I always find it ironic that people talk about the divorce rates between Christians and non-Christians. Talking percentage and numbers, saying more Christians get divorced than atheists. Can I just say as a Christian, I’m not in the least surprised? Cool. Because I’m gunna.
When I was in high school, I began to notice a contrast in behaviors with my friends. My non-believe friends got with and broke-up with people pretty frequently, mostly because of some very strenuous situations, abuse, or having little in common. My believing friends, however, often roughed out situations that most of my non-believing friends were unable to put up with. I spent a lot of time thinking about that. Thinking about how unusual it was that people felt obligated to stay in relationships that seems unhealthy, and even worse, how much damage it caused them.
It became even more frightening when I realized that I was doing the same thing my Believing friends were. I stayed in really bad relationships, because that’s “what marriage is like.” You are supposed to stick it out when things get hard with your spouse. But the problem, I began realizing more and more, was kids my age were so obsessed with acting like their relationships (referred to as “courting” by our church community), were marriages, they forgot they were still kids. They forgot they weren’t married. They forgot they were allowed to be themselves in a relationships and could have freedom to enjoy what they wanted to enjoy without the opinion of their significant other destroying their ideals. They forgot they didn’t have to stay in a relationship that felt wrong or was too emotionally draining.
It seemed to me like church became a marriage factory. In fact, my brothers and I started calling it that for a while. We saw a lot of people get together, have rough and overly dysfunctional relationships, get married, and then divorced. It wasn’t uncommon. Marriages were happening young because the church promoted it as this beautiful, sexual, and divine act of worship in obedience to “be fruitful and multiply,” but in my young head, I began to recognize the lack of council. The lack of parents telling their kids about he difficult of marriage. The lack of anyone emphasizing finding a good spouse with excellent morals, sexual self control, and a deep love and respect for the person they were with. Where was that? Where did that go?
Was this a problem? Abso-frickin-lutely!
The excuse I kept hearing from my friends who were sticking out their difficult relationships was “I’m practicing for marriage.” Really? So you’re going to settle for an absolutely awful relationship, when you could go off and find a person better suited to you? “Well, I don’t want to go through men like water.” One of my friends commented to me once. Well then don’t. I wanted to say to her. Don’t just fall for anyone, choose to take your friggin time and don’t just start up relationships willy nilly! Doesn’t seem that hard.
It’s no wonder secular culture seems to get it right. For so many reasons. They don’t feel obligated by a divine being to “stick it out” in dating relationships (which last time I checked wasn’t in the Bible when discussing dating…because dating wasn’t a thing back then, but that is another story for another time, about the evolution of culture). They “worship” the people they end up with, because the human spirit is the highest form of intelligence and compatibility they know. You see it in poetry, in art, hear it in music. People sing about sexual experiences and people like we Christians sing about our Creator. It is very difficult to separate yourself from something you have made your whole life, not just a role filler, or back up plan to fill in for your flaws. I think people in secular culture understand this better, because they do not try to mix it in with “everything will one day perish” and “there are no spouses in Heaven” and “women are beneath the man” and all kinds of other misunderstood or agenda warped (*cough* unbiblical *cough*) theology. They spend their time feeling it without knowing the words or reason for it. They don’t need to. All they know is life is short, and that other person matters to them. It is instinctual. It is innate. It is the beauty of being created with raw emotion. It is the analogy for God’s love. They don’t know it that way in their head, but they feel it in their heart, to be loved despite flaws is what was meant to be.
Another excuse I hear post divorce and bitter break-ups in Christian circles is “all I need is God.” Which isn’t a bad thing. You should find God to be enough if or when you are alone (because spouses happen to be mortal and die), but He created both sexes, because Genesis said it “wasn’t good for man to be alone.” Now, there are some people who suffer from flaws and dysfunctions that are awful for relationships, and they should be very careful before getting in a relationship. Brokenness of humanity can do that to people and ruin or prevent their chances of experiencing healthy romantic relationships. But are we so proud and selfish that we would willingly ruin a relationship with a spouse, that they promised before God and witnesses to stay with forever just because “they only need God?” Sometimes over selfish reasons, like money, not investing in the relationship adequately enough for the other spouse (not to say it doesn’t suck when that happens), health issues (like breaking-up with someone because they have a chronic illness or accident leaving them disabled), not enough sex (you lack that much self control? Really?). Why use God as an excuse to end a relationship? Because we don’t want to take responsibility for our poor decisions.
It’s enough to make me want to love like an atheist. I want to love like that. To be loved like that. I want to make a person my responsibility. To treat them like I would myself. To give things up for them. Not entirely because I am obligated, but because my raw emotions can set aside the many commentaries that so many differences in theology can confuse my brain with. But I am also willing to let that all happen after I used my head and have chosen someone compatible with me.
I think that last bit is where we get stuck in both secular and Christian cultures. We are made to be both rational and emotional beings. So how do we get these deeply emotional relationships to work? By using our heads first in choosing a significant other, and then building that wild and free emotional relationship. We can use reason to select a mate, and emotion and passion to keep them.
I want to love like an atheist, because I think that is how God loves. He loves like there is no tomorrow even though there is eternity. He loves so passionately he would die for us. He loves so selflessly that He offers us eternity to be loved. He loves instinctually. Jealously. Zealously.
The only difference is He loves perfectly.