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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Research says... Divorce AND Marriage are a Big Deal!

HEDGE FUND DIVORCES?




The caption below the picture is a link to an interesting article about a research project from some economists at the University of Florida.   These economists decided to research, of all things, how getting a divorce affected productivity of individuals who work as hedge fund managers.   They then compared it to how much their productivity was affected when a hedge fund manager got married.  

Somehow, that is a question  I have never even thought to ask.

Have you ever wondered what in the world causes people to decide to research something as peculiar as that?  It probably has to do with government grants, or the need to fill space in a publication. 

However, it is actually interesting that somebody asked whether the divorce or the marriage had more impact on the lives of individuals.  

The long and short of it, in my summary of it, is that marriage generally causes greater impact, but that is primarily true of middle aged individuals.  For younger individuals, divorce created more upheaval.   

Kind of interesting, huh?  Is that what you would have expected?  It raises some interesting questions.  The biggest thing it raises is the notion that there are a lot more questions to be asked to fully understand what is happening.  

Bear with me for a moment as I offer some reflections of my own, totally unverified and unresearched, just thoughts that have come to me as I read it.

First, the fact that marriage has less of a disruptive impact on younger traders than does divorce makes one wonder why.  For instance, is it because when they got married, they assumed it wouldn't change anything in their lives, and so keep on working dawn to dusk, and keep their marriage tied into a tiny little time segment of their lives and dedicate only limited energy to it?  Or could it be just the opposite, that now that they are married, they especially feel the responsibility to bring in a good income and so pour themselves into their work?  And maybe when those younger people experience divorce, it hits them harder because with a divorce they are losing a lifetime of dreams, facing the fact that they have invested way too much of themselves and their time in their work and not nearly enough in the most important relationship of their lives?

For those who are older, the marriage has more disruption than a divorce.  What would you speculate about that?  I kind of wonder if it has to do with the fact that when somebody gets to be an old codger like me, you realize that making a commitment to a marriage is a major undertaking and is going to require real arranging of priorities and schedules to make the marriage what it ought to be.  Maybe divorce does not have as much impact on job performance at that older age because after being around for a few decades, one experiences enough struggles and heartaches in life to develop some skills in knowing how to face them effectively.  

Or…..maybe it is just that when you reach a certain age, productivity has already dropped because you are slowing down, and so the divorce isn’t going to have the same impact because you are already moving more slowly anyway!  Trust me, I feel some of that every day!

Okay, regardless of what the economists from the University of Florida pointed out in the whole matter (if there is one), I think there is an important point to be observed in the discussion.  Marriage is a major life change event that will also require significant lifestyle changes away from the worldview of singleness into a world in which there is one earthly relationship that is more important than any other earthly involvement.  That commitment must be honored, protected and nurtured if the marriage is going to be successful. 

At the same time, many people realize how much their life changed after they married, but fail to realize that divorce has a similarly powerful impact on every area of one’s life.  Viewing the change in the context of comparison to the life change of marriage is probably not a bad context to use---it IS a big deal.  

I remember a time when I was so discouraged because I felt like I was progressing through the emotions and recovery of divorce way too slowly.  In that time, a wise friend said to me: “Maybe you just need to give yourself permission to NOT get over it quickly, to recognize that it really is a big deal and that it is going to take time to recover from it.”  

Turned out she uttered some pretty wise words that day.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Don't Rush! Time for Healing

RAVI’S RIGHT!



I am not a big follower of television/radio/internet preacher types and don’t make a very good groupie for their work.  I have heard several over the years one way or another, but don’t really keep up with any of them to any degree.  This week, though, I happened to be turn on a car that had a Christian radio station on, and Ravi Zacharias was speaking in his regular show.  I generally have enjoyed his messages the few times I have heard them, so appreciated listening to him during my short jaunt across town.  

I picked it up in the middle of the message, and had to turn it off before it was completed, but in the portion I heard, Ravi was discussing 1 Timothy 5 and the church’s obligation to widows.  

In the course of the presentation,  I noticed that he mentioned verse 9’s description of widows who qualified for assistance, and that he referred to her as “being faithful” rather than having only had one husband.  I didn’t get to hear his full discussion of that, but was pleased because that has also been how I have understood the reference in that passage.  Many have taken the wording there and the wording regarding elders and deacons back in chapter 3 to mean that the individual cannot have been divorced.  Being a one woman man, or a one man woman, could be taken that way, but it seems to me more natural to go with what I think Ravi was saying and place the emphasis on being faithful to one individual in our marriage relationship, rather than rejecting all who are divorced, which does not seem to match with other statements of Paul.  I may have misunderstood what Ravi meant, since I missed the other part and probably won’t be looking it up, but I think I caught it correctly.

However, the main thing that I really appreciated (and which reinforced my understanding above), was that Ravi made a point to say that if someone’s spouse dies…or if an individual ends up divorced…then they would be wise to wait at least two years before considering entering into another relationship or making a major decision, and recognize that during those two years, one’s ability to make good judgments is likely impaired.  

I was pleased that he included both options of losing a spouse, and I am in full agreement with his recognition that one’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions is clearly impacted by the trauma of death or divorce.  Just as a physical injury takes time to recover before regaining full strength and restoration, so also the emotional and spiritual impact of loss of a spouse (or other close loved one), will leave an imbalance that takes time to be renewed.

I have heard it said that healing/restoration after a divorce takes 1 year for every 4 (or some say 5) years of marriage.  That is, if you were married 20 years before divorcing, the healing of the brokenness you are experiencing will require at least 4 years, maybe 5 or more.  Not that it isn’t possible to move forward before that “deadline”, but the wise individual will be very cautious about how far forward and how quickly those steps will be.  And I really agree with Ravi, that major decisions should not be made for a while, and two years seems to me to be a good number. 

Unfortunately, as Ravi also pointed out, our emotional state can become so impacted that we long to move forward and are tempted to rush the process (or short circuit it).  We are tempted to get out of the pain and uncertainty by lunging ahead and not recognizing that our thought processes have been significantly hindered, because we have been knocked so off balance by the trauma of our loss.  

If you are a person who is recovering from a divorce or death of a spouse (or know a person who is in such a state), I strongly encourage you to not allow yourself to be hurried by the whirlwind of emotions around you.  

Though the pain may be intense, and the loneliness overwhelming, moving into another relationship out of that intensity and loneliness can set you up for a second loss with further devastation on down the road.  Much wiser is the one who first works with God on his or her own recovery and emotional healing, walking through the pain to get there, so that if a time comes when a new relationship emerges, he or she will enter that new relationship as a healthy and whole person, rather than as a needy and unstable one.  


The truth is, though you may want to rush, there is no need to do so. 

If God indeed has another relationship for you in your future, that relationship will be there at the appropriate time, and since God is in charge, can wait for you to heal up so that what you enter next will be the best relationship possible.  

God’s timing can move quickly or it can move slowly, but it never hurries, and it never rushes things.  

God’s timing is deliberate and wise, and for us to move forward with God, we need to be the same way.  I have known individuals who tried to rush these things, and ended up creating more heartache and loss as a result.  

Instead, walk with God toward that healing first, one step at a time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Avoiding Divorce

GIVERS AND TAKERS

Many years ago, one of my college professors, Bill Ballinger, made a comment that I have remembered over the years as a statement filled with great wisdom.  It is a simple little sentence:

                      “When you take something from someone, you also take  
away their opportunity to give it to you.”

It is a statement I have often quoted during pastoral counseling sessions with married couples or engaged couples planning for their life together.  The phrase is relevant for lots of contexts, but seems especially relevant for life as a couple.  

How many times does a partner in a marriage try to get their way about one thing or another, and attempt to do so by pouting, or by nagging, or by browbeating, or by…well, you can make that list as well as I can.  

It is true the person may get their way about the thing, but it will have a bittersweet taste to it.  There will always be an underlying uncertainty, “Did my partner do that only because I coerced them into it?  Would they have ever given me such a great thing as a gift of their own free will, just because they love me?”  

The sad thing is, the one asking such uncertain questions will never know…they took away the opportunity their spouse had to do something just because, and created a situation where the deed was done with lots of baggage attached.

I have spent many hours talking with individuals in relationships discussing this very fact.  I could harass and harass and harass my spouse (and sometimes I misguidedly do!) until she finally, grudgingly, gives in and does the task I am harassing her about.  But it will be obvious that is was done grudgingly.  Instead of building affection, it will have fed resentment.  OR, I could develop the kind of relationship where I let my needs or wishes be known, maybe even have a little reminder note I put on the refrigerator, ONCE…and then let her choose when and if to comply with the request, which she might choose to do as a special surprise one weekend, or do in way differently, probably even better, than I might have requested.  As a result, she will feel good about knowing she is doing something she knows that matters to me, and I will have a pleasant surprise  as I receive a gift of a nice service done in response to a request, and we will have grown our love and affection for one another just a tiny bit more.  And THAT is a good thing!


The same principle can apply with our children, our co-workers or subordinates at work, or in a host of other relationships.  The way we make our requests can foster hostility, or friendship and love.  

Will it always work?  Probably not.  There are things we may simply have to decide we will just have to do for ourselves.  But choosing to take away somebody’s opportunity to be nice to us is in all likelihood, rarely a good choice.  

Who knows how many divorces would have never occurred if the couples had applied these few simple words...


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Peace - At What Cost?

LIFE AND LOVE…
IN THE REAL WORLD



“Admitting that we ought to try the novel and absurd experiment in politics of tying up the hands of government from offensive war founded upon reasons of state, yet certainly we ought not to disable it from guarding the community against the ambition or enmity of other nations…Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count on the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others…To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility would be to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.”
Excerpt from The Federalist Papers #34---Alexander Hamilton

Isn't it interesting that the founders of the United States, just a couple hundred years ago, included this kind of statement in the Federalist papers?  

They were explaining that while they might desire to create a country that desires peace, that alone would not guarantee the existence of peace simply because not everybody seeks that same goal.  

Now I will be the first to grant that the history of the U.S. includes a lot of conflicts, some of which could be used to challenge whether or not the U.S. has been a truly peace loving country.  However, there have also been times when our entry into conflict was not just for our own purposes, but for the interests and well-being of others.  And the way we have helped countries after their defeat, represents a different way of treating conquered nations that has at times been exemplary.  

Having said that, though, I think there is great wisdom in the Hamilton's words.  

                           Our desire to have peace, does not determine whether or not our               nation will be drawn into war.  

The wording of this document makes clear that both parties have to desire peace for peace to be attainable.  

Oh, I suppose there is a sense in which that could be considered untrue.  For example, Hitler would have been willing to make peace with the United States--all we had to do was be willing to submit to his absolute authority and be willing to help kill all the Jews and any Christians who disagreed with Hitler or his anti-Semitic policies, as well as others designated inferior or undesirable.  

And nobody can say that ISIS or Boko Haram wouldn't be willing to negotiate peace with others.  All that is required is for us all to be willing to bow to the new "caliphate" and to live under an antiquated interpretation called “Sharia law,” and demand that all women be appropriately covered so that not even a single hair would appear that could "cause" some poor man to lust.  Any takers?

Noble though the ideal is that we could just sit down and talk things out with people of radical points of view, just as the writers of the Federalist Papers were keenly aware, in this real world there are individuals who are more interested in having their way than they are in having peace that would require any kind of compromise.  

By that same Federalist guidance, our government officials are expected to recognize those realities of life in this world and respond accordingly.  Theologically, these issues exist because of “the Fall” and the sinful nature of humankind.

Let me point out, though, that there are those, like the Society of Friends (Quakers), Mennonites, Amish and others, who actually practice pacificism, even at personal cost to themselves.  Biblically, their lives are based on teachings such as that “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  

I admire their sincerity and their idealism.  Maybe I should be the same.  

Even if I did, it may well be that what I practice as an individual be different from what is required of governmental authority, which is expected to protect all its citizens from aggression.  

At the same time, the scriptures are also clearly against the opposite mistake, which is putting trust for protection in military power INSTEAD of in God, rather than recognizing that the military power might be a tool used by God.  

That was perhaps best illustrated in the story of David and Goliath, where Goliath came with weapons of war mocking God, and David came to battle with a few stones in the NAME of God.  

Frankly, I firmly believe that this trust in military power was a primary factor in the victory by the Allied Forces in World War II.  Though I also think an argument could be made that many in the United States have forgotten where their trust ought to be.  (Without diminishing the foreign aid and other generosity by the people of the U.S., I have often wondered if we had spent as much money and research on weapons of peace as we have weapons of war, what kind of world we might have helped create.)

Sadly, the real life of conflict I just described on an international scale, also exists in many marriages, households and families.  

There are many individuals experiencing that fact while in the midst of divorce or suddenly faced with contemplating divorce.  

There cannot truly be peace with a person who refuses peace.  

Some individuals in marriage choose peace at any price, but that might mean being willing to accept that one's spouse sleeps around every week, or being willing to accept the physical and emotional scars of abuse...neither one of which fits any legitimate definition of a healthy marriage.  Others experience the brokenness of strained relationships with children or other family members.  

Many of our families at many times are very far from our best aspirations and ideals, wouldn't you say?  

If we cannot effectively and consistently maintain peace within marriages of two, or in our households of a few, then is it realistic to think we are going to manage to do so between nations of millions, which include people we don't even know or may not love as much as we do individuals in our own homes?  Not that the pursuit of peace and for people to be able to live in harmony with one another are not noble goals to pursue in our marriages, household and world, but we must pursue them with open eyes and realistic perspectives.  That might be worth remembering the next time you hear of another war between countries.  It also might be worth remembering the next time you hear of another divorce.


Forgive me for not looking up the precise wording he used, but in his books recounting his years in the White House, Henry Kissinger writes that historians often talk about countries existing side by side, until the moment war breaks out between them.  

Kissinger then goes on to say that a more accurate view of the history of mankind might be described as nations at war with one another, and hat every once in a while, peace breaks out.  

I do believe one of our most godly moments is when we are the ones who actively help peace break out…in our homes, our communities, our churches and our world.  Or to at least be involved in trying.   And sometimes that means leaning on and supporting those who are the peace keepers in our world.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

When God Chooses Your GPS Route!

Rerouting!

I’m not a big fan of those little GPS things that tell you which way to drive to get somewhere.  I like the maps they offer, because they help me find roads I might not otherwise know about from the larger maps I carry, but I don’t like a little gadget telling me which way to go.  Especially because I often frustrate it, as I enjoy driving alternate routes, and when I do so the GPS gals hate it.  For what seems like an eternity, they say “please turn around at the next opportunity” until they finally give up on me, at which point, with disgust and disappointment in their electronic little voices they say, “rerouting.”  They hate that.  They probably file a report with the NSA or something, too, just for spite.

This past weekend, my wife and I had plans, which involved a couple long days of driving, a family get together and a high school drama production.   What was NOT in the plans was the huge snowstorm that would overwhelm Texas, huge that is in geographic terms, only an inch or so in terms of how bad the snowstorm was.  An inch or two is not a big deal in Kansas, but in Texas….well, let’s just say that snow removal and winter storm preparedness is not the forte of the Lone Star State.   

As a result, we got to be the ones who were the GPS system!  Which is to say, we had established the planned route for the weekend, but God had something else in mind.  First, the plane we were supposed to meet at the airport when we arrived was delayed.  Then cancelled and rescheduled.  Next, the road we were on was shut down because of a wreck somewhere up the way, so we got out my atlas and the GPS map on the device and then we found a way we could reroute onto another road.  When we met a friend near the airport to await arrival, we got word the family member’s flights were cancelled, and she would not make it.  Then we got word that the drama production had been cancelled for the next night.  

Like the GPS, we were thinking…wait, go back, go back…and finally end up saying to ourselves, “rerouting”.  In one case we got off a highway and took another road to reach our destination.  In another case, we changed dinner plans and ended up with a less hurried meal with a friend.  Another aspect changed where I was staying, one night with the friend instead of two.  Rerouting, rerouting.  Rolling with the punches is the phrase that used to be applied.  But then this morning I got to thinking, maybe there is more than I realize.

When the GPS yells at me to turn around, it is because it is under the mistaken notion that it knows what I am wanting to do.  It reroutes when it finally figures out that I’m not doing what it thought I was doing.  The next morning, after all the reroutes the previous night, I began thinking about whether I really was like the GPS and clueless as to what this whole trip was about to begin with.  

That is, I thought we were coming down for the family get together, including the individual who didn’t make it, and the play.  

Perhaps God had something else in mind.  

Maybe those weren’t the purposes God had in mind for the trip.  Maybe I only THOUGHT I knew what God was planning.  Maybe the real purpose God had was for us to have a weekend away to rest.  Or maybe it was so I could see my friend, and the other planned events were what would get me here.  Or maybe it is about a different person in the family, or a different moment in the family interactions.  My rerouting may be nothing more than adjusting my direction to the circumstances God brings into my life.


In my last blog, I spent some time talking about meanings to be found in the upheaval of life and divorce.  

Today, I’d like to suggest a step further, that maybe when your marriage fell apart and you were forced to restructure your life accordingly, maybe it was like my little trip.  

Maybe God was forcing you to reroute, because you only THOUGHT you knew what he had in mind for you, and only through the forced reroutings will you end up on the road that leads to the purposes God actually does have in mind for you.  

Make no mistake, God DOES have purpose for your life, and that purpose is the one that is good.  In fact, it is the best.  Just remember that while you are trying to figure out how to reroute!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Purpose of a Failed Marriage

What a Waste!   Or Not?


 The early days of divorce are often so terribly difficult.  One faces uncertainty uncertainty about almost every aspect of life in one way or another.  But the uncertainty is not always about the external things in life; there is also uncertainty within as one is filled with much self-doubt (which occurs for most people in life at some point, though perhaps not with the same intensity).

What is wrong with me that he/she doesn’t love me anymore? 

I must not have tried hard enough, otherwise I would still be married.

What is wrong with my judgment that I would marry somebody who would leave me?  (Sometimes phrased as, “that I always seem to pick such losers.) 

How could I have missed God’s voice so badly back when we got married, because surely God wouldn’t want me to marry someone knowing we would divorce later? 

Why did this happen to me?

Could anyone ever really love me?

In the course of those regrets, one may wish he/she could go back to before the marriage began, and start again with the opportunity to make different choices.  As if being able to go back like that would make everything okay now.  However, as is demonstrated so clearly in that beloved old Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” going back and making different choices would have many more consequences than we realize (a theme used in many other stories as well).

I want to focus on one of the things that gets overlooked in that grieving and doubting time of life, which is the way the lesson of that movie describes the real life impacts life experiences have on us as people.  That is to say, all the experiences of your life have combined to shape you into the person you are today.  Each joy, each life changing moment, each encounter with another person, and more than that, all the experiences of your marriage have helped forge the person you are today.  You might think that if you could go back you would choose differently, but you only see the need to choose differently because you have now seen the outcome, and only now have the understanding and perspective to make different choices for the future, not the past. 

There are things even a divorcing individual has learned in marriage and from that marriage partner, some of them very hard lessons to learn, that he/she would not have known without those lessons.  Things like, “I thought this was the kind of person who would be best for me, but now I realize that these other characteristics are more important for me.”  Or, “I believed a marriage could last with these foundations stones, but now know that something else/more is needed to make a marriage work.”  There can be a new self-understanding as one realizes what really is important to them, or as one selects which building blocks to retain for the next phase of life.  Or the individual may not have entered the career he/she did, or been as successful at it as he/she was, or may not have moved to the area where best friends now live all around….so many shaping things come through marriage, even marriages that fail.  One of the most important things of all may be to realize that the children you love would not have been without that relationship. 

As in all of life, some shaping feels very negative, some seems to bring positive growth.  It seems to me that it is important during a period of self-doubt and a time of questioning everything about the marriage now falling apart, to once in a while be able to step back and say to oneself, “And yet…”    All these things are hard and sad, and yet…he/she brought this to my life, he/she taught me that, he/she help me accomplish this, God used that certain aspect to help me grow this way…      

IN OTHER WORDS, though in the period of self-doubt you may feel like everything was such a failure and such a waste, in time and with some perspective, you can begin to recognize that God still used your marriage with purpose in your life, even though it may not have the purpose you were expecting.  And in faith you can trust that somehow, that shaping was preparing you for what God has ahead for you in the years to come. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Original Design... Marriage and Mardi Gras

WHAT HAPPENED?



Do you ever hear the debates about how laws here in the United States are understood and applied today, and the debaters argue what the original intention of the framers of the constitution was and how far we have drifted from that?  It occurs to me there are lots of areas like that.

I am not from a formal or “high” church tradition, so don’t really pay a lot of attention to the church calendar (or liturgical calendar) that some other churches use.  Today is celebrated in many churches as Ash Wednesday, the marker for the beginning of Lent, which is a season to reflect on one’s life prayerfully with repentance and humility to prepare for Easter.  

For recent days and weeks, New Orleans has made the headlines again with their Mardi Gras celebration, which ended last night on “Fat Tuesday.”  Lots of people really enjoy those floats and celebrations.  And yet, though I cannot say exactly how it got to be the way it is, the current practice seems to have become, “Lent is coming when we are supposed to deny ourselves, so let’s have one last party bash before it starts.” 

Somehow, I doubt that the kind of things that happen with Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans or down in Rio de Janeiro were what church leaders had in mind when they originally created the season of Lent, don’t you?  In fact, I wonder what percentage of the people who were involved in Mardi Gras will be as enthusiastically involved in the reflective and repentant tradition of Lent.  It is kind of like priorities got all twisted around somehow, it seems to me.  But this blog isn’t about Mardi Gras and Lent, it’s about how things so often get twisted around from what was originally intended. 

For instance, marriage has gotten twisted around, too.  And I don’t mean by the current debates in our culture of what does and does not constitute a legal marriage.  Instead, I am referring to husbands and wives who marry, but only to a point.  That is, they get married and will stay that way as long as things don’t get too hard.  If they get too hard, then they will simply divorce and find somebody else to marry and hope that doesn’t get too hard, too.  That is not the same as,
“’till death do you part,” is it? Marriages have wonderful times in them, but sometimes things DO get difficult, and those times require extra hard work and commitment to get through them.  That, it seems to me, is part of the original design of marriage, too:  for a husband and wife to have a life partner with whom they can face all the trials of life.  Sometimes to be able to do so requires serious marriage counseling, and may take years to work through, but marriage is about that kind of partner commitment.

Another way marriage has gotten twisted around has to do with the way couples treat one another.  Sadly, some in the Christian tradition, have decided that since Ephesians 5 mentions that the wife is supposed to submit to the husband, then that means the husband can live in the home like a dictator, issuing orders that nobody should question or disobey.  

Somehow those folks never seem to notice that just a few verses before it says that they are to submit TO ONE ANOTHER, or that what is expected of the husband is that he lay down his life and make his wife the top priority for his protection, support and love.  And, in extreme cases, that dictator may even feel justified in using physical force to beat into submission the wife who questions him.  

In a similar way, sometimes individuals choose to have a twisted sort of partnership, one in which one partner is blamed for everything that goes wrong and considered the cause of all the problems.   It is hard to counsel with such individuals, because they are so often unwilling to look at themselves and their own actions or change.

Divorce has also become twisted.  The Bible makes clear provision for divorce, even to the point of prescribing the ceremony by which it is to be done.  However, it isn’t presented as the solution to the, “we’ve grown apart” syndrome.  A couple who has “grown apart” has the choice available to them to “grow back together,” if they are willing to put for the effort.  In other words, divorce wasn’t intended merely as a way out for couples who don’t want to work through hard times.  It is for those marriages in which something has become so twisted that one partner is being extremely mistreated or abandoned.  Perhaps that is why the ceremony has the wife spit in the man’s face!  It is her chance to show the man has not lived up to his obligations.  And that particular ceremony makes plain that for a marriage to truly work, both parties have to be willing to try, which often is not the case. 

I wonder how things would be if couples seeking a divorce (excepting those where one partner’s physical safety is at high risk), would be required by the court to first go through at least a year’s (or maybe two) worth of intensive marriage counseling with no incidents of adultery allowed in that time.  And maybe have the counselor sign off that both individuals really were trying to follow the advice provided.  Because really, isn’t that more the idea of when divorce should be allowed, only as an extremely last resort, instead of simply a way to get out of the hard things?  It’s like we want the Mardi Gras, just don’t make us go through the self-denial and introspection of Lent.

I think there are lots of things that we allow to move far from the original intent.  Church buildings that have become so important that its carpet is more protected than the struggling family next door.  Or communities of faith that have moved from support and faith groups into cliques of insiders and outsiders.  Churches develop a specific perspective, which turns into a denomination and then can become an encumbrance instead of an assisting development. 


I wonder if there are things in your life (and mine) in which you have strayed from the original design and intent, things that have led you down paths that are not helpful.  Maybe this would be a good day to consider those things, whether it is in the area of personal habits, work ethic, spiritual life or personal relationships.  It is a good thing every now and again to double check whether we have allowed our lives to go awry from the things we know to be true and good.  But double checking isn’t nearly as important as doing something to make the necessary changes!