A Little Context For Me

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Divorce: The Great Church Idol - An Emily Rant

It happened again today. I answered the phone to hear another woman crying. We had a fight. He left. I don’t know what to do. Should I stay? Should I go? Am I honoring my wedding vows by remaining? Am I enabling his behavior by not leaving? I am trying, should I try harder? He’s great guy. He has so much potential. Life is stressful, chaotic, and he would never behave this way if things just weren’t so hard right now. Money is tight, the job is hell, and we just haven’t been able to have sex as often as we did before we had the kids. I know this is weighing on him, but I don’t know how long I can keep being the strong one. I am trying to be supportive, but I am at the end of my rope too. I told him that but he won’t hear me, he won’t listen, and I am afraid I am being too demanding. I hate telling you this, I don’t want to make him look bad, and I feel like I am failing at my marriage.

The conversation is always the same, and when I tell people this the assumption is always the same – this must not be a strong Christian woman, this has to be non-believer, or someone new to the faith. Good Christian girls don’t end up in these situations, and if they do, then they pray through, fight for their marriage, and will be rewarded with a miracle.

To all of you who think this way, I want to say one thing – YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Now, don’t go acting all sanctimonious on me. I know that this is not what you are wanting to hear, but it is time you get a clue. So just consider me your very own little clue dispenser. Glad to be at your service.

But, Emily, I support the sanctity of marriage. Divorce is a horrible, evil blight upon our society - *cue the rattling off of statistical data and appropriate Bible verses.*

Please, don’t bore me. I have heard it all before, and so has everyone else. So instead of repeating a bunch of regurgitated, one sided, short sighted, and Biblically inaccurate bull crap, let’s have a new conversation. Let’s talk about the women who have died, the kids who grew up in toxic homes, and all the wife-zombies out there. What? Never heard of a wife-zombie?

A wife-zombie is that woman in your church who can parrot all the proper Christian jargon about what it means to be a good Christian, how to run a good Christian home, and the grand prescriptions about how to be a good Christian wife. She smiles at all the right times, has a gentle word of encouragement, and is clinging to her faith through sheer grit. She knows all the *right* answers, but the truth is she doesn’t feel like any of them have ever paid off for her. She has been working the formula for years, but her husband has been slowly sucking the life from her one day at a time for years. She has all the latest Christian self-help books, attended every seminar, renounced all the wrong things, and prayed all the right ones.

For her there is only one path to relief – that someone dies. And knowing that does not make her life any easier because now she had to carry around the guilt of wishing her husband would be hit by a semi-truck or concealing suicidal tendencies that terrify her for the sake of the kids.

But, Emily, that’s not my fault! She just needs to have more faith!

Really? Listen to yourself for one freaking second. She needs to have more faith that God is going to force her husband to do all the things that this man has actively resisted for years? She needs to have more faith that God is going to zap this man’s freewill from existence? She needs to have more faith that another human being can be manipulated into submission through the proper application of prayers and Scriptural proclamations? Are we talking about Christianity or voodoo here?

Look, I do believe in the miraculous. I do believe that prayers have power to change the world, and I do believe that with God there is no such thing as a hopeless situation. But I also believe that humanity has been given an incredible and costly gift, we call it freewill. We get to choose, good or bad. We get to choose and being a Christian does not give you the right or ability to override anyone else’s choice. And as much as we may hate it, that means even an abuser gets to choose, and no person on the face of this earth gets to take that choice away from them.

And this is why you are part of the problem, your pious rules about how a good Christian wife should behave has robbed women of the very tools they need to protect themselves against an abuser’s choice and to seek the help she may need in order to get help both for herself and the man she loves. Women will go to great lengths to hide their husband’s flaws from the world. We call it honoring our husbands as we cover up and deny the damage he is doing. We think that we are being faithful and strong bearing the burden by ourselves. We excuse and deny that there is a problem so that they will not be shamed before the world and our church friends. We know that in the end we will be blamed for the choices our husbands make and will judged without mercy.

Everything from how we cleaned house, disciplined the kids, dressed, did our hair, and had sex will be held up for public scrutiny and ridicule. We will be given all sorts of great sounding but ineffective advice while the abuser is shielded from the consequences of his actions. Bible verses will be ripped out of context and used as battering rams against our already bleeding hearts, and everyone will get to feel so smugly superior to the broken and bruised. And we endure it all because we had too much faith in the power of church formulas to stop the abuse.

But, Emily, abuse is wrong! We don’t condone that!

Yes, yes, you do. You do it when you tell her that she should not set boundaries or limits on his spending, on the amount of time he spends in front of a computer, or the time he spends with his friends instead of his family. You do it every time you tell her that she needs to respond to his anger with love and kindness, instead of refusing to be an emotional or physical punching bag. You do it when you remind her that he is a weak and flawed human being who needs her love and support more than she needs to a partner to stand by her side. You do it when you try to silence her when she asks for help. You do it when you condemn her for leaving when her words were not enough to gain his attention. You do when you excuse his laziness, his inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions, and the unhealthy ways he tries to meet his sexual needs. You do it when your only word of advice is submit.

Am I saying that Christian wives should not submit? No, I am not. In a healthy relationship where men are following their part of that command to love their wives as Christ loves the church, submission is easy – a joy even. Sure, there are individual and specific circumstance where our obedience to God’s Word might be tested, but when we know that our husbands are truly seeking the best for us and our families we can submit without fear of being used or intentionally hurt. In these marriages, submission leads to freedom because the two of you will be working to mutually empower the other to become better people.

And while we are on the subject, let me just say that overall the church has been teaching this whole concept wrong. We focus on the death while completely overlooking a far more important factor – yes, Christ died for his bride, but before he died for her he lived for her. He endured all the hardship that this earthly existence had to dish out and he remained kind, loving, and dedicated to demonstrating what love looks like even when it hurts. This is the example that men need to be following, because let’s face it. Stepping in front of a bus is far easier than getting on one so you can go to a job you hate everyday so that your family can enjoy the little luxuries like food and a roof over their heads. And if you or your husband isn’t working to provide for his family, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the Bible says he is worse than an unbeliever. Also, if he is strutting around calling himself a Christian while failing to provide, he is a liar, thief, and manipulator who is deserving of the correction and discipline of our community of faith. So any woman who calls out her husband for this sin is not in rebellion, she is a faithful student of the Word.

Do you know what the punishment is for those who claim to be believers and do not live according the dictates of Scripture? They are to be cut off from fellowship – in other words, the wife has every right to pack her stuff and leave or toss his stuff out on the yard. It is her call and no one has the right to deny her that. In fact, if anyone does then they are in violation of the Word and fellowship should be denied to them if they will not receive correction. This is Scriptural and it preserves lives and marriages. It is not churchy answer formula; it is the way God declared it should work.  

Every marriage will face a rough place, a time when the worst of who we are as human beings will be on full display for our spouse. That is normal and to be expected, but if we fault women for seeking answers to address ongoing patterns then we are not being who we have been called to be as Christians. We are being cowards, failing to face the reality that we live in a fallen world, denying that we are accountable to and for each other, that we have an obligation to defend those in need, and yes, to advocate that victims of abuse leave their abuser if necessary.

And another thing. We have got to stop trying to shove all the broken bits of a marriage back together and declaring it a miracle. An apology and plea for forgiveness is not a fix, because apologizing and begging for forgiveness is something every abuser does quite well. Why do you think so many women stay so long to begin with? Because he said all the right churchy phrases, even was nice long enough to regain her trust, only to show his true colors once he felt secure enough to get away with it once again. We don’t get to act like it never happened, to sweep it under the rug, and pretend everything is alright now. True reconciliation can only occur when there has been true brokenness and repentance that can only be measured through a consistent demonstrations of a changed heart and nature.

Oh, divorce doesn’t look good. We hate it when those in fellowship with us fail in public. We take it as a direct reflection on our church bodies, but this is misplaced concern. It is a revelation of what we truly worship and esteem, and exposes that our fear of looking bad outweighs any perceived obligation we have to God and his Word. There is no excuse for it, and make no mistake, we will be held accountable for every one we have caused to stumble or endangered through our idolatry.  For idolatry is what we are practicing every time we bemoan divorces power to corrupt more then we celebrate God's power to redeem and to heal.We are creating an image of what good Christian people do, with no regard to what the Bible actually declares. It is time we wake and stop protecting images, God has never been a fan of them, and start protecting the hearts and lives of those most in need of our compassion and support. Maybe then they will cease to see the powerless and loveless image God we have presented to them and come to know their value as his creation and child - a child that he loves enough to set free.

For a look at why divorce is NOT a sin, click here:  http://misdirectedmusings.blogspot.com/2015/12/readers-question-should-i-get-divorce.html

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