When I was a kid, unbeknownst to everyone, I would sometimes wonder about what would happen to me if my parents ever got divorced. Like…which parent would I live with, what would it feel like to live in two different homes, how would my friends see them or me, and so many other questions.
I had seen and heard about it with my friends parents, but never in a million years did I think it would actually happen to my parents. Things seemed to be solid between them. So the thoughts were often fleeting.
This all changed when I became an adult. And at the risk of divulging too much information, I want to tell you my story…
The Unexpected Call
A little over 6 years ago (when I was 32) I got a call from my sister who was frantically crying on the other end telling me that my mother was in her home and that she had come there because my father had just told her that he no longer loved her. My sister let me know that it was suspected that this had something to do with a female friend of my fathers. A female friend who also happened to be married.
What was being implied here? Foul play? Suspicions of an inappropriate relationship between my father and another woman? Really? How could this be?
Not my father.
At the time, my father had spent my entire life in the ministry. When all of this was breaking apart, he was a campus pastor at a well known Christian university, after having spent over 20 years as a pastor in various churches across 4 different states.
I called my father immediately hoping that something just got poorly communicated and that this was all just a big misunderstanding. I asked him what was going on. His response was short, “I just don’t know if I love your mother anymore.”
Good heavens…was my father losing his mind? How could he say something like this after 36 years of marriage?
What is Love?
As a 32 year old man with 3 kids of my own, I was about to have to do something I never pictured myself doing…explain to my father who had spent over 25 years in ministry and providing counseling to who knows how many married couples through the years, what the word “love” meant in the context of biblical marriage.
For those who may be wondering…love is more than a mere feeling, or romantic encounter…it goes deeper than that. It is a commitment. It is action. It is a verb. It is something that must be fought for every day of your life. It is truth and transparency. It is trust, respect, and honor. These things and so much more.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
And surprise surprise…love is not easy. Which is why we make vows during our weddings like, “For better or worse, ’till death do us part.”
This was certainly worse.
I explained to him that whether or not there was anything going on between he and this female friend of his, that his first responsibility was to his wife and that this relationship should be ended as it was upsetting his wife (my mother).
It seemed to fall on deaf ears, and he assured me nothing was going on and that they were just friends.
My parents spent the next 2 years or so in marital limbo. No one was sure what was going to happen. At various points it seemed like they might pull through. It was, in fact, what we all had hoped for. We all pointed them to various resources to try and get help. I had numerous calls with my father advising and counseling him to get help.
Nothing seemed to work.
Throughout the entire time, it was suspected that this female friend may be more than a friend (though no one wanted to truly believe that, who really wants to believe that about their friend, father, or family member?), but no proof had been produced otherwise.
That all changed in a single day.
It was fall and, through various avenues and connections, information made its way to my father’s boss that he was having an affair. As a subsequent action, my father was asked to resign. Which he did promptly.
That day I received a call from my father who wanted to give me an update on his situation with my mother. He let me know that he had lost his job as a result of having an affair with the female friend we had all suspected was at the heart of the issue.
And then he said something I will never forget…
“Son, this is just between your mother and me. This doesn’t concern anyone else.”
If he could’ve only seen the look on my face when he said that. Surely he didn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth?
THE SPACE BETWEEN THE BROKEN THINGS
I know he heard it in my voice when I snapped back at him that this was far more than just he and mom. I told him this involved me, my wife, my kids, my siblings, their kids, my mother’s family, his family, every single person he has ever ministered to as a pastor or campus pastor, this woman’s family, her husband, her husbands family, and so much more.
That day I learned about one of the greatest lies of divorce…that divorce is supposedly just between the ones who were married to one another.
It is not. This is a lie. And anyone who believes such a lie is deeply deceived.
There are so many relationships and things that get impacted that lay as rubble between the broken pieces of a marriage.
I wrote a poem to try and capture what I mean:
What gets lost in the space
between the broken things?
Late night conversations
and Fire-pit revelations
There in the space
between the broken things.
I have avoided this topic for some time as it is one that hits very close to home and not something I wanted to write about with the intention of stirring up trouble. However, it is a topic that needs to be spoken about as it has greatly impacted numerous homes in our nation. According to the American Psychological Association, as of 2019 the national divorce rate was between 40 and 50% of all marriages ending in divorce with an even greater divorce rate for subsequent marriages.
With those kinds of numbers, it could be argued that divorce has, in some way, touched every single person in America. Sadly, divorce is something that is very much a part of my story, so it could not be forever ignored.
And so…here I am. Caught in the space between the broken things trying to make sense of it all…even after all these years.
I wish I could say that as time has gone on that things have gotten easier, and while it has not gotten easier, I have found comfort in this affliction. I wish I could impart wisdom, or 5 steps to getting over it, or something more tangible to help you process your grief. And if you’re in the middle of something like this with your own marriage or your own family members, I wish I could take your pain away.
But while I can’t take your pain, there is someone who can provide you comfort in the middle of your affliction…God our Father.
I imagine more will be said as I journey through this myself…but I hope the words of Paul about our gracious and loving God will bring you some comfort knowing that you are not alone.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”2 Corinthians 1:3-4