I recently accompanied a friend to the Denton County Courthouse. When we entered the courtroom, a trial was taking place. The judge called for a 15 minute recess, warning the defense lawyer that he might want to make sure his client understood her fifth amendment rights before taking the stand. During the recess, four divorces were finalized. Four women, each with an attorney to make sure all was done legally, saw the end of something that had been entered with hopes of romance, togetherness, joyful companionship, and shared goals and dreams. Somewhere along the line, those dreams shattered. The fractures in the relationships were no longer repairable. There is no such thing as an effective relational glue when one or both parties continues to violate vows made at the time of marriage.
Divorce--the very word brings sadness. Something that was once united by mutual commitment divides into two usually warring parts. The ramifications of divorce rarely stop in the judge's courtroom, especially if there are children.
For a long time, the church has stigmatized divorce. This stigmatization springs from passages in the Bible that seem to forbid it absolutely. Goodness knows, no one wants divorce. But even God found divorce necessary at one point. In Jeremiah 3:6-11, a disturbingly graphic portion of the Bible speaks of the faithlessness of the nation of Israel, and God's choice to divorce the nation, to separate from such a place. As sad as divorce is, there periodically comes a time when the relationship itself is more evil than the sorrow of divorce.
This week the news headlines spoke of a young mother who had phoned the police, insisting that her baby daughter had been abducted. It turns out that her boyfriend, father of the child now growing in her womb, probably killed the young girl and disposed of her body in Lake Lewisville. The mother says she was terrified of him and went along with the scheme because she didn't want to be hurt. Such a statement makes it clear: sometimes relationships have crossed over the line into evil, and must end.
When relationships are maintained with violence or threats of violence--and keep in mind that violence takes many forms, only a few of which are physical--then evil becomes the relational glue. I speak out of my own hard experience here. I remember only too well a phone call I received when the news of my divorce many years ago became public. This person, whom I had trusted as a spiritual leader, called me "an evil and unrepentant woman." The violence had been hidden too well. Since I was the one who finally said, "no more," and initiated the proceedings, I was the one who, in the eyes of the church, was technically at fault.
The evil one--very much stigmatized. As I write, the memories of much horror comes sweeping over me again. To stay would have made me a good church woman. A dead one, more than likely, but a good one nonetheless. To leave, to choose life over death, to believe that God could still love me with this mark upon me, took an enormous amount of courage.
We all carry scars of living in this challenging world upon us. We are not called to live unscarred or untouched lives. We are called to work out our salvation in the midst of our trials, and to find in our scars the hope of redemption, the promise of life both now and everlasting. To all who have endured the most searing and devastating of broken relationships, the divorce, I remind you: you are still beloved children of God. Do not let anyone tell you something different. When you find life on the other side of death, you have simply followed Jesus through the crucifixion into the resurrection. Thanks be to God.