Today I was reading a post from Lee Lumley over at The Divorce Covenant. He was talking about how difficult it is to encourage people to go in the opposite direction of bitterness and hatred, and to encourage hurting people to fight for their marriages. You can read his full post here. The part that jumped out at me and took me down a memory lane is the part that I’ve underscored:
“Recently I began participating in a divorce forum in an attempt to let people know that there is healing to be had and that bitterness and hatred doesn’t have to reign in divorce. I’ve posted encouragement to hurting individuals to fight for their marriage and not give up hope. Unfortunately for every one post of encouragement by myself or people like myself on this forum there are 100 posts discouraging reconciliation and encouraging moving on.”
Years ago I remember experiencing something similar to this, but I wasn’t the one trying to encourage others; it was me who needed the encouragement. There was no place for me to go to get the kind of encouragement that helped with the walk that I was on. Both in church and at church activities I was surrounded with women that were coaching me to give up on my marriage and seek divorce, just like they had done. I heard story upon story upon story of how much happier they and their kids were because their husbands just had too many problems and were not living ‘good’ Christian lives.
The encouragement that I received fell into two distinct camps each one having its own unique consequence:
1) “Leave him. The Lord wouldn’t want you stay where it’s not safe and where you aren’t happy.” When I didn’t agree, I was left on my own (emotionally speaking) with future nods of, “Well, you are bringing all this difficulty on yourself by not leaving. The Lord has given you lots of ‘outs’, but you refuse to take them in order to be happy, so you must be able to handle this on your own.” – Consequence: a heaping of rejection.
2) “Oh you poor, dear how hard your marriage must be. It must be so difficult for you and your kids to honour and serve the Lord in that environment.” Seeking any encouragement from this camp, only brought pity on me. – Consequence: compounding self-pity.
Nobody believed, or could stomach, that God was asking me to stay. Yet I was being shown that His best for me included staying in my marriage rather than to abandon my husband because he wasn’t who (and what) I thought he should be. If you’ve not read my story, Darrell and I were married as non-believers and it was after four years of marriage that I was spiritually born. God had a purpose in me being unequally yoked; and so, there I was.
Neither camp helped me and in a very real and painful way, I lived abandoned by the majority of my family of faith. During the beginning part of this season (which lasted 14 years) I was blessed with 1 (ONE) friend to help, then during the last part (which was the hardest) God sent me another (you both know who you are!) to shoulder this burden that He had asked me to see through to the end.
There were no small groups for women who’d opted to stay in really tough marriages, regardless of what is going on. Perhaps there are now, but back then there was a huge void. The only support groups that related to marriage were couples groups or pre-marital counselling, which were obviously not for me; I learned that from experience. And, divorce recovery groups, which were obviously not for me either. There were no groups or weekly meetings for, My Marriage Sucks and I Hurt So Bad And Am So Alone And Afraid In This Big Pit By Myself. Or, Help I Hate My Husband And I Want Him To Die.
Not something that really has its place on the church bulletin, is it? Besides, shhhh, we aren’t supposed to feel, much less, say such things in church.
Yet now, I find there are many of us that are called to not leave but rather, to love. That’s part of the reason for this blog. I hope to capture in a net of encouragement, those women who’ve purposed not to give up on themselves, their husbands, their marriages or their God.
I wish to be a voice that inspires unity through reconciliation in the fruit of peace, longsuffering, mercy and forgiveness among the brethren, rather than one that sows seeds of discord through encouraging the disunity of divorce. (Proverbs 16:14, 19 and Romans 16:17) To encourage and strengthen a walk of courage and conquering through the worse – whatever that ‘worse’ may be.
Years ago, one of the many pivotal turning points in my relationship with God, was in the area of my growth to actually want to stay married. I understood with my head knowledge that God wanted me to stay, but my heart just wasn’t into it. I was obedient outwardly, but my heart was not humble, soft and loving – the way His is.
God used the parable of the Good Samaritan to show me the difference between His heart and mine. I saw the story in a person form rather than remembering the story itself in the memory form of words. (Luke 10:30-37) But, what I saw wasn’t a faceless man lying on the ground covered in blood and dirt – this ‘stranger’ wore my husband’s face. It was Darrell who had been stolen from, beaten up and left for dead – by Satan. Just like the wounded man in the story who had nothing to give the Samaritan, Darrell, as an antagonistic non-believer (bleeding and bruised in his soul), was blind to his need of healing, and required something that God wanted me to give him.
God had chosen me to be the vessel for His love to come through and reach Darrell. And His love is free flowing without reservation and without conditions. God wanted my heart to go out to this man because I knew his condition. He ended the lesson for me with a question: “Will you leave like the priest and the Levite did? Or, will you love like the Samaritan did?”
It was in this experience I started to understand God’s heart and that He was never going to tell me that I had to stay, or that I should. He did something much more powerful to me. He welled up in my heart and spoke to my spirit, that I was needed just like the Samaritan was needed.
I’m very thankful that I didn’t throw away my marriage like so many ‘encouraged’ me to do. Walking through a worse part has certainly brought us to a better part!
“You don’t throw away a whole life, just because it’s banged up a little.”
~ Seabiscuit, the movie ~