Christian church-goer:“I’m sorry. That’s too bad.”
Sometimes, it is easy to feel like one has a scarlet “D” tattooed to one’s backside. Do I have to justify my divorce to every Christian to whom I reveal my marital status?
I know some of us do not struggle with this. Some people seem bulletproof when it comes to the subtle shaming messages. Who cares what others think? I know I’m not to blame for it.
I am getting closer to the bulletproof camp but can still relate to former sensitive types. It can still feel like I have to explain my divorce came on the heels of my ex-wife’s adultery when talking to other Christians. The truth is that I do not owe them an explanation.
The other part is what I am writing about in presenting the above scenario or exchange. I might have been guilty of the same sort of response to divorce news in the past. But I can see how responding that way can convey pity and not empathy/care as is warranted.
“I’m sorry. That’s too bad.”
With those words, we can feel relegated to the “B Squad” of Christians who could not quite cut it in keeping our marriages together (as that seems to be a deciding factor–apparently–on who is considered “Varsity”). A sad thing about this is that the Christian saying such words may actually want to convey care. But it is easy to hear the condemnation–especially if you had wished your marriage had not ended in divorce at all.
Just because someone is divorced does not mean that he or she is morally inferior to someone who has never gone through such a dismembering experience. Remember, God went through a divorce–i.e. He divorced Israel over the matter of adultery (see Jer. 3:8).
God certainly is not inferior to “good” Christians who never divorced.
Instead, I would encourage a more empathetic response. Consider how hard that experience was for the individual. To a faithful spouse who announces that they are divorced:
“That sounds tough. What got you through that?”
With those words, you affirm the divorcee and his/her experience. By asking the followup question–if you are genuine–you express that they may know something or have something from that experience worth sharing. You value them not in spite of their divorce but because they made it through such a difficult experience.
I am convinced the Church could learn a lot from faithful spouses who have gone through the fires of infidelity discovery and divorce. But the question remains:
Is She willing and ready to listen?*
*As an encouraging note in that regard, I have been invited to preach at an Evangelical Free Church in St. Cloud, MN this Sunday morning (August 16th) on divorce and remarriage. This church is doing a series on I Corinthians and have come to chapter 7 where the Apostle Paul deals with matters regarding divorce/abandonment in the church in Corinth. I would welcome prayers as I prepare to share my own story and to open the Bible on such important matters.