GUEST POST by Roger Messner: Divorce and a Culture of Repentance

divorce

How has divorce impacted your life – directly or indirectly? How are you responding to it?

In 1977, I was eight years old and starting the third grade. My classmates and I were a generation of “latch key kids.” We were some of the first to be taught “sex ed” at that age. And that year we welcomed an African-American teacher & students to our largely caucasian school. It was also the first time we met a kid whose parents were divorced. 

My religious upbringing saw the divorced as unforgivable sinners. As a result, my parents didn’t want me to hang out with this kid. Yet, each week in Sunday School, I would hear conflicting messages to avoid “sinners” and yet share the Gospel with unbelievers. Needless to say, my friend never felt comfortable at church.

Conversations about divorce are troublesome. Each person is affected by divorce differently. The ramifications of divorce are deep and wide. You may have done terrible things. Someone may have done terrible things to you. You may feel unable to forgive yourself. You may feel unable to forgive others.

I too have been deeply hurt. I too have thought and done the most terrible things. In this series, I intend to be honest about my own broken relationships.

How do we want to respond? Do we want our lives to be marked by fractured relationships, bitterness & unforgiveness? Lives defined by avoidance, fear, & hatred?

Dr. Eric Mason recently spoke on the topic of racial reconciliation. In it he pointed out that the onus is not only on the offender. Why? Often the offended can sit with a bitter and unforgiving spirit. Mason’s talk reminds us that forgiveness and repentance are beneficial to all parties involved.

The goal of this series is to converse about divorce so that we might become a people of reconciliation. Perhaps, we can become people who have a restored way in which we relate, think, and posture ourselves, a people with open hands rather than clenched fists.

Allow me to offer the following disclaimers:
    • Forgiveness does not imply blind trust. If you have been wounded, forgiveness and repentance are still the best plan of action. Please do not go it alone. Seek assistance.
    • Maybe you have divorced yourself from God & you can’t bring yourself to forgive him. Your pains are very real. Please know there is assured healing. Again, please do not go it alone.
Each of us should begin by considering our need to repent of the following:
    • Unforgivenss in divorce.
    • Unforgiveness of your parents.
    • Refusing to forgive yourself for how divorce has affected your child.
    • Superior attitudes over people effected by divorce.

Let’s come together to be a people of reconciliation and create a culture of repentance in regard to divorce.

QUESTION: How has your life been impacted by divorce?

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series covering various topics on divorce.

  1. Divorce and a Culture of Repentance (2.22)
  2. Divorce and the Bible (3.1)
  3. Divorce due to structural deficiency (3.8)
  4. Divorce’s impact on the kids (3.15)
  5. Christ > Divorce (3.22)
Posted on by Cor in FAITH

18 Responses to GUEST POST by Roger Messner: Divorce and a Culture of Repentance

  1. Andy

    Roger and Cor, thanks for diving headfirst into this difficult topic.

    My parents divorced when I was around 10 years old. They have a amicable relationship now, but there is a great deal of pain that continues to come from the brokenness, even 20 years later. I think as Christians, we can be tempted to think that this pain should no longer affect us, but that is not true. The pain and the impact of broken relationships are real. And though the relationships will never be the same after divorce, the Holy Spirit can allow us to repent, forgive, and move forward. It wasn’t until my adult years that I really began processing the impact of my parent’s divorce on me (glad to see that’s an upcoming topic!), but I am thankful that God used the divorce to draw me into a relationship with Jesus.

    • Roger Messner

      “as Christians, we can be tempted to think that this pain should no longer affect us”

      I have felt that reality.

      Would you care to share how you feel God used the divorce to draw you into a relationship with Jesus?

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Also thank you for even beginning to process the effects of divorce, and to be a willing participant in the Spirits work in your life to become a person of the culture of repentance.

      -Rog

  2. Roger Messner

    Oops. The Eric Mason link takes you to the incorrect sermon. You can find that sermon link and the original article that spurred the direction of this conversation here: http://www.menofhopecc.com/racial-reconciliation-is-only-through-repentence/

  3. Kelly

    Thanks for bringing this to the table Roger, I’ve hardly heard this topic discussed in the churches I’ve been a part of, yet it is a huge psycological ball and chain for half of my friends’ relational development and is totally woven into their Christian ‘walk’. My parents were divorced. I think my generation was the first that had schools incorporating ‘D’ group, a semi-support system for kids w/ divorced parents; the room they chose could barely fit all the 5th graders, and this is in a town of 14,000….this was, 89′.

    What have I learned? life is complicated. people try to do the best they can; a choice may not be ‘good’ but it is better. forgiveness is right, but can be hard; bitterness can lie dormant for years. guilt is is painful to bare and painful to watch; ask for forgiveness and it will be over. Mercy and Grace; repeat. ‘adults’ are still wounded children; hopefully i’m less wounded. God can use any of us as a vessel for His light and truth, old or young, in any situation and bring REDEMPTION! I am sometimes convinced I was put on this earth to minister to my parents and grandparents.

    To be grafted into a new family is the power of the church; I think a lot of people affected by divorce need to be healed in ‘immeadiate’ family kind of ways, ‘under the same roof’, vulnerable, Mother/Father /brother/sister kind of ways. What this looks like? i’m not sure. but perhaps it could serve to remind the church that it is a family and not an institution.

    may the future discussions be fruitful!! and be seasoned with hope and love……

    • Roger Messner

      Kelly,

      Rather than replying to your comment directly I accidentally replied to your comment in the general section. Just wanted to make sure you know I saw your comment & did respond.

      Roger

  4. Roger Messner

    Kelly,

    Thank you so much for sharing so many great & quotable thoughts. I have been ruminating on them all morning & I am not even sure where to begin.

    I too am hopeful that the future discussions be fruitful and seasoned with hope and love. That there be “immediate” family healing, as well as in society and in faith communities. Not just “simply” (my word) that we hope for healing but that individuals do the hard work of becoming “healers”.

    Just this morning as I pondered this post & your words I was also ruminating my perceptions of how divorce is effecting me and my children in real time. My perception led me to thoughts of defense & attack. My fists slowly clenched and I was no longer seeking to serve with open hands. I made some comments I shouldn’t have & now I have to go back to the work of being a member of the repentant culture.

    Life is hard indeed. And, the discipline to be a bringer of life rather than adding to the conflict is difficult. But, the alternative of continuing the conflict is death.

    As this is a discipline I can assure anyone reading this response that I did not wake up just this morning and decide to be a person of repentance…it has taken TIME. Time and as you so aptly stated:

    “Mercy and Grace; repeat”

    Thanks,

    Rog

    • Kelly

      first off, I dislike aspects of two dimensional communication, and i think we all know what those are, and it’s good to keep in mind….but since I like some, I”ll continue.

      I wanted to be honest about my own ‘child of divorce’ experience for the sake of the topic, but the delivery could sound harsh, especially to divorced parents. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT, every parent is different, every kid’s experience is different. I am by no means casting judgement on every divorcee that I see. I love my parents, they love me; through any weaknesses they had, as with anybody’s, they have allowed me to learn the heart of Christ and the love of God in ways that are so deep, joyful ….and convicting; the sin ‘kids’ can have is victimization and they can’t hold on to this, it isn’t fair, and their bones will rot away; Repentance. …and this usually doesn’t come until later in life, if it does come. My joy has been to witness to a demographic I can only relate to from this experience, a ‘wounded healer'; God is using us all the time and it is beautiful.

      God is creative, like in the story of Joseph, and the complexities of creativity make me happy…an artist who shapes the human heart,wow; in God the artist do I trust that divorce is being woven into a story that I will patiently submit to.

      Holy processing! …this is good for me =)

      oh, and this morning, I heard a radio pastor with a scottish accent talk about FAITH being a big part of REPENTANCE, and it is a good point, and i’ve noticed it in my own heart…am I seeking God first, ..and then do I really believe? do I really believe I am forgiven? God loves our faith! I believe this leads to the true joy of a Christian, instead of some kind of ‘positive attitude’ thing.

      • Roger Messner

        Kelly,

        Thank you again for your thoughts and vulnerability.

        But right now I am actually a little worried that my pastor some how got access to a radio station and did a show completely in a Scottish accent. Anyway…

        you are correct about every experience of divorce being different. Which is making blogging on this subject very difficult. And, living a life repentant even more troublesome.

        Keep processing.

        Keep letting God create.

        Rog

  5. Valerie

    This can be a controversial topic in some ways, mainly because so many have intense feelings and experiences surrounding it. I will say this, divorce upsets me. Just as death upsets me, illness upsets me, lying upsets me, hatred upsets me. Why? Because it is not how God intended things to be. His design has become marred by the entry of sin into the world, and marriage is no exception. I was truly blessed in the fact that my parents never divorced. I was also truly blessed by parents with extreme personal difficulties that they did not mask but braced head on and worked through together. My dad was an alcoholic and drug addict until I was 12. My mom didn’t leave him and he has been clean and sober for going on 20 years and is an amazing, godly man. He has been an amazing father, a fantastic role model, and a supportive husband. They are very happily married. But I was able to witness the struggles they went through. It gave me a clear view of marriage and also a clear view of the other side.
    It upsets me when people treat marriage flippantly, calling it just a piece if paper. I also feel the pain of those who wanted desperately to reconcile differences but their spouse did not.
    I am sure there are churches out there that you described that treat sinners and divorcees as people to be avoided but I must honestly say that I never attended one, Probably because my parents and now I would never be able to tolerate being part of such a congregation. I grew up with friends whose mother wanted to reconcile and their father didn’t. She was a stolid member of our church and greatly respected to this day. There was another who cheated in his wife, and after being separated for several years were able to reconcile. None of them were ostracized in the churches I attended. To me it is the heart that matters. The Bible is clear on the seriousness of marriage, but as always we can only control our own actions and not the actions of others.
    At the end of the day, what you do is between you and God…and He is the one you answer to.

    • Roger Messner

      Valerie,

      While I am divorced I hope that some day my children will say, as you did, that they were “blessed by parents with extreme personal difficulties”. Seriously, I love that.

      Thank you so much for sharing these amazing stories of faith of people effected by divorce. Hopefully your words will be an encouragement to those currently not in a community, of faith or otherwise, that supports them through the effects of divorce.

      I couldn’t agree more that marriage isn’t just a piece of paper. No amount of words could ever sum up the complexities of a relationship between two people and how they effect those around them. Rather than thinking of the “end of the day”, & NOT that we shouldn’t, I wish I would have thought at the beginning of the day.

      Thank you again for your comments and keep being an encouragement with these stories.

      Rog

      • Valerie

        An excellent point. Too many wait until something is wrong to work on their marriages. Having watched my parents I am a firm believer in being proactive in relationships (and as Joey pointed out…not just marital ones). Tryng to spot the problems before they become unfixable. Right now, I am going through The Love Dare yearly devotional and it is challenging but awesome. Not because there is anything wrong with my marriage per se…but because it is causing me to look deeper at my relationship with my husband and not to take it for granted. Thanks for your insightful comments on such a delicate topic!

        • Roger Messner

          Valerie FOR THE WIN!

          Proactive!!!

          ;-)

  6. Joey

    I love your point about divorcing yourself from God or your parents or other relationships. Divorce is not just a broken marital relationship. That’s certainly where it plays out most prominently, but the word “divorce” and the heartbreak that goes with it extends to many other relationships.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say on this Roger!

    • Roger Messner

      Thanks Joey & thanks for catching the point of divorce extending to many kinds of relationships. Hopefully from there those that haven’t felt the pain of marital divorce can begin to empathize knowing brokenness in other relationships.

      But, the divorced from God part is probably the biggest part of my experience. And, as I observe others I am sadly not alone in this experience.

      I too am looking forward to what I am gonna say…it’s usually a crap shoot, thank God for trustworthy friends & editors ;-)

    • Brandon

      I also thought that the point about divorcing oneself from God was really great.

      My parents divorced when I was younger and remarried each other a couple of years later. The joy of their remarriage clouded the effects of their divorce. It wasn’t until years later—after I graduated high school, I think— that I began to fully realize how it had affected me. One of the primary effects was in how I treated God and how I felt like he treated me.

      Because I was used to having a fragmented reality (mom’s house to dad’s house to grandma’s house to wherever), I acted this out in my spirituality. Everything I did was fragmented and broken up into little chunks of time. It was difficult to live holistically in any way, since I had spent time trying to normalize my fragmented life.

      Now, years later, I’ve been able to deconstruct the fragmented or “divorced” view of my world. God’s Spirit helps me to live holistically, but I am still tempted to break my life up into controllable sections of time and space. I’m thankful that God just won’t have that; he wants it all, and life seems to work better that way.

      • Kelly

        I like the term ‘fragmented reality'; this most certainly applies to my life, and I have yet to make peace with this.

      • Roger Messner

        Brando & Kelly,

        I am gonna “second” the “like” of “fragmented reality”.

        And, encourage that you see it as only 1 reality.

        In my second marriage I was a lone proponent of there being no such thing as “my time” vs. “the other parents time”.

        I have only always tried to see my daughters time as there own.

        Even if their mother and I had stayed together my children would have had fragmented time.

        Time at home. Time at school. Time with mom. Time with dad. Time with friends. Time with Sponge Bob…

        Now that is NOT to say that a divided home life isn’t fracturing and detrimental. One of my daughters subconsciously refused to learn the days of the week so she never had to think about where her time was being divided. And, I think she is only recently choosing to learn her address.

        This pains me beyond belief.

        As a parent one of the first things I learned was my girls needed me less every day. And everyday they needed me all the more. And that these would be people with their own lives.

        Children of dumbass parents…I mean divorce (sorry outside convicting voice)…get a crash course in independence and an early exposure to a “fragmented life” of their own.

        A fragmented life of their own that can be all for God.

        If they so choose.

        Choose it guys.

        Choose it.

        Rog

  7. Frank Switzer (the)

    Interesting, Roger, that you should post this. Sunday morning, as I was running, I recalled for the first time in years how in sixth grade (1971 for me) we were shown a number of films about how the seemingly “new normal” (my words, not the words in the film) was divorce.

    The films were interested in starting dialogue among sixth-graders about what it was like to live in a world where people were getting divorced, and where it was expected that marriages probably wouldn’t last. This was 1971, I remind you.

    I was not a Christian at the time, nor was I brought up in a Christian home. And other than the fact that my parents were not divorced, I had not way to filter this information any way but to accept it as true and normal. These were my teachers; this was school. they were purveyors of truth.

    There were no films, ever, presenting any other perspective of marriage — how it could work for life, about how joy and happiness could be accomplished in a permanent, monogamous marriage. Nothing of the sort. One view. That was it.

    How has this type of instruction on young minds influenced us?

Add a Comment