A few years ago, I wrote a four-part article that ran on Crosswalk.com called The Unraveling of a Christian Marriage. To this day, I still get emails about this article. And the email usually sounds something like this:
Thank you for writing my story. I no longer feel alone. I’m in a horrible marriage. I want out. You’ve given me hope.
These emails simultaneously make my heart hurt, make me grateful, and make me cringe.
With everything in me, I hate, hate, hate that there are so many broken Christian marriages, most of which are being played out in secret. (To prove there are “so many”: there are over four hundred women in my private Facebook group for women in difficult Christian marriages, and I believe I am just barely scratching the surface). I believe this is one of the worst and biggest secrets that the Church is keeping: that the marriages of some of their members are imploding and they don’t want the outside world to know or they don’t understand the intricacies or don’t know what to do about addiction or abuse because it doesn’t fit into the mold of one or two certain bad things happening (i.e. adultery or literal abandonment), so they do things – even if unintentionally – that make matters worse.
And yet with everything in me, I am so grateful that God has used the pain I experienced for twenty-five years for something other than just to break me into a million pieces. One of the main reasons I write is so that you precious women who feel so stuck and caught and broken and isolated and ashamed no longer feel alone. Because you’re not; I get it. If you’re reading these words, you are officially no longer alone.
And yet another yet is this: these emails scare me a bit. Because I have promised myself and God that I will never, ever tell a woman she should or can divorce, and so I never, ever want anything I write to make a woman feel that I’ve just given her the greenlight, because I can’t.
Though I believe our lives are sweeter when lived out in community, that God gave us each other to help us get through and figure things out and see who he really is in deeper ways, I also believe that life is a singular journey in many ways. We can get all the help we want, we can ask around for advice and read books and blogs, we can go to counselors and friends and family, we can be wise about gathering other people’s intelligent opinions, but at the end of our lives, we will not be standing in front of God holding anyone’s hand.
You will not be able to look God in the eye and say you decided to do such-and-such, like get a divorce, because you read my blog and your story sounded kinda like my story and so since I did, you figured you could too.
Nope. That’s not how it works.
You, sweet woman, will be one hundred percent responsible for your every choice. You cannot blame it on anyone else. Not your husband, not your counselor, not your pastor, not some random blogger.
And for those of you who are new to me (or to those who have forgotten), not only did I not just up and get a divorce one day (not by a long shot), I wasn’t even the divorce-initiator.
There is never a good way to divorce – because divorce is sad and ugly and not God’s intention – but I fully believe there is a wrong way and a right way to divorce.
The wrong way involves taking your cues from someone other than God.
The wrong way involves just up and leaving one day without giving your spouse ample time to hear you and change, without giving God ample space to work and heal.
The wrong way involves leaving because you’re unhappy.
The wrong way involves making all the decisions on your own, eschewing the wise counsel of those in your life who love you.
The wrong way involves another person already in the picture.
This is not the right way to end a marriage.
Because the right way involves time.
And prayer. (Much, much prayer.)
And asking for and heeding wise counsel.
And being hugely humble.
And owning your own crap.
And protecting your heart from other men entering in inappropriately. (You are still married until divorce day. Do not get romantically involved with another man under any circumstances.)
And more waiting.
And I say this knowing there might be abuse or addiction involved. And if that is the case, you get yourself help and you put up boundaries and you keep you and your children safe.
But dear woman, you cannot get a divorce just because I am divorced. If I’ve given you any hope, I hope it’s the kind of hope that allows you to see that we follow a faithful, loving God who promises to walk us through the deepest waters without letting us drown. But this story of yours is your own. So walk it out carefully and prayerfully.
If this post resonated with you, you would benefit from Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage.