Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.

Positive Pain

Steve Arterburn

Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.

Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’

The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.

Rebuilding Trust in Friendships

Clint Thomas

Friendships can be an incredible source of stability, encouragement and strength. God said in Genesis 2:18, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ thus the friendship between Adam and Eve began. Also in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are exhorted to, ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds as well as maintain meeting together for the purposes of encouragement.” In other passages (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12) Paul talks of Christians working together as a body in interdependence. All throughout scripture we see examples of the importance of friendships.

A good friendship requires maintenance and care, time and attention. Something we guys don’t think much about this part of friendship, expecting that it won’t require any effort. In effect we sometimes treat friendships as if they have very little value. In large part we have not been taught how to maintain or value these relationships. An unfortunate fact about our culture today is that most men have very few friends compared to women. As a result this has negative effects on our emotional and physical health.

Friendships are primarily about intimacy; knowing another person and being known. The phrases ‘see into me’ or ‘into me see’ describe it well.

Maintenance within a friendship is allowing yourself to be fully known and showing interest in knowing the other person. When this happens a deep connection can be experienced. However, what happens when we are caught up in sin that we are ashamed to share with our friends? Can we be intimate and hide simultaneously?

This is the ultimate struggle in friendships and marriage for that matter; allowing our sin to be known as well as our positive qualities. I hear from wives who are broken by their husband’s sexual sin say, ‘I thought I knew him but I guess I didn’t. I feel so hurt, I don’t know if I can ever trust him again’.

They feel betrayed, foolish and vulnerable. While wives are our closest friends, our other friends will sometimes feel similar.

Friendships are like taking a walk with someone. The further you travel the closer you become. However, at the point you begin to lie, or deceive, you are no longer walking with that person even though they think you are. You have chosen a separate fork in the road.

Rebuilding the friendship is much like walking back to the fork in the road where you separated from your friend and starting from that point forward. Your friend will know that you are trustworthy by your willingness to do this without defensiveness. They will see they are important to you by your willingness to put this kind of effort forward to restore trust with them.

A trustworthy person will have words and deeds that match. What they say and what they do will be the same. They will also acknowledge when they have hurt someone. Taking responsibility for their actions, they will apologize. Their non-verbal communication such as body posture and facial expressions will match this as well. When this repentant stance is taken over a period of time trust will begin to build.

A repentant heart leads to rebuilding trust and reconciliation can be the end result. You don’t have any guarantees that your friend will respond to your efforts but you will never know unless you put the effort forward. When your friend knows that you mean what you say he can trust that it will be safe to get close to you and reconcile an intimate relationship.

The Greek term for reconcile is to bring back to a former state of harmony. This harmony can only be gained when there is true repentance on the offender’s part and therefore safety in the relationship.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle and The New Life Weekend.