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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Surf and/or Turf”

I think we all wish life was as simple as this episode.

The hippogriff Terramar finds himself in a difficult situation when his father elects to move back topside and live as a hippogriff full-time while his mother elects to remain in the sea as a merpony–leading him to think he has to choose between the two of them. The dilemma has a rather handy solution when it turns out he doesn’t have to choose at all and can live between the two as he pleases, which is something both of his parents approve of.

Many saw this as the show making attempt at a metaphor for the issue of children going through a divorce. To me, it’s a bit unfortunate that they danced around it with a metaphor at all, because we are at the point where almost half of all marriages in the USA end in divorce so they might as well face reality. Yet even more unfortunate is that the resolution was so neat and tidy as, in my experience, divorces rarely end so “neatly”.

What I have seen more in my own life is the two individuals involved in a divorce having the absolute worst brought out of them; turning into deranged, irrational, hate-filled “creatures” (because “human” is a rather loose term at best in those cases). Everything becomes bitter, everything becomes hostile, everything becomes about one trying to get an edge on the other, and, in the middle of it all, both of them try to leverage their children as emotional weapons against one another. With few exceptions, I never see people at their most malicious, twisted, and depraved than when going through a divorce.

And of course, every time, it’s all “the other person’s fault”.

When it comes to social problems, a favorite target for a lot of Christian preachers is to rail against divorce. For them, that’s often an indicator about how “corrupt” and “godless” our society is becoming. I do think that’s a bit biased and oversimplistic (It seems one reason marriages last so long around the world has nothing to do with a want to breakup but rather the fact that society and the law frowns on the idea of divorce and often leaves one partner [almost always the woman] with little recourse to obtain a divorce or financial means if they go through with it; even if they are in an outright abusive relationship.), but that being said, I will admit…one of the reasons I think divorce is so commonplace in the USA at least is because we’re all addicted to the notion of instant gratification and hedonism. If it feels good, do it. If it looks cute, get it and get it now. If it feels bad later, then it can easily be disposed of and a new one obtained. That goes from everything from soft drinks to relationships.

As a member of a number of fan communities, I can tell the only criterion for wanting to see two characters as a couple is if they look cute together. Whether they have opposite personalities, no common ground, they’re enemies, or even if neither of them is interested in a same-sex partner…that doesn’t matter. It looks good together so do it. In the end, making a “cute couple” seems to be the only important thing. So it’s no surprise to me that I see younger people getting married while still having outstanding relationship problems or ones on the horizon that could cause a severe interpersonal strain, expecting that “love will let us work through it”, only for those same issues to never be resolved and cause a breakup later.

The very idea of instant gratification and hedonism is the natural antithesis to self-discipline and commitment. On one hand, you only ever pursue what gives you pleasure or satisfaction. If it gives you pain, the solution is to immediately seek out what gives you more pleasure and to abandon the old thing. On the other hand, self-discipline and commitment starts off by promising nothing but pain and discomfort with the idea of a reward either over the long term or in the future. Hence, you can’t emphasize one side without de-emphasizing the other. And since our society embraces one it’s natural the other will suffer.

Any couple that has lasted a long time together will tell you the same thing: marriage is a commitment. Like all misfortune in life, conflicts in a relationship are inevitable. Assuming that you are going to enter one and never have any is more of a fairy tale than a show about talking, pastel-colored ponies could ever be. And people will inevitably lose their temper or give in to their anger, frustration, or hurt and do or say things particularly bad and mean-spirited. What’s important is what you do in those times and what you are committed to doing no matter how painful it gets and how much work needs to be put into it.

Christians often quote Jesus in passages like Mark 10:8-12 when talking about marriage and divorce. However, perhaps they should also quote Luke 14:28-32. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” While Lord Jesus was referring to the cost of being His disciple in this passage, the same can be applied to marriage because, after all, the reason marriage is considered a sacred institution is because it represents the relationship of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). And as both relationships are lifelong commitments, then one would think it would make sense to not only plan for a long haul, so to speak, but to prepare to stick by it even when times are rough and relationships become rocky.

Finally, if divorce really is inevitable (and in many cases it will be), a Christian has a much greater responsibility to keep themselves from degenerating into hate and spite as so many divorcees do. Doing so means the hardest task of all: being honest with oneself. Contrary to what many exes would believe, it is a rarity that any relationship difficulty is simply the fault of one individual. (If nothing else, the other individual allowed a bad behavior to happen unchecked until it became an irreconcilable issue.) Strive hard to see and be humble enough to admit what was your part of the problem, always maintain a good attitude and Christ-like view of everyone (including the ex), and, like in this episode, make sure that your child never feels pressured to “take a side”.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for relationships and for the institution of marriage. Please grant that all of my relationships, especially those with my significant other, will personify the love of Christ and His people. Please also grant me the strength to be Christ-like in all times of interpersonal difficulty of my relationships, even if it comes to the point where a breakup is unavoidable. Finally, please help me to be honest and open with myself so that, in any difficulty, I will face what I am contributing to the problem and responsibly overcome it. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”