Mere Christianity: Happily Ever After… Or Not

I picked up the book this week and groaned when I saw the title of the chapter for this week’s book discussion: Christian Marriage. It’s one of the topics I’m probably least qualified to discuss, I assure you. I really struggled with this post, at least partly because I’m not married, but also partly because under my jaded I-hate-weddings-and-I-love-being-single façade, I’m a romantic at heart. Despite the fact that I’m well on my way to Old Maid Spinsterness, I still want the prince and I still want Happily Ever After. So I read CS Lewis’ words with my heart bleeding.

He makes a great case, doesn’t he? I agree with much of it. I absolutely agree that “being in love” is just a feeling and feelings fade. And that true love is that when the “in love” feelings slip away, you stick around because you made a promise and a commitment. The romantic in me—the idealistic princess—says “Oh, yes! I totally agree! Absolutely!”

The problem is that we don’t live in a Disney movie. Instead, we live in a world where things aren’t easily resolved by a fairy godmother in ninety minutes or less. Daddies leave. Wives manipulate. There is abuse. There is infidelity. It’s no wonder, as few of us enter marriage with no baggage. It’s rare that couples have had functional examples to follow. And so we enter relationships with three strikes against us. We don’t know how to love. We don’t know how to receive love. We either don’t know how to commit or else we only know how to be co-dependent. Today, the average marriage lasts seven years. That number breaks my heart and it doesn’t give me much encouragement for the possibility of my future marriage.

I feel that at this point—now that I’ve argued both sides—I should clarify that I’m not advocating divorce. I thoroughly agree with Lewis’ thoughts that one shouldn’t use their feelings as an excuse to break promises and vows. However, I couldn’t just reiterate those thoughts and leave them alone. I think that more must be said. I know too many people who are hurting. Too many people have heard what the Church says and have not felt God’s love, grace, and peace in it. And this is where I must speak.

We have sat in church and heard the pastor say: “God hates divorce!” We have translated that into a personal condemnation on each of us. We begin to believe that if we, as broken people, can’t make marriage work, that He hates us and that we’re eternally condemned to Hell and to bad relationships (which are a whole different kind of Hell.)

Stop the madness! God is love!

He’s not condemning you for your mistakes. He knows that with the past you’ve seen and experienced and been subjected to, it can make it practically impossible for your marriage or relationships to succeed! The reason He hates divorce is not because He hates you or is angry at you for any failure on your part. He hates it because He hates anything and everything that hurts you—and divorce does. Again, I’m not authority on this subject, but one thing that I tenuously grasp on the path of my relationships is that I will never be able to build a sturdy relationship with broken materials. And broken materials are all I’ve got. And only God can fix me.

I know I broke the rules of the book discussion today by not choosing one quote to discuss. I also realize that this is a highly controversial topic. Feel free to share your comments below… before going to my co-facilitator’s place to see his take on this chapter.

This post is part of the regular Wednesday book discussion on CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” that Jason Stasyszen and I are having on our blogs. A bunch of our friends are joining us and everyone is welcome to participate whether they’re reading along or not. If you’ll hop over to Jason’s site, you can read his take on the chapter and you can add your link to the widget if you’ve written about the chapter. Otherwise, please just hop around and make yourself at home!

About Sarah Salter


  1. First, I’ve been married 7.5 years and going strong. So stoked to not be an average Joe!

    Divorce in Biblical times was parallel to divorce in today’s “modern” world. Women had no rights… and men got what they wanted or went elsewhere. One of my college professors would say, “Men in Biblical times would divorce women over burnt toast.” Marriage was entered into lightly and exit doors were brightly illuminated if anything seemed to go against the man’s desires….

    Not much different than in today’s society, except now women do it too.

    Marriage should not be entered into lightly. It is a covenant between a man and woman and God. It is not all roses and butter biscuits either. Everything should be done to hold to and nurture the promise given.

    And then there is divorce and a plethora of scriptures that denounce the practice as sin… and a couple that “permit” certain situations….

    And then there is an example of God’s grace for the woman at the well… She had been married 5 times, divorced 5 times, and was living in fornication… Jesus did not condone or accept her past actions and divorces, but He did extend His grace and forgiveness to her as He restored Her life and demonstrated the depths of His love.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, we know you’re not an average Joe. 😀

    Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Marriage is a partnership of two individuals. This means that although “a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”, they are still two people with their own lives before they ever met each other. With this simple fact comes the hard truth that we all have our own baggage, our own past, our own experiences we have lived through that color our perspective. Marriage is work and as Dusty said, not to be entered into lightly. Reflecting on the marriage vows, one should really take into consideration what they might mean. Sickness and health. Richer or poorer. Better or worse. et cetera. Although the initial glow of love, that “in love” fluttery feeling, may fade, a deeper love and understanding can grow that is more beautiful than all the rest.
    All this said, divorce in itself, is not inherently evil. The Christ I know would not condemn a woman leaving her abuser or a man who divorced his wife after she abandoned him for another man.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    SarahBee, you said something that I think is key when talking about Christian Marriage: “The Christ I know…” The more we know Him, the more we know His love and the less we’re likely to be tempted to believe that He is angry or frustrated with us. It’s hard, though, when all your life, you’ve been led to believe that God is just some great big, angry, moody Disciplinarian in the Sky. I’m glad we had this conversation so that we can help dispel that myth. Thanks, Sister! 🙂

  5. Sad enough, but people make choices–sometimes really bad choices and we may have little or nothing to say or do about it. That said, even if we were the ones who messed it all up, there is still forgiveness. The Gospel is relational just as God is. That means that I can counsel a person considering divorce and say, “God hates divorce and here’s why you need to fight through this.” Then I can talk the next day to a person already divorced and say, “God has grace for you and the promise of wholeness.” It’s not because I’m wishy-washy or God is either. God sees us as individuals and responds to our needs and brokenness. Obviously, this is a very condensed thought, but hopefully it makes sense. Thanks Sarah.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, it makes complete sense! In fact, I love what you’ve said here that God sees us as individuals and responds to us in like manner. God doesn’t look at me as a statistic, a case study, or just another face in the crowd. I can cry out to Him like Hagar and call Him “El Roi”– The One Who Sees Me. He sees me. Really sees me. My thoughts. My needs. My brokeness. And at the same time, sees who He can deploy me to serve. Good thoughts, Jason! Thanks! 🙂

  7. Even if you aren’t married, Sarah, you hit all the important points. And we’re all romantics, because we all have romance planted in our hearts — byt the one who’s in love with all of us.

    Great post.

  8. I didn’t realize that the quotation thing was a rule. I thought it was merely a guideline or suggestion.
    Bob and I will be married for fifteen years in two weeks. We are happy. We love each other. Most of the time, we are even “in love”. God has been good to us.

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