Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hope in Divorce



I know this title is a bit misleading.  I'm thinking you may be expecting me to share my thoughts on the "evils of divorce" and how to put an end to it.
Well, that's not really my point of writing this.

This post isn't to "divorced or divorcing people". It is actually to the people around them who are NOT currently going through this process. People like ME.

As per usual, because my blog here usually addresses "Christian" issues, this blog also address the "Church" (that would be people who claim they follow Jesus). 

So, if you feel you have your convictions all hammered out about divorce and you're comfy cozy with them. Please move on, this blog is not for you. We can always feel good about ourselves when we can demonize other people's struggles and things we don't understand.

Allow me to start with a confession. About five years ago I formed a pretty close friendship with someone who had more or less been an acquaintance for many years. I knew she had recently divorced and left her husband for another man.

First confession, even though I have always liked to make new friends... the motive in my heart of hearts was to help her to "know Jesus" and to get her to come to "my" church.

Because that was the way I believed things in those days. It was taught by my denomination. Wouldn't you know it... she DID come to "know Jesus" better and she DID start coming to my church.  DANG I'M GOOD! 

Second confession. Not only did I make new friends with ulterior motives; I had a bit of a self righteous attitude toward this new friend. I really sort of looked down on her because she had left her husband for another man and divorced him. Well... because I was SO MUCH BETTER you see...  (please note the sarcasm there). 

I truly hated that I had those feelings toward her and I actually DID pray that God would take those away from me!

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRAY FOR!

Because not only were those feelings of superiority taken away... but they were replaced by feelings of frustration towards people who have the same superiority complex as I was trying to get rid of. I suppose you could say I developed a superiority complex against the "Superiors"...

They say that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. So chances are, you may know of, or be very close friends with, someone who has or is going through that process. The older I got, the more friends I had that were going through it. People I LOVE.

Here is what else I found. The ones who were not going through it, were often EXTREMELY judgmental of the ones who were!

I'd like to list off a few of the actual comments I've heard though the years, all from people who would probably call themselves "Jesus following Christians".
I will also include my sarcastic responses for your entertainment...

"Oh, she's been hanging out with other divorced women!" 
(as if it's some contagious disease)

"This is happening because they stopped going to church and taking part in a small group bible study!"
(Perhaps they stopped going to church because they knew self-righteous people would only judge them, cast them out of their little cliques and not truly help??)

"They were not seeing a "Christian" counselor!"
(First off... how doesn't anyone KNOW that? Is it because counselors who have a REAL degree and don't work for some "christian" organization couldn't possibly have Faith??)

"He had friendships with other women and that led him into temptation"
(Honestly? I think it's that sort of backwards thinking that just feeds the flame of true temptation to cheat! Unless you and your spouse have agreed to NOT do that.. boys and girls CAN be friends kids!  Grow up.)

"This happened right after she got a tattoo and piercings!"
(There we go people! We found the missing link! Do NOT get a tattoo or body piercing and you will not have to go through a divorce!)

"If he would have been more of a godly man, this would not have happened in his home."
(If you would be more of a godly person... you wouldn't say crap like that!)

Here is a GOOD saying I've heard recently...

"The only people who are qualified to judge a divorce, are the two people going through it!"

Don't get me wrong. I understand divorce is a HORRIBLE thing to go through. I've never YET met a friend who has told me, "Oh divorce is the BEST thing I have EVER gone though!  I try to get one with every relationship I have!"

I have also never met a person who has made that decision without tons of agony and thought and trying to avoid it for usually YEARS before finally making the decision to leave! Not to mention the agony of trying to get out and do it all alone; usually with the loss of friends and family who just can't understand. I don't think this is something ANY ONE would line up for!

Here is the biggest thing that frustrates me to no end.  When people feel the need to label a divorcing person (usually the one who wishes to leave the marriage) as "not being biblical or scriptural". 

I have friends who have heard this from the pastors that have "counseled" them or from "friends" who think they are "helping".

One friend shared with me that this is something they were told and that now they think about it almost every day!! It's as if they have been condemned to believe that they are going completely against God! What a power someone has to be able to do that to another person. No one needs that condemnation. Jesus didn't deal in that. Jesus dealt in taking that away!!

When someone uses the term "being biblical" it is going to depend on how you interpret your bible, isn't it? 30,000 different Christian denominations would tell me that no one person has nailed that one down yet!

I find it interesting that the Pharisees were always thinking they were "being biblical" (so to speak) and telling others how to be so. Jesus CONSTANTLY told them to knock it off!!

Jesus didn't bother to tell the Samaritan woman at the well that she was "displeasing to God" when he let her know that he knew she had five husbands! Actually Jesus allowed her to be the first person He revealed his true identity to! He also made her his first woman missionary!

***This is where I could really start to rant about people in church being "let go" from "leadership roles" or serving in ministries because they are divorcing or have divorced...but I won't bother.
Jesus wasn't able to change the "religious way" of doing things... I doubt THAT will ever change!***

But you know, if I could just see one Jesus loving person change their mind on their judgement toward a couple going through a divorce... that would be a joy to me!

Jesus spoke on divorce. You can read for yourself in Mathew 19

Now, please go ahead and look into this yourself, but I have heard some interesting thoughts on this passage from my own study, that has changed my heart a lot. I will sum up how I have heard it.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?... “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus' whole teaching on divorce that follows is based on the fact that WOMEN were considered disposable property in those times. A woman could NEVER divorce her husband, but a man could get rid of her if she burned the meatloaf!

The woman would then basically have to rely on her family to be forgiving and take her back (which probably didn't happen often) or she would have to resort to a life of prostitution (the main source of income for independent women in those days!)

So Jesus laid down some guidelines on marriage to people of His day to confront the coldness and greediness of people's hard hearts!

Then, He also summed up his guidelines by saying..

"The one who *can* accept this should accept it."
Not,
"Do this and you will be biblical and God will be with you!"

The HEART of his teaching was to give women the dignity that they HAVE and to tell people that His Kingdom was NOT about tossing out people like junk. Maybe some "church" people could benefit from this lesson... not just people going through a divorce??

How about instead of taking sides and thinking we can guilt someone into changing their mind, we let them know we love them no matter what and ACT on it?

How about instead of giving advice they don't need nor want, we be a listening ear and some hugging arms instead?

How about instead of telling them they shouldn't be allowed in "Leadership"
(Man, that word and idea has been messed up from how Jesus taught it 2,000 years ago!)
How about we let them minister (serve in Love) from their place of brokenness if they think they can?? One of my all-time favorite books, called "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli, talks all about how beautiful that could look if we'd only be willing to risk it!
http://www.amazon.com/Messy-Spirituality-ebook/dp/B000SIG5GM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380148756&sr=1-1&keywords=messy+spirituality+by+mike+yaconelli


How about instead of being convinced that they are going against "God's will" we work on our OWN marriages or relationships and just trust that God may have a better plan for each of them even though it may look dark for a time??

How about instead of ranting how things were so much more wonderful in the "old days" when people didn't divorce so much; we remember that those wonderful "old days" were times when black people were not allowed to use the same water fountains as white people! When serious domestic violence was often viewed as a "private family matter" and women were not even able to get out of a miserable marriage because most women could not receive a decent wage in the working world yet alone get hired!?

How about instead of "feeling all sorry for the children" we realize that sometimes an awful marriage can be JUST as miserable for them and maybe offer to help out with said children or just helping them to feel some joy in their life through a difficult time that they WILL survive and maybe even learn some good things out of? Sometimes the way we "TREAT" a situation is how the situation ends up getting viewed.  Attitude is everything!  

How about instead of "turning away" because we don't know how to handle it, or what to do or what to say; we send a gift card or gas card or heck, flowers or chocolates and just be honest that we don't know what to do or say!?

Perhaps if we stopped treating Divorce like some disease we pray that *we* never catch... perhaps things would be healthier and smoother for couples and families going through this!??
How about we give HOPE instead of judgement and condemnation??

I dunno... these are just some thoughts I've had now for the last 4 or 5 years. 

But what do I know?
I'm not in "church leadership".

8 comments:

  1. Well, I am. Or I used to be. And I completly and totally agree. Well said. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Dorcas!
      It blesses me more than you can know to receive this encouragement from a Pastor!!
      I keep you and your Ken before Jesus often!!! <3

      Delete
  2. Hi Chris,
    First of all, I HATE divorce. I really do. Especially when children are involved. And I am guilty of urging someone to continue to fight the good fight in a marriage that relentlessly lands in an unhealthy place. I have asked the person if they truly have held up their side of the marriage covenant. Can they honestly say that they have "loved, honored, and cherished" their spouse (without expecting anything in return)? I have encouraged them to love relentlessly (out of the love of Christ in them) and walk in grace and forgiveness toward their spouse, and some say they have, and STILL the marriage remains a broken and bad thing. And then I was left without answers. I didn't know what to say. I just plain hate divorce, and I have seen enough hopeless relationships rekindled to fiery love, so I simply want to believe the impossible is possible with God!

    It has been my thought that we get in a position sometime in marriage where pride takes over, and we cannot seem to return to a place of grace. That happens in many relationships, and it's very easy to just walk away. Not saying that most divorces are that simple. I am certain folks give all they can and, as you say, they go through great agony before finally giving up and filing. It is truly a tough deal. It breaks my heart to watch any marriage dissolve. And I always want to believe that God can bring healing to any ANY hurt!! That said, I pray that I never judge those who divorce. I understand how it is to just feel that there is no reconciliation in some relationships. And the most loving thing we can do is to step out of their lives. It's always tough. It is never done without great pain. I liken divorce to a tearing of the flesh because we have covenanted to become as "one flesh." Tearing flesh is painful, and the healing process is long.

    I pray for my divorced friends and family. I grieve for them and the struggle they endure. And I entrust their hearts to God. Marriage isn't easy. Divorce is even harder. And we all need to walk in grace and understanding - cheering one another on toward love and grace. I see you doing just that in this post. I appreciate your honesty. And I pray for your precious heart. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Deeds,
      First of all may I say that I don't LOVE divorce. My first reaction upon reading your comment is that you might possibly think that. I'm hoping you don't, but I know that some might and I want to make that very clear. I really don't know ANY ONE who loves divorce. So let me just get that out of the way.

      The second reaction I had was to not post your comment and have this discussion with you privately. You have ALWAYS ever and only been kind and loving to me and have always had respectful discussions with me! I can't tell you how refreshing that is to have with some one who looks at some things the way I used to look at them but don't anymore. I love you so much for that DeDe and I pray that will always be the case. Thank you.

      But I wrote this blog with the main purpose of taking AWAY that feeling condemnation and judgement that comes from statements like, "I hate divorce". It's the typical "love the sinner hate the sin". response. People do NOT feel loved when they hear those things! It's how you feel when people tell you they "hate" Christianity, but love you. I know you wouldn't appreciate that. It's when we have to step outside of our views to be able to truly do the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Perhaps you would WANT someone to admonish you about how unbiblical they were being when struggling with any thing... but that doesn't mean that's the case for everyone.

      But I have to say that my response to that is... if you hate divorce, don't get one. If you hate drunkenness, don't drink. If you hate fornication, don't sleep with tons of people. If you hate gluttony, don't be gluttonous. I agree with a lot of what you say here Deeds. But I also remember that Jesus said that "those who CAN accept this teaching, should.". So when we try to equate divorce with Pride and "falling away from Grace" all that does is HURT the healing process in my opinion. Divorce has obviously been happening since the time of Moses it isn't going away and maybe it's time that we take a different approach in loving on others in the area?

      I want to share a story that I did not in this blog, but was going to...

      Delete
    2. I want to share a story that I did not in this blog, but was going to.

      There was a man who went on a medical missions trip with Frank. He was very new to the "Evangelical Religion" (and YES... it IS a religion. It's a systematic way of seeing Jesus that is based on interpretations of scripture and focuses on "correct doctrine").

      So anyway... this man slowly grew closer to God. But during this time his marriage was in ruins already. He was seeking God through this religion and was really loving what he found a lot! He was accepted to go on another medical trip and was very honored and excited about that. (Please keep in mind that these trips allow NON-Evangelical people to come serve all the time... well, for the sake of "Evangelizing").

      So, this mans wife also was starting to enjoy the religion. She came to a women's retreat and there she shared with a group of women who are constantly told "what is shared in your group is to be kept in complete confidentiality!" Well... soon this woman's stories were spread far and wide and the man and woman ended up in "church counsel".

      To make a long story short, the man was judged as the "non-biblical" one who was in "sin" and the woman was accepted "into the fold". The man was kicked off the medical missions team. Now I GET that there is probably A LOT more to the story than I know.

      But that is not my point to this. My point is that I met this man at a store a couple months later and we chatted because my husband and I were BOTH very fond of this man. The dark look in his eyes and the hatred for all things "God" that I saw, grieved me more than anything I can describe. I SAW (and have seen MANY TIMES) what happens when we decide to play "judge and jury" on another person's life in the name of "God".
      It sickened me. I pray for that man all. the. time. That he would know the REAL Jesus. Not that religion's version of Jesus. (Not to say any religion is all wrong!)

      So when you say that the "impossible is possible" with God. You better believe I believe that!

      I believe we can actually learn to LOVE in the way Jesus intended. But I truly think the church and many Christians (INCLUDING MYSELF) have A LOT to learn yet in that area.

      I love you DeDe.

      Delete
  3. Oh Chris... I have so many thoughts about what you wrote and would love to have coffee with you in the future! The two words that sum up the reaction of my heart is..... thank you. ~Christy

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a gazillion thoughts about this. First of all, thank you for being authentic enough to wrestle with this and consider what a Christ-like response to this "issue" would look like. Thanks also for realizing this "issue" is so much more than trying to find an acceptable theoretical/intellectual/biblical clean-cut response to a very complicated problem. The reality of divorce, as you've written here, involves tons of heartbreak and agony that really hurts real people in so many ways. Thank you, Chris, for being a real friend in so many ways, by showing love and understanding, by reaching out instead of pulling away, by talking instead of gossiping, by giving aid where you see a need, and by giving a hug when you see hurt. I love you for that, and for so much more!

    DeDe mentioned, "... before giving up and filing...", to which I want to say, please consider that perhaps filing for divorce is not really giving up. Perhaps filing for divorce is not done because someone is too weak to keep trying. I think rather a weak and cowardly response would be to run away and abandon the spouse (and children). Really giving up would be coming to the conclusion that perhaps death is the only alternative to "for as long as we both shall live". Maybe filing for divorce requires someone to make the strongest, bravest decision they've ever had to make by believing that life will go on, and that God can still bring about good, even in the midst of this mess.

    Thanks, Ladies - for sharing from your heart, and for listening....
    ~ Laura

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just ran across this today after having a conversation with my friend who is struggling with a broken heart right now going through divorce. And I just have to say..that none of us are perfect. All of us make mistakes. Some of us make the mistake of marrying the wrong person and God's intention was never for us to marry that person. But because we are "supposed to" try to work it out, we just continue living our lives struggling and fighting against the one mistake we made years, weeks, months ago... which was walking down the aisle and saying vows to the wrong person. Sometimes..breaking things off and deciding to move ahead with a divorce means honestly following God's real plan for our lives and correcting our past mistakes. ♥ Besides..what would Jesus do? Sounds cliche, but that is how I try to live my life. I truly believe that Jesus wraps his arms around us in our times of hardship (like a divorce) and asks us to concentrate on his will for us moving forward in life. He wants to make us strong again so that we will continue to follow him. He doesn't abandon us or ask us to leave and figure it all out on our own. So as true christians, we shouldn't abandon our friends or relatives in time of hardship either.

    ReplyDelete

We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:19