Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Severe Mercy

I've told this story before. Many times. And probably in previous blog posts. Who knows? I can't remember anything. I am indeed a brainless wonder.

But I tell it again today and for a couple of reasons. First I tell it because sometimes the healing is in the telling and the being heard. And second, I tell it because, in spite of the intense pain and subsequent damage, it had to happen. Bear with me and I'll tell you why.

Yesterday was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving will always be a day that sticks in my mind. And in my heart.

It was November 1977. I had turned 14 a few weeks earlier and had a fresh set of braces (AKA the "Grill of Shame") gracing my teeth. I felt awkward and ugly, thanks to my newly found hormones and mouth full of metal. Fourteen is an awful age.

I was in 8th grade. My older sister was a senior. My oldest sister and my brother were away at college. Early in November my mother called my sister and I together and told us, almost casually, that she and my father were getting a divorce. I didn't think a lot of it and I certainly wasn't surprised. My dad had hardly been around for the past year and I had known for a long time that that there were other ladies in his life.

Over the course of the next few weeks I noticed that some of the furniture and various household items gradually made their way into our garage. And then on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, as my sister and I drove into the driveway from school, I saw it. Empty.The garage was empty.

That moment was the turning point for our family and for my life. It wasn't so much that I lost my dad that day. I had never really had him. But I lost my family. My mother broke down and didn't recover emotionally for years, if ever. We became fractured and scattered. Each seeking stability and love and happiness wherever we could find it. At 14, my options were limited. I was alone.

And yet....and yet it had to happen. Theirs was an unhealthy marriage at best. Each brought their own pathologies into the relationship. Each was so needy in their own way. But after years of living with an unfaithful husband my mother finally did what she had to do. She hired a private investigator, gathered the evidence she needed, and filed for divorce. I do not blame her for this. It was hard. It was devastating. It was shameful (at least in her eyes). But it was necessary.

And that is the point I want to make. Divorce is sometimes necessary. Despite all the collateral damage that comes from divorce, and I am well aware of such damage, it is still sometimes the lesser of two evils and oftentimes a severe mercy.

Yesterday, as I was pondering the day that shattered my family, I read that Wayne Grudem, the top dog, so to speak, in systematic theology in the Evangelical world, has changed his tune on divorce. Until recently he had held out that the only biblical reasons for divorce are adultery and desertion. Since getting to know situations where victims were incredibly damaged by abusive marriages, he has taken a second look and determined that abuse is also a biblical reason for divorce. Funny how, when the theoretical becomes concrete, laced with pain, your views of things can change.

Now I have read some other statements of his that greatly concern me, like how restoration of the marriage should always first be pursued, and I have my own thoughts on that that perhaps I will share in another post. But I was thrilled to hear that he had changed his mind on this and this is why: he has a tremendous amount of influence in theologically conservative circles. Many people, many leaders, take their cues from what he teaches and have thus kept victims trapped in abusive marriages or face church discipline for pursuing an unbiblical divorce.

So, yeah, that's huge.

I guess, what I am saying is that divorce, as horrible as it is, is sometimes necessary. And it is funny how, on a day that still brings a feeling of emptiness to my soul because of divorce, I was yet finding myself thankful for it.

It is indeed, at times, a gift from God. A severe mercy.