Yet we know many marriages will end in just those ways. So will friendships and employment and memberships and a variety of other relationships.
Without oversimplifying the complexity and wide-range of reasons marriages and other relationships dissolve, I wonder if at least part of the answer comes down to how we understand/don’t understand covenants.
Outside the Church I’m not sure we even use the word covenant. Inside, I’m not sure we want to take it seriously.
Though there are certainly exceptions, often in my experience we uphold a Baptismal Covenant, but are largely concerned with when/where baptism will take place, not how baptism is understood, why baptism is being sought, or in what ways baptism transforms our living.
And if we don’t do the hard work here, is it any wonder when folks come to be recognized as members we find little understanding concerning how the Baptismal Covenant is lived out as a member of a community of faith?
The Marriage Covenant is given little more attention.
Here again we focus primarily on the logistics of marriage (when, where, how many attendants, is there a rehearsal, what else is on the calendar). If not from those of us who preside over these ceremonies, then from whom will couples get asked the hard questions that lead them to the deep places? If we don’t explore the sacrifice, the commitment, the mutual surrender and accountability inherent in covenants, we should not be surprised when the couples over whose weddings we officiate become the couples over whose divorces we grieve.
And maybe that’s why we don’t teach or talk much about covenants..covenants are hard. Maybe too hard for us.
Making and keeping promises.
Giving yourself wholeheartedly to something/someone.
Being present and committed and available and vulnerable and honest.
Being hurt and forgiving anyway.
Hurting and seeking forgiveness quickly.
Hard stuff, to say the least.
And yet, I come back to God being a covenant-maker and covenant-keeper. That we are made promises and asked to keep promises in return lies at the root of the world’s most prolific religions. Our Christian Bible is even divided by covenants (really the same covenant…God says “I love you, and I want you to love me.”), as another word for covenant is testament.
The old testament/first covenant before we knew Jesus; the new testament/second covenant after the depths of God’s love were revealed in Christ.
So we sometimes talk about the “goal” of marriage between two people being to mirror the way Jesus loves the Church. And what does Jesus’ love look like? Sacrifice. Vulnerability. Surrender. Commitment. Compassion. Joy. Protection. Nurturing.
We won’t always get it right. We won’t always keep our end of the covenant. We won’t always love as Jesus loves, but such love should be our desire, our purpose, our goal.
For a covenant we were made and it is in covenant we truly live.
Again I reflect on Lent being a time to consider the covenants I have accepted. What do I need to work on? Where do I need to seek greater understanding? How can i bring more meaning to the covenant for myself and others?
Perhaps you’ll use Lent as a time to examine your own covenants.
Life is better together,
p.s. This post is not meant to suggest divorce is always wrong or a failure on the part of the person seeking divorce to uphold a covenant. Covenants are two-way streets and regrettably sometimes a legal divorce is only a recognition of a broken covenant, some of which needed to be dissolved.