In the joy of commitment is found the enduring results of stability. I commend to your attention a stable marriage relationship. The greater majority realize the benefits of growing up in a stable home where father and mother share a love-based commitment.

The fear of commitment generates relationship instability. Building enduring commitments requires time, sacrifice, and unending effort. A person can realize the joys of commitment but allow fear to block any attempt to build an enduring relationship.

Arkansas has this nation's second highest divorce rate. Marital instability is of such great concern that legislators passed a covenant marriage law. Arkansas is only the third state to pass a covenant marriage law.

For a couple to form a covenant marriage, he and she must fill out documents declaring this is their choice. They first engage in premarital counseling. They agree prior to marriage they will seek counseling if serious problems or struggles occur in their marriage.

In covenant marriages, legal separation (not divorce) may occur if a spouse commits adultery; a spouse commits a felony that results in sentencing; a spouse physically or sexually abuses his or her spouse or child; the couple lives apart continuously for two years; or habitual drunkenness and accompanying cruel treatment occurs for a year.

Divorce can occur only after counseling. Divorce can be granted only for the above abuses and only after a specified time period. Spouses from covenant marriages who divorce are limited in the kinds of suits they can bring against each other.

"Sounds serious!" Marriage is serious! "What possible value can a covenant marriage provide?" Time. When the greater majority of marriages are deeply troubled, negative emotions rule. Too often, divorce suits are filed when negative emotions are in control. Rarely are couples mutually committed to receiving help. The pain of negative emotions is so great that all one or both spouses consider is escaping the relationship. Opportunity for any form of relationship healing cannot occur because there is no time.

Can divorced people receive forgiveness and be a productive part of God's family? Yes. Jesus himself offered "living water" to a woman who was five times divorced (John 4). Will the instability created by divorce produce consequences? Yes.

An essential ingredient in stable marriages that endure: people who are willing to commit must marry people who are willing to commit.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 20 January 2002

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