Article first published as Christian and Divorced on Blogcritics.
Those who live a life of religion never know true life in Christ. The only way to experience the abundant life is living a life that reflects Christ by staying out of God’s way, allowing Him to work while loving those who need His love.
Who would have ever thought that after twenty years together, my marriage would unravel into a huge mess?
So many still trying to figure out just what happened and how it all fell apart. I cannot blame them. I even look at the picture and wonder how it became so distorted. I do not even recognize the couple in the pictures anymore. I am not even sure I know where they have gone.
Many have wondered and questioned how someone who claims to follow Christ could allow her marriage to end. So much can happen between two people over twenty years. I am here to say that unless you have walked in another’s shoes or lived behind their closed doors, it is impossible to understand why things happen the way in which they do. I can however say that it is in fact possible to love God with the entirety of my heart and allow my marriage to end.
For me, I chose to keep my secrets in regards to my marriage close to my heart. Some were for selfish reasons and others to protect my husband. There were few friends that I shared my struggles but even then, they never were aware of all the details. That has now changed. I found this quote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open. – Muriel Rukeyser and it has opened my eyes. I realized that my life is not my own. My story is not mine to keep a secret. As a child of God, my story is part of His story and it is meant to be shared. It has become time for me to peel away the layers.
I have spent much time reading Oswald Chambers. One point he made was that our lives are not private. When we follow Christ, our lives become a display of His work that is meant to be shared so others may see. As horrible as my experiences have been, I am now even more certain that I am to share my journey and how I survived with the help of Christ and Christ alone.
I am not the first Christian woman to experience divorce and sadly, I will not be the last. I know that there are many who would love to know how a woman who claims to follow Christ could speak of divorce in the same sentence. I hope to explain.
There are questions that deserve answers but cannot all be answered. I can however share with you my story. Keep in mind though that this is my story and I can only share with you the events that I have experienced and all I have learned through my experience. I can share how God has moved in my life but I am not here to say that my journey is God’s truth for every situation. Each struggle and situation is unique to the person. It is up to each person to discover God’s plan for them through prayer and study of His word. I am only here to offer hope by allowing you to see a part of my story.
Now I mentioned in the beginning that my husband and I had been together for twenty years. We met when I was a teenager. We attended the same church and both followed Christ. I was fifteen and he was nineteen when we met. Our relationship was rocky. It was filled with much insecurity on both parts and many breakups. I had more than my share of friends sharing their fears that we should not be together. I did not listen. I felt I knew better.
At twenty, I loved my husband. Unfortunately, love was not the reason that I married him. I did not recognize then what I know now. My insecurities led me to believe that if I did not marry the man in front of me there would never be another. I longed for nothing more that to be a wife and someday a mother. I truly believed that no one else would ever love me and as I stood before the mirror in my wedding gown, I told myself it was not too late. I could still walk away but on Dec 9, 1995, I made my way down the aisle on my daddy’s arm. I stood before my family, friends, and God promising to stay with this man forever. No matter what happened.
Our marriage started okay. We were happy and I felt secure. I began feeling hopeful that everything would be fine but it did not take long before everything began to change. I cannot pinpoint the precise moment that something actually happened but suddenly I began to feel extremely insecure. We would argue and I would cry myself to sleep. I would wake up the next morning feeling overwhelmed and trapped. I am not sharing any of this to gain the sympathy of the reader. I only share as to allow you into my story and to understand the pain in which I was feeling. Because I grew up in church, divorce was not an option for me. It is not that I would not have chosen it but instead it was simply not an option because of my beliefs. This left me with only one other option. Death. I prayed daily for it to come.
About four years after we were married we moved out of state. For the first time we were alone. Away from our family, our friends and our church which left us alone to discover life together. I truly believed this move would be the magic moment that would change everything. It was a new start for us. We could start fresh. Just the two of our two little boys and us. I had hope for my marriage.
It was not long before we joined a church and became involved in the activities offered. I began meeting with an older woman in my church. We studied God’s word and spent time in prayer together. I shared some of my concerns and struggles in regards to my marriage. I really believed that she could help me and was an answer to prayer. Through no fault of her own, she did not know how to help me and simply gave me a list of things to do. I was told to pray and submit. Pray some more and serve. Keep my mouth closed and pray. I always left feeling as if I was not trying hard enough and that I needed just to keep rolling with the punches. I figured I deserved what I was dealing with at home and so I decided to grin and bear it.
Time passed and three more children entered into the picture. By this time, I had spent eight years being part of my church worship team, been through numerous bible studies and hosted several small groups in our home. All the while, our marriage was slowly deteriorating. My husband struggled with lying as well as an addiction. It weighed heavy on our marriage. There was no trust. Each day that passed, I died a little more.
As I would begin my days in God’s word, I would questions whether or not this is truly, what God had in mind for marriage. I just could not believe that this is what He wanted for my life. I began writing and immersed myself in the study of God’s word. For quite some time those moments with God was what sustained me. I was able to keep my head above water. I continued to serve and make the best of a miserable situation. I felt the part of the hypocrite but I carried on and tried following the advice to pray and submit. My life appeared full and happy. Those around me never knew the pain I was dealing with inside. I felt desperate and alone. I felt the prayers being prayed were not being heard.
Add to all the struggles of the marriage the faith that made me feel trapped as well. Growing up Baptist there were only two acceptable reasons for divorce, adultery and abandonment. My circumstances did not match either of these and so I knew I had to suck it up and ride it out. I was determined that I would make the best of my situation and do what I had to in order to survive the next sixty years with this man. I filled my time with serving in my church, writing and taking care of five children. My life was busy and I often times did not have time to sit and ponder the difficulties I was facing.
As the ten-year mark approached, I began reading more books. There were books on marriage, books on prayer, and books on how to be godlier. I decided that if I prayed more, served more and had sex more that things would get better. I really thought that if I did those things, that maybe I would be the wife he wanted and needed. Each day I tried and each day I found myself dying just a little bit more.
I poured myself in to caring for my children and activities at church. I continued to have people into our home for bible study. I was determined to stay busy and not focus on the negative. People believed my life was full and that I was content. I had everyone fooled except for myself. I was desperately lonely and so incredibly sad. No matter how busy I stayed, nothing helped.
One day it happened. The light in my head went off. I realized this situation was not right. This is not the life God intended for me. We are not to be slaves but instead find freedom in Christ. I felt no sort of freedom. I was trapped. I did not know what steps to take next. I had talked and talked to him until I just did not know what else to say. I did not know what else to do and so it was time to separate. I thought that time apart would give us both room to draw closer to God.
Instead, we went to our church pastor for counseling. Again, I was told to submit, pray and stay. At first, I took this advice thinking, this is my pastor, a godly man, surely he knows what he is talking about and so I tried. For four months, we “tried” only to find that more distance between us was created and my health began to decline.
In the Christian world, there are only two acceptable reasons for divorce: adultery and abandonment. My situation did not fit into either of these categories. I was stuck.
Then one day, as we sat in church, my husband looked at me and said, “You need to leave”. I looked at him in dismay. This is the same man only weeks before who sat before our pastor and talked about him love for our family and me. Stating he would do whatever he had to in order to save his marriage. I did not understand. From there he added that if I did not, he would make sure I never had our kids. That he would take the children from me and that no judge would ever give them to me as I could not afford to care for them. At this time, I did not realize the depth of my despair. I did not realize the depth of my depression. I did not know all the affects of all that had taken place were doing to me. I felt out of control and at the end of my rope. This was the end of the road for me. I wanted away from this man. We agreed to separate.
At this point, you have to wonder why I would choose to have stayed so long. I asked myself the same question many times. The first answer is my wonderful five children. The thoughts of their lives being torn between two homes, was excruciating for me. I also knew my husband enough to know that he would not allow any of it to happen amicably. I had to protect them and I thought I was. The second reason was God. I had faith that God could restore anything. I believed that things would get better if I just trusted Him enough and prayed more. I also did not want to be in sin. After all, I had been taught, I just knew that God would desert me if I did not stay. I knew that I would never live in His blessing again.
Now throughout the course of my journey, I have learned many things. One of those things which is we were not created to be happy. We were created to be holy. I believe that wholeheartedly. Was I happy in my marriage? NO. Did I feel that I deserved to be? NO. Thus why I stayed so long. Then God got my attention and I thought through that happiness/holiness thing again. God wants me to be holy. I am to live a life that honors and glorifies Him. Was that what my life looked like now?
Events transpired. Many that changed the course of how this story could have ended but we will come back to that later. In the fall of 2009, I visited a Christian counselor. My conversation with this counselor changed my world. I was introduced to the Power and Control Wheel and finally understood that for years I had been controlled by emotional abuse. After spending months thinking I was crazy and being condemned by my church and even some family for separating, this counselor told me I had done the best thing for both my children and myself. I felt hope.
Now if I have led you to believe that the brokenness that my husband and I endured was one hundred percent his fault, I apologize. I married too young and had no business getting married when I did. I hurt him as well. I was not as supportive as I should have been. I criticized and cried more than I encouraged. Our broken marriage became broken because we both were broken.