The bible says ‘”I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel.’ (Malachi 2:16). The statement is very black and white, there is no ambiguity. My issue with this text is the perspective of some who add the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) undertone that it must also means that God hates the divorcée and divorcé. No where in His word does He say that we are no longer His children for making this decision, that His son died for everyone except us or that we are no longer eligible to be citizens of heaven. Despite this fact, many take it upon themselves to shun those of us who have terminated the marriage vows. Others go as far as to take divorce as a personal slight against them or the church but God has big shoulders and though I accept that divorce brings Christianity into disrepute (just like every other public sin), all sin is equal before the cross and the penalty for divorce was paid there also.
The decision to divorce cannot and must not be taken lightly. It is a sacred vow and covenant taken before God. He expects us to keep it. However, humans are complex, humans change, humans lack hindsight. Eventually I realised that the man I married didn’t see an issue with his narcissistic abusive behaviour. As far as he was concerned there was no issue and therefore no reason to change. Did I want to remain in a covenant with someone who clearly wasn’t interested in investing in ‘us’? He was incapable of change, not because God couldn’t change him but because he didn’t want to change. I had keft him and even though many miles separated us, I no longer wanted to be legally bound to him.
I contacted a law firm and gave the lawyer a brief overview of my situation. She asked what grounds I wanted to use for divorce. I told her abuse, that was why I wanted to divorce him. Her response surprised me. The legal framework doesn’t list abuse as grounds for divorce. Adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living apart for two years or more are grounds for divorce. I went with ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
My biggest fear and concern was that he would contest the petition to spite me. From then on my prayer life felt strange. Here I was requesting God to grant me something that He hated. I couldn’t rationalise that fact. While I was married and living under the same roof with my husband, I had prayed many times that God would help him see how much he was hurting me so that he would change. I don’t believe my prayers went unheard. I do believe that he chose to resist the Holy Spirit that pulled on his heart strings. I was thankful that my ex-husband didn’t oppose the divorce and that it went through the court without delay.
I recognised the envelope when I saw it in the letterbox. I put it on my dresser and stared at it. When I eventually opened it I read it over a few times. Then I wept. That piece of paper, that legal document was a sword through my heart. Such heaviness!No one marries expecting that they will divorce. I knew I had done the right thing by separating my life from his, but the finality of it was still painful. A lost identity, lost hope, lost potential family, lost joint future. Loss. It is not a reason to celebrate and be glad as some would suppose. It’s a great misfortune which at the time causes unimaginable pain.
God is amazing at helping us through the most difficult times in our lives, even those of our own making! He is the father and cares about all that worries us. He took me through my storm.
A few years on, how does it feel being a divorceé? Well in some respects pretty much the same as being female or black. I don’t wake up every morning and announce it to myself. Its a given. It doesn’t interfere with my daily living, but the reality of it is that I wished I had gotten right because it does feel like a blemish on my name. It is done, it’s my past, I cannot undo any of it. It is what it is, and I have made peace with that. Perhaps in time when it comes up in discussion I may even feel defensive about it. I just don’t know and I have not spent any time pre-empting what my reaction would or should be. Life is too short, and I have important things to do. I do know that my experience has given me first hand knowledge, I have a unique perspective which allows me a seat at the table of discussion on the matter. The beauty of my situation is that I got a second chance. I escaped my prison of abuse. I count myself blessed because though my scars run deep they are few compared to the scars that others bare. God has enabled me to share my story to help others recognise the abuse in their own life, to raise awareness of emotional abuse and to help victims see that they are not alone and that there is hope for their situation. God has given me beauty for my ashes. ‘ . . . and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit’. The Message Bible.