I was the official, the man with the authority from my denomination, and the power vested in me by the State of Idaho.
We did it all right. We provided premarital counseling and kept them sexually pure. We had a lovely wedding ceremony, exchanged rings, and pledged with vows they had written themselves.
I pronounced them husband and wife and they kissed and we all cheered.
And then life happened.
And what could have been a lifetime of partnership ended up having an early expiration date.
I saw her last month, weakened by relentless neglect, haunted by his infidelity, shamed by the pressure cooker of blame.
What role do we play when our friends’ marriages disintegrate? I know Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” but as I sat across from her at the restaurant I realized her husband had already put asunder what we all had joined together.
So I simply said the most pastoral, caring thing I could in that moment, “I release you…”
And she cried. And I cried. And a groomsman, who was also dining with us, cried, and grabbed her hand and wouldn’t let go.
My denomination never gave me any training on how to undo a marriage. My degree in Christian Ministries didn’t prepare me either. But it is something that as the Body of Christ we need to learn to navigate with careful love and attention. Too often we create oppressive atmospheres for divorcees in our religious circles. My friends, these things ought not so to be.