The Great Divorcé

Obviously borrowing from CS Lewis book titles, but with a slight adjustment, the proper title for a divorced man is a “divorcé”.

My Journey

So I am divorced…I fought tooth and nail for many years to avoid it, went to more marriage counseling than anyone else I know, and still managed to ship wreck on the shores of a divorce. If any person had the “biblical” right to a divorce it would have been me, I would share the details with you but protecting reconciliation is a higher priority to me than convincing complete strangers of my passing rights.

I guess the truth is I do not feel divorced, I simply feel “unmarried” (which is my current 20 year uninterrupted state). Divorce does not define me, but it does inform a perspective has been an unavoidable paradigm shift.

I grew up in a Pentecostal background, divorce was the kiss of death to ministry in all of my experience, and as the son of a Preacher who had aspirations to be a preacher and married a preachers daughter there was a definite death tax associated with divorce.

I think my divorce has affected ministry opportunities in the past, but not in obvious ways, primarily because I went headlong into single parenthood and that became my primary focus and arena of “ministry”. The church as a whole has a very negative approach to divorce and the divorced, and frankly we are not very honest about it, we may say the divorced are “equal” in all regards but in practice the reality is quite different.

We will allow divorce, but often not for the reasons we say Jesus provided…Jesus “words” do not allow divorce for physical abuse, but we will…using the strictest of interpretations we will say “only for sexual sin”, but then if the guy is a creep and a hostile drunk and she comes to church we allow it, never noticing that the “words” of Jesus have been bent to our relevant situation.

We then use the words of Malachi on divorce to keep people from going down that road but somehow fail to notice the context there, or the behavior of Jesus to the divorced, like I said we are not exactly honest, but that probably is because we are not letting scholars frame the debate we are letting preachers and counselors do it.

As I began to actually study the subject I was stunned to discover that there is a conversation God has been wanting to have that we have somehow excluded because of our traditions…

Every verse about divorce that was clear had one thing in common with all the others, (even when it was not obvious)…they all empowered women.

This was quite a pill to swallow especially as a divorced male who had “rights”, but like the Matrix I swallowed it and went down the rabbit hole and that choice has resulted in the restoration of my ex-wife to a place of wholeness.. and the benefit my children get to enjoy because of it…so yeah bitter to swallow but wisdom is justified of her children.

But think of the logic behind it, it is consistent with the character of God, if He is the husband, and humanity is the woman, then empowering her and diminishing His rights makes perfect sense, He does not want to control us, He wants us powerful and free and even in His divorce He limits His power so she can experience the fullness of her folly, if that’s what she wants.

God by His nature will let you exhaust every sin, every false hope, every rabbit trail away from Him, because he does not want the shadow of a doubt left that He is what we need.

Think about this: God knew full well that the Law would make nothing perfect, yet He chose to let us try it for nearly 2000 years before He finally interrupted us and asked if we felt we had enough yet…(and to be fair some still see the Law as something we can make happen…2000 years AFTER He did away with it…we are either stubborn or slow learners or both).

Our story

Currently in our church culture the rate of divorce is over 50%, and in those divorces the rate goes up to 60+% for second marriages and a higher 75% for third marriages, that is a serious learning curve problem and since I have remained single I am probably wrecking it a bit.

On a baseline, 1 in 2 people in church will be divorced…I ended up with the kids, my youngest was 2 the oldest 11, these 4 girls and a boy in the middle went through the rough waters together and survived to reconnect with the mother in healthy and healing ways, basically because our primary ministry in life is the ministry of reconciliation, if we cannot teach it and practice it at home what is the point in preaching it?

In the United States 25% of our workforce is single moms, mostly from divorce.

It is probably impossible that you do not know someone who is or has been divorced.

Here’s the rub…like many other groups in our culture the traditional church model of behavior towards the divorced tells us something about ourselves that perhaps is not so obvious…how you treat and think about the divorced is how you really treat and think about God…because…

God is divorced.

His story

That’s right the Deity we gather together (or not) to worship and love and serve and all else is actually divorced.

Your Divinity is a divorcé.

His wife left Him and went after other lovers…did He go through the typical questions about “Am I inadequate?” “Is there something wrong with my love?”, “What is in me that draws this kind of rejection?”…probably not…God has never needed to be convinced about Himself the way we do.

I can remember struggling with Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce”, until one day the Lord led me to read Jeremiah 3:8, and I discovered that the God who hated divorce was divorced.

There are still denominations today that will not license a divorced person for ministry…so in those denominations God himself would be disqualified for a ministry position…what is that about?

Please do not hear this as a defense of divorce, that is the furthest thing from my heart, I am deeply covenant, like I said before I had every biblical right for divorce and still refused until the very end, I do not believe in divorce anymore than I believe in amputation, they are the same to me, only in extreme cases where poison is creeping into other limbs do you ever lop off a body part and then only after every other means has been exhausted.

But both amputation and divorce happen and we often treat both kinds of victims as though they have lost value…which is absurd.

The assumed logic is divorce is failure, therefore the divorced have somehow failed but play that assumed logic back through the filter of Gods divorce, did He fail?

Hardly.

Athanasius will say that whatever God wants to transform He becomes…so frankly I see a redemptive trajectory in Gods divorce, but my point is our posture towards others cannot be separated from our posture towards God and its a subtle hypocrisy to create distance and delay for others and expect closeness and immediacy from God for ourselves.

How you treat others is an exact representation of your true relationship with God.

So how do you treat the divorced? How do you treat those of a different culture, those of a different social status, those of a different religious discipline?

As I have encountered the distance of broken relationships, it has forced me to a place of honesty where I am required to question not only what I believe, but even past that to what I feel, what is informing my internal environment, is it truth or some default structure left behind by a former mindset?

I know even in myself I have had a negative reaction to divorced people, and at times still feel it…the dissonant “Oh they’re divorced” said not in malice but mostly in…I don’t know…maybe disappointment?

When I survey the pain of divorce, it is right up there with the loss of a loved one in death, and I have discovered in the last year that divorce is not limited to marriage contracts, it also happens in covenants and church’s and relationships and all kinds of places where we might not have walked the aisle and said a vow but we have made an agreement with our lives and the exit papers are no less real, even if they do not require an earthly court.

And here comes the fine print…as much as I hate to face the painful raw and “unfair” nature of this reality…reconciliation is the responsibility of the one who walks with Jesus.

It is our mandate. It is our primary ministry. Says so in Corinthians somewhere.

His journey

If we take God as our model, He was reconciling humanity at the moment when we were at our worst, in the cross we threw the biggest temper tantrum in the history of the world, hurling insult and inflicting pain upon the one Lover who had never deserved any of the abuse…and in that moment God is rolling up our legal right to be “apart” and humbly taking it to the final destination, never once asserting His rights, simply longing for the day when we would all be reconciled again in His love.

I honestly do not know what I believe about the ultimate reconciliation of the world anymore…for all I know God could end this thing tonite and say “that’s it party’s over, sheep to the right, goats to the left”.

He could equally say “Ok EVERYBODY outta the fire into the pool lets get this party started! (Yes you too Adolph!)”…we simply do not know what an untamed God might do.

It is His planet and we are His creation, He gets the final say, not even our Bibles can deny this, and even if you think the book does please bear in mind the author can always re-write the ending, we do after all have a “New” Testament, God has been known to write addendum’s, we have 27 more books than our predecessors, there is history for re-writing the ending.

I mean lets be honest…the best wine is supposed to be saved for NOW…the wedding thing, you know…I find it hard to accept that God used up all the good stuff in the first century and that might include love letters to His bride, we simply do not know and our certainty reveals a hubris that has never served its adherents well.

My hope

At the end of the day, I do not like being unmarried…life is meant to be shared, but ultimately I am discovering that love cannot function in a vacuum…this is the engine driving Gods behavior and should drive ours, the entire point of creation was to create someone to share His great love with and that’s what is tumbling around inside my heart as well, sure I still have a sex drive, sure I get bored and lonely, but my primary desire is just to have someone to adore in a practical way…which really helps me relate to an invisible Deity better, if I am made in His image, then His image wants a wife to just adore…David captures a bit of this when he claims that God knows his rising up and his sitting down, its as if God is obsessed or something.

Our hope

Which leads to this final thought…God is really just looking for people He can adore…this is the implication of the Incarnation and the direction of the gospel…it basically sums up His intention in the death and resurrection of His Son…this is the heart of His ministry of reconciliation, and should be our heart as well.

God adores that woman called humanity, in spite of all the contradiction of brokenness…she might be dressed like a prostitute or strapping bombs to her chest, but all of that is simply a cry to be adored, because this is what humanity was made for.

Hopefully, we can treat her with the respect that she deserves regardless of how we see her…lets clothe her, get her dignity back up, get her some opportunity to be powerful again, show her she is beautiful, maybe get her some clean water to drink or help her find heavens economy in spite of the unemployment rate…

And even if she feels divorced and rejected by other lovers…regardless of the games she plays with empire and fear there is a wedding in her future…

A glorious future coming down adorned as a bride…which is our future as well.

Frankly God deserves a second chance at marriage don’t you think?

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Exodus Reloaded

Recently I’ve been mulling over a comment that Martin Scott made when we met, he said:

“We say the church is the body but the minute you say THE CHURCH IS…you’ve started down the wrong path, the truth is closer to: The body is the church…but even that creates questions”

That might sound like word play but it is much further than simple semantics because it reveals the underlying paradigm shift we need as the “ages end before our eyes”.

I’ve given a lot of thought to these things, being the third generation of a tribe of Pentecostal preachers , someone who is watching in amazement as the movements I participated in for years become more and more irrelevant to the culture they were rooted in.

Your children will be your judges

My offspring only “go to church” out of a lingering sense of duty, most of them admitting that for some time the message of a Sunday morning exercise has long lost its meaning to them, the more engaging connections happen for them far outside the realms of “church” as we have known it.

It is not simply the day and time we have church, its the way we do it…the Greek model of lecture and learning, passive pew person and special speaker not unlike the University and “higher” education, which for them was a transition NOT a way of life.

They all have a much more vibrant and healthy relationship with God than I did when I was their age, having faith and encounters that make me smile in mild jealousy…church for them is about as fun as sitting waiting for the dentist to call them in, because they are all relating to a supernatural God in ways that church did not teach them.

And yes before assumptions are made they have all been to the Bethels and conference addiction and participated in the latest “revival culture” and fire tunnels seeing past the banners into the culture around it, so be warned that we have nothing to offer them they have not already tasted.

And just pause here for a moment…we applaud the courage they have had to challenge liberal professors, we have encouraged the standing in the stream with a defiant look demanding real proof of life in the face of peer pressure and herd mentality… Pause and store this information for a minute, it will come in handy soon.

Good, bad or indifferent it is what it is and in one generation we will see the transfer of power from the houses of the holy to the ground zero of life, the generation of our descendants will determine if we built with hay, wood, stubble or gold.

MTV-REAL WORLD-BIG BROTHER

This generation has never been intimidated by authority…they have seen it as a construct of social order and honor it as such, but have never been impressed with titles, labels or notions of power that require enforcement by force, be it the force of jurisdiction or the force of “eternal punishment” and fear…so they calculate the cost, add up the items and go through the checkout line knowing full well that once they cross the thresh-hold the influence of power has ended.

I have seen them stand up in church, walk out muttering under their breath “You are retarded” because some insecure leader has misused scripture in a way that abuses people and power and creates fear, they are done, and everyone knows it, they have their own lines of power and when you cross that, you find your power has limits.

My point is a generation has been birthed whether by intention or miscalculation that has no room for insecurity and unreality, for example if you are going to preach how tithing works they will challenge you to prove it from where they sit with the rest of the sheep, give up your salary, your parsonage and your cell phone and get back to me on how tithing works, when you demonstrate it from the trenches without an agenda they will believe it, until then it looks like a sanctified pyramid scheme to them.

Here’s the money quote from David Kinnamen “So 59 percent of people who were 18 to 29 who were churched as a teenager said they had dropped out after attending some time regularly. What’s so fascinating is 57 percent said that they’re less active in church, but only 29 percent said they’re less spiritual.”

Almost 60% of the 40% that actually go…that means that 84% of this generation do not and will not attend church.

An entire generation.

For this generation, they have seen the tactics of “blessing” and the leverage of “cursing”, they can spot a carrot on string faster than you can say “servant-hood” because they have watched their parents serve and serve and serve until the carrot dried up and shriveled to a pickled state…and they have better things to do with their time, like raise their own kids to be powerful and mystical and partner with Jesus.

(My three year old Granddaughter RockyJo continually says “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” even when drawing puppies or commanding scary things to leave her room.)

Questions: who left this mess?

And herein is the problem…its not simply tithing and preaching and a whole host of cultural scaffolding, it is the fact that they are not afraid to ask questions and know the difference between a holy cow disguised as a golden calf and the God on the mountain, mainly because they know who has to clean up the mess left behind.

Our tithing model has left them an economy that is on the brink of total collapse…

They hear us say “Give and it will be given to you” full well knowing that love gives with no intention of getting and that this is being told to the top 2% of the wealthy people in the world and they immediately apply this truth to the orphans in Mozambique…is it true? And if it is so true why aren’t we trying to bailout our economy, just invest everything and the world will be saved, right?

Our authority structures have left them a culture of inequality and class separation…

They hear us say “All are equal, all are members of the body” but they clearly see the roped off pews reserved for those who are more equal than others, and think about the illegal aliens halted at the roped off borders simply looking for clean water.

If all are equal then why does a “culture of honor” run and label everyone orphans or wounded when it is questioned, and the truth is they just wanted to know if Muslims, liberals, gays and black Presidents should be honored as well? It seems all are equal but there are in-equal levels of honor to disperse.

They hear us preach about the mountain mandates and capturing our culture for Christ wondering where were we for a generation while Hollywood mocked our political activism for the shallow assault it always was, and then watch in silence as we play “Gangnam Style” video announcements proving how we are different.

Our theology has left them a world where questions have been ignored and have festered into raging cultural shifts and they realize the inheritance has been spent in routine and tradition, there is no fatted calf even if the prodigals do come home.

But they have learned to ask questions…”Because I said so” has NEVER EVER worked on this generation and it will not work now, any leader who does not allow questions will not get the time of day from this Exodus generation…and if they will accept questions they better be prepared for the hard ones…like why is our focus on same sex issues which is only mentioned 6 times in the bible but greed and ignoring the poor is mentioned at least 30 times with just a casual glance?

And they have been to college and had heaven and hell questioned by linguist and scholars and the inconsistencies of the Genesis narrative has been shoved in their face with the fossil record, so “I said so” is just not going to work for them.

I suppose we should have seen it coming…really what were we thinking?

Occupy This

The body Jesus claimed was ordained in the volume of the book long before he arrived in a manger and long before before Mary missed her period and knew for sure the Word of the Lord was “in-wombed”, it had a supernatural history even before time itself according to the generations listed in Johns gospel.

Then that same body lived a quite normal life until it received a supernatural commission by John the son of a Priest turned mystic/all-natural food eating/baptizer along with the Holy Spirit descending bringing Supernatural endorsement far away from the temple…

A supernaturally endorsed body went about doing supernatural good healing all who were being supernaturally oppressed by invading spirits, with various supernatural signs and miracles scattered throughout the journey…

This supernatural Son supernaturally declared to everyone an event, long before it happened, all the while dragging the worst of human corruption into himself, both naturally and supernaturally, he said if he was lifted up he would draw all to himself…all meaning all, which obviously would require a demonstration of supernatural truth.

This went on until the principalities and powers that were, decided to naturally end this supernatural life by the cruelest of executions and declaring it a cursed life, lifted it up on a stake in the natural earth.

In the next to last stanza this body of Christ was supernaturally raised from natural and inevitable death, dragging all of humanity up out of the tomb, appearing in different forms for many days after that, sometimes recognized, sometimes not, making an obvious statement about doors and walls no longer having any influence upon the body we were supernaturally joined to.

Finally in a supernaturally charged prayer event the Supernatural Spirit came and invaded the supernatural body that we call the church.

So we use natural rules, natural order, natural hierarchies, natural methods to describe, contain, control and endorse a body that has never ever been natural in any sense of the word…and even when we change the names, not calling it “church”, not using the title “pastor” an astute generation knows perfectly well what we mean, they’ve seen this movie before so the remake is old hat…no wonder they think we’re crazy.

They see with unflinching gaze the tsunami of larger than natural disasters headed to the planet and we have been offering them a body that is quite natural with a history that projects a natural ending not many days hence.

When we say “the church is His body” they surely smile and say “you are retarded in your calculations”…the church they are looking for will not be found in natural forms, it probably won’t be recognized by those who knew it best…

It must by definition be supernatural.

Therefore it is the body that is the church and not the other way round.

And while we continue to tend to our holy cows they are out in the wilderness searching in for a body prepared and saying:

“Low I come…to DO thy will…”

In my next post I hope to spy out the land a little…what does the body really look like?

A land flowing with milk and honey, two of my favorite things…and maybe even some wine and coffee for the journey as well…

Hey, Hey, Hey!

Image

Creation dream, some insane sculptor scooping out space with planets and neutron stars exploding gold dust scattered across a galaxy or two…

A multitude of Angelic monoliths  peering over shoulder to shoulder in wonder at the swirling sea of chaos as the gentle feather wind begins to stir over the top of a murky fragmented mess of dark sea stained sickness.

The storm cannot hide from the smallest breath of this glowing wing sweeping change upon the surface of the angry and rebellious waves, giving way like the open arms of a child, calm emerges and reflects the glow of dawn.

Standing clothed with humility was this crazy figure jumping from tooth to tooth in a Dragons open mouth, the tongue of lies derelict and silent draped across a pile of empty chains.

Hey, Hey, Hey! He shouts in the voice that can only be described as total joy in living sound…a lamb breaking the teeth of a serpent, all is won, nothing lost, who’s laughing now?

Like a stampede of wild horses laughter pounds away in our chest as the tears of a million broken dreams reborn, abortion halted like the storm of lies now just a memory, that is all it was…

A bad dream…nothing more…we awake to see the day, glad the bad was only a moment in the vast endless parade of joy.

And with the dust of lies now swept away, let us arise and greet the day…

With open arms Hey, Hey Hey!