Last week, a supermarket cashier counted the kids in my cart and pronounced me a saint.

“Wow,” he said. “I can’t even handle my three—and that’s every other weekend!”

Everyone around us laughed, but I didn’t. I don’t know what to say to people like these, people to whom divorce is so normal it is even sometimes a joke.

Ask those three kids every other weekend if it’s a joke.

I was especially moved by writer Amy Henry’s recent blog post in which she described torn feelings about her own parents’ divorce. Though her parents divorced when she was an adult, and even after she had married and become a mother herself, the hurt is still raw and real:

Divorce–and I say this with all my being–sucks. It is a ripping of the fiber of a family.  A renting of the one thing that should never be rent.  A betrayal to everyone involved.

You promised.  Remember?  In sickness and in health.  Remember?  Yes.  But the vows never speak to the other things.  The little things.  The not-so-little things.  The layers of misunderstanding.  Of tiny hurts laid upon tiny hurts.  Of things said that can never, ever be taken back.  Of a love that started so strong that was, one cell at a time, rendered impotent.

I think her description of love is an especially startling one:

Love, as I reminded my little brother right after his wedding, is tender.  Ever so weak, it is a sapling, reaching toward the heavens in the hopes of what the future will bring.  Time, words, circumstances blow cold winds on that tender thing.  It’s a miracle any of us survives.

Is marital love a tender sapling? Maybe so.

I do know that in a culture where 50% of marriages end in divorce, where everyday people consider “every other weekend” parenting the stuff that jokes are made of, more of us would do well to think of married love that way. So that we might tend it carefully. So that we might nurture it, protect it, feed it, and make it grow. So that we might never take its future for granted.

So that we and our families might wind up on the other side of those sorry statistics.

(cross-posted at The Anchoress)