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