A pastor of a significantly large church in South Carolina shared with his congregation that his marriage was in trouble due to matters of infidelity. Because I have a tendency to be cynical, sarcastic and suspicious- somebody pray for me- I assumed that he was the toad. Not so. The pastor has endured his wife’s infidelity, off-and-on, for more than 10 years. But that’s not the story.
For more than 10 years this pastor has chosen to love and forgive his wife over and over again. He has made love bigger than his pain, public humiliation and the general blow to his ego. It’s a modern day Hosea and Gomer story! (Hosea 1-3)
Over the years, fellow pastors and friends encouraged him to divorce his wife, to give up on her. I’m thinking, “You have to be told?? Ten years!” The pastor confessed that he had contemplated leaving (or kicking her out) many times. With an astonishing degree of vulnerability, he described his hurt and brokenness; the wound that never seemed to fully heal because his wife kept creating new ones.
This is a big deal, right? Ten years of multiple affairs? In the Old Testament you could be killed for a one-time offense (Leviticus 20:10). The New Testament, exercising grace, provides an “out” (Matthew 5:32) for dishonoring God and your vows. What that says to me- although God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), He understands that the breach of trust and the emotional anguish is simply too much for our frail hearts to bear—a part from Him.
I know first hand what the pastor is feeling. I know the indescribable pain, the emotional turned physical ache throughout your whole body brought on by the betrayal. I remember wondering who knew, how many, and with consuming self-pity– asking why. For a while I tried to bear the trespass, believe the lies for my children’s sake. But having experienced what I would describe as gross indifference, the absence of conscience, and lying that bordered on pathological, I had to go. I didn’t know how to cope. I couldn’t hear God’s voice over my own cry. I took my pass and bowed out gracefully, divorcing in 2008. But again, that’s not the story.
The South Carolina preacher rebuked and admonished those pastors and peers for counseling him towards divorce. You heard me. He acknowledged that their intentions were benevolent. But, in their concern for their friend they disregarded the concerns of God. He went on to say that, yes, the bible allows for divorce if a spouse has been “sexually immoral”. However, when challenged by the Pharisees, Jesus said that Moses allowed for divorce because the people had hard hearts (Matthew 19:8).
Challenging their thinking and his own faith, the pastor asked how one could stand Sunday after Sunday as a minister of the gospel with a hard heart. How could he preach about grace, forgiveness, and the belief that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26) if his heart has been hardened? If in his personal life, he did not extend the grace or forgiveness that he preached? If his actions reflected that he didn’t really believe that all things were possible with God? How?
I was stumped. Awed. Perplexed. I instantly felt inferior in my faith. For a minute I contemplated whether I had tapped out too soon. I love God. I love that He loves me. I love that He knows me and still loves me. I love knowing that I can make Him laugh. Yes, God laughs. I love talking about Him. That’s why I’m blogging, right!? Mr. South Carolina made the great LOVE, the author of LOVE bigger than his pain, public humiliation and his ego. I couldn’t… I didn’t…
My heart was (past tense) hardened, hence the cynicism and sarcasm. Early into my separation and subsequent divorce, I made vows of what I would never do or tolerate again. I shared a victim story instead of one of victory. When I spoke of my increasing intimacy with God, the focus was my pain versus His faithfulness. Interestingly, the turning point for me was when God told me that my heart had been broken long before I married or even knew my ex-husband.
There are many ways to experience divorce.
The Father, with great compassion, let me know that divorce had hardened my heart decades before I said “I Do”. My parents’ divorce hardened me. My father’s absence hardened me. My undiagnosed ADHD and associated struggles hardened me. Every time someone offended me and I didn’t forgive and release, my heart was hardened.
Many of you are walking while wounded, limping through life. You can’t even remember who kicked you. Your heart is hard. Not because you’re mean spirited, but because you’re broken in spirit. You’re known as the no-nonsense person. You have an edge. Quick tempered. Your feelings are tender to the touch. You leak like a bad pipe, dripping with disdain when certain names or subjects come up. Why? You divorced your brother because he keeps leeching off your parents. You divorced your grandmother because she doesn’t respect your mom. You divorced your child because you dislike their spouse. You divorced your family because they dislike your spouse. You divorced that uncle because he always ruins Thanksgiving. You divorced God because your loved one died. You divorced yourself because you hated your childhood, hated your body, hated your pedigree, despised your beginning—
The King of Kings CAN put you back together again.
The great love, the author of love, the lover of your soul can cover a multitude of offenses (Peter 4:8). Whether you are managing the night season of a marriage hit by infidelity like the preacher from South Carolina, or the aftermath of a marital divorce, or you’re simply struggling to forgive someone—somewhere— God will cover you if you let Him. Jesus can put together that which has been separated/divorced in your heart. Trust Him. This is His promise to you today:
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion [of honor] and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)
SCRIPTURES REFERENCED ABOVE
Leviticus 20:10; cf. Deuteronomy 22:22, NIV, If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Matthew 5:32 NIV, But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery,
Malachi 2:16 AMP, For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit [that it may be controlled by My Spirit] that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly [with your marriage mate].
Matthew 19:8 AMP, He said to them, Because of the hardness (stubbornness and perversity) of your hearts Moses permitted you to dismiss and repudiate and divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been so [ordained].
Matthew 19:26 AMP, But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.
Peter 4:8, AMP, Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].