“Is there someone else?” I directly asked my husband.
“There could be,” He replied.
“What do you mean, ‘there could be’? It’s either yes or no. Tell ME!” I raged.
“Yes,” he whispered.
It’s been more than thirty years since that conversation. It was the day my marriage died, it was bludgeoned to death. His Yes emotionally ripped my heart open. I began crying that day. I didn’t stop for a long, long time.
People who haven’t lived through a divorce typically don’t understand.
I’ve spent more than twenty-five years ministering to the broken hearted, traumatized by divorce. The majority are men and women who wanted their marriage to survive. Their circumstances may be different than mine, but the common denominator is they have a spouse who chose another lover. The interloper might not be a person. Rather booze, drugs, pornography, violence or narcissism has become the captivating sweetheart.
Before I’m bombarded with comments from bible scholars accusing me of being, “soft on divorce” let me share that nothing could be further from the truth. Divorce has tried to destroy me–twice. First, when I was eight years old and my parent’s divorced. Second, I seriously pondered suicide during my own divorce twenty years later.
So for those who are aimed to launch a spiritual attack let me clearly state, I hate divorce.
But I love divorced people. Why? Because Jesus loves them.
Here are a few things that might help to understand:
Regardless of the circumstances divorces signifies the demise of the marriage. It’s the death of the dream, the death of the vow, and the death of, “What should have been.” It must be grieved over a period of time or the pain embeds itself and comes out later.
When “I Do” becomes “I Don’t” the gut response is excruciatingly painful. It’s a rejection like no other. The person that you thought would be your lifetime partner, your soft place to fall during the hard times, the one person you could trust when the rest of the world turns its back on you is now saying, “You aren’t worth it.”
Night and day spousal rejection hauntingly whispers, “You are a loser. You are unlovable. You are a failure. You deserve to be alone. Life is over. You will never be loved again.”
This is true even if your spouse didn’t have an affair. The declarations lurk even when he or she chooses drugs, alcohol, pornography, abuse, or toxic habits over you. When a spouse decides those things are more cherished than the vow they made, when they refuse to stop destroying the marriage —it’s devastating.
After my divorce one of the most humiliating tasks was marking “divorced” rather than “married” on a form. It was a label I hated. When I was single, that term didn’t bother me. But divorce left me with an imaginary huge red “D” stamped on my forehead for the world to see—and judge.
It took a long time, some great friends, and a terrific church to help me recognize that divorce was something I experienced. It was not my identity.
On one hand I knew Jesus was the only one who could carry me through the pain. I had nothing. I often contemplated suicide. My life was hanging by a thread. I was certain that Christ alone could rescue me.
On the other hand the overwhelming sense of failure and shame tempted me to run from the Holy One. The world called me anesthetize my agony with things that worked in the “good ole days.” Like a mouse in a maze, I would dart toward Him and then run away from Him, in fear.
Fortunately, my Almighty Daddy loves me and He never let go. He worked overtime to woo me back into His loving embrace. He became the faithful Husband I lost. He declared, “I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20 NLT)
I totally understand that divorce is a difficult subject for the church. We don’t want to minimize or ignore God’s commands or give the impression that marriage is temporary commitment. Divorce has long term painful consequences whether you initiated it or not. No one knows that better than I do.
However, it’s important to keep the perfect balance between grace and truth when approaching the subject. We can become so dogmatic about divorce that we wound the very ones God loves. It is possible to love the brokenhearted and not condone divorce.
Legalism is always easier than authentic faith. Loving like Christ takes time, patience and work.
Copyright © 2015 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul and The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal. Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. She has spoken at the Billy Graham Training Center and has been featured on Focus on the Family. Laura and her pastor husband of thirty years, Steve, live in FL.