Joel Stepanek

Marriage Impossible?

About two weeks ago my world was rocked. As I mindlessly scrolled through a sea of 'tweets,' I saw something that made me gasp.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were getting a divorce.

Nooooooooo . . . (cue dramatic face)

How could this have happened? I mean, Tom, I remember seeing you on Oprah over five years ago jumping up and down on a couch talking about how in love with Katie you were. Okay, so I watched it on YouTube after the video went viral, but same thing.

And Katie, you walked away from the Catholic Church for Tom to join the Church of Scientology. There must have been something there in order for you to leave 2,000 years of Tradition built on Jesus Christ the Only Son of God.

Oh, Tom and Katie, what went wrong? What happened that made a love so exciting, so public, so strange and sort of off-putting, end? It made me wonder about the general state of marriage; about half end in divorce. It seems more and more that marriage is a mission impossible (see what I did there?). As I sat staring at the message announcing their divorce, I had a revelation:

A house built on sand cannot withstand storms.

Now, before you think I came up with that clever little bit of advice all on my own, please reference Matthew 7:24-27 (Spoiler Alert: Jesus said it). Tom and Katie's divorce is tragic. Divorce always is in every circumstance, especially when it involves children. But the truth is that Tom and Katie's marriage was already at a disadvantage from the start because it was built on a foundation that couldn't withstand the storms of public life, paparazzi, tabloids, and Twitter.

It was built on the human idea of marriage … two people getting together who are in love, who want tax benefits and would like to legitimately live together. But, like every human thing, eventually it is subject to wear and tear, and even destruction.

Tom and Katie's divorce got me thinking about my upcoming marriage. What things are my fiancÌÄ®ÕÌâå© and I building our relationship on? Are the things we are building our life on strong enough to withstand storms? While I may at times doubt my own ability as a human to withstand many events, I do not doubt Jesus Christ and His ability to sustain me.

That is why my fiancÌÄ®ÕÌâå© and I are building our marriage on Christ's Church, the Catholic Church. That is why we are going through marriage preparation classes and learning about Natural Family Planning. That is why we are getting married in a Catholic Church in front of an altar with a priest instead of on a beach somewhere.

A lot of our friends think we’re crazy for doing these things. But we’re doing them because we don't just want the human institution of marriage … we want God's institution of marriage. That kind of marriage involves three people … me, her, and God. That kind of marriage is built on the strong foundation of the Church, and when storms come that marriage isn't going to fall apart because it will have something else: grace.

Marriage within the Church is a Sacrament, that means it is an outward sign of God's grace; when my fiancÌÄ®ÕÌâå© and I say 'I do,' God is going to literally empower our marriage with His life (grace) and fortify it from within. Pretty sweet, huh? You don't get that kind of thing from a wedding on a beach.

People may say that the Church is outdated in its ideas about marriage, but I disagree. There are many tragic examples of couples who built their relationships on sand and wound up very unhappy. Tom and Katie are just the most recent and most public example.

For me, I would rather not risk building something as big and important as marriage on a foundation I'm not sure about. I'll stick with what I know is strong … and that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Joel Stepanek

About the Author

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.)