I Now Denounce You, Man and Wife

21 Sep, 2012

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 happened.

And 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.

Pinging is currently not allowed12 Responses

  1. Alisha says:

    I'm glad you posted this today, Chad. I have two sets of friends who are going through divorces right now that are really punching me in the gut. One in particular. I just don't know what to say to them. I feel like they are being hasty but really, is it any of my business?

    • Chad Estes says:

      Boy Alisha, there are no easy answers to our friends (and our own) relational issues, are there? I've pushed and shoved some of my friends into staying in their marriage, which just created rifts between us (and didn't help the marriage). I've also done my fair share of trying to pull friends out of abusive marriages (and I have no regrets in these).

      These days I probably do more listening than I do counseling. If I do have something on my heart to share with them I ask them permission to give them feedback first. What do you do?

      (btw – your name is on Flying Pie Pizza today. Go make a free one!)

  2. Buffy says:

    Wow! Just wow! I am emotional over this one. This month I looked through the boxes of old pictures for a project and as I unearthed 30 years of pictures I came across many from weddings with friends. About half of these friends were now divorced and it made me really heavy to see all that pain gathered up in one sitting.

    Chad, you are finding your footing again and it is like a tsunami of ministry pouring out of you to the hurt and broken in so many areas. Bless you for getting up and coming to the ministry when no one is paying you a salary or giving you a title to authorize it. This is so much more real, raw and effective from my perspective when we don't have all the answers and might still be healing ourselves and yet the hand is still extended. Bless you.

    • Chad Estes says:

      Buffy, I've experienced the 50% rate as well. It is very prevalent in my circles too.

      I hate that it is acceptable to treat divorced people as less than married people. My single-again friends have just as much value to me as those who have spouses.

      And if anyone asked me what my secret was for staying married I would just simply have to say, "I married Jamie." I don't know anyone else who would journey with me like she has. We keep growing up and changing together.

      Thank you for your encouragement, Buffy. It means the world to me. Brokenness has done wonders to my heart, my outlook, and my approach.

  3. Ronda says:

    You are reaching my heart with every word you write.

    I am one of the many who have suffered from divorce. I hung on for 12 years when the marriage was over long before that because I truly believed "for better, for worse, til death do us part". I had our first child August 31, 1981 and that night he met up with another woman and they had sex. There is a daughter that came out of that one night stand. He cheated on me numerous times, was abusive physically, emotionally, and verbally to me and also abusive to my children.__One Sunday at church I found out that a very dear family friend (who was also a missionary to Africa) was going to be preaching at our church the next Sunday. I asked our pastor if she could stay with us. I picked her up from the airport and she was so surprised to see me. She had never stayed at my home, always with my parents. We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking about so many things, but also my marriage. I told her how miserable I was and sat and sobbed while she held me close. She gently lifted my face and cupped it in her hands and said "Honey girl, I have known you all your life. Where is the little girl whose smile could light up a room? Where is the little girl whose eyes shined so bright? She is dead and he has killed her". I realized at that moment that God was not going to hate me for getting a divorce. It was very hard to go through, and I lost many friends because they thought that my ex-husband was the most wonderful man in the world and I was wrong to leave him, but after some time past, it just didn't matter that they were no longer my friends._We never know what goes on behind closed doors and need to be very careful that we do not judge people. God calls us to love one another and that was what I did not get when I was going through the hardest thing I have ever done. You are doing a great thing, Chad!

    • Chad Estes says:

      Ronda, you are a brave and courageous woman. I'm sorry your friends were short-sighted and didn't take the time to understand the full picture of what was going on in your home.

      I'm pretty sure that God hates divorce because of what it does to His kids, but he never hates his kids. I also think he hates the pain and abuse that can drive us to divorce.

      Thank you, once again, for sharing your stories with me.

  4. Cece Schwartz says:

    Chad it is never easy. No one wants a commitment to God to end. I agree the marriage was broken when he broke his vow to love and cherish. Many years ago I sought God regarding my marriage. I was broken and my children were broken, but I so wanted to please God. This is what I felt I received from God's heart.
    I slipped into His presence so unworthy. I hungered just to feel His touch again.
    So I hid behind the worshipers to receive the overflow. Ashamed to tell the Savior where I'd been.
    But the glory of His presence soon engulfed me and His love broke Satan's power to keep me bound.
    I ran into His arms and in His firm embrace my heart could hear His loving voice resound –
    "It's not your righteousness that makes me love you so. Don't try to hide your failures I already know.
    For every sin I've paid the price. You cannot earn My sacrifice. Let My love abound for I delight in you.
    That's why each day my child, My mercies are new." Sometimes there are no perfect answers. You did the right thing! Cece

    • Chad Estes says:

      Wow, Cece! Thank you for sharing your story with me (and the other readers). It is beautiful and I'm so glad you received love an acceptance instead of guilt and shame. May all of us understand and receive our Father's love.

  5. Justin says:

    It was compassionate hearts like yours that kept my whole during my divorce. Thank-you for being Jesus to that woman.

  6. Joe says:

    EXCELLENT Chad – 3 years ago my wife and I witnessed 7 couples going through divorce, all involving infidelity. Had no clue how to deal with it. It's so painful to watch helplessly. My hope is that we don't have to see another relationship sink, but the reality is . . . . your words help.

  7. wordhaver says:

    "I release you…" What a golden apple for such a moment instead of the horse apples too many of us presuming to minister actually hand to others. And who says you're not authorized to do ministry? Last I checked there are no physical addresses from which such authorization comes for any of us. Amen, Chad. As one who has taken his share of lumps for reaching out and simply trying to be a decent human being to those who have suffered such broken relationships, Amen.

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