I woke up at 4:20 a.m. this morning for the “privilege” of running in 81 degree heat with ninety percent humidity. It was awful. August can certainly be a challenge for Houston runners.
That’s why, a few weeks ago, I was excited to run in Albuquerque. Lisa and I flew in a day early for a pastors’ conference in part so I could enjoy running in a dry climate. I went out for a ten-miler the first morning, excited that, even though it was still kind of hot (around eighty), the humidity was only thirteen percent.
The last time Houston had thirteen percent humidity, baby Moses was floating down a river in Egypt.
Since it was only ten miles with low humidity, I thought I could get by with a small bottle of Gatorade, but that clearly wasn’t enough. I was seriously hurting toward the end of the run and couldn’t figure out why. Lisa had gone biking and felt the same way. We didn’t recover very quickly, either, which concerned me as I was scheduled to speak that evening.
“What’s wrong with me?” I asked. “This should have felt like an easy run.”
Later that evening, one of the organizers asked about our day. Lisa told him about my run and he said, “You do know Albuquerque is a mile high city, don’t you?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” I replied, not wanting to admit that the only thing I did know about Albuquerque is that the Partridge Family turned it into a killer song in 1970. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38XsRcDmTFc)
“We’re actually just a touch higher than Denver,” he added.
Given that my house in Houston is literally just thirty-two feet above sea level, I figured out why that ten mile run felt so difficult. I thought Albuquerque would be easier to run in than Houston because of the lack of humidity. I didn’t even consider altitude.
The same principle applies in marriage. If you think leaving the problems in one marriage will make you happier in a second marriage, you lack a biblical understanding of human nature. The second marriage will have its own set of problems, just different ones.
James 3:2 says we all stumble in many ways. According to the Bible, trading partners is merely trading problems. Yes, if you leave your husband you may be free of his passivity, but you may also wake up to discover that husband number two can seem a little controlling or embarrassingly confrontational. Yeah, your wife’s care free attitude might seem a little tiresome at times when she forgets to do things she’s agreed to do, but wife number two has a number of other issues just waiting for you to discover on the other side of the marriage altar.
I was so focused on getting away from humidity I didn’t even think about altitude. And in marriage, you can get so focused on a frustrating character trait that you become all but blind to the potential problems inherent in marrying an entirely different spouse. Which explains God’s wisdom that, absent abuse or persistent unfaithfulness (which goes far beyond being a “problem”), you’re best to stay where you are and learn how to manage it or, if necessary, even to endure it.
I can’t manage running in humidity. I could dress for all kinds of rain in Seattle; it’s not possible to “dress” for humidity. Clothes only make it worse. Some things, for some seasons, have to be endured. But come November, when my Seattle friends have running shoes that haven’t been dry since Labor Day, I’ll be enjoying carefree afternoon jaunts in a gentle sixty degree climate. In the same way, don’t let a spouse’s few challenges blind you to their benefits—benefits a new spouse may well lack.
There’s no perfect fit, no perfect spouse, and no perfect marriage. But there are a lot of great marriages and great spouses that get even better with time. Your best chance for happiness is to stay where you are, learn how to manage your partner’s weaknesses, keep reminding yourself of his/her strengths, and live a full life based on Matthew 6:33. That’s a much surer path to spiritual health and happiness than to go through the crucible of divorce only to marry an entirely different set of problems with spouse number two.