"Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" ~ Mark 10:9

The older I get, the more frequently I see that marriage has lost the reverence it once held. To many, divorce is the best option when things just don't seem to work anymore.

Statistics from the Alabama Department of Health show that both marriage and divorce rates in the state have steadily declined since 1980. Despite this decline, Alabama's divorce rate of 3.7 per 1,000 individuals remains higher than the national rate of 2.9.

This is nothing of which to be proud. Divorce affects many more than just the two who were married and can have devasting results, especially for children.

Divorce was not an option in my household, nor was it ever discussed as I grew up. That didn't mean my parents or grandparents didn't have disagreements. It just meant that when they did, they immediately started working together to resolve the issues rather than tucking tail and running.

What many forget is that marriage is not a fairytale. It is living and working together as two imperfect people who daily extend grace to each other. It is recognizing that both partners are flawed and that perfect standards will never be met.

Because marriage is meant to be a beautiful love story written by Christ, not Disney, I wanted some advice from experts in the field of marriage. These individuals are not paid therapists or psychologists but people who actually conquered the task or continue to work on their own marriages.

My Mom was first on the list, and I asked for her thoughts on the big issues in today's marriages and why the rate of divorce is higher in Alabama than the national rate. "I think faith and family have a lot to do with it," she said, "and that when those are forgotten or left out, that's when things start to fall apart."

Looking at the meaning of faith, I discovered that it is defined as "Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof." 

Thus, marriage comes back to Christ. It's about how we can lay our lives down for someone else, just as Jesus did when He gave His life for us. Unfortunately, those who don't know Christ and thus haven't experienced His example of forgiveness, grace, and mercy would likely have a harder time demonstrating those same things in a marriage.

I then asked another expert, my Memaw, who was married over 60 years to my Poppy until he passed away. "I think it takes three to make a marriage work: Jesus, the husband, and then the wife," she said. "The main one in the marriage is Jesus, and without Him in the center, things will begin to crumble. Seeing that two imperfect people marry with human wants and needs … if those aren't covered under Christ than human nature gets carried away."

Memaw continued:

“I married a Christian man who knew his roles and responsibilities, and he took those very seriously. I always felt safe and secure in all the decisions he made for our family, because I knew he was looking to Christ and reading the Bible for instruction. He consistently put God before other things and encouraged me to do the same.”

She concluded her advice with, "Never go to bed angry, don't allow time to get between you two, and offer forgiveness immediately." In other words, "Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Eccl. 4:12)

From these two who have weathered years of marriage, it is evident that marriage is so much more than a feeling. In fact, after searching my own heart and the things that my spouse and I have been through in our marriage, we have found that feelings change daily. In fact, our love and respect grow daily, and the true feeling of love we have for each other is stronger now than ever before. I firmly believe that God allowed us to weather the trials only to come out with a deeper understanding of love – real love! This love can only be found through Christ.

I pray that more Alabamians come to value marriage, eventually bettering our divorce statistics in this state. I pray we will all have someone who continues to pour into our lives, reminding us of the marital covenants we made before God and our families. I pray we remember why those covenants are so important, not only to us but to our children and our children's children. I pray we leave a legacy of commitment, both to Christ and to our families. This is where things will truly change, and our statistics will be just that – statistics no one looks at anymore because marriages are strong and families are bonded together.

Ashley Carter is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Elmore County, where she and her husband run Farm to Table Living and Carter Farms. Ashley serves as Controller and Executive Assistant at 1819 News. She is currently working on an inspirational book of short stories. To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email ashley.carter@1819news.com.

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