I am your single friend. You may know me as the girl you have in mind for your brother, your worship leader, your cousin… or your brother’s worship leader’s cousin. But before you plan our chance meeting, let me pass on something. Being single, I’ve observed my friends and family members who are married, and I’ve been able to see and experience marriage from the outside, looking in.
So from my vantage point, here’s my advice: stay permeable.
What’s a permeable marriage?
Banning Liebscher of Bethel Church once said,
“My marriage is successful, not just because I gave it my best, but because I went and got Danny’s best and brought it in to my marriage, and I got Chris’ best and Sherry’s best and I brought it in to my marriage. I am not exaggerating this point — any area of my life that has any blessing on it at all, is because other people have poured their best in to that area.”
Banning speaks about the strength and wisdom gained from being in community, yet many newly married couples miss out on this when they start a life of “figuring things out on their own.” They often don’t seek help or outside counsel until they’ve reached a point of crisis. Of course, establishing a new life as a couple and spending plenty of time alone together is necessary, but not to the point where the marriage is totally insular. God provides community for a reason.
Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates the power of community for couples. When David was having an affair with Bathsheba — one that eventually led to murder — God used Nathan to confront David about it. It took the intervention of an outsider to set them on the right path again.
And so marriage is meant to flourish in community; but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Contrary to popular belief, simply going to church regularly is statistically proven to lower your chance of divorce.
Social researcher and marriage expert Shaunti Feldhah writes, “Overall, regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25 to 50 per cent, depending on the study you look at.”
According to the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey, Christians between the ages of 25 and 34 are less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation, with divorce rates of 3.55 per cent and 5.28 per cent respectively. In his book Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… and other Lies You’ve been Told, Sociologist Bradley Wright examines the American General Social Survey to find that 60 per cent of respondents who identified as Christian but rarely attended church were divorced, while only 38 per cent of regularly attending Christians were divorced.
Clearly, connecting with community and seeking input from wise and godly people has an uplifting effect on marriage, while constantly maintaining a front causes decay. I’ve observed this from afar as a friend, and also first hand in my own family.
My mom recently told me that she and my dad were on the brink of divorce nine years ago. She started praying, and God led her to share her troubles with a long-time friend. With my parents’ consent, this friend and her husband began to pray for my parents.
“Your dad and I didn’t even have the desire or the knowledge to pray for the healing that we needed, or even to ask God to intervene because we were too wrapped up in our own ‘me-first attitudes’ most of the time,” says my mom. “But this other couple asked God for us; they prayed for the things we needed for healing, the things we weren’t able to pray for ourselves.”
Both my parents started to pray fervently, and through the Holy Spirit, their attitudes about their marriage changed. But they didn’t do it alone.
“I truly believe that wouldn’t have happened without the prayer support of our friends,” she says. “And here’s the funny thing. After God brought us to the point where we wanted to have our marriage exist for Him, He started bringing couples to us who wanted prayer for their marriages because they saw how strong ours was.”
I can proudly say my parents celebrated their 26th anniversary this past May; a victory that could easily have been a divorce statistic.
I know sometimes a crisis is needed to jolt us awake, but you don’t need to wait that long to infuse your marriage with the strength and wisdom of your community. It’s OK to let your close friends in once in a while. We’re here for you and ready to give your marriage our best.
Now, about your brother’s worship leader’s cousin….
Photo (Flickr CC) by Eileen Rivard.