Divorce affects entire families. How can we support and encourage those struggling with the long-lasting effects?
I am a product of divorce. As a child, it defined me. My parents were divorced—so of course I must be a troubled child. At least that’s how everyone made me feel.
Already as a first grader, I remember being treated differently than other students. So I acted naughty. Maybe I played into the assumptions.
As school continued, I never talked about my parents and their divorce. I would get embarrassed when we would talk about the Sixth Commandment in school—“You shall not commit adultery.” “Divorce means adultery” would click in my head. I’d sit there and not say anything.
When I was in the sixth grade, my mom got married again. He seemed like a great guy. But later, we found out he was a struggling drug addict. I worried about my mom getting another divorce. I wondered if my mom would go to heaven. I look back and wonder why no one attempted to make it clear to me that I was okay, that my sister was okay, that my mom was okay. This man ultimately chose drug addiction over us, abandoning his marital duties. He deserted us. I avoided ever talking about my family.
When the Sixth Commandment came around in class again, I remember not wanting to go to school . . . but I went. No one clarified anything for me or comforted me. Maybe they didn’t know I was struggling with such things, and maybe I should have asked. But what 12-year-old is going to raise her hand and say, “Is my mom’s divorce okay?”
I went to a Lutheran high school. Not many people there had divorced or separated parents. I had a serious boyfriend for about two years, who ultimately broke up with me because my parents were divorced. He said he “just couldn’t deal with it and felt like he could never marry me.” Couldn’t marry me? We were just kids in high school! But it showed me again how divorced persons are perceived. I got the feeling I was somehow extra sinful because my parents were divorced.
Why is divorce looked at as worse than other sins? One sort of sinner is not better than another. People who get divorced can be forgiven. Our focus shouldn’t be on the stigma of certain sins, but on repentance and faith. Many people struggle with many challenges and sins. People who are judged for their circumstances can be turned off by such judgment.
I’m not saying to accept people in their sins. Absolutely not. But we need to show patience and understanding. Both law and gospel need to be applied. Struggling sinners are forgiven because Jesus died for them.
If you don’t know the story behind someone’s situation, don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume everyone who is divorced came to that position by pursuing sin. Don’t assume you know someone’s heart. Approach people with support, with loving words. That could be all they need to begin healing.
My point is not to complain about how challenging my childhood was or how everyone around me handled things wrong. That is not the case. I am writing this to raise awareness of things that could be happening if we are open to helping one another. Life is hard; we are sinful people. What is most important—in fact, the only thing of ultimate importance—is what Christ did for us. We have a gracious God who forgives all sins. Let’s seek to help and forgive each other, rather than making life more difficult for those who’ve been affected by hurtful sins.
Because of the personal nature of this article, the author’s name has been withheld.
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015