A few days ago, Over the Rhine provided me the inspiration to finally come up with a blog title I liked, inspired by a quote from one of Linford’s writings posted on their website. What compelled me to surf over to their site in the first place was an article published recently on the Christianity Today website. It was an interview with Linford’s wife, Karin, in which she candidly discusses the difficulties that their marriage has undergone in recent times and how they came to decide it was worth the effort to save it.
I was touched by this interview. From what I can tell, Karin, Linford and I are all around the same age, and while I, a 38-year-old single female, have never been married, many of my friends have. Many still are. More than I would have expected are not.
Over the last 20 years, I have been a bridesmaid in seven weddings. Four of those seven couples are still (happily?) married, two have divorced, and one is heading toward divorce; they have been separated for almost two years. (The subject of what makes a “happy marriage,” or what role happiness plays/should play in how we make big life decisions, I’ll save for another time. Or for a more ambitious blogger than I, whichever comes first.) For whatever all this is worth, most of those individuals, at least at the time they married, would call themselves committed Christians. (Which brings to mind the statistics indicating that the divorce rate in the Christian community is not much different than that in the general population, but that too is a discussion for another time.)
And one more disclaimer: the above number only counts the weddings where I served as a bridesmaid. Two more divorces come to mind immediately if I count weddings of friends where my role was, ironically, as Scripture reader.
I have walked through some pretty dark places with these friends and family members, and I’ve grieved the death of each of these unions to varying degrees. I’ve dealt with my own anger and disillusionment in the midst of it all, which only emphasizes the ripple effect that a couple’s divorce has on the community at large. It’s a myth—a lie—that convinces us that such a decision only affects the couple at hand. Whether or not they have children, other people—family members, friends, church members, and so on—will be caught in the crossfire. Because, more likely than not, those friends and family members have invested in that marriage as well, to varying degrees.
I don’t mean to pass judgment or to act as if I know firsthand how challenging marriage is. I don’t want to pretend that I’ve been as good or faithful a friend as I could have been to those who have suffered through the heartbreak of divorce. I may or may not ever get to experience the sacrament of marriage firsthand. (Even if I am not Catholic, I recognize the “institution” of marriage to be sacramental.) But I recognize that, even as an unmarried woman, I am a part of a community of witnesses who promise to never separate (or “put asunder”) that which God has joined together. I continue to wonder what it means to hold couples accountable to vows that I have witnessed them making to one another, before God. A tricky business in our individualistic society.
All this is to say that I applaud Karin’s and Linford’s courage, their willingness to say no to good things in order to attend to their marriage. What a witness this is to those around them—those who know them well and those who only know them by their music.