It is old news now as far as pop culture goes, but the split between Jon and Kate Gosselin of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" fame still disturbs me.
The images of their breakup were vivid, and the emotional impact was made worse by the fact that eight kids' lives were in the balance as two adults acted like celebrities gone bad and imploded a marriage that was supposed to be a place of safety for a family to grow. I know "safety" isn't a word associated with marriage these days -- considering statistics show that half of marriages break up -- but it's an important notion.
I've been thinking about marriage a lot lately. Partly because my wife and I just celebrated our seventh anniversary, and partly because of the various statistics and political debates about it.
I'm not interested in the political debates as much as I am in noting how little value marriage seems to have among those in my age group -- the 20- to 30-year-old range.
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A recent blog from Walt Mueller, a leader in studying youth culture, mentioned this trend, stating a possible mindset of many today: "Marriage didn't work in my family, why should it work for me?"
This is not my experience, but I remember growing up hearing stories from my friends as early as first grade.I had a good friend who told me in the quietness of a giant playground tire that his parents were splitting up. He was processing the situation as a little guy, and I remember watching his personality completely change during that period. He went from a fun-loving kid to a tough guy. I don't know the details, but I knew he didn't feel safe in his home anymore, and he covered it up by sucking it up and becoming a "man" far too young.
I would hear the same story over and over, realizing that my own parents'
marriage, a symbol of stability in my life, was not as common as I had thought. Even marriages that stay together, I would hear, were often held together "for the kids," and the home was not a place of warmth or nurturing.
That's a big problem for marriage as an institution of stability.
Whenever people do something just because it's "always been done," that thing can lose its meaning and relevance.Sometimes it's after a few months, and sometimes it's after 50 years. While in many situations dissolving the union might be the healthy solution for everyone involved, many marriages probably could be saved if both people remember a simple principle.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives us a guiding principle that could help us see our marriages in a different light, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
It is assumed that you
love yourself. In fact, most issues in life arise from loving ourselves too much. But in marriage a higher principle has to be a center point. Love of God needs to come first. God's reciprocating love fills us as we love Him, and we overflow to our spouse. Just as the love for a neighlows from the love of God, our love for the other needs to be refueled by the source of love.
In a world that is dying to experience something great and powerful, marriages fueled by the eternal one will become symbols of hope to many, and turn around the bad perceptions of this generation.
Daniel Griswold is director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Twitter Name: dannonhill