the accomplishment—statements like, “Well, they are just from another generation, a generation of people who stayed together”—I am aware that we just don’t see the Gospel account of marriage as valid anymore.
Look at the marriage of Jesus, the one He has been in for eternity, the one with the bride who sleeps around, never listens, disowns, scorns, dishonors, runs away, intentionally proves to be more interested in anything but her husband, is selfish and bears the children of every affair and the scent of every escapade. It was a marriage that killed Jesus. And it was the Gospel that brought Him back to life to love once more. Jesus endures the worst marriage of all. His bride nails Him to a cross, and there are no metaphors to compare His suffering to what we think we endure.
We will continue to search for ways to be appreciated in our marriages, for ways to be cherished, and if we do not find them, then we leave. Because we are not getting what we want, or feel like we need, our spouse is to blame. We are people who like to move from relationship to relationship, church to church, in search of what fills us, rather than what allows us to fill others. But what we think we deserve by way of our cultural cues is quite different from what we do deserve.
What we deserve is to be lonely, what we deserve is to be isolated from the one who loves us better than anyone else. What we deserve is to never be pushed forward, to never deepen in our wisdom and experience of love and community. What we deserve is to die a dark and disconnected fate. And if we are going to apply the rules of culture today, the only one to blame for not getting what we deserve is Jesus.
I watched my grandparents hold hands and walk together. They are most definitely from a different generation. They have seen the invention of computers, cell phones, MTV, chemical warfare, strip malls, Nazi Germany, cable TV, rock ’n’ roll, the civil rights movement, the rise of heroes and the fall of heroes. And they held hands through it all. They fought to keep a family, bent on falling apart and dissolving, together. They were honored by those of us who stood around them smiling, while in our minds taking stock of our own marriages. We wondered if we would have the tools to last that long. And for a brief moment, we were able to escape the cultural winds of blame and entitlement, we had cake and we ate it too. Now on another plane heading away from the experience, I know it to still be true. And it is good to have these times of clarity.
For people like my grandparents, who have lived long enough to feel the effect of carrying the accumulative weight of scars, life was about the fight. But what they remember most is the way burdens were lifted by laughter and how the fight was always interrupted by the joy of victory, and those moments, however fleeting, carried a sweet fragrance. They have lived in the trenches and on the mountaintops, and their story of life and marriage is worth describing. It is worth recounting. Theirs is a legacy that illuminates grace, mercy, pain and redemption. I hope more people from our generation will find this view of marriage to be worth the fight.
[Dan Haseltine is the lead singer of the multi-platinum and Grammy-winning band Jars of Clay. Over the past few years, the band has also been recognized for their global humanitarian efforts, namely with Blood:Water Mission, an organization created to provide clean water and blood to Africa www.bloodwatermission.org. This article has been adapted from the Sept./Oct. 2005 issue of RELEVANT magazine.]
Friday, August 26, 2005
Discover your spiritual pathway by taking this online quiz.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Last night a friend and I took our favorite guys (the 6 and 4-year old sons of mutual friends) to see March of the Penguins. I had the idea several weeks ago that I wanted to do something special with them before their sister comes home from China. I figured a documentary about penguins should be pretty safe for young eyes.
What I didn't expect was that it would be a movie that I would so thoroughly enjoy. If you haven't heard much about the premise of the movie, it really isn't that much different that most popular movies: the quest for love and the obstacles one overcomes to find and fight for that love. One scene that stuck out to me panned across to show a thousand or so penguins, all exhausted from the trek to arrive at the meeting place. (Not so different that singles gathering after a long work week). As the camera zoomed in and around, we see the different ways the male penguins attract the attention of the female penguins. There are more males than females, so we see a few cat fights (penguin fights) as well.
But what I found truly stunning was the way the film showed the courtship ritual. I looked over to my friend, momentarily wishing there weren't two little boys between us. I wanted to tell her this would be a great romantic movie if we were with guys a few decades older! And like any true romance, the bond between the two penguins doesn't culminate with the physical union. Both the male and female demonstrate great commitment and sacrifice to protect the egg (the dads balance the egg on their feet under a fold of their skin for 3 months in the brutal winter while the moms go off to the ocean to fill up so they can feed the babies when they hatch).
It really was a beautiful picture of committed love, all in the context of stunning photography. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I'm at an age where I've been to more than my share of weddings, and truthfully, I'm also at that age where I can be more cynical than celebratory. Reminds me of an old "Friends" episode, "I'm totally happy for you...well maybe, mostly happy and a teeny bit jealous...okay, mostly jealous, but still happy."
Most the weddings I've attended this year have been for couples a decade younger than me. When I was their age I thought it was crazy to get married so young. I wanted to get out there and establish myself as Miss Independent first. Well, I did that and now the pickins have definitely slimmed. From this side of things, I can appreciate the beauty and blessing of struggling together in those transitional 20s.
This weekend I attended the wedding of a couple who married in their 20s...in the 80s. It was actually a recommitment ceremony and it will sit as one of the most emotional, memorable weddings, if not experiences, of my life.
This couple is part of my much-loved intergenerational small group. It has been an answer to prayer to find a few other people from different walks of life to share life with. (Side note: We first got together as part of our church's 40 Days of Purpose campaign and dubbed ourselves The Zeros because as a group, grace didn't rank very high on our giftedness. This weekend we realized how much God has taught us. Each family has faced a significant crisis since joining our group).
Last October, it looked like these two were going to divorce. The wife shared that she felt like their marriage was a Jenga game knocked over one too many times. She was staring at all the pieces and didn't have the desire or strength to put them together again. As a two-time child of divorce, it's very hard for me to hear this sort of thing because I know that divorce rarely solves problems. Couples who fight before they divorce fight after the divorce, whenever children are involved. So I sat and listened and God gave me a thought.
The next day I went to Meijer and bought a Jenga game...and a big ol' tube of Super Glue. I wrote a note to my friend saying something to the effect that she doesn't have the strength or desire to repair her marriage, which makes her ready to let God be the glue of their relationship.
At the wedding, this couple had a Jenga tower next to the communion elements. When they addressed the small group of us assembled, the husband and wife shared the litany of things God did to show them how the only one happy when a couple divorces is Satan. They shared the things that brought instability to their marriage and in one sweeping swoop knocked over the Jenga pieces. After a moment of letting that image sink in, they pulled out the Jenga tower I gave them. It was super glued together and they had written "Christ" on the center blocks, and Scripture and situations on the long pieces that described the process of rebuilding--everything from a marriage class they took to our small group. Then they took a 3-strand cord and wrapped it around the tower.
That's just one example of the symbolism of this ceremony, and the most personal to me, but the whole event created such an amazingly wonderful demonstration of the choice to love...and to keep loving. For our small group, it was incredibly powerful to revisit all those moments that we shared that led this much-loved couple to reconcile. For me, as the token single, it was a healing affirmation that God sometimes uses us best in the areas where we are weakest and can do nothing but trust Him to lead us on.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
A few resources that come to mind are Bowling Alone and Urban Tribes.
Single-adult households take the lead in U.S.
By Cheryl Wetzstein
The Washington Times
Published August 17, 2005
Single-adult households have displaced two-parent families with children as the most common kind of U.S. household, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.
The change demonstrates "the growing complexity" of American households, researchers said in a new report, "Examining American Household Composition: 1990 and 2000."
"It's breathtaking how many people still think that the 'mom, pop and two kids' is the majority of households," said Peter Francese, the founder of American Demographics magazine.
Nuclear-family households -- two married parents and a child -- were the most common as recently as 1990, when there were 25 million such households.
But by 2000, nuclear-family households fell to second place, both because there were almost a half-million fewer of these type of homes and because the number of single-adult households surged past 27 million.
Married households without children remained the third most common, with 20 million in 1990 and 22 million in 2000.
Mr. Francese, who has studied U.S. demographic trends for 35 years, said single-adult households are continuing to grow and might even hit 34 million by the 2010 census.
This is because people are most likely to live alone "at either end of the life cycle" -- in youth or as senior citizens -- he said, and baby boomers are just starting to move into their 60s.
The sex disparity -- more women live alone than men -- is also likely to continue, he said. Women are most likely to live alone because of the death or divorce of a partner. Already, among those 65 or older, there are 6 million more women than men.
In contrast, he said, men are most likely to live alone if they've never married, and both widowers and divorced men are likely to find a partner.
However, not all of those adults living alone are living completely alone, said Mr. Francese, who tracks trends for the Ogilvy & Mather marketing communications firm.
Professional, commuter couples might live alone during the week, but share weekends together, he said. Single parents might regularly have their children in the home, and single adults might have lengthy visits from friends or lovers.
"There is a tremendous diversity in this [living-alone] group," he said.
In its report, the Census Bureau also found an increase in multigenerational households.
Fifty-five percent, or 57.7 million of the 105 million U.S. households, had only one generation living in it, researchers wrote, referring to a person who lives alone or who lives with a spouse, unmarried partner or sibling.
However, 41 percent of households included people from two generations, such as a child or a grandparent, and 3.9 percent of households had three generations. The latter category saw the most dramatic growth, rising from 3 million multigenerational households in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2000.
The bureau offered details on the "top 20" types of living arrangements because those represented 92 percent of all U.S. households. However, the nation's broad diversity in living arrangements can be seen in the 786,000 possible household combinations that the bureau now tracks, researchers said.
Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
It's been much too long since those days, but in the last month I've reconnected with some of my first friends in Michigan, and made some new ones. Now that we've been playing a few weeks, it's really getting fun because we can starting playing to (or against) each other's strengths. We're always open to new players, so if you're local and play, come join us! I don't know how long it'll last but in the meantime, I'm loving Tuesday volleyball!
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Much to my chagrin, my doctor tells me that my immune system is still pretty wimpy even 19 months post head injury. Pre-injury, I could have beat this cold in a few days. Instead, we're on day 10 and still coughing despite my eligibility for frequent buyer points at my pharmacy. Grrrrr...
But I've made the most of my rest time by discovering Settlers of Catan online! MSN Games had a free trial through August 10 and I took full advantage!
In other news...
congrats to Chris & Leila on their new marriage
congrats to Lorilee and fam on the addition of beautiful Phoebe
congrats to Melissa & Alex on their engagement
and in 3 hours, my good friends Dan & Sara leave for China to bring home my goddaughter, I cannot wait to love on that precious one! God be with you, my friends! Hurry home!!
Saturday, August 06, 2005
MARRIAGE AS LEARNED BEHAVIOR: CAN DIVORCE BE FORETOLD?
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Marriage as learned behavior: Can divorce be foretold?
By Kyung M. Song
Seattle Times staff reporter
It may sound like a conservative's marriage manifesto: Pick a partner with a
similar background, don't shack up without an engagement ring and stick with
even a lifeless marriage for your kids' sake.
But following that creed could avert divorce, which, statistics show, can be
perilous to your health.
Researchers have persuasively linked certain demographic and socioeconomic
factors--many of which you can't control--with higher odds of marital
breakup. Your race, occupation, income, age at first wedding, the length of
courtship and whether you have children from previous relationships all can
preordain the success of your marriage even before the "I dos."
Did your parents divorce? Your own marriage is twice as likely to end that
way than if you grew up in an intact family. Do you and your spouse practice
different religions? Chances are your marriage won't endure as well as those
of couples who worship together.
Divorce's toll on body, mind
About 40 percent of American marriages end in a divorce. Marital disruptions
strain child-parent bonds (particularly between fathers and children),
plunge many women into financial hardship and can show human nature at its
Divorce also is hard on the body and mind. Divorced people suffer more
health problems, are more depressed and tend to drink and smoke more heavily
than people who are married or have partners. A 2003 study by researchers at
San Diego State University and the University of Pittsburgh found that
happily married women have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and
are thinner than females who are divorced, single, widowed or stuck in
For some people, divorce can be lethal. Divorced men are twice as likely to
kill themselves as men with spouses or live-in partners, according to a 2000
analysis of U.S. mortality data by Augustine Kposowa, a sociologist at the
University of California, Riverside.
Kposowa found that being white and living on the West Coast elevated the
risk of suicide. But divorce or separation were the most significant
contributors to risk of suicide in men. Being single or widowed did not
increase the risk.
The health effects of divorce on children depend partly on the degree of
civility between the parents. Though children generally are better off in
two-parent households, marriages marked by open contempt, constant criticism
and vicious arguments can exact a huge psychological toll on them. Numerous
studies show that such children can develop mental-health problems, ranging
from lowered self-esteem to depression and anxiety to greater aggression. In
such cases, the children's mental and emotional well-being actually improves
after the couple parts ways.
Why not just give up?
With the stakes so high, how could anyone handicapped by demographics and
family history hazard marrying?
"If you want to be rational, you might want to interview your dating
partner" for divorce risks, joked Nicholas Wolfinger, author of
Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own
Marriages (Cambridge University Press), published this year.
Wolfinger analyzed data on 33,000 Americans from two major national
household surveys to calculate how divorces recur through generations. His
conclusion: Having divorced parents greatly jeopardizes the odds of keeping
one's marriage intact and heightens the likelihood of multiple divorces.
Wolfinger found that when both husband and wife come from families of
divorce, they are nearly three times more likely to split up than couples
whose parents stayed married. If a parent was divorced at least twice, the
odds that an offspring's marriage will survive are only one in three.
Wolfinger attributed the phenomenon partly to learned behavior. Having seen
their parents give up on a marriage, people are more likely to bail when
their own relationships turn turbulent.
Another cause is that, statistically, children of divorce become sexually
active earlier and marry younger than others, said Wolfinger, associate
professor in the University of Utah's Department of Family and Consumer
Various researchers have found a strong correlation between age at time of
marriage and elevated divorce risk. In fact, Scott Stanley, co-director of
the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver,
regards teen marriages as the most vulnerable of unions.
"My belief is young age at marriage would trump everything else" as a
divorce predictor, Stanley said. "People getting married at 18 are at such
Stanley says people who marry young lack the maturity and coping skills to
sustain long-term relationships. They also choose ill-suited mates. "If they
had married at 22, they would have married a different person," Stanley
Living together: a risky trial
Contrary to what many people believe, "test driving" a relationship by
living together before marriage also reduces the odds of success. The exact
reasons are unclear. It may be that couples make riskier picks with a
live-in partner than they would with a potential spouse. Or couples who
defer marriage and opt to live together first may do so because they have
trouble with commitment.
After they move in together, some couples eventually walk down the aisle as
a result of inertia, not love. Undoing the entanglements of a live-in
relationship can be a hassle, especially if the couple has children, Stanley
Sliding into marriage becomes "a transition without a decision," Stanley
said. "For a lot of young people, it's not a real deliberative thing.
They're not really thinking, 'Are you the one?' 'Am I the one?' "
A 2002 analysis by Jay Teachman, a sociologist at Western Washington
University, found that living together increases the risk of divorce by 35
percent when those couples eventually marry.
According to Teachman, Americans are less likely to divorce if they are
Catholic, have high education levels, marry someone close to their own age
and don't have children before wedlock. For instance, the chances of divorce
for a woman who is five or more years older than her husband is 88 percent
greater than for couples without the age gap. Teachman based his
calculations on more than two decades' worth of data from the National
Survey of Family Growth.
Addressing the risks
So, is your marriage destined for doom if you are, say, a Presbyterian who
got his Jewish, college-freshman girlfriend pregnant and married her after
merely three months of dating? Not if you steer clear of the pitfalls
associated with the risk factors, according to Stanley, the marital
Couples who possess many "fixed" risk factors can work to overcome them,
said Stanley, who also is a developer of PREP (Prevention and Relationship
Enhancement Program), a couples-counseling program used throughout the
United States. Spouses with different religions, for instance, could discuss
how they might handle their children's faith before it becomes an issue.
Stanley said couples should cultivate a long-term view of marriage,
understanding that even the strongest relationships sometimes will be
buffeted by trials. Commitment, he said, stems from making the marriage a
high priority. Spouses should resist fleeing at the first hint of major
trouble, even if they stay mainly because they don't want to divide up the
house or avoid the embarrassment of a divorce, Stanley said.
"Without constraints, even average marriages will fall apart," Stanley said.
"Constraint keeps us from doing some stupid things in the short term."
For the sake of the kids?
Couples in distressed marriages may feel compelled to remain together if
they have children, said Paul Amato, professor of sociology and demography
at Penn State University. And in many cases, children benefit from that
choice. Even if the spouses are miserable, Amato said, children tend to be
better adjusted and achieve more in a two-parent home.
Sometimes parents use the children to justify divorce. "Parents think, 'If
I'm happier, my children will be happier.' That's not necessarily true.
Children want access to both parents," Amato said. Divorce involving
children "is not a private issue any more. It's a public issue."
But Amato said that does not hold for couples whose relationship has turned
toxic, marked by constant fighting, hostility and verbal or physical
attacks. "A lot of kids would be better off if the parents split," Amato
For the same reason, Wolfinger, the divorce-cycle researcher, opposes
toughening divorce laws. Making divorces more difficult to obtain will mean
that only the very worst marriages will be dissolved, he said. That means
children in these marriages will suffer more.
If divorces run in cycles, so, too, it seems, do marriages. Research shows
that some marriages can survive if the couples simply hang tight.
"With some couples, if they get through the bad patch, things just get
better," Amato said. "After three, five or 10 years, they grow closer
To Stanley, even the most seemingly disastrous unions have a shot at lasting
"It doesn't necessarily doom you," Stanley said. "It's more hopeful than one
Factors that put you at a higher risk of divorce:
- Having divorced parents
- Marrying young
- Living together before engagement
- Being previously divorced or marrying a divorced partner
- Having a child before marriage (and, to a lesser extent, getting pregnant before the wedding)
- Being much older or younger than your spouse
- Marrying someone of a different race
- Following different religions or no religion
- Having low education levels
Source: Seattle Times research
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
A friend reminded me today of something I wrote many years ago...
A Lesson In Prayer
in times of struggle
utter despair and hopelessness,
I turn to you
my God my anchor.
I confess that all I know
is that You have a plan for me
and that I do not know
what that plan is.
I turn to Your word for guidance
and You teach me to pray.
loving daddy who is more concerned with the details of my life
than I can ever be
...Who art in heaven...
who sees, perceives, and transcends all
so unlike me
limited to only what my feeble mind can see and understand
...Hallowed be thy name...
You are holy
Truly greater than any other god or desire
...Thy kingdom come...
My world is limited and depraved
Yours is eternal, everlasting, holy
...Thy will be done...
Your ways are higher than my ways
Give me what I need
not what I selfishly desire
Use me daily to show Yourself to others
...As in heaven...
So that they may spend eternity loving You
...Give us this day our daily bread...
Jehovah Jireh, my provider
You promise to supply all my needs
...And forgive us our trespasses...
Lord, I know I fall pitifully short
of what you intend for me
I am sorry
Please forgive me
Thank You for providing the way
...As we forgive those who trespass against us...
Others' words and actions can pierce so deeply
Help me to see them through Your eyes
Move me to pray for
those who offend me
...Lead us not into temptation...
Instill in me a desire
to seek only righteousness
Keep my heart from that which would lead me away from You
...But deliver us from evil...
In times when my vision is limited and my heart is hard,
enclose me in your protective arms
and keep me safe.
All that I am
I entrust to You
All I need
I seek from You
All I desire and hope to be
I receive from You
April 26, 1996