When I was a little girl my grandmother had a monthly subscription to a magazine called “Ladies Home Journal”. It had a monthly feature entitled, ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’. I read it with rapt fascination. The format was always the same — first one spouse, then the other, would share their perspective. Next, the therapist would “weigh in” and finally the conclusion would be sort of a “what happened afterwards” wrap up. I tried to predict what “the expert” would advise this couple in advance. I noticed a pattern that “the first person seems right until the second person speaks” — and was thrilled when I found a proverb that spoke to my experience. Although many of these marriages were “saved,” some were not. I understood that not all relationships are salvageable. Sometimes the marriage is the mistake.
But this is not what I learned at my grandparent’s church. Divorce was understood to be a sin, not an admission of human fallibility. Divorce split up your family AND required that you change churches. Or, stop going to church at all. I thought the “Ladies Home Journal” was making more sense than the pastor on this one but my grandmother assured me I was wrong. (She could not explain to me how her pastors kept running off with women who were not their wives.)
My grandmother taught me that love is unconditional and so are relationships. A “good” Christian girl didn’t get divorced. I assume this is the same message she gave my mother. But in point of fact, “good” Christians do get divorced — at about the same rate that everyone else who gets divorced and doesn’t go to church. My grandmother, who I love with all my heart, gave me bad intel. I understand that she was doing her best, teaching what she had been taught, but she got this one wrong. I just didn’t understand how she could get it so very wrong when she was serving on her fourth pastor search committee because of the infidelity and eventual DIVORCE of the three previous Senior Pastors!!! This made me feel like I was on crazy pills.
It is also spiritual malpractice. What I have learned is that when what I am being told is a spiritual truth adds chaos and confusion rather than clarity to a situation, I need to step back, take a breath and seek additional (wise) counsel. Choosing counsel is a big deal. I need to seek counsel from a broad range of understanding and from people who are not operating within the same “system” that I am living in. Spiritual truths can withstand scrutiny.
In my next post, I will be unpacking this concept a bit. In the meantime, can you think of times when you have been confused about what you were taught or read in scriptures that did not jive with your reality? How do you work through that?