Dear Christian leaders,
It’s me again. Remember the girl who wrote this letter last year? The single mom who didn’t want you throwing out nasty statistics about how her kids might turn out? That’s me. How have you been?
So — I’m back. You see last week my church had a guest speaker and I need to talk about his message. I love my church. My church is genuinely good at caring for people. We are starting a marriage mentorship program, which is awesome, and I guess this guy had come to train the mentors on Saturday and spoke to the congregation on Sunday. When I sat down in my seat and read the sermon title, I was immediately bummed but then I reminded myself that my teenage son was sitting beside me and he might actually benefit from hearing some biblical marriage advice. I settled in and determined to keep an open mind and heart.
This man had a lot of great things to say about marriage and he made a lot of people laugh, but when he got toward the end of the sermon he told a story. The story was about a man whose wife left him for another man and instead of divorcing her like all of his friends told him to do, he waited for her for a year. (I need to interject here and say that in quite a few states you have no choice but to wait a year after separation to file for divorce so he probably couldn’t have just divorced her on the spot anyway.) At the end of that year she came home repentant and they lived happily every after and had four more children and then after a dramatic pause he told us that he was one of those four children.
It was a beautiful story of God’s redemption and it needs to be shared because there are people out there who do just need to hold on and push through some more hard stuff and God will heal their marriage and use that redemption to bring others to Himself. I would have been perfectly happy if he had just left it there — but of course he didn’t. He went on to say that if his father hadn’t waited for his mother, he would not have been born and he would not be helping thousands of people every year work through their marriage issues. Then he said these words that have been bothering me all week:
You have children who are watching you and every decision you make and every step you take and every thought you have affects your children and their children and their children and a calling that God might want on your life or their life will be affected by every decision you make. I say this — as goes my marriage, so goes my dreams, my hopes, and my calling.
I have wrestled with these words all week. I even went back and listened to the podcast of the sermon to make sure I had word-for-word what he said and I can’t let it go. It’s not that what he said was necessarily untrue, but the way in which it was said puts my God in a box and I am not okay with that. Let’s take a closer look:
You have children who are watching you and every decision you make and every step you take and every thought you have affects your children and their children and their children and a calling that God might want on your life and their life will be affected by every decision you make….
This is true, but let’s remember that God loves my children even more than I do and no mistake I make can separate them from the love of Jesus. My decisions will affect them, but He will USE them. He is sovereign and He will take the fact that my children came from a divorced family and He will use it for good. He can do that. He does it all the time. Let’s not make children from divorced families feel like there is no hope for their life. I happen to believe that God can use what has happened in my life and marriage to bring my children and their children into an even closer relationship with Him than they would have had otherwise. I believe that watching their mom deal with her divorce with grace from her Savior and then going to school full time while working and parenting full time, will leave them with lessons in grace and hard work that other children will never see. It makes me sad that my son heard these words of despair in church. Where was the hope?
…as goes my marriage, so goes my dreams, my hopes, and my calling.
When my marriage died, my dreams died with it, but my Hope was not in my marriage. My Hope was in Christ alone. He brought my dreams back to life and He used my divorce to give me a stronger and more sure calling than ever before. Please don’t make it sound like you don’t have a calling if you don’t have a marriage.
Here’s the thing — there were no doubt people in that audience who have been waiting for a spouse to return and it has become increasingly obvious that reconciliation is not going to happen for them. What this man told them is that when their marriage dies, their hope and their calling dies with it, and not just their hope and calling but the hope and calling of their children. That is not okay.
God hates divorce. This is true. However, God also hates to see people go to hell. He hates it so much that He sent His Son to die so that we might have Hope. What if that person who just signed on the dotted line for their divorce believes what you said and gives up hope? What if they walk away from the church and never come back? Let’s not put marriages above souls. These people are at their most vulnerable and what they need to hear is this:
Fight for your marriage. Fight with everything you’ve got. But when the dust clears, whether you come out with a marriage or not, you will come out with Jesus — and He is always enough. He will lift your head and dry your tears and He will give you a new calling. It’s going to be okay. Love is going to win. Fight with the confidence that even if you lose this battle, He has already won the war.
So, dear Christian leaders, I hate to be a dripping faucet, but I think that might be my new calling. Can we stop putting marriages above souls? Please? Thanks for serving Jesus. I know it’s not easy. I know sermons on marriage must be preached, but can we just make sure we don’t leave the most vulnerable people without hope? God is so much bigger than divorce. Keep fighting the good fight.
Your divorced, loved, and hope-filled friend,