Marriage Gal Michelle usually writes our blogs, but Marriage Guy Tim is taking a turn at it today ...
You'd have to be pretty unplugged these days to have missed the highly-publicized split between mega-stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Their five years of marriage was probably longer than most Hollywood marriages, but I find any broken marriage tragic and sad. But that said, why would I say that we can learn a lot from their breakup? Most of us aren't Hollywood actors or actresses, aren't millionaires, and aren't constantly in the public spotlight, right? True, but I contend that anyone dating, considering marriage, or already married, can learn a thing or two here.
Passion for What You Believe is Critical (Revelations 3:15-16), but Will Cost You (Matthew 8:18-22)
Tom Cruise was and is deeply committed to Scientology; he's not apologetic nor has he hidden this. I may believe that he's deeply deceived and wrong, but he certainly has a passion for what he believes. Katie Holmes, on the other hand, willingly left the Catholic church and participated in Scientology, but now appears to be returning to Catholicism. We have to be passionate about God and about our beliefs; God wants us hot, but He'd rather we be cold than luke-warm. Tom certainly isn't luke-warm, and it cost him his marriage (and potentially child custody). Jesus is anything but tentative about these risks in following Him; follow Him first, and everything else becomes secondary (no matter the cost). Lest this sound like following God means a lack of strong marriage or family . . .
Don't Become Unequally Yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
This is a common theme for Christians in pre-marriage classes and dating advise and remains as true as ever. Apparently, this is true even for other faiths. If you can't share the most important of things (common belief in God), how can you truly be one as a couple? This difference (which started as a complete difference in religions and became an issue of level of commitment to the same religion) drove Tom and Katie to divorce. How do you raise your children up in the Lord if you can't agree on who He is or what He wants or how important He is? Anyone considering marriage should consider this point before any other. To look at this concept from the positive side, dating and marrying someone who shares your beliefs in God creates the strongest of foundations for your union. The most important issues and concerns are settled; everything else is a minor detail in comparison. Speaking from experiencing, worshipping with your spouse can be an amazing, intimate, bonding experience as God makes you more and more one and draws you both closer to Him. Then sharing that bond with your children creates an even closer relationship with them as well.
Now, if you find yourself already married to someone who has different beliefs, that doesn't mean you have no hope. It does mean that your love and gentleness will be critical to keeping peace, if it is possible. I'm not sure if Katie tried to work through things here first or not, but it is always worth the attempt.
Marriage Isn't Just About the Couple
In this particular divorce, the biggest issue is how Suri, their daughter, will be raised. Will Suri will be raised in Scientology or not? Ultimately, Suri will have to make a decision about her beliefs in God for herself, but I won't pretend that how she is raised won't have a big impact on her choice. If a mother and father cannot agree on the basic belief system to teach their children, not only can it be confusing for the kids, it can put them in the middle of parental arguments, fights, and (in this case) divorce. How will Suri feel as the years go by, knowing that the divorce was grounded in an argument concerning her? We don't want to put our kids in this kind of position. Additionally, I just read that divorce is actually harder on children than the death of a parent; take a minute to soak THAT one in. We cannot plan our marriages without considering the impacts on our children.
So, while I don't think we want to follow Tom & Katie's example, we do want to learn from them. After all, I'd rather learn from others' mistakes and avoid them than have to make them myself before I'm educated.