Interesting news was revealed last week. After 40 years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore are calling an end to their marriage. I don’t know why I have such a sad feeling about this particular separation/divorce, especially since such action seems to have become the routine in our day and age. As the only thing I “knew” about their marriage was the longevity, I cannot comment about it specifically. But it seems a commitment of 40 years would have come to an end in some other way; this “amicable” parting seems ineffably sad because, lacking either death or adultery, the marriage appears to have run out of steam, as it were. Such an end could and perhaps should be a warning to all couples who think they have gotten over the hump of challenges and difficulties that the first few years of marriage can bring. Perhaps something bubbles beneath the surface for all of us married folk. Is a “friendly separation” in our future? The reasons why the Gores reached this point will never be known by anyone other than themselves, and that is as it should be. It really is not mine, nor the business of anyone else who is not directly involved. But, the concept of an amicable separation is what I would like to ponder for a while.
One commentator remarked that she saw this “not as a failure of marriage”, but a “celebration of life.” Gentle Reader, I have to tell you: that comment shocked and angered the pants off me! No one I know has ever described their separation or divorce as a “celebration of life.” It has, however, been described to me many times as a “living death.” Some feel that their spouse has, for all intents and purposes, died – yet the living “ghost” of her or him still hangs around, ever near yet never present. I am familiar somewhat with that particular description because I am a second wife. My husband was married to his first wife for 10 years before she left him. The fact that both of them had been unhappy in their marriage for most of those years in no way mitigated the pain my husband experienced. I would never have called their separation and divorce “amicable,” nor would I refer to it as “friendly.” It was, however, civil, and each treated the other with respect throughout the process. It was hardly a celebration, and certainly it came with a huge feeling of failure. In their case it was a failure to create a marriage in the first place, rather than the end of one that had been.
This distinction is something that came to me when I was preparing to marry a divorced man. The words pronounced over couples who celebrate a Christian marriage are, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.” While the desire and intention of each couple that marches down the aisle together is that they are a “God-matched” pair, I believe that this is not always the reality. While I believe that all divorces are failures, not all failures end up in divorce. As a matter of fact, failures can end up in marriage! Many marriages are unions created by the couple itself, and God is not always the “Joiner.” Even with all the prayers that each marriage be a heavenly match, surely the divorce rate in this country today would prove that God’s blessing on the union is not in all respects the case. Since the rate has remained at a steady 50 percent for a long time, it is apparent that indeed, God has not done all the joining, otherwise, many of those divorces would have never been. I do not mean to say that God’s Will for a union is always done; many times God’s Will is flaunted or ignored – which brings a sadness and grief all its own to bear on all involved. But the fact that so many marriages are self-generated explains, to me anyway, why so many are then self-destroyed. It also seems that some couples who are part of a DIY marriage are persistent in their efforts to stay together. While the result of such persistence can be a Godly union; sometimes “staying together until parted by death” is simply that: staying together – for reasons other than a true marriage. It may be fear of a life alone, or fear of having no financial means, telling the children, or facing the unknown that is more than either party is willing to bear. For many it may also be the simple fact that a promise was made to one another, before God and witnesses, to remain married until parted by death. That reason is sometimes the saddest because it assumes that we are not capable of acknowledging our own mistakes, regardless of how well-intentioned they may have been, asking forgiveness, and moving on in life with some wisdom gained. We are fallible beings, and all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. How we handle ourselves in the midst of our failures has a much greater impact on our lives (and those of others) than the failure itself. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not concerned that you have fallen / I am concerned that you arise.” How the Gores manage to relate to one another – either together or apart – will be the more instructive event in their lives. I do wonder, though, when couples “drift apart,” how much time and effort have they really spent in trying to get back to each other before they find the distance between them is too large to bridge?
Still, I cannot see divorce as being a celebration. Divorce may be necessary, and perhaps a relief, but how could it ever be called a celebration? The one good thing about failure is that it is a “teachable moment.” If lessons are learned and new insights are gained, then failures – which are a fact of every human life – can be valuable indeed – in ways successes could never be; but I submit that the failure is not the celebration! What we do with our downfalls should be the true source of our celebration – assuming what we accomplish is worth celebrating!
I probably read way too much into what was quoted, and it is entirely possible that the excerpt I heard was totally out of context, (although it certainly sounded well within). In any event, when did we as so-called “rational” human beings decide to “rationalize” all our sins, failures, and/or shortcomings, and turn them by definition into celebrations? As I have said, there is a huge difference between managing to bring celebration out of disaster, and celebrating disaster! Mentioning “sin” is perhaps risky in this particular forum, but since this is my forum, after all, I do not hesitate to use that word. Sin is the act of separation from God (or Good, if you will), and therefore is particularly apropos in this discussion of marital separation and divorce. It is also important that I add right here that sin/separation is a human act, and not of God. We separate ourselves from God, and it is never the other way around. But, our perception of the presence of God is a topic for another posting. Suffice it to say that we are getting far too good at “forgiving” ourselves, by never calling anything we do as something in need of forgiveness! Think about it! If our “separations” are a cause for celebration, for what should we ask forgiveness?
While my mind is still churning away, Gentle Reader, (if you have managed to stay with me all this way), I must call an end at least for now to this meandering. Please let me know your thoughts on the subjects of separation and divorce. So many feelings are involved in such a complicated and intricate subject, that with your own unique insight, you may be able to bring some some clarity to mine.
For all of you – indeed, all of us, I wish enough time, enough love, enough failure, enough celebration, enough…