Tag Archives: divorce

If you’re gonna shout, let love be the cry

There’s a popular Christian song called “Bleed the Same” by Mandisa and Toby Mac that has this line: “If we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for each other. If we’re gonna shout, let love be the cry.”

There’s a lot of shouting and fighting that takes place these days. Oh sure, it’s not usually actual shouting and arguing, person-to-person, although that definitely happens. Instead, it’s shouting in the form of firmly worded Facebook posts painting clear pictures of right and wrong. It’s arguing in heated Twitter exchanges complete with name calling and derogatory insults at individuals and entire groups of people. And the worst part about all of this shouting and fighting I see? It is often coming from fellow Christians.

I’m a firm believer in standing up for what you believe in. After-all what is the point in life if you can’t find something to really believe in? But where I see a problem is the use of verbal absolutes on internet-based platforms that do not lend themselves to real conversation and understanding. When sharing our values in 150 characters or less we draw a line in the sand that says, I’m on this side, if you disagree, you are on the other side.

Me versus you.

Us versus them.

And I’m pretty confident no one ever changed their mind by being called a “them”.

It’s the main reason I shy away from controversial topics on my blog because I know that I cannot enter into meaningful dialog with anyone via WordPress comments or Facebook posts. It’s very hard for me to listen and hear another person’s heart from this side of my computer screen. And if I’m gonna talk about the hard stuff, the ugly, messy stuff, then I want you to hear my heart, and I need to hear yours in return. It’s the only way we will ever take steps toward each other and maybe begin to erase that line.

Interestingly, I find that often the issues that people shout the loudest about are the ones they have never had to struggle with. It’s easy to identify sin that we ourselves have never been tempted by or struggled with. It suddenly gets a lot trickier when it’s something we are battling. I think that’s why so many Christians are able to take a hard stand on issues like abortion and gay rights. Yet, I rarely see Christians picketing outside a divorce attorney’s office or courtroom to let the world know that divorce is a sin. I’ve never seen bumper stickers on cars that say “You can’t be Christian and covet my Mercedes”. And no one I know has said to me, “I’m voting for the candidate that is pro-sabbath.”

Why? Because over 50% of Christians have been divorced, and more of us touched by it in our families. Because I think it’s safe to say ALL of us have desired things that another person has; and find me the person who doesn’t want Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday after church.

We’ve cursed, we’ve refused to forgive, we’ve disrespected our parents, we’ve gossiped, we’ve not observed the Sabbath, and a million other sins every day. It’s a lot easier to have compassion for others struggling with these sins because we have struggled with them.

We live in a day and age where most of us would be outraged if a church refused to allow a divorced person to worship within its doors, and an entire day of rest and spiritual study is a “nice to have”, when the kids don’t have a soccer game and I don’t have to go grocery shopping, that is.

And let me be very clear here, I’m not pointing fingers or judging ANYONE here. Quite frankly, I have enough of my own sin to worry about fixing, I don’t have time to be pointing out other’s.

My point is that we seem to have arrived in a place where there are certain topics it’s OK to take a stand on — publicly, loudly, boldly –with the foundation that as Christians we have a duty to point out sin and fight for Truth. But I think we need to ask ourselves whether we’d be just as willing to publicly, loudly, and boldly take a stand on some of the many other sins listed in the Bible — the ones we struggle with every single day.

Or maybe the better question to ask is, would we better serve God if the only thing we were quick to post on public forums was that we serve a loving God? What if the truth we were loudest about was that none of us are worthy, and yet we have been forgiven? What if the message we shared boldly was that of grace?

What might those statements do for the church? How might they draw people to Jesus instead of turning them away? Would it allow for real dialog and conversation?

I can’t say for certain., but I do know this: Jesus didn’t gain followers by standing on a street corner and shouting his beliefs. He sat next to the people who were different from him and asked questions. He ate with them and visited their homes. He looked them in the eye, saw their pain, and loved them. He invited them to walk with him.

And in the end, his final cry was that of love.

Friends, my plea is that before you decide to share that article that labels others, or condemns someone under the veil of “Christian family values” and sin, ask yourself what sin you are struggling with and whether you are willing to post about it to social media just as boldly. Or perhaps, instead, ask yourself if maybe social media isn’t the right place to be having these conversations at all. And then seek out someone who thinks differently from you, invite them to lunch, and open your heart so that you may hear theirs.

 

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

The secret to a long and happy marriage

OK, so now that I’ve lured you in with a juicy title I have to come clean. I don’t really believe there is one big, secret formula to a long and happy marriage. It’s way too complex for that, and anyone that tells you differently is trying to sell you something. Besides, I’ve only been married for 14 years. While that may seem like a lifetime in today’s society, it’s by no means my definition of a long marriage.

However, I have learned a thing or two in the last 14 years that I wish my younger self knew. And there is this one thing. This one secret that I want so desperately to tell every newly married or engaged couple. To whisper into their ears before they walk down the aisle. The thing that no one told me. The thing I hope I can impart to my children to help avoid years of frustration and turmoil.

It’s this: lower your expectations.

Now, before everyone gets all up in arms and starts commenting on what an awful thing that is to say, please hear me out. I did not grow up with a realistic expectation of what a healthy marriage should look like. On one end of the spectrum I had the Disney happily-ever-after-fairy tale picture. On the other end I saw my parents get divorced, more than once. And this is not to knock my parents. I believe they didn’t grow up with realistic expectations on what a happy marriage looked like, either. In fact, most of us don’t. Even if you are fortunate enough to come from a home where your parents have long, happy marriages, most of the time those parents aren’t really letting their kids see the hard work, disappointments, arguments, compromises, etc. that they are making in order to make the marriage last. Those things happen behind closed doors and we only see the end-result, the public face of marriage.

So when I got engaged at the very young age of 22 I believed I knew the formula to a happy, long-lasting marriage: As long as you had open communication, loved each other, stayed faithful, and never gave-up, you could live a lifetime of happily-ever-after. In essence I was young, naive, and maybe a bit delusional. Because anyone who has been married for more than 10 minutes knows it’s so much more complex than that.

In the early years of my marriage I thought there must be something terribly wrong with our relationship. (This was also about the time I started reading Nicholas Sparks novels, which rank right up there with Disney in terms of perpetuating an unrealistic expectation of a real marriage.) I didn’t understand it. We did all the “right” things. We went to church together, made time as a couple, but still allowed each other to have friends and hobbies outside the marriage. We had dates and hung out with friends and did couple’s devotions. And yet we fought all the time. Our once easy communication seemed to disappear. I felt my husband withdrawing and shutting down and that just made me push harder. I wondered how it was that this man who used to drive 16 hours round-trip just to spend one day with me now couldn’t even wash a sink of dishes to make me happy. And he wondered why I never, ever seemed to be happy-enough.

I believed I knew the formula to a happy, long-lasting marriage…In essence I was young, naive, and maybe a bit delusional.

It seemed like something was fundamentally wrong with us because our marriage didn’t feel like happily-ever-after. We weren’t like Jasmine and Aladdin, or Noah and Allie. Heck, we weren’t even like that happy couple sitting in the pew across from us at church every Sunday.

And why not? Ohhh, that’s right, because those are not real people or real relationships. They came from a book!

Even the couple across the pew was not real, because I only saw what I wanted to see. I had no real insight into what happened behind closed doors. As silly as it sounds to admit out loud, though, that’s where my bar was set. You were either happy or you weren’t. You were the love story or the cautionary tale. There was nothing in the middle. And because I didn’t know any better, I thought this meant we were complete failures at this marriage thing.

Then, about two years into our marriage I got a glimmer of hope. A friend of the family, who for all appearances had a very happy marriage, admitted to me that the first year was the hardest for her and her husband, and they were still figuring things out 8 years later. Oh my gosh, we weren’t the only ones!! What a relief and comfort that was to know! And I began to think, maybe there is a middle ground. Maybe it’s not so black and white.

The truth is your marriage will be tested by the big things. The sickness and health, richer or poorer stuff that make good marriage vows. And with God’s help you can overcome those things and come out the other side stronger and better. We have. But truly the hardest part of marriage is not the big stuff, it’s the every day, little stuff. The days when you’re both tired or not feeling well and no one wants to cook or help the kids with homework. The nights where every sound and smell that comes from your husband makes you want to suffocate him in his sleep (not that I have ever had this thought or anything). The weeks where you don’t have a single conversation about something other than groceries, kids, pets or what’s for dinner. The months without sex (yes I said months; have two kids under 2 and you’ll see). This is the ugly, day-to-day, in the trenches reality about marriage. It’s hard, and it tests you. It pushes your buttons and all boundaries of what you thought was reasonable.

So if your expectation is to find a Hallmark-movie-perfect mate, be in Nicholas-Spark’s-passionate love, and live a Disney-movie-happily-ever-after life then you will be disappointed. You will think you’re doing it wrong. And sadly, you may choose to end the marriage, or else live feeling unsatisfied and resentful.

Truly the hardest part of marriage is not the big stuff, it’s the every day, little stuff.

However, if you change your expectations. If you accept that there will be arguments, bad moods, smelly socks, dirty dishes, sick kids, late hours at the office, weeks (or months) without intimacy, complaints, worries, and piles of laundry. If you can live with changing moods, changing dreams, and changing diapers. If you know that marriage is a packaged deal and this is part of the package, then…

…then you can face these things with a little less fear, less feeling like a failure. You can stop focusing on all the ways marriage is so much harder than you thought it would be and start to focus on the ways it’s so much better than you imagined it could be. Because the other part of that packaged deal is so, so, so much more. It’s shared firsts and life-long memories; it’s laughing at each other’s stupid jokes and crying on each other’s shoulders. It’s growing up and growing old together with the one person who knows you better than anyone else. The person who has smelled your breath first thing in the morning and still chooses to sleep in the same bed as you! It’s so much more happiness than can fit in a 2 hour movie or 500 page novel. It’s just more. It’s real and it’s alive and it’s worth every. hard. day.

But first, I challenge you to lower your expectations. Stop waiting for the fairy-tale or the romance novel, or to be like the couple across the street. And maybe, together, we can create a new standard of what happily-ever-after looks like.

Why it hurts whenever I hear the words “if my husband ever cheated on me, I would leave him”

[Author’s note: I am incredibly grateful to my husband for encouraging me to write about and share this very personal part of our story. He believes, as do I, that God has called us to use our past to encourage and give hope to others. For his selflessness and bravery, I love him all the more.]

Friends in cafe
Copyright: peus / 123RF Stock Photo

There we are, sitting at a table in a busy restaurant, enjoying a “mom’s night out”. The talk at the table turns to a friend of a friend who is going through a painful divorce. Her husband had an affair and she is, of course, devastated and trying to pick up the pieces of her life. And then it’s said. That one sentence that I know is coming. “My husband knows if he ever cheated on me it would be over!”

Around the table heads nod in agreement and friends chime in with their unanimous support of this statement. And I shift in my chair uncomfortably. I pretend to study the menu a little more closely. I sip my drink until there’s just ice. Anything to avoid eye contact or weighing in on this conversation.

I know my friends have no idea how hard it is for me to hear this statement. How much it hurts. I know because ten years ago I could be found sitting around a table of girlfriends saying the same thing.

But that was before.

Before I knew what it was really like to be faced with that reality.

Growing up I saw the devastating effects of infidelity in my parent’s marriages. As a child I felt the repercussions. I also saw and lived through the life-altering effects of divorce, and at times grasped for a life-ring in the wake of the pain and destruction it left. From my child’s eyes it was so simple. I would never, ever get divorced, I vowed. That is…unless…he cheated on me. I mean, after-all the Bible gives us an out on this. As Christians we can say this in mixed company and no one will judge us. Everyone will agree.

But then.

Then your life, your marriage, doesn’t always go the way you plan. Hell, does anything go the way we plan?

We had been married for 5 years when I found out that my husband had been unfaithful. It was the most devastating experience I could never have fathomed. The air was sucked out of me and I was living a bad dream, just waiting to wake up. While it was a one-time occurrence, I found out that it had been triggered by a spiraling addiction to pornography that my husband had managed to keep hidden from me for the 9 years we’d been together. An addiction he’d struggled with since he was a boy. As with any addiction, it escalated, sending him down a dark rabbit hole and dragging him deeper and deeper until it was completely out-of-control. The shame, guilt, and fear he lived with everyday…well I can only try to imagine.

When the truth came out I was in a state of shock for weeks. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or where to turn. But I knew two things. 1. My life would never be the same, and 2. I didn’t want to pack my bags and leave like I had always thought I would if faced with this news.

I saw before me a broken, hurting man. The man I loved so dearly. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I wanted to scream and yell and hit him, and sometimes I did those things. But mostly I wanted to love him.

Once he confessed it all, he immediately offered to go seek the help he knew he needed. We both went to counseling, separately. Him to face his addiction, and me to deal with this new reality.

I told only two people in my life what had happened.

I prayed. A lot.

I went through days where everything seemed fine and normal, and days when I just cried for hours, barely able to get out of bed. I questioned him over and over again. What else had he done? Who else had he been with? What wasn’t he telling me? All trust was out the window and gone and I was scared. So, so scared that it would never be there again.

I won’t sugar coat it. It was hard. We went through some excruciatingly dark periods. For a while I had the number of a divorce attorney in my Rolodex at work, and many days I thought, ‘today is the day I will call’.

It took the better part of two years of counseling to get through the worst of it. And at least another two years before I really started to believe we were going to make it.

I recall one night lying in bed after an argument with my husband, crying and pleading with God. “How will we ever get through this? Will I ever truly be able to forgive and trust him again?” And I remember so clearly, as if He was in the room with me, God whispered in my ear and said “If I can forgive him and love him, so can you. If I can forgive you of all the wrongs you’ve done, how can you not also forgive him?”

I didn’t wake up the next day and find everything had magically fallen into place. But, after that moment I was able to see my husband as a beloved, hurting child of God who was worthy of forgiveness. And over time I was able to forgive him — really, truly forgive and let go — and eventually trust him again.

It’s been 9 years since I found out about my husband’s affair. I tell you the truth when I say I love and respect this man more today than I did the day I married him. He spent over four years in counseling working through his addiction, his past and all of the hurt and pain it had caused in his life. I am amazed at his fortitude and all he’s overcome.

Our marriage is far from perfect. We argue, and get on each other’s nerves, and sometimes…every once in a while…when we’re not communicating as often as we need to I still feel a little bit of the old worry and doubt creep in. But over the years this happens less and less; maybe one day it won’t happen at all. Or maybe it will always be there on some small scale as a reminder of where we’ve been and just how far we’ve come. I don’t know.

What I do know is that this does not define us. My husband’s addiction and sin does not define him as a man or a husband. Being the wife who was cheated on is not my label. Being the couple who survived infidelity is not who we are. We are so much more than this. We are sinful, broken children of God who are doing our best to live the life He called us to lead. To be the husband and wife He knows we can be. The parents He has blessed us to be.

Please, please know that this is our story only. I share this not as a model for what I think all couples who are facing infidelity must do. I cast absolutely no judgement on anyone who has walked away from a marriage broken and hurting. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

I write this and share it with all of you because I want you to know there is hope. If your marriage has been broken, if you are facing an addiction, living with shame — there is hope. You must want it, and you must work for it and, above all, you must be patient and trust the Lord to heal you and your relationship, but it can be done. Whether the relationship survives or it doesn’t, the Lord will mend your heart if you let Him.

Just promise me…next time you’re sitting with a group of friends talking about marriages and infidelity, try to remember that until you’ve been there and walked that broken road, you don’t really know what you will choose. And, God forbid, if you ever do find yourself in that situation, know that there is no shame and no weakness in choosing to stay.