WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…
So, I’ve been discussing the impact of truly implanting the truth that “God is love” into your heart so that you can live out of that belief, rather than from out of the lies the enemy tries to spew in your direction, and this post was supposed to be the connection of that truth to the institution of marriage.
However, God has had different plans, at least for this particular post. I plan to get back to what I was going to say here today, hopefully on Wednesday, so stay tuned, but for now, God has told me to tell you about something else.
I have been attending a regular men’s Bible study on Friday afternoons between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. This past Friday, we were discussing Matthew 19, the first half of which is on the topic of divorce, and while we were discussing this chapter, I had the wonderful opportunity to share a very brief version of my testimony. During this time, I was reminded of just how powerful some of Christ’s language is in this particular exchange.
Before we dig into that though, let me say this, and I believe this is why God has told me to change my post for today, but since I started circulating the web address for this site, trying to generate the beginnings of a readership, I have been approached by a bunch of people about the website. Most of these people have simply offered encouraging words, telling me they’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve written, or that the site looks nice, or that they are glad I’m following God’s calling in my life, etc.
Most of the comments have been just general encouraging words; however, I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have come up to me and told me that the timing of my publication of the site was perfect because they knew just who they needed to send it to in order to share God’s message with them, or it spoke to them in such a way that was perfect timing for them in their marriage. I heard stories about people’s children who are considering divorce, people’s siblings whose marriages are on the brink of destruction, neighbors, friends, etc. To hear this is encouraging from the sense that I’m glad that my following God’s call can have an impact, but it’s sad at the same time because it reveals just how broken so many of our marriages are.
So, in hearing all these stories in such a short time and coupled with the reminder I received through the sharing of my testimony on Friday afternoon, God spoke to me. Literally, He spoke to me. He said, “Write about your experience.”
So, here it is…
As you have hopefully read in my testimony (CLICK HERE TO READ MY TESTIMONY), you know that Tracy and I were on the very brink of divorce. She had left, deciding she no longer wanted to be married to me, and I reacted, mostly out of hurt, anger, resentment, fear, doubt, worry, etc. You name it, I felt it. I felt betrayed and abandoned. I felt undesired and unloved. I felt nearly every single negative emotion you could possibly feel.
So, what did I do?
I did what most red-blooded Americans do, I filed for divorce. If she didn’t want me, then I figured I’d show her. I’d take the reins in this fight. I’d take the bull by the horns. I’d take control. Ultimately, that’s what it was about. Control. When I was acting and reacting, I felt like I was in control. The truth of the matter was, I was blinded by my hurt and anger, and I was no more in control after filing for divorce than I was before. I was just trying anything I could to FEEL BETTER.
Well, my friends, fortunately for us (unfortunately in some respects), God doesn’t deal too much in feelings, and most of the stuff God tells us to do goes counter to our FEELINGS.
So, I filed for divorce, I resolved in my mind that my marriage was over, and I was fine with that. Basically, I said, “Forget her. She doesn’t deserve me anyway.” You name it, I thought it, and I probably said it (to her and about her). I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t very Christ-like during this time.
But, God was working. He was working on me, and unbeknownst to me, He was working on her. Praise Him!
So, due to our having no children at the time, we had a 30-day waiting period before the divorce could be finalized. My pride grew and grew during this month. I felt stronger and stronger. I justified my actions in any way imaginable. I was right; she was wrong. Divorce was the answer, and heck, if it wasn’t, she didn’t want me, so I had no other choice anyway. So, I might as well just seal the deal myself and get this thing over with.
Control. Control. Control. Pride. Pride. Pride. All founded on my hurt, my anger, my resentment, and my fear!
If you are reading this and you are currently in this spot in your life, I encourage you right now to really analyze why you are doing what you are doing. I suspect it’s some sort of control or pride issue. Only you can answer this, and only you can be the one to be truly honest about this, but I suspect if you ask God to reveal to you the motivation behind where you are, you will find some sort of self-serving motivation behind it. And, let me tell you this now, self-serving is NEVER Godly.
When my 30-day waiting period ended, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when my attorney called me to tell me the court date was set. It was a Friday afternoon, and the court date was set for the following Wednesday at 8 a.m. I answered the phone, was given the information, hung up, and instantly began crying like a baby.
All the pride, all the desire for control, all the hurt, anger, and resentment, and all the WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE to God’s truth that I had been living with came rushing out in a wave of emotion I hope to never experience again. I spent the rest of that weekend thinking about it. I wish now I could tell you I spent that weekend praying over the situation, but honestly, I was too new to the Kingdom to really know about and understand what having an active prayer life is really all about. I guess I prayed in the only way I knew how and that was to think about what was right, allowing myself to be guided in the right direction, and then being obedient to whatever revelation might come.
I have no doubt that in doing all that, God was speaking to me and He was revealing Himself to me.
It was during this time that I found this passage in Matthew 19.
Here it is:
1When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
7″Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
One of the most incredibly powerful passages in all of Scripture if you have ever been on the brink of divorce. So, like I said, God revealed these passages to me at this time. I spent all weekend thinking about my marriage, my imminent divorce, the love I had for my wife, God’s plan for marriage, specifically mine, and ultimately, what He wanted me to do because of all of it.
Let’s look specifically at some of the verses…
Verse 4 – “at the beginning” – Wow, so this is defining God’s original plan for marriage, not what we humans have turned it into by acting and reacting out of our hurt, anger, resentment, pride, and control issues.
Verse 6 – “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” – Wow wow, so God’s original plan for marriage is NOT DIVORCE. Notice, there is no “OUT CLAUSE” in this passage, the one that describes God’s original plan. (The OUT CLAUSE comes later.)
Verse 8 – “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” – Yikes!! You mean to tell me that there is a prescription in God’s Holy Word that allows people an OUT from their vows before Him? Yes, but do you see the trick here? It’s not because it’s right. It’s not because it was God’s original plan (see verse 6). It’s because we are messed up, flawed creatures, who have HARD HEARTS!!
This was me. I had allowed my heart to become so hardened to marriage and toward my wife because I was hurt, I was angry, I was resentful, I was full of pride, and I wanted control, but God showed me in these verses, THIS WASN’T HIS PLAN FROM THE BEGINNING. This was simply me being selfish and self-serving, and, yes, because of this, I was way outside of God’s will.
Do you see what God did here? He took all the lies I was believing about myself, about marriage, about Him, about my wife, and He revealed truth to me through His Holy Word.
DIVORCE IS NOT GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN. It’s something we humans have done because our hearts are hard.
Here’s the kicker: Verse 9 tells us that we have a right to actually go through with a divorce if our spouse commits some form of marital unfaithfulness. This is the NIV translation, and virtually every translation uses different wording in this section. If I’m not mistaken, the original Greek or Hebrew translates most closely to the word “fornication,” which at the time meant a lot of different types of sexual immorality. It wasn’t just adultery. Either way, technically, by the letter of the Mosaic law, we have an OUT CLAUSE.
And, to be perfectly honest with you, I had an OUT CLAUSE and could have abandoned my marriage, legally speaking, if I had so chosen. Of course, Tracy could have too. As I said in my testimony, I believe I was the main cause of our demise. I didn’t know God, didn’t know Christ, and was the worst kind of spiritual leader there is–I wasn’t one! Not only that, but during the time of our separation, I dated other women, thinking it was okay because I was getting divorced, justifying it, rationalizing it. But, you know what, it wasn’t okay. It was adultery. I was still married. Tracy had just as much of an OUT CLAUSE as I did.
Despite what I thought was my OUT CLAUSE, God showed me and told me, “NO, THIS IS NOT MY ORIGINAL PLAN FOR YOU OR YOUR MARRIAGE.”
Interestingly, I had just prior to this time come to know Jesus Christ as my Lord & Savior, and through that, I learned the impact of grace and forgiveness. I had just been accepted and loved by Christ and by God, despite all my mistakes, all my sin, all my own versions of “fornication,” and was I really going to be so arrogant to think that I couldn’t extend to my wife a certain measure of the same grace and love Christ had just shown me?
I couldn’t resist it. I couldn’t resist God’s truth. I couldn’t deny His demand on my life–forgiveness, grace, love, and reconciliation.
The Monday following this weekend of reflection, I called my wife at her work, got her voice mail, and left her a message that essentially said, “We have a court date for Wednesday at 8 a.m. I’m cancelling it. It’s not right. It’s not God’s plan for marriage, for our marriage, or for my life. If you want to be divorced, you do it, because I’m not.”
It wasn’t a long message, and it wasn’t all sappy and emotional. I remember it being mostly matter-of-fact, and I also remember it was about a month before God changed Tracy’s heart.
When I left that message, I honestly didn’t think there was hope for my marriage. I didn’t leave it thinking it would change anything. I just knew I was going to be obedient to what I knew God had just revealed to me. If I was getting divorced, it wasn’t going to be my doing.
By His infinite grace and mercy and love, we were reconciled about a month later. We both had many hurts to forgive in the other, and only by the grace and strength of God were we able to arrive at a place of humility and forgiveness that allowed us to come together again as husband and wife. I will be 100% honest here…I could never have forgiven my wife on my own accord and under my own power. It was completely God-given. It was His Spirit living in me. It was His grace extending through me to her. My “self” and my flesh wanted to run and hide, it wanted to lash out in anger and hurt, and it wanted to do what it wanted to do. However, God had other plans.
So, for any of you out there reading this, if you are on the brink of divorce, or you see divorce imminent in your future (or heck, even separation,) please seek God’s truth. It’s not His plan for your life, no matter what you think, no matter how angry or hurt you FEEL, and no matter how justified you are by the “fornication” of your spouse, legally speaking.
Trust in His love and in His grace, and trust in His original plan for your marriage. Please, believe me, God can restore you, your spouse, and your relationship!