Let me preface this by saying this is by no means an attempt to bash the church or Christians. What this is is a place to start a conversation. A place to consider doing things a different way. A place to start doing it better.
Divorce. It is one of the most isolating seasons of life inside the church. And even when your divorce falls under a Biblical reason, divorce leaves you feeling set apart. I have heard from so many people that the way a church “handled” their divorce was almost as devastating as the divorce itself. My experience was not that extreme; in fact, I could brag for days on the people around me. But Y’ALL! Knowing how many of you have felt an added hurt by the church during a divorce breaks my heart. That is not acceptable. Ever. Especially from the church.
We write cards for a birthday or an anniversary. We send flowers for a job promotion. We setup meal trains for the births of babies or funerals. We show up to help with house projects, yard work and free babysitting when someone loses a spouse or gets a cancer diagnosis. Even if it’s awkward, it is more common than not for people to engage and ask how they can help.
The church does births, deaths, weddings, birthdays and illnesses well. Often the church even does support for addictions and abuse better than divorce.
Divorce is generally not done well. There is not a card for divorce. There is not a meal train for divorce. There is no one showing up to help with free babysitting or yard work. There is not a place for real conversations about divorce and the fracture it causes not only in our families but also in our hearts & souls. There are a lot of assumptions. I know because I heard them or was asked presumptuous questions about my own life. These are not complaints – they are observations.
Church, we can do better. I can do better. Until I was on this side of divorce, I was guilty too of falling short to those in the hard, isolated season of life called divorce.
Inside the church there is a common, underlying belief that divorce is always a desired choice. An easy choice. A haphazard choice. A less than Godly choice. That those who are divorced took the easy way out. Yes, ultimately, a choice does have to be made whether you remain married or not but far more often than we want to think about divorce is a result of abuse, addictions, unfaithfulness and abandonment. Divorce is grief. Divorce is ugly. Divorce is a mourning process. Divorce is hard. Divorce often blindsides.
We have to change the way we think about divorce. Because how we think about divorce influences how we treat those in that season of life.
Church, move towards those in a divorce season the same way you would move towards someone who lost a spouse to death. Why do we treat a man whose wife unexpectedly left him & his children behind differently than we do a man with children who lost his wife to cancer or an auto accident? Why do we treat a woman whose husband had an affair and left differently than a woman who lost her husband through death?
Divorce is like a death. What was is no longer. It takes time to process. It takes time to heal. It takes time to find a new normal. Find ways to fill gaps. Allow your friend to talk about it. Swallow the words of advice. Fight the urge to fix it. Be the hands and feet. And just show up. Unsolicited. Because more than likely, your friend will never voice their needs because they don’t know what their needs are. You think it is uncomfortable for you. At times, it is almost unbearably uncomfortable for the one living it. And frankly, he or she doesn’t have the headspace or heartspace to try to make you feel comfortable.
Divorce would never be my choice. For myself. Or for you. Don’t assume it is an easy choice, an easy way out or a choice made lightly. Don’t say things like “just get over it” or “move on.” You cannot rush a healthy healing process. What helps a healing process is a safe place. A place where judgment and advice don’t reign. A place where those feel included rather than isolated. A place where the love and compassion of Christ is shown the same to a divorcee as it is to a widow.
Write a card. Send flowers. Give a gift card for a meal out. Mow the yard without solicitation. Offer to watch the kids at no charge. Give a hug. Be your normal self – waves of normal are refreshing – even if normal is quirky.
Church, we can do better. And it starts with me. It starts with you.