Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Abandoned by my Faith?

Yesterday, I read this.

It says on there, the acceptable reasons for divorce (and subsequently to remarry), for a Christian are:

  1. The previous marriage ended as the result of sexual unfaithfulness by the person's spouse. (Matthew 19:9).
  2. The person was divorced by an unbelieving spouse who was not willing to stay married (I Corinthians 7:15,16).
  3. The divorce took place prior to a person coming to faith in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

You know what isn't on here? Abuse. So my Christian friend who was in an abusive relationship and then was murdered by her husband--she did the right thing by staying in her relationship to the death? Is that what God wants? Or my other Christian friend who lives in an undisclosed location due to the fact that her former spouse will hunt her and her child down and kill them, should have stayed in that relationship?

According to how I was taught, verbal abuse would be a gray area. Maybe ok, maybe not. 

This makes me sad. 

So many arbitrary rules. When I think about how I came to the decision to divorce, I remember being absolutely terrified. I was scared that I was going to be harmed. I didn't know what to expect. I asked someone from my church to sit with me while I told him. Because I was too scared. Perhaps it was an overreaction. Probably it was. But trauma will do this to a person. And, what's worse, I felt limited support from Christians. I absolutely understand what I've been taught and I understand how even a secular person might not understand or might want me to stay married for the sake of the relationship. But when things were the hardest and the darkest, there were only 3 kinds of people who really reached out or were there for me: 1. Single or divorced men who had been my friends for years (Nearly all have since made it clear that they wanted a chance with me, which I found disheartening as I needed safe men in my life, not men with an agenda), 2. Two women who had been in abusive relationships previously, and 3. Secular people (married or single).

When I needed meals when I was all alone, no one in the church put me on the meal list, like they do when they have a baby. And being left on your own as a single mother is a situation when you NEED meals delivered. Arguably the same as when you have a baby. I kept going to church, and so did he, which was a mindfuck. He wouldn't go when we were together, but after we separated, he went every Sunday. Was it for me? For the kids? For himself? I have no idea, but it felt invasive. A place I'd begged him to go for years he suddenly started showing up--like he wanted to show everyone how wonderful he was and how terrible I was. He reached out to all the church men (whose wives were my friends) and told them his side of the story. And none of the women who were all my friends reached out. Even when I go, the married women who were my friends politely avoid me like I'm carrying a disease they might catch. How is a divorced woman who has been through hell to get there (and believe me ANYONE who is going through a divorce, especially with children, is going through hell--and it's probably STILL better than when they were married, because that person had to get through all that to decide that hell on earth was preferable), supposed to maintain faith?

I spoke to a woman recently whose former husband cheated on her repeatedly. They have 4 kids together. She knew about it. Was heartbroken. He eventually got a woman pregnant. She still stayed. And he kept doing it. What did her church say? Stay. Pray for him. Really? She found a new church. I hope they reach out to her better than mine.

Exactly one person from church reached out to me in a non-confrontational, non-judgemental, loving way. And I was surprised. During a time when I was going through the darkest thing I've ever experienced, she didn't say, "why don't you go back? Why not go to marriage counseling?" She didn't question my reasons. Instead, she said, "How can I support you?" and she initiated regular contact. I am forever grateful for her reaching out. It focused me back on God at a time when I could barely hang on. 

One thing I've learned is that we live in a flawed world. God wants a marriage to work. It's his best. But if the people inside the marriage are being tortured and torn apart inside and the children are scared and everyone is being damaged, I think God would agree that this is not his best, either. And maybe the "right" choice is to stay in it. Or maybe the "right" choice is to leave it, however painful. But one thing is for sure, it is not as clearly black and white as I thought. It isn't as simple as staying married is the only answer.

Furthermore, we live in a world that is not supportive of marriage. It's supportive of people GETTING married. But it's not so supportive of people staying married. There aren't a lot of mentors of people who have been married for 10/15/20 plus years. Is it normal to fight and bicker in certain ways? Is what I'm doing normal or ok? Is what he's doing normal or ok? Being open and vulnerable and working on these things continuously throughout the relationship is important. And every married couple should have a married couple mentor they can be vulnerable with. And, if either one of the people in the relationship aren't willing to be vulnerable, then they shouldn't be getting married, because it's likely they aren't going to participate in working on the relationship either.

Considering the context of the world we live in, one or more parties unwilling to truly work on themselves and the relationship, and then the guilt and pressure of my faith to stay married, it's hard to believe that what I was taught is the right thing. Which brings me to another crisis of faith, similar to one I had when I was a teenager: "if what I was always taught about this is wrong, what else is also wrong?"

God understands that we live in this world. In this culture. And he wants us to be in the world, but not of it. That means we live here, we understand the context of our culture, we love and reach out to those in it, regardless of what they do or say. Because they are in the world AND of it. But I'm finding that the Christian emphasis on marriage and not divorce pushes many different types of people away--single women (who feel as though they are judged or not worth value because they aren't married), divorced women, single mothers (maybe they made a mistake, maybe not, but they DIDN'T have an abortion!). And, while I would have agreed with that before, and cognitive dissonance suggests that I'll find any way to rationalize my faith and a divorce, I think there is more to the story. I crave the love of God and Christians and my faith. And I, more than ever, need that love and want to show that love to people who have been disconnected from the church.

I have felt the sting of rejection from a community when you suddenly do or say things, or appear a certain way, that is "against" the rules. And that is just what the Pharisees did. When someone broke the rules, they were ousted. Heck, Jesus himself was literally killed because he broke the "no blaspheming" rule and admitted he was the son of God. And I know that is not God's best. I feel like I'm swimming in the ocean with no life raft or boat in sight. Except maybe a very small one that I can barely hang on to--called my relationship with God. Which, if I follow him, will instruct me in the paths I should follow.

And I think we, as Christians, need to think about this. Every person is responsible for themselves in the end. Their faith, their spirituality, their actions, their relationship with God. So why do we try to get involved? Other than building up the faith and love of our brothers and sisters and reaching out to the lost, why do we do ANYTHING else? Maybe it's hard to understand, but rejecting someone is the fastest way to teach them that God isn't love. And I never want that message to be heard. EVER. And while I'm not explicitly getting it, I'm not getting love or acceptance either. And we can do better. Way better.