“I Do, I Don’t”: One Christian Couple’s Tale of Love, Divorce, and LossFamily Issues, Film — By J.F. Arnold on July 30, 2013 at 7:00 am
I Do, I Don’t is an all too common story: a young Christian couple decides that they are going to get married. We see the proposal happen during (perhaps at the end of) a worship service that both parties are helping lead. Gil is one excited guy: he’s thrilled to be marrying the love of his life, especially after his admitted past struggles with sexual activity. Sidney is equally excited, as far as we can tell: she’s got some hesitations (she’s young, he’s a few years older, people are hesitant, etc.), but she keeps saying that God is good, and that she wants to be an excellent wife for Gil.
The lead-up to the marriage is wholesome, and pushes the boundaries of what boundaries you shouldn’t push. The couple decide not to kiss until they are married (and the kiss on the wedding day is incredibly awkward; we aren’t spared the sight in the film). They talk about the pressure of people watching them (since they are both involved in church ministry), but both seem to truly want God to be glorified in their relationship. Sidney even says at one point that divorce isn’t an option, no matter what happens.
The screen fades to black shortly after the wedding. Six months later, we see Gil in a class, and all of his students are asking to see Sidney. He says she’s at work, and suggests that they pray that she can come to school with him again.
Then the film reveals that Sidney left Gil three months into their marriage. Gil is heartbroken, but still considers himself married. He was asked to leave his church (for reasons we aren’t told; presumably related to the reasons that Sidney left him, though that is hardly confirmed), and found himself in a new church, serving as best he can. The remainder of the film focuses on Gil’s actions towards his out-of-contact wife and his new pastor’s thoughts on the situation. There is an interview with Sidney at the end, where she says that they shouldn’t have gone through with the wedding.
If that feels like a lot to take in, then I’ve communicated the film’s emotive power correctly: throughout the entire film, viewers ought to feel tense. This is marriage we’re talking about; people’s lives hang in the balance.
Half-way through, I started to respect Gil quite a bit. His pastor recommended that he pray about ways to be a faithful husband even when his wife was absent. Gil took this very seriously, and started sending his wife Scripture verses regularly. While this might seem odd to some, it struck me that Gil was actively attempting to fulfill God’s calling in regards to his own marriage. That, in itself, is awesome. And difficult. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be.
He and his pastor echo the same truth: God hates divorce. You see it all over the Bible, you hear it from the words of God and from Jesus himself. So Gil decides to tough it out. He said he’s love her forever, and so he shall. The weird part comes when the film is over: we find out that Sidney is still living the single life, but that Gil has “found the girl of his dreams” and gotten married.
The film leaves the viewers with a lot of questions: why did Sidney leave Gil? Why did Gil’s church ask him to leave (and Sidney stayed at that church)? What changed with Gil’s heart that made him comfortable to remarry, after all his beliefs about marriage and divorce? Is Sidney open to remarriage, or has she decided to remain “faithful” to her once-spouse?
While those are specific, the questions for Christian viewers are far more important: what should a person in Gil’s situation do? Are we called to “remain married” to someone who leaves us, Biblically speaking? What can break a marriage, death aside? Some argue that adultery is cause for divorce, but many don’t even believe that, these days. God seems to put grace and forgiveness at the forefront of all marriages–see Gomer and Hosea, for instance. Not to mention the parallels with Israel’s history: if marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, ought we always to seek after our spouse, even when they won’t have anything to do with us?
None of that is easy. Perhaps I’m being too quick to judge; from the sidelines, it seems relatively simple to say that he should swear off all other relationships and seek his wife in faithfulness. If I were sitting in that position, of course, I’d likely have a much harder time of it. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong, necessarily, just that situations like these are complex. If someone gets remarried after their spouse leaves them, perhaps they are committing adultery. But God is bigger than that, and He is capable of forgiving; we should be able to do so as well.
I’ve known people who’ve been divorced, I’ve known people who’ve gotten remarried after a divorce, and I’ve known people who’ve stayed married until death parted them. It’s the middle category that I find hardest to support, however. Divorce is ugly, and everyone agrees on that point (I hope). But if your spouse leaves you, I find it difficult to support a decision to remarry, Biblically speaking. The narrative of marriage throughout Scripture (God’s faithfulness in the face of Israel’s idolatry; the leaving of one family to join another; Gomer and Hosea; and the ‘two become one flesh’ language) emphasizes pursuit and love, not resignation and absence.
All in all, the film is a difficult one to watch. If you’ve had friends go through a divorce, it might be helpful to see someone else’s perspective on the whole thing. You can purchase and view the film here.
Access to the film was provided by United Films.