We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This can literally mean that what’s inside a book has little or nothing to do with what’s on the cover. But it can also apply to people and other inanimate objects. And while society is better about not “judging a book by its cover,” we’re sometimes to blame for “judging a book by its mother.”
This time I’m not talking books.
Instead, I’m talking about judging others based on their families.
Even in the Deep South, people now seem more accepting of various races and people who look different from them. It’s not uncommon to see someone in a suit sitting next to someone tatted up with ripped jeans. Yet, when it comes to families, we shake our heads and gossip.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for not letting kids spend the night with just anyone or not allowing kids to join up with any group of friends. And at developmental ages, we should look at the parents. There’s too much crazy going on to risk putting your child in an unGodly environment.
What I’m referring to is judging adults by their parents.
I never will forget a time when my parents’ divorce came back to haunt me. I was in my mid-twenties working as a copy editor for a Christian publisher. My first permanent “big girl” job. While working in the common area I overheard two editors talking about a young couple in marriage counseling.
One joked to the other: Both of the kids said their parents are divorced. I was thinking, “Yeah like this marriage is gonna last.”
I immediately stuck my head up from my work and shot back a comment without thinking. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The man who said it looked at me confused, so I felt the need to explain. “My parents are divorced. Does that mean that my marriage is doomed to fail?”
His face was a mixture of confusion and embarrassment. He mumbled something of an apology and said, “I had no idea your parents were divorced.” The way it came out could’ve almost sounded like a compliment to me, but that’s not how I received it.
He had prejudged another young couple strictly on the fact that their parents were divorced and that infuriated me. If I had kept quiet, there was no doubt he would go on assuming I grew up in an idealistic home where two parents lived happily ever after like many of the other Christian newlyweds working with us.
Nope. My parents fought most of my childhood and almost divorced years before finally throwing in the towel. I would’ve loved for it to not be that way, but it was. As a little girl, I prayed that my parents would love one another and not fight. I hated fighting and divorce then, and I still do.
I also once hated marriage.
As soon as the athlete I dated in high school started throwing around the word “marry” at the ripe old age of 18, I sent him packing. Sure, he planned on finishing to college first, but I knew in my heart I wouldn’t want to fight to make it work with him. I loved him to a point, but I wasn’t in love with him at all.
After that shocker, I decided to not worry about guys or the possibility of marriage and dove into college and career pursuits.
About a year later, I accidentally met a baseball player in a big truck with pretty blue eyes and a sarcastic mouth to match mine. That made me open to the possibility of a forever with someone. Still, I needed a good four years and lots of life experiences and answered questions to say, “I do.”
My parents’ divorce made me take marriage more seriously.
The night before my wedding day I considered not getting married. My husband knows this now, and he understands. It’s not that I didn’t love him and want to be with him forever. It’s that I was scared I couldn’t.
Seeing what my parents went through made me wonder if I could even be a wife. What did a good marriage look like? I had my grandparents as an example, but all my life they had been old. I didn’t know what it looked like to start out right or have two parents live in harmony with young kids.
The truth is, none of us can do marriage right in our own strength.
The longer I’m married, the more I realize this. We all need Jesus. Even people with generations of happily married ancestors in their DNA.
I’ve seen friends and family get divorced for all kinds of reasons – big and small. Some have even reconciled and remarried. Others have gone on to marry new spouses and have a better marriage the second time around.
In all instances, we’re not immune to temptations or a failing marriage. That’s why we have to constantly keep God first and each other second. So much in the world can distract us from God’s perfect plan. Other people, careers, money and even hobbies can get in the way.
Careful with the cover
So don’t think for one minute that because your cover is crisp and clean and your parents lived like Leave It to Beaver that the devil can’t work his way into your marriage.
And don’t think that someone who has a torn and tattered cover and comes from a disheveled author is any less capable of carrying out a Godly marriage than you. Or, that someone who has managed to mangle the pages of their own life’s story through a divorce is any less of a person.
We’re all humans trying our best to make it in a fallen world. Meanwhile, God has a Book of Life with many names written inside. And we’d probably be surprised by some of those names since their earthly troubles don’t exactly match the golden cover of the only Book that really matters.