Several years ago my wife and I were having a particularly difficult time in our young marriage. In hindsight, I can see my part of our problems. But in that season, everything was her fault as far as my mind was concerned.
I was in my mid-twenties, miserable with my wife, and working for a church.
The whole “Christian” and “church” thing made me feel even more trapped in my unhappy marriage.
If I left my wife what would people think? Would I be able to keep my job? Would God want me around at all?
Both my parents, several siblings, and nearly all my uncles and aunts have at least one divorce in their past. Was I doomed to be like the rest of my family and end up a statistic?
Somehow I carried this incredible burden to stay married because it was the “right thing to do.” I don’t know if it had much to do with God, though I thought he may smite me for even thinking about divorce.
It was mostly about not disappointing anyone I knew, especially the Christians around me.
I was trying to live according to their beliefs, and I felt like I had to keep up an appearance so I could stay a part of the club.
Yet, when I recall that time — the people in my life and the church I attended — I can’t actually think of anyone who would have judged me or rejected me. I had really good people around me.
All the thoughts running through my head were from a social pressure I put on myself as a by-product of existing in Christian culture.
The teachings I had heard made it clear the Bible said I was supposed to stay married unless my wife cheated on me.
Then and only then could I divorce her and maintain my status on the moral high horse. I perceived unfaithfulness as the only reason I could end the relationship and still keep my key card to get through heaven’s gates at the country club on Sunday morning.
But alas, my wife is a good wife. She never cheated on me.
So I stood at the crossroads of indecision.
Stay and work things out — which I didn’t believe was possible. Or divorce the wife of my youth and incur the wrath of what I believed evangelical Christianity was going to deliver to me.
God hates divorce. It says so in Malachi. Naturally if I did something God hates, then his people must hate me along with him, right?
In the midst of my mind tormenting me with all the the thoughts of “should I or should I not,” I decided I needed an outside perspective. I called my aunt.
After filling her in on some of my frustrations with my marriage we found ourselves in a debate about divorce.
She wasn’t trying to talk me into leaving my wife, but she could see how miserable I was in my desire to leave while feeling morally obligated to stay. Why wasn’t it an option?
The sort of apex of my aunt’s rant went something like this:
Of course God hates divorce! It’s awful!
I hate divorce. I hate what it did to my first marriage. I hate what it did to my kids.
Nobody likes divorce, Adam. No one ever wants to get divorced. No one gets married believing they’ll end up divorced.
But God loves you. And you need to understand that he loves you more than he hates divorce.
God loves you more than he hates divorce.
This proclamation shook me to my core. It flew in the face of the beliefs I was operating under.
I started to cry as I let the weight of that truth impress itself on my misery.
If God loved me more than he hated divorce, then that must mean he actually sees me and sees what I’m feeling. He sees what my wife and I are putting each other through.
There was this overwhelming sense that God turned his face away from me as I contemplated divorce. As if me thinking something so horrible would cause him to stop caring about me and my marriage.
I had taken teachings about marriage and divorce and let them breed a fear in me. It was a fear that if I didn’t follow these teachings and have a morally perfect reason to leave my marraige, then I would be rejected by God and rejected by my church.
This legalism ruled my approach to my relationship.
I spent my time focusing on the negative fears and I had forgotten about the positive.
My thoughts and emotions were so devoted to obsessing about avoiding divorce that I hadn’t pursued having a good marriage.
This was the beginning of me seeing my marriage differently.
It was also the beginning of me looking at divorce differently — at least my belief in how God views divorce. But that’s another post. 😉
My family’s opinion and the church’s opinion didn’t matter anymore. My fears of them didn’t matter either.
Only God’s opinion mattered, and his was that he loved me regardless of what I chose to do.
Whatever you’ve been through, or if you’re in the middle of it, remember that God loves you more than he hates divorce.
Those words didn’t “save” my marriage that day. That came later. But they moved me out of a perspective I was stuck in so that I had the right frame of mind to make a decision.
Thanks to my aunt I was able to realize the love of God as opposed to the wrath of God.