Friday, November 12, 2004

The debate in my head rages on

Well, raging is probably too strong a verb. I’m going to lay out the two sides of my current thinking regarding the whole remarriage issue. I’ve been thinking and praying about it for several months now, and don’t feel any closer to a conclusion than I was in the beginning.

Side One:

God’s consistent example to us is one of patience that endures long periods of unrequited love. The Bible recounts many such examples. The story of God’s relationship with the people of Israel, and with the rest of humanity is the most obvious one. There are iterations like Hosea, who was told by God to marry a prostitute. Hosea had to suffer through many of the feelings of rejection, and ingratitude that God must feel as we perpetually defy Him and defile ourselves. Then there is my own personal spiritual walk. Where would I be if God decided I wasn’t worth it anymore during the decade I ignored Him? What if He had done the equivalent to moving on and marrying another? But He didn’t do that. That is not His nature. And as one who wants to emulate that nature as closely as possible, how could I then decide to leave my ex-wife with no option to return to me? (As unlikely as that scenario seems to me at this point.) It reminds me of the story Jesus told about the man who owned a king ten thousand talents. The king forgave him his debt out of pity. But the man went out and found a guy who owed him a tiny fraction of that amount, strangled the dude, and demanded payment. The guy begged for more time, but was not given the same grace and was thrown in prison.

Jesus was telling this story to show how absurd it is when we don’t forgive each other, after He just forgave us for His death sentence. In my case I’m not dealing with forgiveness. I don’t have any anger, resentment or bitterness towards her. I really do hope she has a great life. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. But that’s just because I don’t want to go through the pain again. But beyond forgiveness is grace. The story of the ungrateful servant isn’t just about forgiveness. Ultimately it is about grace. The king gave servant A grace, but servant A didn’t give servant B grace. Now it seems to me that grace has an infinite array of manifestations based on the individuals and circumstances involved. When it comes to my particular situation, I can’t think of a more graceful thing to do than wait for my ex to get her head on straight and come back. Especially when you consider the biblical parallels between marriage and our relationship to Christ. My marriage may be dead. But what of the new spiritual entity that was formed when we made those vows before God and became one flesh?

It seems to me that no amount of exegesis or hermeneutics can overpower the simple concept of grace. I could read a hundred books that show reasons why, technically, I should be free to move on and marry another. I’m sure there are many linguistically acrobatic ways around what Jesus said when the Pharisees tried to corner Him with their trick question about divorce. He said if a man marries another woman after a divorce he commits adultery with her. How that can be worked around without a fair dose of eisegesis is beyond me. (But perhaps still possible.) But the question I’m asking myself is: Do I want to find a way to escape giving grace? This is a question of character, not analysis of law. I’m not worried about my eternal soul here. I’m pretty sure I could marry another woman and have a long, happy, healthy, spiritually full life that is blessed by God. But I’m not going to do that if it means choosing to be less like Christ than I could be…

Unless…!

Side Two:

So far I have been factoring 3 lives into this equation. Myself, my ex, and God. But I need to consider the other 2 people involved. My bestowing of grace will have an effect on them as well. While I patently wait, they are growing up without a stable mom. Their most formative years will lack the yin to my yang. I’m trying to provide as much yin as I can. And they do have some amazing females in their lives like their grandmother and the best nanny in the world. But I don’t think that can ever come close to a mother around the house. Grandma lives 3 hours away, and nanny will graduate in a couple years and want to get a real job.

There are two schools of thought on this one. (That I know of.) One of them says do the right thing, keep the commandments, and everything else will work itself out. This is what the Bill Gothard, Basic Life Principles materials promotes. My uncle lent me some books about marriage and divorce. It focuses on the covenant aspects of marriage, and how a covenant is not a contract, which is the way modern people tend to view marriage. In a contract, one party breaking their end of the deal will nullify it. In a covenant, both parties are obligated to uphold it regardless of the other party’s actions. I agree with a lot of the criticism I’ve read concerning Gothard’s teachings, but this part seems to fit into the pattern that I described above. God’s covenant with His people means He will be faithful regardless of our unfaithfulness to Him. Gothard’s materials are full of stories of people who stayed faithful to these vows, refused to remarry when their spouse left, and found God was faithful to fill in the gaps left by the ex.

That all sounds right to me, but there is something that gives me pause. I had this attitude the last two years of my marriage. I knew God hates divorce, so I figured if I just did everything I possibly could to keep a divorce from happening, things would just work out. The problem was that I had to overlook several other moral issues to keep that one going. Such as lying. I had to lie to my parents and in-laws constantly to make them feel like everything was ok. Also, I let my kids be exposed to a lot of horrible things they should never have seen and heard. I let these things happen because I thought it was for the Greater Good ™. Well, she persisted until I had to let it go for the safety of the kids. So it was all for naught. I don’t want to repeat the same process of blindly following a Greater Good ™, to the exclusion of the greater laws of love. Specifically, I don’t want to be waiting around for my ex wife, (who made a very conscious choice to leave the family) and deprive my children of a healthy, loving mother, and a proper example of how husbands and wives should treat each other.

So which is more important? Emulating Gods example of grace, or being open to building a better home environment for myself and my kids?

Anyone? Anyone?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit, it is quite a battle to find victory in. And the lines, unfortunately, do seem a little less than clearly cut. While it is true that if you do what's right, follow the "law", and apply grace, you will be blessed by God...it is not always so easy. Especially when kids are in the mix. As a minister, it is easy for me to define the black and white and red of the Bible. It would be easy for me to quote everything and say you should not remarry, it is adultery and lack of faith that God will meet your needs without a new wife...and while those things may be true, where does the spirit of the law come in apart from the letter of the law? "Easy," I think, is the key. We have tried to deduce our Christianity to something simple with answers that can be spouted without thought; convenience seems to rule the church. "Easy" however, is not in the mix when it comes to divorce nor when it comes to remarriage. I think God hates divorce because He knows the pain and confusion it causes. Could He separate a union of two people that they may be free to pursue someone else? Yes, He alone, would be able to do it. I'm not sure that He does it at whim, but I know He is capable. Otherwise, what of those who were forced into union, rapes and the like? It would not be fair to them. Some would say, life isn't fair...but grace and mercy I believe come in to fill the gaps. Ahh, that is yet another topic...so where does that leave our conclusion? Is it a sin to remarry? Is it a lack of grace towards the ex to remarry? Is it a lack of faith to think one needs a partner other than Jesus? Are those even the right questions to be asking? While I'd like to say my easy answers, I cannot say for sure. My revelation of Christ is only in part, and I believe God's word to be a revelation of character more so than laws...so do I base my actions on His character or the laws when those seem to at times be incongruent? Ultimately, on some things I may never know. I wish I had the right answer for you, but I fear I only have the "easy" answer. What I do think I can offer though as insight is this: even if you did find the most incredible woman to remarry and care for your children, it does not mean that it would fill the place of the birth mother in your childrens' hearts. They may grow incredibly close to her, but I believe a part of their hearts will always have a vacuum for their real Mom. I know the desire to fill this place for you kids, but I am not so certain that the introduction of another female to them would necessarily meet that need for them. Ultimately, I think only Christ and reconciliation with true Mom may be able to do that...but even if she came back home, it may still be no "easy" path or instant trusting and healing for them. For this reason, my best advice for you and the best thing I have to offer you is this: prayer and love. "love covers a multitude of sins" and prayer will overcome in time. Blessing to you! I enjoy reading your heartfelt comments and debates. Your genuiness is touching. Con Carino, Mariposa Immortale

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a "right" answer here. I do feel strongly that you owe it to your kids to be open to the love and companionship of a woman.

If you're happy, you'll be a better father and your children will grow up knowing that happiness is possible. When your wife left, that was her choice. (albeit very unnatural and unloving choice, imo) It just doesn’t seem fair or productive that her choice is dooming you to a life of romantic solitude. I don’t personally believe that was the way God intended things. I don’t think you truly think this either, because you seem to struggle with this question quite often.

You deserve to be happy, and so do your boys. Maybe you should just be a little more diligent about who you let in your life from now on. :)

If you decide to open your heart, make sure they're worthy of you, and will treat you with compassion and respect.

5:27 PM  

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