Another friend of mine is divorcing. It makes me sad. And it makes me sad when I go to weddings, too. I want to warn the couple: the chances are very, very (very) good that there will be a “for worse.”
But I’m also sad at how our faith community handles family breakdowns as well. I don’t think we’ll ever see or comprehend the amount of damage the Doug Phillips/Bill Gothard situations have created. I can’t help but think of their wives.
It used to be, typically, that being wives and mothers was a normal event, and that most women were home to live that out. I remember, as a kid, only one mom on the block leaving the home to seek outside work, and that it was a touch weird. In the afternoons, every kid on the block was outside, roller skating, biking, playing soccer. We raced home chasing our fathers as they drove home from work in time for the evening meal.
Was it easier to stay married then?
I don’t know. But I do remember that my mother had plenty of friends nearby, and that she had the leisurely time in the afternoon to make Greek coffee and to chat. And I’m guessing that they didn’t just talk about knitting patterns and weather but also spent some time laughing and griping about whatever their hubbies were and weren’t doing. At the end of it, though, they just rinsed out their coffee cups and went on with it. And “it” was usually a marriage that lasted decades upon decades, even in the rare midst of friends yanking friends out of truly abusive situations.
Today, however, our society finds it a touch weird to stay home, and especially to have and raise any number of children more than one or two. In the midst of defending our choices to do so, many Christian women (especially) have clammed up regarding any sort of problem in their family lives.
Well, if you share anything, two things might happen. One, a lack of sympathy: you’re the one that decided to (supposedly) “throw away” an education or other opportunity. This is especially compounded if the wife has ever preached on how wonderful marriage or home life is. Or, two, a pious response rebuking your sin in sharing, of “gossip”, and supposedly spreading ill-will regarding your husband. Both of these are multiplied like crazy if the man is someone in good standing in the church or community.
And you can almost hear the taunts, then, too: she trusted in God, let her trust in Him now, and let us see if this cross she bares disappears.
So, women, especially Christian women, typically remain silent. They don’t have friends over for coffee to let off steam and they certainly don’t ask for help. Because, and this is true also, many times the courage that it takes to ask for help is answered by well-meaning promises for prayer and accountability…but those don’t really happen, not really. Who has leisurely time in the afternoons anymore?
What echoes instead in a suffering woman is this: a wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down. No one I know wants to be the cause of a fallen house, regardless of her husband’s part in it. And too many, I’m sad to also say, Christian women will look to that wife as the ultimate cause of the break. The guilt of sinning (supposedly) in looking for help compounds the problem; it can feel like you’ve sinned against the Lord Himself.
So my friend, currently divorcing, stayed silent. And now she is divorcing and nothing I can say or offer will cause her to reconsider or to even ponder what part she had in the whole mess. It’s just too late.
So what do we have? A lot of very dignified Christian women acting in public like nothing ever gives them hives or reasons to cry in the shower. A lot of very sad Christian women dealing with trouble in complete loneliness. A lot of secular women pointing fingers and wagging their tongues at the fallout…and a lot of Christian women doing the same, even if it’s just in self-righteous thought. And, unfortunately, we have a lot of divorces, both inside the faith and out. Broken families hurt all of us.
One thing I know from all of this. We can’t solely rest on and interpret and apply our faith through the words of any man, whether it be a popular evangelical preacher, a lexicon author or Calvin himself. Scripture interprets scripture, scripture defines itself. If you want to *follow* someone, let it be Jesus Himself, who will never leave nor forsake any Christian, and will not rebuke or cast out the one who comes to Him in anguish, praying for the salvation of her marriage. God’s wisdom and comfort is right there in your Bible in plain English.
If you are in the midst of a trial in your marriage, please take the time to read this. I hope it gives you both sympathy and hope. Please notice her very real pain. Please notice her dependence upon the Lord. And please know she had FRIENDS who listened and counseled and did not count it as sin to share her trials.
What is the ultimate-fix-any-marriage answer? I don’t know, but maybe more coffee with friends wouldn’t hurt.