Church, We’re Divorcing
Church, We’re Divorcing
I sat down to write this post a couple of months ago—a couple of years ago—but didn’t have enough information. Or nearly enough healing.
Because no one really talks about it; the shame is too great and the pain too raw.
Divorce in the church is a social and theological mess. And women are often forced to bear the brunt of it. (The topic of women and divorce in the church will be covered later—I’m still to angry to address the issue with any measure of levelheadedness.)
I’m going to leave most of the theological discussion out of it because it is so messy and so dependent on what denomination you’re coming from. Because Christians as a whole have made demigods out of denominations—it’s a disaster. (Again, for another post entirely.)
What I can say with absolute certainty regarding divorced people: The church doesn’t handle us with care.
While I don’t make a habit of perusing Focus on the Family’s website, I poked around there for a little while for the purposes of this post. Articles contained in their “Divorce” section admit that the church does a poor job of dealing with members of their parishes going through a divorce. Further more, over the last few years, Focus on the Family has devoted research, prayer, and thoughtful counsel to the reality of blended families and has a whole section of their website devoted to just that—blended families, step parenting, remarriage, the whole nine.
While this is the only thing that has ever impressed me from the notoriously and dangerously conservative group, there’s a wide gap between the information and counsel FOTM provides, and the information and counsel provided by churches that support FOTM. There are simply little to no resources in most American churches to help the hurting divorced families and stumbling blended families.
Yes, divorce is a sin. This is a biblical directive I understand. But I also know that despite the insistence of God, Jesus, and the early writers of the bible to not grade and classify sin into a “better than/less than” chart we do it anyway. And, guess what? Divorce typically ranks right up there with murder as the most disastrous and crippling of sins.
I know this because I’ve experienced the judgment, pain, and rejection. And I’m not alone. Men and women from Catholic to Baptist and everywhere in between have been shunned from churches and friends for centuries when their marriage doesn’t work, because nothing adds insult to injury like being booted from your spiritual community during your time of need. Certain denominations deny divorcees communion, and almost all of them refuse to marry couples if one or both of them have a previous divorce under their belt.
Man makes us pay dearly for the entirety of our earthly days for a sin we’ve repented for, and that Christ already died for.
We’re refugees desperately seeking asylum at the altar of Christ. Battered and bruised, we find it blocked by armed guards dealing in the trades of Grace and Mercy like they’re commodities for the righteous rather than antidotes for the broken.
Come in closely and listen to me: I’ve never once met a champion of divorce. I’ve not ever come across someone who encourages divorce for healthy couples or even struggling couples. It just doesn’t happen on any sort of measurable scale.
Further, sin begets sin. Rarely does a “big one” stand alone. They snowball. Yes, divorcing my first husband was a sin—one I’ve repented for. But it wasn’t the only one. Marrying someone that wasn’t best suited for me? Not following God’s word during that time? Who knows how all of that breaks down, let alone all the sins we committed against one another during the six years of our marriage.
Mercy is the unsung hero of the bible, often lumped in with Grace though they are two different things. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.
Yes, to be sure, there are consequences to every sin—why wouldn’t there be? But there has to be an end. An end to the pain and a beginning of a new life. One in Jesus, who forgave the sin before it happened. Rather than using that as a license to go on doing whatever it is I pleased, I’ve taken it as a solemn gift to live my life as closely to his word as possible.
I got what I deserved from man and the church. Rejection. Denial of marriage. Loss of friends. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Hurt. Condemnation from others and self.
We’re in a new church home now—one that accepts and loves our unique, blended family. One that supports us and offers us Godly counsel. One that nurtures us. One that talks about Mercy as if our lives depend on it—because they do. One where I feel the protective hands of God over and under and around us at all times.
Divorce grieves Jesus. So does judgment and condemnation.
Look where the broken people are, and that’s where you’ll find Jesus. Among the sick, the starving, the outcast, the hookers and thieves, the murderers, the elderly, the homeless, and the kids on welfare is where Jesus builds his ministry. He makes beauty from ashes, and my blended family is nothing but stunning.
It turns out what I needed all along–what all of us going through divorce or blending families need–is a little bit of Mercy, and a whole lot of Jesus.
Photo Credit: James Robertson