Today I listened as a well-meaning Christian offered an opinion on someone else's three year old divorce....ironically, the person offering the advice has never experienced divorce.
Many of you know I have been divorced. I was involved in an abusive marriage for 4 years. I was raised in a strong Southern Baptist tradition that taught divorce is always wrong. Because of that teaching, I stayed in my first marriage much longer than I should have. I stayed because I was afraid of making God angry with me. As I look back on it, I think I actually believed I might go to Hell if I divorced my husband.
Things finally escalated to a point where I felt terribly unsafe, so I left. It took more courage than you can imagine to leave. It took months for me to gather up the nerve to walk out the door and not turn back. No one in my family had ever gone through a divorce before, so I knew I was going to bring embarrassment and shame to all of them. At the time, Caleb was only a few weeks old. I was a new mommy, and thankfully, my mommy instinct kicked in and said: "Get out of this relationship fast!" So, I did.
Many Christian friends unknowingly heaped guilt and shame on me after I left. They were well meaning, but they didn't understand my situation. They couldn't understand. They quoted scripture to me about "hope" that can be found in Jesus.....and often told me about a God that is able to do the impossible and Who could change my ex-husband and make him a new man if I would only have faith and give him another chance.
Of course I knew all of the scripture; afterall, I grew up in church. In fact, I would argue I knew the scripture better than the well-meaning friends. Those scriptures they kept quoting to me were the very ones that had caused me to stay in the marriage for so long in the first place. Those scriptures kept me up night after night, praying to God, wrestling with God. What my friends could not appreciate is the frightening path I had walked....they could not feel the very real pain I had experienced for four years. Their advice, instead, was coming from their own experiences......they had solid marriages, so their knowledge was limited at best. From their comfortable marriages, alongside their "normal" spouses, they quoted scripture that sounded powerful and true. But they were speaking to someone who was broken, abused, and a mess. They couldn't see that.
Several years later, I sat in a church service with my family. (By the way, I remarried an incredible man a couple of years after breaking free from my first marriage and we have the family I dreamed of my entire life. Chappy is good to me, he respects me, and he honors me. He is honest and works hard; he provides for our family. Chappy is our Spiritual leader and he loves the children to pieces. I am so blessed.) As I sat beside my husband and children on this particular Sunday, we listened to a very well-known Southern Baptist pastor literally rip apart every Christian who has ever been divorced.....on that day, he was speaking to me, the believer who had been divorced. He called ME a disgrace that day. He questioned MY faith and my salvation. He stood before a large group of believers and said there is never an excuse for A REAL CHRISTIAN to file for a divorce. I remember vividly, during the sermon, Lydia put her hand out and held mine. She looked up at me with a smile and said, "It's ok mom." She was only 8 years old at the time, but she knew what the preacher on the stage was saying.....he was talking about her mom.
At lunch that afternoon, Lydia asked me if I was a Christian. "Yes", I told her. We had a long discussion about how that preacher was speaking about something he knows nothing about, and how he was wrong to say the things he said. And I had to forgive that man that day, and I had to ask forgiveness for hating him and for wanting to scratch his eyeballs out.
This happens waaaaay too often. I think as believers, we too often forget about love and make the mistake of jumping to assume we know how to "fix things" or how "things ought to be" when the truth is, we should be worrying about our own lives.....our own salvation. (By the way, I have some news for all of the blog readers who have never gone through a divorce: NO ONE EVER WANTS TO GO THROUGH A DIVORCE!!!)
When one spouse cheats on the other spouse.....or when a spouse abuses the other spouse.....relationship is broken.....fellowship is broken.....a vow to God is broken. If the incident happens one time and then repentance takes place, I'll agree there is hope. However, when the incident happens over and over and over again......there is very little hope.
Obviously, this strikes a chord with me. I didn't intend to be "preachy" this evening, but I think this message is so important. When I heard a fellow believer today jump to judge another divorced believer, I became sick inside....her words brought back a wave of horrible memories, and it has been weighing heavy on my heart all day. I think the answer for all believers is to be slow to speak and quick to listen, even quicker to love. Our words can hurt, destroy and condemn, so we need to be very careful with them.
Believe me, I am speaking to myself, too, because I have been guilty of offering advice when I should have shut my mouth and listened. I admit I have conviction written all over my forehead, and I feel sorry for the times I have hurt with my words. Love, Love, Love.....Love is the key, don't you think? If we love others, then we are doing all that is required of us. I need to be reminded daily: there is only One Perfect Judge.
On a final note, if you signed up to send $$$ to help assist Sasha's adoption miracle during the month of January, time is running out. To make your donation, go to http://www.reecesrainbow.com/, choose "donate as a gift" and specify Sasha from orphanage #2.
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry". James 1:19