catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 12 :: 2010.06.11 — 2010.06.24


Second time around

Gary and Nell got married on June 5, 2010, for the second time — not the second time to each other, but each was walking down the aisle for the second time. They requested a praise team for the ceremony and I was invited to participate. The invitation gave me pause to once again consider what I think or believe about second marriages. Do I agree with them? Do I agree, but only with certain mitigating circumstances?

I tend to make up my mind rather quickly about issues and it takes me a long time to change a decision once I have adopted it. I have, as result of my upbringing, always considered second marriages to be wrong, outside the plan of God for our lives. But as I now ponder the question, I realize that in recent years, I have changed my mind about several things I was previously very determined about.

My views on tithing have changed and strengthened as I have listened to my pastor speak on the subject. My evaluations about alcohol have become my own as I have grown and made choices for myself instead of holding the beliefs I inherited from my parents. I have my views on issues like homosexual marriage and abortion which are set in stone and will likely never change. I also have views on war, recycling and global warming which are evolving and becoming clearer as I go along. And then there is the evolution debate itself! You may not agree with me on any of these subjects, and frankly our agreement or lack thereof is not the issue. I believe that I will stand before God someday and account for what I believed and He will judge rightly…even if I have been totally off in my choices.

But even as I have made decisions in some areas, I have not come to any conclusion about second marriages. So many circumstances and situations exist that the waters of decision making are murky at best and sludge pond at worst.  I am leaning toward the sludge pond at this point!  And sludge is made of water and a bunch of heavy metals and chemicals; the questions around second marriage are heavy and seemingly impossible to wade through, as well.

Divorce is a huge issue all on its own, both in society and the church as a whole. The church’s divorce rates rival that of the population in general, and there is little indication that this trend of increasing divorce rates in the church will change any time soon. So first I have to decide when I think it is okay for someone to divorce. Irreconcilable difference, ongoing infidelity and situations of abuse immediately spring to mind.

“Irreconcilable differences” are what we often hear about from Hollywood divorcees, but I still don’t know what people mean by “irreconcilable differences.” He wants blue sheets, but she likes peach? Sedan or fuel efficient SUV? Steak or chicken? Sometimes even things like these are irreconcilable, but do they constitute a reason for divorce? If so, my wife and I better start drawing up the papers! So when does a disagreement become a deal breaker? Is this just a way of saying, “We just don’t care anymore and we are giving up without much of a fight?” When a marriage falls to the level of an annoyance, we just roll it up and swat it away.

I have decided for sure that if one spouse is cheating AND refuses to return to the marriage wholeheartedly, the terms of the union are broken. I haven’t decided, however, where the line for infidelity falls. Do we have to forgive seventy times seven here as well? In the Bible, the prophet Hosea marries Gomer, a prostitute, and she cheats repeatedly, but Hosea takes her back over and over again.  His forgiveness becomes a picture of God’s love for Israel. It appears from this story that if a spouse repents and comes home, we are to forgive. So I guess even here, my conclusion is unclear!

Abuse is another game breaker. But once again, the “line” is fuzzy at best. If a man should hit a woman, I tend to believe that there should be a separation. Notice I advocate a separation, not necessarily divorce. I don’t think that all incidents in which a man loses his cool require destruction of a family unit. Counselling, yes, and anger resolution and time to rebuild trust, but divorce is not something I think you jump into like a cold swimming pool. It has to be waded through until it’s clear that issues simply cannot be resolved. But what if a wife tosses a cookbook at her husband or repeatedly tells him how poor a husband he is? Do we consider these to be grounds for divorce? Thankfully, my wife has missed the couple of times she has tossed a book, but I would never even consider these as reasons to leave.

So, now that I have talked myself out of my own two hard and fast reasons for divorce, I now have to choose whether, after taking that step, remarriage is a good idea or a sin.

Statistically, a second marriage has a smaller chance of success than a first marriage, so why advocate for it anyway? One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, but expect a different result. Is marriage outside of this rule? (Liz Taylor and Larry King may want to take note of this statement! I think that at last count, their collective marriages total 15.)

I believe God wants us to commit to our covenant of marriage and walk in it until one of the partners dies. Covenants are blood bonds, only ending upon the death of one of the participants in the covenant. Unfortunately, marriage unfortunately has shifted from being covenant to being contract. It has become nothing more than a legally binding document that can be altered or discarded at a later date if one partner should so desire. No wonder so many people disdain the idea of marriage; they don’t understand the deep emotional and spiritual implications of the decision to link yourself to someone else for the rest of your life.

Now back to the story of Nell and Gary. From what I know of their story, they were both divorced prior to becoming Christians and both of their former partners have moved on. I know some will say the fact of their salvation has no bearing on the decision to remarry, but I think it does. We are called to live like Christ and follow the precepts and principles of the Word. Both Gary and Nell are very committed to their faith, both have a very personal walk with God. Their faith is a foundation for every decision they make in their lives. They love each other passionately and have the blessing of their church leaders to go ahead. I believe they have a wonderful chance of beating the odds and having a successful marriage.

So I still haven’t decided about second marriages, or at least ones precipitated by divorce. Again, muddy waters! What about death of a spouse, what about the significance of betrothal or engagement in a society, what about issues around arranged marriage?  And when you bring children into the picture, the sludge becomes thicker still. I have a couple of other friends who would be moving into a second marriage if they choose to marry and I find myself cheering them on to that decision. At the same time, the remarriage of either partner from another couple I know would disturb me greatly. So I guess I love the idea of a second chance, but heading into marriage a second time around still confuses me. I don’t know which to follow: my undecided heart or my undecided faith. I still don’t think that divorce and remarriage are the best in the plan of God, but I am not sure that he unilaterally condemns them as I have been wont to believe either. I guess this is one of those things I am still deciding.

In the meantime, Gary and Nell, congratulation on your wedding! I truly hope you find all the happiness in the world in your new union and I am blessed and humbled to have been asked to be a part of it!

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