Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sentenced and Set Free

Remember, Seek, Surrender
My Testimony in Scripture

2007 - 2008

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40:1-2

No one, as a child, dreams of one day growing up and getting divorced.  Most little girls plan their weddings long before they even like boys, but they certainly do not plan their dissolutions or fantasize about their lives post separation.  Honestly, I had never pined for marriage growing up, but when I did get married, I knew on some very basic level that I would die before I would get divorced.  Little did I know.

Writing about my divorce is not something that I enjoy.  Being a survivor of adult domestic violence is not a reality with which I am particularly fond of living.  It is an uncomfortable and tense venture, and if it were not for the fact that my testimony of God's faithfulness and redemption is all wrapped up in the story of a failed marriage, I would not describe it here.  (There is a reason I use the song Martyrs and Thieves as my testimony song: "I've never been much for the bearing of souls in the presence of any man. I'd rather stick to myself all safe and secure; in the arms of a sinner I am.")

In some ways, I feel about my marriage and divorce the way someone might feel about having served a prison sentence.  I do not think that this piece of my past is what is most true about me as a person; I do not want it to define me.  It is not what I want people to see when they look at me or to know when they think of me.  Yet it is a part of me.  And frankly, though once again I would prefer not to admit it, I still experience feelings of shame about my story at times.

There were leaders in the church, leaders I loved and respected, who blamed and reprimanded me for my divorce.  Only one ever came back to apologize to me once he had all the facts.  I think the others are still convinced that I willfully sinned by saying no to the devastation of addiction and by letting go.  So it was that in that first year I was devastated not only by an unfaithful and abusive man, but by those in the community who condemned me for that which was largely out of my control, saying, "Divorce is a sin. God hates divorce."

But I praise God because, as I prayed through that difficult first year, it was God Himself who had something to say about such things.  It was as I read scripture and prayed one night that I was given the following dream:

I lay in a hospital room on a gurney staring at the florescent lights and white walls above and all around me.  It was a big, open room.  The curtains were pulled around in bunches and the medical equipment was clustered in spots.  It appeared to be an emergency room.  The distant noise of voices and heart monitors and other general hubbub came in from an open door.  I felt very alone. 

Then someone walked into the room, a man wearing white scrubs.  He was roughly in his thirties, dark and lean.  I knew him immediately; it was Christ.  And when I saw his face he looked very sad. 

 At that moment I realized there was something else in the room, someone else, beside and behind me. I turned my head and saw that there was another gurney laying parallel to mine and an operating table between us. On the gurney lay my husband, still but breathing, his face turned away.  And then I saw, draped over and laying on the table, strands of light - big and small, coarse and smooth - connecting me to him. Many of them were severed, broken, draped like cut and withering vines, hacked and brutalized. But there were many still connected; a thick, multi-cord strand of varied light at our chests in particular still joined our hearts.  Something similar connected our minds.   A myriad of smaller cords intertwined these two, like sinew and tissue around muscles.  It was both beautiful and somewhat shocking.  

I began to cry.  The man on the other bed did not stir.

Then Christ stepped up to the operating table and looked me in the face.

"This is why I hate divorce," He said, and I saw the tears in his eyes, too. He picked up a scalpel and, one by one, I watched as He gently cut the ties that remained, weeping silently all the while.  But when He got to the heart, I had to look away.

Finally, with the last cut, the man on the other gurney, the person that was once joined to me with cords of light, slipped away - like someone slips into the sleep of death or slips down into a pool of water.  Christ helped me to stand and walk with Him and He and I departed together, me with cords of light still spangling from body like the tentacles of a star fish, shriveling and shrinking, lost without the relationship from which they had grown.  They were not exactly me or mine, but they were not exactly his, either.  Even with the Great Physician, it would take a long time to heal.

So let not man (or woman) hack at the beautiful cords of light and life that connect the two who have become one (Matt 19:6, Mark 10:9). Let them not brutalize and do violence on this beautiful, fragile life that is neither one alone but a new creation that only grows from both together.  It is a life that must be nurtured, guarded and protected (Mal 2:16). For if God hates divorce, it is that it breaks His heart even as it tears ours apart, and He weeps with us in and over this death and dismemberment of life. If God hates divorce, then what He grieves is the sinful acts that sow a harvest of destruction that end in divorce, this loss of life.

For though I do not find the words "God hates divorce" in scripture, as I prayed about my dream, God brought to me to a passage that says: "I will not be mocked, a man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6:7-8). If you sow to the flesh you WILL reap all kinds of death. You cannot avoid it. But if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap life. It is just the way of things.

And so I would go so far as to say that divorce is not the sin, it is the death produced by the sin, inevitable when sin has been sown and reaches its harvest (James 1:15). The sin is the hardness of heart that sows the seed in the first place (Matt 19:8).

My marriage was still-born.  I was released from carrying the dead thing with which I had lived for a significant portion of my life through the divorce that came with God's decree, "Comfort, comfort my people, speak tenderly to her and tell her that her hard service is completed."

For a long time I still felt the man that was once my husband, I felt him in my skin, the way a survivor of war still feels a limb lost in battle.  But with this passage of comfort spoken over me in 2007, this was the year that it was gone and done.  The severed strands of light had been restored and were once again woven back into the fabric of my being.

It was 11 years from conception to death. Shortly after God gave me the verses above, my ex was sentenced to 11 years in prison for violence perpetrated after I left.

He was sentenced and I was set free.

*     *     *

A note to the Church:

Do not condemn divorce or its victims.  The seeds that bear such fruit are sown long before the day of their harvest, often during the creation of the relationship itself.  Help them tear up the seed  that produces death in their souls.  Help them to sow new seeds of light and life.  For souls are eternal, but marriage is not.  So you may or may not save them from divorce, but you do a work pleasing to God that cultivates the fruit of His Spirit.  This is the work of The Kingdom. 


  1. Sister, this is the most beautiful (and tragic) thing you've ever written. I grieve with you over the hurts that have been perpetrated against you through your marriage AND the church. I stand with you in the light of the new day dawning. I pray with you for the binding up of all our wounds that Christ's body would be a place of healing and health.

  2. I love the vision you were given of how you were connected and how you have since been healed. Incredibly beautiful and meaningful to me. I hope you have a wonderful trip and I look forward to reading all about it all along the way.

  3. Freedom-Josh Garrelts:) Enjoy, if you haven't already.



Thank you for your thoughts!