OPINION: Divorce rate would plunge if more followed in Prince Harry’s steps

Newly engaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose during a photo shoot at Kensington Palace. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Newly engaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose during a photo shoot at Kensington Palace. ASSOCIATED PRESS

For weeks now, we’ve been bombarded with news of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s decision to step back from their royal duties and the final terms of their split from the British royal family.

For instance, we know that Harry and Meghan will no longer represent the queen as working royals, they will no longer receive public funding, and they can no longer use their royal titles — His and Her Royal Highness.

“I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family,” Queen Elizabeth II reportedly said in a statement.

It’s been quite interesting to watch it all play out. There was even a side-by-side comparison between coverage of the duchess and Kate Middleton in which Kate’s actions were viewed as favorable while very similar action by Meghan very decidedly negative.

No surprise there. It certainly explains her comments in the TV documentary “Harry & Meghan”: “I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”

But what was particularly striking, at least for me, was Harry’s decision to leave all that he had ever known so that his wife and son could live in peace as much as earthly possible.

“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly,” Prince Harry said recently. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

With that, Harry was off to Canada to be with his wife and son and my heart leaped.

RELATED | Harry, Meghan to quit royal jobs, give up ‘highness’ titles

For weeks, I’d seen in their story the cause of so much divorce in our country — couples unable to put aside their personal wishes for the good of both. The focus of every news story I’d seen seemed to focus on what Prince Harry stood to lose without any mention of what he might gain in upholding the vow to love his wife.

Now I was seeing what’s possible when two people truly love each other.

Harry, it seems to me, chose the good part, forsaking all others and cleaving to his wife.

What does that mean?

D. Gregory Sapp is a professor of religious studies at Stetson University. CONTRIBUTED
D. Gregory Sapp is a professor of religious studies at Stetson University. CONTRIBUTED

“When a man agrees to forsake all others, he is committing to his wife alone,” said D. Gregory Sapp, a professor of religious studies at Stetson University. “It is a vow to assure fidelity within a marriage. It means that each partner forsakes all others as potential romantic partners.”

I do not remember the couple reciting this specific vow or ever reading it in Scripture, but indulge me just for a moment.

What is Scripture, Sapp said, can be found in the second creation story in Genesis. “God finally creates a suitable mate for Adam … and brings her to Adam who says, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman for out of Man this one was taken.’” The chapter ends with what has also been used as part of traditional wedding vows: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh.”

That commitment is repeated in various verses of the Bible, including Mark 10:7-8.

I don’t disagree with Sapp that most of us take this to mean forsake intimate relations with anyone of the opposite sex who is not our spouse.

I just think that interpretation is incomplete.

RELATED | A timeline of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s love story

In addition to sexual infidelity, it means putting your marriage before parents, before siblings, your kids, friends and, yes, titles.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

That, of course, won’t happen if you haven’t first become one emotionally and spiritually, if you don’t truly love each other.

As Bishop Michael Curry reminded us on Harry and Meghan’s wedding day, love has the power to not just change us, but change the world.

As a reminder, I’ll just let the bishop take it from here:

“If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform.

“They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says ‘There is a balm in Gilead …’ a healing balm, something that can make things right.

“‘There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.’

“And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: ‘If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.’

“Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all.

“He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t … he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world … for us.

“That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.”

It can also change a marriage.

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