Faith, parenting, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

Splitting Time

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.  “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:15-16

God hates divorce.

We hear it repeatedly. It is thrown in our faces, heaping guilt and shame upon us. We try to reconcile our Christian beliefs—the covenant bond we made before God—with our lives now that we are divorced.

I remember the days when I was fighting for my marriage. I prayed non-stop that God would heal our marriage and give us the ability to make a good marriage great. I prayed that He would help us overcome the adultery that had ripped every ounce of trust from our marriage.

As I watched our marriage disintegrate, I begged God to show me what I was supposed to do: should I stay and fight for my marriage or was it time to throw in the towel? I knew that God gave permission to divorce in a situation where infidelity was involved, but I still held to the belief that God could heal my marriage. Everyone around me was telling me that it was time to walk away, but I could not hear God tell me that it was ok. Every time I thought I had reached a point of peace with filing for divorce, I would hear a sermon on never giving up.

Finally, I reached a place of peace. I knew that God was giving me permission to walk away from the hell that had become my marriage. I knew that God was telling me I had suffered enough.

The more I walk this path, the more I think that Malachi is talking less about hating divorce because it is a sin—and far more about God hating divorce because of the hurt, pain, and devastation that it causes His children.

Divorce hurts. When you have given your all to another and it has been rejected, the pain is unbearable. When you have become one with another at the deepest levels and then you try to separate, the baggage is difficult to carry. When you have shared your deepest secrets and most intimate moments with another and then that person is taken out of your life, you find yourself lost. When every laugh and good time you have had is replaced by the pain of the final years, you realize that you’ve lost (in my case) 17 years of joy.

But, the worst pain continues long after you consider yourself healed.

After five years, I guess I just assumed that my children realized they were spending the Thanksgiving holiday with their dad. When I mentioned them leaving on Tuesday, my daughter looked at me with those big eyes, a deep sadness pervading her normally happy demeanor.

“You mean we are going to miss Thanksgiving?” she asked.

I tried to explain that it was her year to spend Thanksgiving with her dad, that she had been with me on Thanksgiving last year. I reminded her that she would be with me on Christmas day. I tried to encourage her that she would have fun with her dad.

As the evening wore on, I could tell that she was still processing the disappointment. She came in my room later with big tears in her eyes.

“I wish you were still together,” she said. “I don’t like switching houses.”

The struggle has become more obvious in recent months. It has become an on-going discussion, how they don’t like leaving their home. They are with me almost all the time. They see my family regularly. My parents are heavily involved in their lives. My siblings attend all of their activities. They see their cousins on a regular basis.

But, they love their dad.

While they long to be home and with their family, they also want to make sure they see their dad. While they don’t want their dad to be alone on the holidays, they also worry about me being alone. They don’t want to miss out on anything—either with me or with their dad.

Oh, the pain! And it is so unfair to the children! How could God not hate divorce? How could anyone not hate divorce?

While I have healed and moved on, the effects on my children continue. They continue to struggle with devotion to both parents. They continue to struggle with missing out on activities with their friends because they are going to see their dad. They struggle with guilt because they don’t want to hurt anyone.

My children are amazing! They have blossomed and grown in so many ways! But, I realize more each day that they are still caught in the middle. No matter how much I try, they still have to work through their own struggles with devotion to two parents, two families that are now completely unrelated.

How do I handle it? First, I take my children in my arms. I offer them the comfort that I can. I remind them that they are loved—by me, their dad, and especially God. I assure them that I will be fine—I will miss them but I will be ok—while they are gone. I encourage them to have a great time.

Second, I do my best to plan around their schedule. When we have a large family gathering, we try to plan it when my kids will be around. I attempt to be flexible in the schedule with their dad so that we can work around things that are important to my children.

Finally, I try to find ways to make up for anything they might miss. Since my kids were not with me Thanksgiving, we made plans to have a late Thanksgiving when they got home. We put aside enough turkey, dressing, and all the fixins so there would be some left when they returned. We planned a special outing to see a movie with some of their cousins. I will do whatever I can to assure them that they are not missing out on anything—or at least making sure that there are activities to make up for anything they might miss.

Divorce is ugly. The aftershocks continue long after the initial earthquake hits. The magnitude becomes more apparent as the years go by. The damage extends far beyond the epicenter.

But, God is still good. I pray that my children learn to live for the approval of God and not man as they struggle through their emotions. I pray that they learn to be honest with others about their wants and needs rather than just going along with what others expect of them. Perhaps more than anything, I pray that the pain they have endured will help them keep their commitment to their future spouses.

Lord Jesus, I hate to see my children hurt and struggle. We have been through so much in the last few years. I continue to pray that you would use these trials to create a deeper faith in my children—just as you have created in me. I pray that you would help them work through the issues they face, to be honest with me, with their dad, with you. Help them work through every ounce of pain and hurt and see how you redeem our pain and repay us two blessing for every trouble. May I be a catalyst in their healing. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

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2 thoughts on “Splitting Time”

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections. I try not to think about these silent-at-home-days before Christmas without my children. (They will be with me Christmas Day.) But I did read this, so here I am, asking the same questions of myself, of God, on behalf of my children (19 and 13). This will be our fourth Christmas without their dad, post divorce and honestly, I can’t believe we are here. It feels as if not one day of the calendar on the wall has changed since he moved out. I applaud your bravery, your courage, your perseverence to keep your family together in good faith and start new traditions.

    Tonight after Bible Study, a new member lamented the news of the recent, painful divorce (due to an affair) between a longtime couple he and one other member of our study knew. “Why…..what…how could they not try to make it work? ” he asked. Reflecting on my own marriage’s demise, all I could offer was: “Because sometimes, after a marital crises, only one party is coming from a rational place in the marriage. And no matter how committed or rational one is, nothing can get worked out if the other party is not willing.”

    If our Christ-following adult friends have a hard time understanding this, it breaks my heart for all of our kids going through this rocky, crazy, uncharted life change. My experience, though, has turned my heart toward Christ again, daily seeking His Majesty and Divinity. I pray daily for guidance and strength; I have to trust in His love, His Promises, and His Healing to help my children, to help me.

    Only Jesus, Breath of Heaven, wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, who is the Lamb of God, can understand and make us whole again. God bless you and your kids, my friend, and Merry Christmas.

    1. So very well said. The joy and depth I have in my relationship with Christ post-divorce has been worth every ounce of pain I have experienced. But, yes, there are still those moments that remind me of the broken hopes and dreams. As I continue to trust my Savior to lead my children and me to a place of wholeness, I am amazed at the hope of a beautiful future that He is preparing. He is so good!

      No one can fully understand the path that we have walked unless they have walked it personally. It is hard and yet blessed, painful and yet rewarding. Stay strong in Him who redeems all things!

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