Saturday, July 30, 2016

When She Leaves

This morning’s office gossip is that my co-worker’s wife has left him. Didn’t improve my day any. But last week I replied to an email from a Christian friend in the same boat. A month before that, I corresponded with another believer married to a woman who had left her husband.

Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, among others, insists the divorce rate among regular church-goers is actually way lower than previously thought (closer to twenty percent than fifty). If so, that’s a good thing. But if we’re going to pay attention to statistics at all, it’s hard to miss this one: 80 percent of divorces are filed by women.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I’m sensing a trend.

I’m too old and wary to step in the obvious bear trap here, so the whys and wherefores of that stat will remain unaddressed. Do the men involved deserve blame for failing to show love to their wives adequately? Surely some do. Are the numbers skewed by women filing just to tidy up the paperwork after their husbands have bailed on them? Probably.

But whatever the underlying reasons, there’s a significant chance the Christian sitting on your sofa with head in hands trying to figure out what went wrong is the soon-to-be-ex-husband.

I’m giving a lot less advice these days, so if it turns out to be my sofa and your head in your hands, you’ll probably have to make do with coffee, a listening ear and my promise to pray you through the months and years to come. I have never come across a magic twelve-step program for handling the dissolution of a Christian marriage. There are plenty of people out there with pat certitudes and a list of relevant scriptures and books to read. Perhaps one will help. I’ll stick to coffee.

And maybe just one single word: WAIT.

You’re a man. You will almost surely feel the urge to act. To make SOMETHING happen. It’s what we do.

So don’t.

Don’t rush into anything. Don’t decide you’ll never love again. Don’t waste your time making hard and fast decisions about whether or not you’d take her back (unless she’s actually asking). Don’t quit your job. Don’t leave town. Don’t rush to win people over to your side, and don’t bash her verbally unless you’re okay with a heaping dose of the same treatment. (Do I need to quote scripture here? Probably not.)

Definitely don’t leave your church, even if everybody there relates to you as part of a couple and the new dynamic is very, very painful at first. And please, oh please, don’t get on Christian Mingle or start trolling midweek meetings at other churches around town in the hope of running into a nice Christian divorced gal because the Lord knows it’s better to marry than to burn.

There are times when the logical, manly thing to do is to act. Like heading to Emerg when the baby’s temperature tops 105, or releasing your brakes and steering into the slide on an icy road, or bringing a seemingly-endless committee meeting to a screeching halt with a pithy executive summary and unequivocal dismissal.

This is not that.

So just give it some time. Pray, read and serve where and when you can. Try to worship when you can keep it together. Let the Lord show you his love through others.

That’s an imperfect filter, I know. Some fellow believers will say spectacularly boneheaded, hurtful things. Others will say hurtful things that are completely true, and help you see your situation a little differently. Still others will surprise you with the extent of their support and encouragement and the depth of their loyalty (even if they don’t agree with you about everything).

I’ve never been in your situation. But every major crisis I’ve ever experienced has taken time to get through. Time for my emotions to quiet down so I could think rationally. Time for me to learn to ask the right questions so the Lord can answer them. Time for others to process my situation and deal with it. Time to heal, as tacky and unlikely as that may sound right now.

That’s not much advice, is it? It’s all I’ve got.

I do have coffee. And a listening ear. Any time.

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