A number of years ago, there was a television program called “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” Never mind if you didn’t get to see it. You really didn’t miss much.

As the show began, 50 women were chosen from a pool of over 3,000 to have the privilege of not just meeting, but marrying (sight unseen), a genuine, living, breathing millionaire.

As part of the competition there was a “beachwear contest,” because, host Jay Thomas rationalized, Mr. Moneybags wanted his ladylove to be “as comfortable on the beach as he is.” There was also a “personality test,” in which ten semi-finalists answered intelligent, perceptive questions such as: How would you spend his money? And, would you mind if he went to “strip clubs”?

As the women were interviewed, millionaire Rick Rockwell watched from a high-tech perch. The ultimate winner was a nurse named Darva Conger who, along with the new husband she had just met, walked away with more than $100,000 in loot, including a new SUV and a $35,000 three-carat diamond ring.

What’s next for so-called “reality TV”? “Who Wants to Sell Your Soul”? The newlyweds quickly headed for divorce court – or at least an annulment. Interviewed on “Good Morning America,” blushing bride Darva said, “I don’t think I was thinking clearly; I committed an error in judgment.” (Right. Just a “small misjudgment” like double parking, or maybe forgetting to click into a seatbelt.) She said she didn’t want to disparage her husband, Mr. Rockwell, but after spending some time with him she concluded, “I was very uncomfortable around him. He’s just not a person that I would ordinarily have a friendly relationship with.”

She said they spent their “honeymoon” in separate rooms, and she told him, “I am not married to you. In my heart, I’m not married to you.” To everyone who thought the show debased the institution of marriage, Rockwell said he “really had a romantic ideal” in his mind, but he agreed an annulment was likely. It turns out that “Prince Charming” had a restraining order against him – for allegedly hitting an old girlfriend and threatening her life.

What happened to this storybook marriage? You’re telling me a TV reality show isn’t the perfect foundation for a long-lasting relationship? What a shock!

Now we can laugh at something as ridiculous and far-fetched as this. Yet tragically, marriages that have lasted for five, 10, even 20 years are falling apart at a record rate. This breakdown of the family has sent shock waves across our whole nation.

When we tamper with God’s plan, we do so at our own peril.

Not only is divorce devastating to the husband and wife, but it is unbelievably damaging and destructive in the lives of children. “Kids are resilient,” we hear people say. “They’ll bounce back.”

But it’s a lie.

Nobody ever completely bounces back from the rending of a family.

Dr. Armand Nicholi, a respected professor at the Harvard Medical School and a staff physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, “The breakdown of the family contributes significantly to the major problems confronting our society today. Research data make unmistakably clear a strong relationship between broken families and the drug epidemic, the increase of violent crime, and the unprecedented epidemic of suicide among children and adolescents.”

In a very real way, as the Scripture says, “the sins of the parents are visited upon the children.” According to Father Facts, a publication of the National Fatherhood Initiative, children of divorce are much more likely to drop out of school, to engage in premarital sex and to become pregnant than children of intact families.

Consider this one telling fact: Seventy percent of children in state reform institutions grew up in single-parent homes. An article from Newsweek magazine from a number of years ago, entitled, “Breaking the Divorce Cycle,” details how the children of broken marriages carry deep wounds well into their adult lives.

The article goes on to say: “Divorce remains a central issue throughout their lives, no matter how well-adjusted they may seem to be. A hole in the heart is universal; there is a sense of having missed out on something that is a birthright, the right to grow up in a house with two parents. Compared with people who have grown up in intact families, adult children of divorce are more likely to have troubled relationships and broken marriages. A desire for stability sends some down the aisle at to young an age, and they end up in divorce court not long afterward.”

So you see, the cycle can continue from generation to generation.

Yet, in spite of these alarming statistics, the divorce rate rose 700 percent in the 20th century and hasn’t begun to top out in century 21. There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. Over a million children a year are involved in divorce cases. In Tampa, Fla., you can now get a divorce without leaving your car – drive thru divorces.

No couple can have a 100 percent guarantee that their marriage will never fall apart. Having said that, it is also true that there are some very practical, “no-brainer” steps you can take to protect your home from the plague of divorce that has swept across our country.

After one of the devastating wildfires that roar through Southern California from time to time, I saw a dramatic photo in the newspaper of an entire neighborhood with nothing remaining but the foundations of 20 homes. In the midst of all this, however, with burned-out homes to the left and right, one house stood alone. It was darkened a bit by all the smoke, but it escaped unscathed.

The man who had built the house was interviewed as to why this happened. “We went beyond what was required,” he said, “and made it even safer: That included double-paned windows, thick stucco walls, sealed eaves, concrete tile roof and abundant insulation.” Firefighters chose that spot, in front of this man’s home, to make a stand.

Now you or I can’t personally stop the wildfire of divorce in our culture today, but we can take practical steps to “fireproof” our own house! As that man said, “We went beyond what was required to make it even safer.”

And please hear me on this: Divorce can be more destructive and devastating than a raging wildfire. Those burned-out homes I saw in the paper have been rebuilt. If you would walk down that street today, you would look in vain for the damage and devastation. But the power of a divorce to tear lives and shred souls and pierce the hearts of children may not be healed for generations – perhaps not in a hundred years, if that.

The first thing we must do is make sure divorce never happens under our roof. Like the firefighters in front of the fire-protected home, we must take our stand at our own driveway and say to those flames – even if they are the flames of hell – “Not now! Not here! Not at this house!”

With that in mind, I must periodically step back and ask myself some hard questions. In a sense, I must check for “flammable materials” around my home that might add fuel to a fire I can’t even see yet.

Is there any relationship or pursuit I’m currently involved in that would put distance between me and my mate? Will this activity I’ve become involved in draw us together or drive us apart? Will it build our relationship up or tear it down?

When you think about it, life is awfully short.

It’s here, and then – before you can turn around two or three times – it’s gone. Someday, you’re going to be in that rocker on the front porch, or in a retirement home sitting on a tiny little balcony in a lawn chair, or maybe lying on your deathbed. And when you look back across your life, your career and your income level and all your accomplishments aren’t going to mean very much.

But if, by the grace of God and through His enabling, your marriage stands strong through the flames, until death takes one of you home … If you can say, “Well, life wasn’t perfect, but we walked through it together, and stayed faithful” – we lived by those vows we made on our wedding day: “For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part” … If you can say that, no matter what else has happened to you through the ups and downs of your years, you’ll find a smile crossing your face, and a peace that settles over your heart.

That’s what I want. How about you?

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