Ah, Spring ~ the season that inevitably, and rightly, hails a punishing schedule of weddings. The season of wedding bells begins with the earth’s pivot at the vernal equinox and does not relent until we turn the clocks back in the fall. It is a glorious explosion of happiness. I feel grateful to see so many young people I love and admire sally forth withal in nuptial optimism.
Even so, let us remember the divorced people. Weddings are bruising for them, especially in the context of the Christian community.
I do not presume to speak for all who have been divorced; I can speak only for myself and maybe others whose marriages failed but who (try to) keep heads up amid the glorious and crushing fervency of the “Christian wedding.”
I attended a wedding recently of a beloved niece (I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!) and felt such great joy seeing this dear little one I have cherished since her infancy assume the place of the virginal bride! My joy greatly exceeded the personal pain I inevitably confront when I hear the recitation of the vows. Yet — a prayer was spoken in the context of this event. In this prayer this young couple was rightly prayed for. (We all need prayer, especially, married Christians!) My head bowed, my heart arose in solemn affirmation of these most holy prayers. The prayer continued: “and we pray for all the marriages represented in this room” — at which point my heart sank, quite involuntarily. The prayers that went forth that night included prayers for my niece and her new husband and prayers for the good Christians in attendance whose marriages (at least at that point) had survived. Mine hadn’t. In the praying for “the marriages,” there was no prayer for me. My marriage failed. I was no longer married. No prayers were spoken that blessed night for the marriages that didn’t work out.
A note to praying people: No one (at least in my purview) who gets married and speaks the most holy vows thinks their marriage will end in divorce. And if it does, we beseech you, please understand it didn’t happen lightly, capriciously or without life-altering trauma. We need your prayers, especially at weddings.
The world for the divorced person generally, and the divorced Christian especially, is a confrontational place: Everywhere we go, including during the long days and empty nights when we are alone and at home, we see families. When we visit Facebook we see families: husbands whose pictures includes their wives. We see someone named “Ed” who changed his status to “married” [heart]. There are friends on Facebook whose picture includes “all the family.”
When I attend events where speakers speak, they almost universally make mention of their families. As a divorced woman (who has not remarried), hearing speakers speak in this way causes me to remember: I had a family once. My family was made during the 24 years of marriage I shared with my ex-husband. We had three sons and a dog and a house with a patio and we had cookouts. He was (and is) a pastor so we made many friends. People gravitated to us.
After the divorce, many of these friendships disappeared. After that, the picture of a family made my throat swell. Now when I visit families who invite me for a meal, I am the one who makes the placemat fit awkwardly on to an otherwise symmetrically laid out table. It is easier to stay home. When I am home the placemat is still an uneven number (one). It easier not to eat.
I have asked myself many times if the break-up of my marriage was worth the price I have paid. I know many friends who are in bad marriages and who have opted to stick it out at any cost. I don’t understand that, but they have their reasons. I “opted” to make an issue out of the problems in my marriage. Things were going badly in unpleasant ways and no one was going to enter the situation and make it go right. I (being the female) was in a weaker position and told myself, If you are going to be saved, only you can save yourself. It went badly. I saved myself. But in so doing, I killed myself. I am the odd placemat now.
My ex-husband is happier. His second wife is wealthy and he now has plenty of money to travel the world and to buy our sons extravagant vacations. It has been a pleasant arrangement.
I try to live by my writing, which means, I live week by week. I daily check the balance in my account. (No, he does not give me any spousal support.) I’ve gotten good at calculations.
There are so many happy families in this world. At the same time I imagine that even in the happy ones, there exists a level a unspoken desperation.
I truly and honestly celebrate the hopefulness embodied by so many young people in this season of weddings. Those of us whose marriages failed truly rejoice with you and wish you the best. Only please, remember to pray for us too. There is a world of refugees of lost marriages out there and, during this season of weddings, we need your prayers.
Being an evangelical Christian who was married for 24 years to an evangelical pastor, I will be addressing this issue of “Christian divorce” in upcoming posts.