Recently I listened to a podcast where a man in his early 30’s told the story of his relationship with a young woman with whom he had been living peacefully for more than 7 years. They looked at each other one day in the park and said, “Maybe we should get married.” Debating it for awhile, they decided they had never really dated anyone else nor had they ever “played the field.” So maybe they should do a 30 day “rumspringa.” (Rumspringa is an Amish idiom that generally means “adolescence” and is a period in the teens mostly used by boys to try out “English” ideas and culture, i.e. modern America. After a couple of years of this, they decide whether to return and be baptized into the Amish or not. Most do. It has nothing to do with relationships or marriage.) Of course they had no true idea how the Amish practice actually works nor it’s intent. Instead they decided to basically move out and be immoral for 30 days. The point of this was to “test the relationship.” I was driving somewhere when I listened to this and starting rummaging for an airsickness bag. I shouted at my radio “You stupids!” How did this idiot culture of ours lose all sight of how relationships work? After grumbling awhile, I realized that this is a not a new problem.
My prediction as I listened was immediate. Your long term relationship is cooked, toast, done, terminated, over. You cannot play around with it. Once you pretend it doesn’t matter then it doesn’t. Of course, I expected the radio would produce a happy ending that would encourage others to experiment. One does not experiment with faithfulness or commitment. In the real world, this would fail.
To my utter surprise, the guy described how hard it was to date and “sleep with” (Lord knows, I hate that term!) girls and not become emotionally involved. Kudos to him for being perceptive enough to notice the connection. Totally dumb of him to not imagine his girl would have the same problem. He would level with every girl he dated (“I am experimenting,” he would tell them) and discover they would have sex with him anyway. Of course, they would be furious when he would quickly move on to the next girl. That anger was a clue as to their actual motive for “sleeping with” him.
He and his girl got together again after 30 days and she told him she wished for an extension of 30 more days. He agreed (as if he had a choice.) After 30 more days, they met in the same park where the evil idea was born and ended their long, peaceful “marriage/cohabitation.”
At the end of the program, the young man was asked by the host what he gleaned from this experience. He said, that if he ever married (God protect the girl who marries him!), he will insist on a seven year termination with an option to renew. That way, he can test the relationship like he did this one. The rumspringa had proven to him that this original relationship had been flawed. It could not stand the test and so one should test them all this way. This boy needed better instruction in school. His reasoning skills need help.
Instead marriages and cohabitations (often modern equivalents of marriage) are sustained by faithfulness, determination, unselfishness and commitment. (Ironically the true divorce rate today is lower than it was in the 1960’s. Marriage is still a strong foundation for society but there are fewer of them.) This young couple experimented to see if the relationship could stand 30 days of unfaithfulness, selfishness and a lack of commitment to each other. This bulletin just in! ….No.
Some relationships can recover from this kind of intentional mayhem but the pain takes years to overcome. The only reason there is any hope are the fountains of the grace of God from which anyone can drink if they wish. That is the irony of this story. Had they truly been committed to each other, they could have told a story of recovering from lunacy and evil that might have inspired others.
The host of the show had listened politely to this entire story but at the end he said, “I don’t know. I find great comfort in the commitment of marriage to my wife. I know that no matter what happens, we will stick together and work it out.” Amen.
I Corinthians 129 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (NASB)