Years ago, Ken and I hung out with another young couple we truly enjoyed. The wife was a high school acquaintance of Ken’s, and we found each other in another town where we both lived for a few years. The four of us enjoyed goofing off, playing cards and eating out together in those days. Ken and I also appreciated the touch of home we found in that relationship.
After we moved back to West Michigan we lost touch with them. Some years later we heard the couple experienced divorce. We spent wonderful time together, yet Ken and I made no effort to contact either one of them when we heard about the break-up. Why? Our inexperience with divorce and its aftermath left us tongue-tied by distance and time that had passed without words; and so we did nothing. Shame on us. I’m appalled now that we didn’t even send cards to say we were praying for them both.
It seems that some church folk range between awkward and critical when it comes to the divorce of fellow believers. Although Ken and I both handle these situations with more grace these days, I am still far from mastering that winsome, life-giving demeanor Jesus demonstrated in his conversations with struggling people.
In part two of my friend, “Bridgette’s” story (part one in previous post) she shares more of her thoughts on divorce and being a former pastor’s wife.
Living Black and White in a Gray World-Part II
There are no rules for how to treat the black and white issue of divorce in the gray world in which we live. God doesn’t like divorce. God believes in marriage. God also hates sin, which creeps into even the best marriages, causing pain and loss. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have happened. I would still be able to trust my pastor/husband and feel as though he loved me. I would still attend that church with my children and hold my head high. I would still feel connected to the body in which I found comfort my whole life. Now in this imperfect world, I have to trust God in a very different way than I have in the past.
I “candidate” to new churches alone these days. My three adorable children are not with me to make a good impression. There is no husband who makes adoring comments about me in his sermons. I am a “normal” churchgoer who must find my way. The road is lonely, but it taught me to look at things in a new way.
I see the woman in the back of the church who slides into a pew after the music starts so she can go unnoticed. I see the woman struggle with self-confidence as she creates her own identity. I see the woman exhausted because of the financial stress she now endures. I continually search to find my value as a woman, period, not based on my husband or his career. I feel God’s arms around me telling me that it will be alright. I hear God telling me to forgive people who don’t know how it feels to hurt this way. I know God has a plan that is bigger than me….
I picture myself grabbing a crayon box, picking out the black and white crayons, and scribbling with them until I’m out of energy. I understand how it feels to be gray.
Thank you for sharing your story my friend.
Divorce is excruciating under any circumstance but when a pastoral couple is torn apart, life in the fish bowl of ministry can become unbearable. Now, the people choosing sides, responding awkwardly and criticizing are all wrestling together inside the same church. As Bridgette shared, one or both of the pastoral couple will most likely feel the rejection and judgement of people who previously supported them. As if they don’t already feel enough rejection from their marriage situation, this adds to the pile.
May I refer back to my post “Six Little Wisdom Tales Part Two?” “Heavenly wisdom doesn’t respond to any conflict by simply acting on information from the person they know best in the situation.” Please use the wisdom qualities James describes in Chapter 3 if you encounter this scenario and please DO NOT listen to gossip concerning these types of matters in another church. It is none of your business.
In the next post, a story from another former pastor’s wife, also a divorce survivor and thriver.