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The Glory Of My Parents’ Divorce

There are two memories from my childhood that define my family for me. The first was as a 3-year-old running into a hospital ward with my dad after my mom had given birth to my younger brother, excitedly shouting at the top of my lungs, “Where is my little brother?”, and seeing him cradled in my mom’s arms.

The second was as a 9-year-old walking into my parents’ bedroom with the intention of using their bathroom to get ready for school—as was my habit at the time—only to walk in on my mom telling my dad that she was moving out and wanted a divorce.

Both memories have played opposing roles in my life. The first represented a time when my family was together, when my parents were happy, and when my younger brother was cute and not yet annoying. But most of all, it represented a time when everything was perfect. The second, represented a time when my life was turned upside down, when our time together was marked by shouting, and when I grew increasingly isolated from my family.

Divorce today feels rather trivialized; it’s common to see celebrities swapping spouses like they are fashion trends. Statistics indicate that one in three Australian marriages ends in divorce. As a society, we seem to be increasingly getting desensitized to failed marriages.

Yet, the reality is that for the families involved, it’s a long and agonizing process.

As a kid, one of the tougher things about dealing with my parents’ divorce was navigating the social dynamics. I became proficient at looking down and shuffling my feet in the rare awkward moments when my parents were in the same place. I learned to tune out the negative comments that they made about each other. And when both my parents got remarried, I learned to gracefully dance around the questions they asked about my new step-mum or step-dad. In short, I hated it.

For a long period of my life, I hated being around my family, because it was a constant reminder that things were not as they should be. I ended up moving away from home and living with my grandparents, while my younger brother stayed with my mum. We rarely saw each other except during the holidays, when being together was memorable for our fights and arguments more than anything else. Outside home, my behavior took a nose dive as I started skipping school and taking my frustration out on the people around me.

My parents’ divorce was one of the hardest things I have had to go through. It continues to serve as a defining period in my life and one that brings back many painful memories. Fifteen years later, many of the events from that period still feel raw, as if they had just happened.

However, a recent Bible study of Romans that I’ve been doing with my university’s campus ministry opened my mind to a surprising fact. It revealed this truth: that nothing in this life is as it should be. As Paul describes in Romans 1:18, we live in a world where every single one of us is guilty of suppressing the truth about God. The result of that is a world that is broken, desperate, and inherently sinful. That means our visions of family are idealistic, at best. After all, every single family, divorced or not, is made up of broken and sinful individuals. And this brokenness extends to everything else we experience in this world. Life on this side of eternity is fraught with disappointment and pain.

So where does this leave us? For one, my perspective of relationships has changed. It’s one that is more realistic but also more forgiving of others’ failings. It has also pushed me to become more gospel-minded in my interactions with others, knowing that the only solution to our sinful nature is found in Jesus. All this has helped me to grow in my love for my family, and despite our flaws, I now treasure the time we have together. While my family continues to be far from perfect, the interactions that used to depress me are now a prompt to pray for the salvation of my family.

Ultimately, the truth leaves me yearning for the new creation, the promise that God has given us of His kingdom where there is no pain or sorrow. It brings to mind Paul’s counter-intuitive teaching in Romans 5:3-5 to glory in our sufferings because it leads us to hope; the pain of this life reminds us not to get too attached to this world, but rather to anticipate the day when God will take us to the new creation.

We can have confidence that God will do this, as Romans 5:6-10 says, because of Christ. His death for us on the cross and the justification it has brought us gives us the certainty of salvation.

So, while I used to run from the reminder that things are not as they should be, today I’m learning to embrace it. As hard as it may be, the experience of my parents’ divorce is something I glory in as I await the new creation. It’s given me opportunities to talk about the gospel and the incredible promise of eternal life. I’m now trying to live for the next life and reminding others to do the same, because that is the life that truly matters. It’s also made me all the more appreciative of the cross, and the certainty that it’s brought me that I will be in the new creation. Fifteen years on, the words of Revelation 21:1-4 continue to grow in salience and stir my heart:

 “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

I Almost Got a Divorce

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

When I was younger, I used to think that I could overcome anything as long as my husband loved me. But after getting married, my husband’s poor health, among other things, almost led me to give up on my marriage.

My husband has a history of epilepsy. He experiences seizures about two to three times a year and has been hospitalized on a number of occasions. Because of his poor health, he is only able to handle simple tasks and is unable to get a job with decent pay. So on top of having to care for him physically, I also have to support him financially.

One day at work a few months after we got married, I was informed by my husband’s colleague that my husband had experienced another seizure and was waiting for the ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Although I felt anxious about his condition, I was frustrated at the inconvenience his seizure had caused me. My mind even drifted to the idea of a divorce. Nevertheless, I decided that I would hide my unhappiness. I took urgent time off from work and rushed to the hospital to attend to him.

My frustration with my husband continued to grow as we entered our second year of marriage. Not only was he not providing for our increasing finances, he wasn’t helping out at home or meeting my needs. As his wife, he demanded total submission from me; I was very stressed about not being able to live up to his expectations. And while I wanted him to be involved in housework and caring for the baby, he felt that this was not the role of husbands.

Seeing the financial and emotional burden I had to bear, well-meaning relatives encouraged me to file for a divorce. I seriously contemplated this option. But in the midst of this, my Christian mentor pointed me to Jesus. Her words changed my perspective about marriage and taught me the following three lessons:

 

  1. His Word should transform my perspective of my marriage

Submission to my husband was difficult because I felt that he was never understanding towards me. But one of the key things my mentor reminded me of was that God is the head of my household (Colossians 2:10).

When I shifted my focus from pleasing my husband to pleasing God, I realized that submitting to my husband, was in itself, an act that pleased God (Ephesians 5:22). My mentor also reminded me to press on in marriage because God had brought the both of us together (Mark 10:9) and that divorce did not please God.

Instead, I was instructed to go to God whenever I was weary (Matthew 11:28). Whenever I felt like giving up, I would cry out to God and beg Him to either deliver me from the marriage or to strengthen me. God would always comfort me, reminding me that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

  1. Earthly marriage mirrors the ultimate marriage

Although there were moments I felt as though I had made a mistake in marrying my husband, God reminded me that He made no mistake when He allowed this marriage to take place.

In fact, God made earthly marriages to remind us of the upcoming eternal and perfect marriage supper of the Lamb, and to mimic His love for the church (Ephesians 5:21-30) and to be a display of God’s glory. When God designed man and woman to become one flesh in a marriage (Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9), He wanted to show how Christ and the church are one.

As I began to understand that, I started to see submission to my husband as a form of reverence for God. It became a form of worship to God. That’s when the burden of submitting to my husband became lighter. With the new perspective of how the Church—as the Bride—is to submit to God, I find it easier to submit to my earthly husband.

 

  1. God holds our future

I often feel helpless about my husband’s seizures. I’m always afraid that his condition might cause him to suffer serious permanent injury or even death. When that happens, I would have to raise my child singlehandedly.

After each attack, I would feel listless for a few days, worrying about the future. What if my husband became bedridden one day? What if his medical expenses escalated beyond our means? What if my son had to grow up without his dad by his side? What if I could not cope on my own as a single mum?

Sometimes, I wish I had married a healthy man and not him. But over time, I learned to surrender my fears to Him, allowing God to change me with His Word and for Him to take over our relationship. Through such trials, God has taught me to accept my husband for who he is—in sickness or in health—and trust that He is in charge of our welfare.

Today, we still struggle with the day to day challenges as a family and my husband still suffers from seizures occasionally. In fact, he had another attack again last month. However, the both of us have seen and experienced God’s grace in our marriage and my husband has also seen how God had changed my heart to be more yielding to him. Now, he has become more understanding towards me and no longer demands as much without sparing a thought for my feelings.

The both of us have also learned to appreciate things that are eternal and not to focus on those that are temporal. By the grace of God, my imperfect marriage has drawn us nearer to our perfect God who blesses us with unshakable hope and joy to weather through difficulties.

Brangelina split: The end of Love?

Or so that is what some news reports have been saying, after news emerged yesterday that Hollywood’s golden couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, are ending a two-year marriage—after 12 years and six children together.

According to documents obtained by various news agencies, A-lister actress and director Jolie is pulling the plug on her marriage to actor Brad Pitt because of “irreconcilable differences”. Other news media suggest that Jolie’s decision—which her attorney described vaguely as being made “for the health of the family”—could have been triggered by differences in parenting style or Pitt’s anger problems and substance abuse issues.

Jolie has reportedly asked for custody of their six children and visitation rights to be granted to Pitt; she did not ask for spousal support. What about Pitt? Well, reports have noted that he is “very saddened” by the divorce and is most concerned about the “well-being of kids”.

News of their split has sent shockwaves all over the world, with many expressing sadness over the end of Brangelina, as they have been dubbed by the media. But why should they? After all, if we’re being honest, Hollywood marriages and divorces are, well, a dime a dozen.

Perhaps it’s because for once, we believed that Brangelina would be different. Throughout their 12-year relationship, we’ve seen the couple’s commitment to their professional work, humanitarian work, each other, and their children. As one Independent article put it, “Despite being astronomically wealthy and living thousands of miles away from the average Brit, Brangelina’s relationship was perhaps the most aspirational of all – no tantrums, no screaming matches, no huge betrayals, just getting on with life, even with the stresses and strains of illness, operations and six children to boot.” In short, they appeared to be the exemplary Hollywood couple.

That’s probably why many millennials have been reacting to the news of Brangelina’s divorce with the idea that “If they can’t do it, no one can”. And that’s perhaps why many news outlets have chosen to accompany their headlines on the split with lines like “Love is officially dead” and “Love ends today”.

But not everyone agrees. As Mashable’s writer Martha Tesema writes, “Love is far from dead. It’s very much alive, blossoming within the thousands of other high-profile power couples in the world we can look up to in awe.”

Tesema is right on one thing—love is far from dead. The end of Brangelina does not mean that love has ceased to exist. As much as we are in awe of everything they’ve achieved, they’re mere mortals—just like every one of us. They make mistakes. They fight. They break up.

But to take comfort in the fact that love continues to be “alive” because the marriages of other high-profile power couples are still thriving is downright naïve—and, may I add, foolish. If not for anything else, Brangelina’s split should sound the alarm bells in our minds that nobody is immune to broken relationships. Regardless of whether we’re the President of America or Britain’s most well-known footballer, we’re all fallible. By our own strength, we can never guarantee the constancy of our love for our partners—and vice versa.

Who then should we look to? It’s obvious enough, isn’t it?

Christ.

Love is far from dead—because of Christ. It’s very much alive, blossoming within those who have received Christ’s love.

So let’s take heart, not in ourselves, but in the One whose love will never fail. Because He first loved us, we can keep on loving (1 John 4:19).

Photo credit: Filmstiftung via Foter.com / CC BY

ODJ: forgive and forget?


February 16, 2013 

READ: Jeremiah 31:31-40 

I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins (v.34).


Sergei said to his pastor, “It’s been 2 years since Danica cheated on me, and I still can’t get past the hurt. Some days I think I’ve moved on, but the pain is always lurking beneath the surface, ready to explode in the most unexpected moments. We can be having dinner in a restaurant, and sorrow and anger washes over me and I feel that I despise her. How can I forgive if I can’t forget?”
The pastor stated that it’s impossible to forget what Danica did, because she mattered to Sergei. “Have you ever apologised to someone,” he said, “only to learn that the person didn’t remember you or what you had done? There is nothing worse than realising you are so inconsequential that your sin didn’t even register. So it’s a good sign that Danica’s affair bothers you.”
Sergei pressed, “But doesn’t the Bible say that forgiveness requires forgetting? Doesn’t God forget our sins?”
“If by forgetting you mean that God no longer knows what we have done, then No!” responded his pastor. “It is impossible for God not to know everything that has happened or will happen. When God says He “will never again remember their sins” or that “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), He means He no longer holds our sins against us. He remembers what we have done, and His forgiveness is the richer for it. Because you love Danica and her sin cuts so deep, your forgiveness won’t be a one off event. Every time you remember what she did, you will need to release her moral debt. But as you fight for forgiveness, you will realise that you are fighting for her, and she will become more precious to you.
 “Forgiveness requires that we remember and release. We can’t forgive what we forget.” —Mike Wittmer


MORE
Read Psalm 103 to discover how God has forgiven us. How can we apply this to the forgiving of others?
 
NEXT
While forgetting is an obstacle to forgiveness, is there an opposite danger in dwelling on the offence? How can you tell if remembering a sin has morphed into unhealthy brooding?

 

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