Let no one separate

God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved and are concerned about high divorce rates.

— UMC Social Principles

I never noticed how sterile the language in this paragraph sounded until I was in the midst of this kind of crisis.

My marriage has been struggling for some time. Earlier this week, my wife gave me copies of the papers her lawyer has filed with the court. Today, the summons to the first court hearing arrived. By this time next week, I may be legally separated, although it is not my choice or wish to be in such a circumstance.

I’ve talked with family. I’ve talked with my boss. I’ve talked to my DS and the leadership of the local congregations I serve. I’ve talked quite a bit with God. In the days ahead, I’m sure I’ll talk with lawyers and therapists.

As I have shared my story, one of the weirdest parts of this is the way people suddenly find themselves being careful in your presence. They watch what they say and apologize for saying things that require no apology. “I’m sorry I talked about how great it is to have a wife to go home to, John. I hope that did not upset you.” No. But thank you for caring.

At least right now, the hardest part is looking back over 26 years at all the decisions you made because this was a union meant to last for a lifetime.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that we only discover we have faith when we are obedient to the point that all we have to rely upon is faith. In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered that trusting in God can feel like falling into a dark tunnel that does not appear to end. You trust because the only other choice is to fall.

I don’t know what shape my blogging will take in the days and weeks ahead. This has never been a blog about my personal life. I don’t want it to become a self-indulgent cry for digital pity. Perhaps I am entering a season of less public writing. Perhaps the writing will be a calm in the midst of a storm. Perhaps I will write about what it is like to go through this process.

I’m not sure. For the moment, I simply trust that God is working in the midst of my mess. In the belly of the fish, trust is all you have.

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17 thoughts on “Let no one separate

  1. My heart broke for you when I read this. I think divorce is just the worst–it leaves a deep feeling of failure and shame. I am still in shock that I have been divorced twice when I was sure I would and could live into a lifetime marriage, and it was so much what I wanted. Getting divorced broke through my pride, however, in a way that nothing else could do. I had no place to go except to throw myself upon the grace of God and learn to float in the waters of redemptive hope. It was when I divorced that I actually discovered what the love of God was about–it comes in the midst of awfulness and tarries there with us, weeps with us, and does not insist that everything be OK anytime soon.

  2. “In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered that trusting in God can feel like falling into a dark tunnel that does not appear to end. You trust because the only other choice is to fall.”

    Your description struck a chord with me. It describes where I felt I was 5 years ago. Many things had come undone and nothing made sense and there was much to process. The thing that got me through it was writing. I wrote in ways I never knew I could. I discovered the spiritual discipline of crating word processing; it became my creative outlet. I would use fonts that expressed the emotion of what I was writing. One time I used different colors that tracked my journey from darkness to light–and it wasn’t that I was necessarily in a better place, it helped to identify what went right amidst the darkness. Initially, it felt like I was spending an inordinate amount of time on formatting and editing, but I eventually learned to go with the process because it had taken on a life of its own–even to when the proper length had been reached– and was finished when it was finished and only then could I move on.

    A year ago, I wrote a piece called ‘Lessons”, it was a summation of everything I had learned. Although I still have everything else I wrote, I never look at them. To this day, I still refer to “Lessons” because it is my path forward; it is a reminder of what I have to live into while reminding me where I am coming from.

    If you decide to write, save every thing you write. I made the mistake of deleting the very first thing I wrote because I thought I was passed it, when in actuality much of my later writing referred back to it. And it could take awhile–my last foray into creative word processing was this past spring. For me, the need to write would come in waves and then there would be a break but then a new “assignment” would surface.

    Good luck and do not be afraid to write whether it is for yourself or to share.

    And if you need a way to vent, I highly recommend going to seedbed.com; click on the Daily Text and scroll back through them until you come to the series from this past Lent dealing with the Psalms. One that I keep handy is called “Depression is Normal, it just needs a sound track”. I also learned the purpose of what JD Walt called the gangsta’ psalms. And do not be afraid to sing them; it makes a difference.

    1. Thank you, Betsy. I now need to learn about gangsta pslams. I feel that is a term I will never use, though, as it will sound like an old white guy trying to be hip.

  3. from the perspective of “this is not the way it is supposed to be”, I have two recommendations. If you are into music, Steven Curtis Chapman’s album ‘Beauty Will Rise” is phenomenal. He recorded it after his young daughter was unexpectedly killed; some songs are personal to his particular situation but overall they all deal with this not the way it is supposed to be.

    The second is a book by M. Craig Barnes, “When God Interrupts: Finding New Life in Unwanted Change.” And this may be more effective down the road. Even though none of his scenarios dealt with my specific situation he connected me to an unfathomable God of mystery who is most definitely worth worshiping. Even as I have come to realize his Calvinist leanings, there are still quotes from it that I hold onto. He basically met me in the confusion of finding myself in what I came to call “Oz” and helped me to know that God was at work even in “Oz”.

  4. I wish I could say something more comforting than that I am praying for you. I have no good advice to give. I have appreciated and continue to appreciate and be inspired by your written meditations on what it means to follow Christ.

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