According to my clock, I’ve still got about an hour before Tuesday is over this week, so here comes a Marriage Tuesday…
I have dozens and dozens of divorced friends. The last thing in the world I would want is for my words to inflict any more pain on them than their own reality has already done. It’s with that awareness these thoughts are offered.
There is no question the ones who feel the brunt of the pain of a divorce are the husband and wife. It was not their goal to grow apart. It was not their desire to draw loved ones into their conflict. The needs of the children always weigh heavily on the parent’s hearts.
Even though one almost always feels more like the “victim”, neither is ever entirely blameless. Sometimes one feels like they are doing all the work, while the other is just going through the motions. Some couples work and work and work to figure out what’s wrong and stop the bleeding and heal the hurts. Every now and then it pays off.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
There is almost always a mess of collateral damage, also. Some of it is obvious. Finances. The house. Loss of identity. Loss of confidence. Changed relationships with in-laws and extended family. Holidays.
Here’s one issue that’s seldom talked about: How the divorce affects the church. When the divorcing couple are both part of a church family (along with their kids), the church is living in awkwardness. We don’t know the “whole” story…if we know any real story at all. Sides are often chosen and loyalties are declared. Story lines are controlled by who’s talking and who’s listening. Truth is slippery.
Worse yet, the church family can know absolutely nothing, because the couple has chosen to keep their struggle private. Maybe they believe it’s nobody’s business. Maybe they’re hoping it will get better and reputations can be spared. Maybe they are simply living in denial, while their friends are living in the dark. Until it blows up.
When that happens, we (the church) lose one, or sometimes, both of the partners. Our children’s ministry loses their kids…at least half the time. We lose their shared responsibilities. We lose their financial support. We lose friendship. Their need to move on (for the health of their new relationships or just the need for a fresh start away from memories of their old life), leaves the rest of us just feeling loss. And less than what we were.
And me? Because I am usually more intimately involved with the couples, my feelings of loss are usually pretty acute, even though my emotions are mixed. Somebody’s loss is almost always someone else’s benefit. It doesn’t mean I have to like it!
So here’s the takeaway. To all of my divorced friends: My prayer will always be for your best. I hope the painful part of your life is in your past and you have found healing and strength in your new life…filled with new friends and new opportunities for you and yours. May redemption be your song.
However, if you are still married and your relationship is less than what it should be…falling short of what it could be…hidden from what others see…held together by a veneer of social respectability, while it is crumbling below the surface in ways that only you and your partner know…it’s time to raise your hand.
It’s time to let someone in. It’s time to swallow your pride. It’s time to remember your vows. It’s time to live by faith and no longer by sight. It’s time to ask for help.
It’s time to face the prospects of the potential collateral damage. Before it’s too late.
It doesn’t have to be this way.