Divorce and Shame

Why does divorce often come with shame? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my first post on divorce, I talked about it being a shameful status. It was rightly pointed out for me that I don’t need shame. That’s because by and large, I am the one who was rejected. Was I a perfect spouse? Of course not. No one is. Even the best marriage therapist will still be making mistakes in their marriage no matter how long they have been married.

This usually is how it goes with a divorce. There can be a major infraction on one side and not the other. I realize there are exceptions of course. For the sake of clarification, if we have something going on of this nature such as abuse or adultery or severe abandonment, then let’s refer to this as a “hard divorce.” By contrast, a soft divorce will be something like “Well we just don’t feel the same way” or “We just have irreconcilable differences.” These are things that can be worked on even if they require counseling. However, I have no reason to believe Jesus sees this as grounds for divorce.

For the most part, those of us who are Christians and have gone through a hard divorce, still condemn soft divorce. We still hate divorce. I definitely do. I think it’s one of the great wrongs out there. Hard divorce carries with it a deep level of rejection, definitely the deepest I have experienced. It is a time when you have given all of yourself to another person in a covenant and they have said, “Not good enough.”

Unfortunately, the church can often treat both kinds as if they were the same. All that matters is that you were divorced. I can say that people on Facebook have treated me well, but those are people who know me also. To see what I anticipate, think about walking through a parking lot full of cars.

As you are doing this, you see a car that has clearly been in a car accident. For me, my first thought is to think that this must be a bad driver. Then, I have to catch myself. All I really know is something happened. For all I know, maybe someone even backed into them in the parking lot while they’re still in the store and drove off to avoid a lawsuit.

Now it could be that my first impression is correct, this is a bad driver, but I don’t have enough evidence to make that statement. Unfortunately, my concern is people I don’t know and who don’t know me will see divorce the same way. I have had someone already say that as an example, in many Baptist churches, you could preach if you had been a murderer, but if you have been divorced, you can’t come to that pulpit, unless you remarry, of course.

So I go to offer my services to speak at a church. I get asked if I’m married. I say divorced. The question that can come to mind immediately is “Why?” I understand a pastor wants to be careful with who they want to have in a pulpit or teaching, but I also have another disadvantage with this. I can pretty much only give my own side of the story. It’s my word against someone else’s and if there’s no reason to believe one or the other, then why trust me?

If that’s the case for a job, it’s also a concern for something I have not got to do yet. Dating. Imagine being on a dating website and wondering what people think when they see that my status says “divorced” or if I meet a girl’s parents and they learn that I am divorced? There could be ways I can tell that I am being treated with grace. However, that first impression can be a concern.

What can the church do? We are told to “judge not” and I know that that is misunderstood to say that we can’t ever judge. That is false. Jesus is talking about judging hypocritically without information. This applies here. When you meet someone who is divorced, at least hear their side.

The church should also drop this idea that anyone who has been divorced should not be a minister. I realize this doesn’t apply to all denominations, but it does apply to some. By all means, investigate the case since leading the church is a great responsibility, but the hard and fast rule needs to be dropped.

Forgiveness is also important to always be there. Even if someone is the wrong party in a hard divorce, if they have repented and learned the error of their ways, it could be they cannot remarry, but they can still lead the church and even share with others so that they don’t make the same mistakes.

Do I live with a cloud of shame hiding over my head? No. That’s a choice. However, I do have concerns about the whole dating scene again and about the way I could be seen in the church in the future. Future experiences could always undo this, but there is something with approaching people who I don’t know and having to share. Divorce is too often treated like the unforgivable sin.

Readers know that I still refuse to be held back and now, I really want to use my experience to help others. I have a really good male friend here who is helping me with my own issues going through divorce. He is able to do this since he has been divorced and told me he had someone who had been divorced who helped him with his. I want to pass that help on and I know I have a bigger platform so I want to join others as a fellow traveler on the journey. It’s my hope to share not as someone who has fully recovered from divorce, but as someone who is going through the process and is still familiar easily with the experience.

If you are the wronged party in a hard divorce, try to live without shame. I try to tell myeslf that a promise wasn’t just broken to me, but it was to God. Anyone who knows me knows that I worked really hard to make my marriage work. I hold strongly to marriage being a sacred lifelong covenant and I plan to bring that into my next marriage. I’ve been through this once. I have no wish to go through it again.

Feel free to join me on the journey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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