Olivia Pope from the show Scandal is a mastermind. A genius of female fortitude, one using her smarts and looks to get what she wants. She poses in great strength, making decisions with focus and determination. She repairs reputations, wins elections, and helps restore faith in the republic. And she also sleeps with the president.
Funny thing about Olivia: she’s got all the admirable traits one would typically want in a woman. However, she is the secretive mistress for the President of the United States who happens to be an (unhappily) married man. His wife is a nagging drunk, one who herself has been known to sleep around on her husband.
And so we have it, the way it plays so often in America: we root for the adulterers who seem to have found a happier life together. We don’t cheer on the marriage or yearn for reconciliation: instead, we hunger for the passionate romance that seems to only exist (in TV land at least) in extra-marital affairs.
But why? Because marriage isn’t sexy. It’s not instant. It requires work. It forces us to be uncomfortable at times. It makes us compromise a little, and serve a lot.
Marriage is hard. I know this simply because I’ve been married over ten years. Marriage only gets harder when there are kids involved. Now your service and compromise are stretched further, your money tighter, and your time divided more.
All this to say I was saddened this week to learn one of my favorite musicians Derek Webb and his wife Sandra McCracken are divorcing. I don’t know either of them personally, but Derek’s music has had a profound influence on my views on the church.
Hearing this news affected me in this sense: no one, not anyone who is married is immune to the great difficulties marriage brings. No marriage likewise is exempt from sin affecting it in some manner. I don’t know (nor do I need to know) the particulars of the Webb/McCracken split, but that it grieves the heart of God to see any of his married children separate what He has joined together.
It saddens me whenever I heard about college friends or high school friends going through a divorce. Perhaps I’m somewhat numb to it since I grew up observing a great godly marriage and have a sister that is in one. From all inclinations, divorce seems like such a cold break. The shallow emotions of school romances that ended are nothing similar. Divorce breaks people. It breaks families.
Because the very concept of marriage is tough, many of us aren’t really good at it. Marriage is an idea that a man and woman will stay united together until they die. It means not giving up over a fight or money or pride. It means talking things out and working things out. It means healing of deep scars and gracious forgiveness of dark sins.
Marriage is supposed to be a mirror image of the way Christ loves the church. Certainly, our love can never be that perfect in our marriages, but if that is the goal, we should anticipate a heavy workload if we want to succeed.
It’s easy to root for Olivia Pope. Her sass, wit, and determination are laudable. The moral ambiguity of her relationship with a married man, however, gives reason for pause. Is she seduced by the power? Is he seduced by the physical attraction? Maybe they’re both enamored with fantasies of a relationship without fights and flaws. One without grand responsibilities. One that doesn’t require work, just passion.
Maybe that’s why too many of us root for Olivia Pope. We want a wife with a perfect body and beautiful face. Women want a man with great power who is respected by his peers. We want the money, the romance, and the “I can do whatever I want without any consequences” lifestyle.
The real scandal of marriage is resisting the urge to run. Not letting petty arguments turn into devastating fights. Not letting lack of forgiveness turn into roots of bitterness. Not letting our sexual desires reign over God’s desires for us. Not letting the world tell us to give up, get out, and move on.