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Why Divorced People Struggle With The Church

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Recently, another mom reached out to me with a story I’ve heard way too often. Nothing lights me on fire more than hearing about a struggling single parent making their way to church, only to get lectured throughout the service about divorce. Personally, it’s happened to me more times than I can count. And many of those occurred before I became a Christian—spoiler alert—it was one of the things that kept me from Christ for over 30 years.

I come from a family of divorce.

I was once told by a pastor that my mother was going to hell for remarrying. That was after several occasions of sitting in church beside my struggling mother while we were told that divorce is evil and that children of divorce are ruined for life. I always wondered what they would have thought if they’d ever seen me sitting up in the hallway of our home night after night, waiting in case I needed to step in to protect my mother from my father.

Let me tell you something—that’s what can ruin a life.

I’m also divorced. It seems those years living in a home with two parents in conflict can give you some pretty messed up views on marriage. I had no real understanding of what a healthy marriage looked like, or what I should have expected from a spouse.

Regardless, I sit with literally half the country on this issue. In my humble opinion, there is not a more hurting group of people than the divorced. And yet at times, it seems that the Church doesn’t want them. Theirs is a sin that is allowed to linger in the Church’s mind and to be brought up at random and pointed out for all the world to see. To be shamed with, and set as an example of what not to do. It’s not a cut-and-dried sin that should be forgiven. Like adultery. Or murder. Substance abuse. Gossip. Gluttony. Oh wait. Those have lingering effects too.

Ahem.

If you’ve never experienced divorce, whether as a child or an adult, let me give you a little insight: It is one of the most horrific things you can go through in life. It is a literal tearing of the flesh from what you’ve known. More painful than death to some.

Those, like me, who are familiar with the pain to come, stay years longer than they should in unhealthy marriages trying to find a way to work it out, only to come to the conclusion that there is truly no other option. Most suffer mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially for years afterward. Years. Even though they know that ahead of time—they still choose divorce because the option of staying is so much worse.

Beyond Hollywood, no one takes it lightly. So stop saying that.

And the next time you’re sitting in church as a witness to this, I hope you’ll also keep our side in mind:

First, we know it’s evil. Anyone who has walked this path has witnessed firsthand the breaking of hearts, of dreams, of families, and of their self-worth. But, evil has two sides. The evil act, and the victim of evil. And they are not the same.

Second, we know it hurts our children. So, for the love, give us some respect that we thought long and hard, and decided that the environment they were living in in our marriage was MUCH WORSE than what they would suffer from the breakup of the family. For some of us, ending the marriage was also done with the hope of ending a legacy of harmful behavior that our children would likely have carried into their own lives and marriages had they been forced to live that way the rest of their lives.

Third, you’re right. God does hate divorce. It clearly says so in the Bible. He hates what it does to a family. He knows the incredible amount of pain that each member will suffer. He also hates how those who suffer through it are isolated and left to go through it alone. He hates how His people handle those who are navigating these lonely waters. He is brokenhearted at the way we’ve been treated.

Fourth, knowing that you can’t seem to forgive the sin of leaving a marriage, but you are quick to forgive—and provide programs for—the abusers, liars, adulterers, and substance abusers that we were once married to is a difficult pill to swallow. Choosing to point out divorce and not the sin that caused it is like choosing to point out a house that has burned to the ground and blaming the family for neglect rather than finding out how it started.

Finally, what you think of it and how you treat us will not keep us from coming to church. While you feel justified in throwing our pain in our faces as an example to others of what not to do, while you can make peace with isolating us and our children from the rest of the congregation as we are publicly humiliated by your statements while sitting in the pew before you, we are wiped clean from not only our sins, but from the repercussions of yours.

The blood of Jesus covers us as well as you. Just as we are. And we are promised that our sin will not keep us from Him. Any more than yours will keep you. Because He has removed it from us as far as the east is from the west. No matter how many times you feel the need to bring it back front and center.

We’ll come anyway. Even knowing how you feel about us. Even knowing what you’ll say to our very faces. Because we love Him. We come for Him. We worship Him. We trust Him.

And we are forgiven, by Him.

About Laura Polk

Laura Polk is a writer, speaker and textile designer. Like most single moms, she never intended to parent alone. In fact, growing up in a family of divorce, Laura saw firsthand how it affects the children in the family. Because of this dual perspective, she has a real passion for single moms to choose a different path than what the world encourages them to take, so they can build a new version of their family.
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