Sunday, January 27, 2008

Contrasting Authors Adams/McLuhan/Piper

One reason I myself like to read different authors and encourage others to do the same, as well as study scriptures themselves, is that even very strong, biblical Christians see things differently.

Mc Luhan I think emphasized more of God joining couples together by His Spirit and through the physical union. Adams more emphasized the aspect of promises. Both pointed out that until recent history, divorce was so rare in the church that not alot of thought had been given to it nor alot of deep Biblical study.

Both authors emphasized how the Corinthinians passage being addressed to the church could really give alot of insight into the complete picture of God's thoughts on marriage and divorce, except for the exception clause that Jesus mentioned in Matthew.

One thing I have always been impressed with Piper about is that he has strongly emphasized marriage, especially Christian marriage, is a picture of Christ's relationship with the church, which is the ultimate reality. The church will always be married to Christ whereas our marriages end at death. The more we understand the relationship of Christ and the Church the more we understand God's intent for marriage and His dislike of divorce.
In Piper's writings see:
He makes a strong case that no remarriage is allowed following divorce. Before you throw this totally out, it would certainly be worth spending some time reading what he says and especially his point #11. His own church does not take this position, which further indicates to me how difficult of a study this is. We need to try to be respectful of various views without compromising our own convictions.

Review of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible by Jay Adams

This is one of those smaller books that has alot compacted into it.

Adams reviews what marriage is. He focuses on the promises that each person made to each other before God, and reviews alot of what is known about marriage in Jewish culture. He spends alot of time sharing about Moses' regulations for divorce and what that meant. He also discusses about the legally binding nature of divorce certificates.

One thing Adams brings out about marriage is, that even more than reproduction, God's purpose in marriage was for companionship. In discussing the Corinthians passage about divorce he points out that if a person divorces their spouse without Biblical reason they must stay unmarried or preferably reconcile to their mate. He says the word for separation in that passage is the same as the word divorce, and that in the first century there was nothing known as a legal separation.

One point I struggle with that he makes is that in Deutronomy Moses said that if a couple got divorced and one of them married someone else and then that marriage ended in death or divorce the first partners couldn't remarry, and he seems to believe that applies to today. I would think that since we are not under Mosaic law those instructions would not apply today. Adams makes a strong case that both Jesus and Paul forbid Christians to divorce, except for what Jesus called fornication.

He talks about how to utilize church discipline procedures to encourage reconciliation, which I think is a good thing to review and it is seldom used.

In the case of a believer being married to an unbeliever, Adams makes a good case that it should not be the Christian pursuing any divorce; only if the unbeliever departs and is unwilling to reconcile should the marriage end.

The author does a good job of trying to tie together alot of the threads between the Old Testament and what Jesus and Paul said. He has some helpful insights into how God looked upon Israel as a wife, divorced her, then took her back. (Hosea)

Another insightful chapter was about circumstances for remarriage.

I think overall this is a good book to have to really spark some serious thinking and study about issues of marriage and divorce.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Long Term Legal Complications

Yesterday, I just spent a half hour or an hour in the bookstore and pulled some divorce legal books off the shelf.

First off, I am so thankful that Sharon and I didn't get into the court system.

My purpose in looking at all of this is so I have a good overview of what people I know who are involved in legal proceedings are going through. I also want to be prepared, if I meet people who have found themselves in an unwanted separation or legal proceedings, to help them calm down and sort out the forest from the trees, because they may be as clueless as I was about legal issues.

The other issue with which I am wrestling is how to articulate to people that they really don't want to go the divorce route if at all possible.

Several things I have learned that I don't think most people contemplating divorce have really considered:

If you have minor children and get divorced, things are not permanently settled legally as long as the kids are minors, and sometimes even until they are through college. People can lose jobs and have to reapply for reduction of support payments; sometimes you may want to move and need to check with the court. If you just up and quit a good paying job because you don't like it, your support doesn't automatically change, and if you can't get an equal paying job you may have some explaining to do. If schedules change and you can't agree with your spouse about changes in visitation, or even if you do agree in some circumstances, back to court you go.

Basically, because you haven't been able to work out your marriage with your spouse, you now have the court as your ultimate judge.

I think lots of people think that getting a divorce will finish off the relationship with their ex-spouse and they don't have to learn how to get along. In reality, if you have kids, you have a choice - learn somehow to communicate and make decisions with your ex-spouse in a civilized manner - or be prepared to spend alot of time, money and effort to let someone else - a judge -make those decisions for you.

What I realized in my mediation with Sharon was that we either had to agree on issues concerning finances, children's education, children's visitation, where the kids would go to church, who would make medical decisions, etc. etc. or the court would make them for us.

I realized these were all the kinds of issues we struggled so much to agree upon during our marriage. I thought to myself, if we truly get to where we can agree on these issues we will have solved a high percentage of our marital struggles. It actually gave me hope for our marriage, in that we were going to be getting help one way or the other resolving issues, either with a mediator, attorneys or a judge.

Review of Marriage & Divorce - God's Call and God's Compassion by M.G. McLuhan

The author, M.G. McLuhan, has been in ministry for over 50 years and has been married over 50 years. He has now retired. Over the years he has been exposed to and believed a very strict interpretation of the Bible about divorce that tended to look down on and marginalize divorced people.

Over the years he has counseled enough hurting people to realize that maybe he had been too strict, so he has really dug into the scripture trying to show both God's high standards for life long marriage and God's compassion for those who don't live up to the ideal.

Several key points:

Up until recent years, divorce was so rare in the church that the church really didn't spend lots of time thinking about the various ins and outs and nuances of divorce. Those that did were primarily at the seminary level and disconnected from everyday counseling situations.

The Bible can be divided into three segments as far as God's view on divorce. The first segment is from Adam to Moses. God didn't say much except the Genesis account of the man leaving his father and mother and becoming one flesh with his wife. Various books of the Bible mentioned marriage but really gave no regulations.

The second segment is primarily the Mosaic law.

The third segment is what Jesus and Paul taught about marriage and divorce.

One thing that McLuhan does well is review the different segments of the Mosaic law about divorce. One thing that he really points out is that through the Mosaic law God was protecting women. The Mosaic law talked about situations where the wife was a captive, where she wasn't loved, where a woman could demand a divorce. What I forgot was that adultery wasn't a reason for divorce because the punishment for adultery was death.

Even though the Mosaic law doesn't apply to us today as Christians, I feel his analysis is helpful in understanding the culture that Jesus was later speaking to later on.

He does a good job helping us to understand God's ideal for marriage; that it is joining two whole persons in spirit, soul, and body.

I think McLuhan made a good point that Paul's treatise on divorce was addressed to a culture very similar to ours - Christians who had come out of a very pagan culture. Paul quoted Jesus, but also addressed concerns that Jesus didn't because Paul was talking to mostly Gentile people.

Another very strong point McLuhan makes is that divorce is not the unforgivable sin. He does explain alot of the Greek behind Paul's teaching.

Although he is very strongly supportive of marriage, some of his examples of when divorce was justified, I didn't agree with. I think he may have unwittingly given people more possible reasons to divorce than what he realized.

I think this is a good book to read to get an over all big picture view of marriage and divorce in the Bible. If you are a person going through divorce, or contemplating one, or if you are helping people in deep marital struggles, I think it would be wise to read some other views also as you wrestle with what is appropriate in the situation you are facing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Personal Comments On Legal Issues

For a primer about legal issues see related blog "Overview of Legal Issues." Thankfully, during our 16 month separation my wife never filed any legal papers, although she did retain an attorney. I decided very early on that I would not file any petition for divorce, separation, or dissolution. Jesus said, (see my scripture links) "Let no man put asunder what God had joined together." The Apostle Paul also highlighted this concept when he talked about not taking believers to court.

I believed that I had two major scriptural admonitions not to institute legal procedures either against Sharon or on my behalf as a favor to her. I had no suspicion of adultery on her part, and I totally accepted that she was Christian. The other stance that I took was that I would not sign a voluntary dissolution because I believed that would be me participating in putting asunder what God had joined together. The only option Sharon was going to have for legally ending our marriage would have been to file divorce papers with the knowledge that most likely I would contest them.

I didn't know the legal system well enough to know all of my eventual options, but my understanding was that eventually, whether I wanted it or not, the judge could end my marriage. But I had decided if it came to that, he could do it, not me, and if that cost a whole lot more money for both Sharon and I, hopefully that would be a deterrent to her pursuing divorce. My understanding of Ohio state law was that there was an option to request a judge to order more counseling. I would have probably pursued that option. He might have granted it, he might have turned it down, the counseling might have worked, it might not have, but it would have been something to try.

I think now in some states courts are ordering some sort of training for spouses with children, even if a divorce is granted, because they realize that for the children's benefit, parents have to at least get civilized. I have heard of judges in California ordering couples to go to Retrouvaille. I don't know if that was an option in Ohio.

When I was convinced that Sharon was most likely going to file for divorce, I begged her to meet with a Christian mediator. She reluctantly agreed. We immediately got between the proverbial rock and a hard place. She was absolutely insisting that she only wanted to mediate a divorce/dissolution, I was absolutely not willing to do that based on what I just said above. My desire was to mediate a reconciliation. She was absolutely unwilling to do that. What we finally agreed to was that we would make good faith efforts to mediate a legal separation. I obviously was reluctant to do this, but I believed that was the only thing we had to mediate since she would not mediate a reconciliation and I would not mediate a dissolution. We did have a a couople of meetings. The first was to understand the process and to agree on the ground rules. Basically we agreed that any issues we couldn't resolve would be turned over to a panel of spiritual leaders and friends. Amazingly, we got that much agreed to.

We started in on the issues I think involving the kids. We hit impasses right away, then I had an out of town meeting, and for whatever reason, we never got back to mediating our issues. Everything just sort of sat until we went to the PAIRS training where we started reconciling (See that story elsewhere). As tough as it was in mediation, I was glad for it at the time because I was having some contact with Sharon, and in trying to discuss and make decisions about issues we were getting to know one another better. I was hoping to show her how much I cared and that my behavior was changing for the better, I am not sure I accomplished either goal.

Overview of Legal Issues

First I am not an attorney, and thankfully during our separation we never got into the court system. My wife hired an attorney, and I talked to our farm attorney to get an overview of the law. We had a mediator who was not an attorney but who was well versed in law.

I am writing this as a primer for anyone who finds themself suddenly faced with a divorce or separation and who, like me, is clueless about family law. I had two courses of business law in college and over the years was the go-to person for farm legal issues in our family, but when it came to family law, I don't think I knew the difference between a divorce and a dissolution.

At the time of our separation we lived in Ohio, so the little bit I know about family law is mostly from an Ohio perspective. Good resources for family law are on the web where you can search for things like divorce, separation, or remarriage. There are lots of free web sites by states and legal groups that will give you the basics. Of course, there are lots of ads to be sifted through also. Another good place to research is the law section in a bookstore, and also in marriage and family or relationship sections. Public libraries, tend to have wealth of resources.

From what I have been told, most attorneys will give a free short consultation to review your situation. In most places you have a right to represent yourself. I think that is called pro-se. There are lots of resources out there for that. Sometimes there are paralegals and such that will help you walk through some of the steps, but not give you full blown representation. The courts themselves often have lots of information. In general, family law is a function of each state, and then each county has its own procedures also.

I think, but am not sure, that there may be some standardization nationwide for some child support issues. One thing I have heard is that some attorneys try their best to have the most peaceful and amicable settlement as possible and to do as much negotiation out of court as possible. Others are fully willing to use the law as aggressively as possible for maximum advantage for their clients.

Now for my layman's overview. (Again, I am NOT an attorney, so you will need to research this for yourself.)

A divorce is a lawsuit where one partner in a marriage sues the other for divorce. It used to be that the party wanting out of the marriage had to prove some sort of fault in the other like adultery. Now, apparently most of the nation has no-fault divorce. Eventually, if a partner wants out of a marriage they can get out. As in any lawsuit there are all sorts of procedures, time deadlines, etc. The partner filing for divorce sometimes as a strategy asks for everything including the kitchen sink. Eventually, a judge will make a final determination, which, at least in some situations, is appealable. A divorce where the party filed against does not agree with everything the other person filed for is called a contested divorce.

A dissolution is a voluntary agreement by a married couple to ask the court to dissolve their marriage. Before the court will approve it, all issues such as finances, child support, and more, have to be agreed upon by the parties.

A legal separation is an agreement where a married couple agree to live apart but remain married. They agree to issues such as finances, child support, etc.

As usual, legal terminology can be confusing. In all cases, divorce, dissolution, separation, there is a document called a separation agreement. This is a master agreement between the parties that details all of the decisions about finances, child support, child custody, alimony, etc. A dissolution won't happen until the couple has agreed on all of those things. In a divorce, on the issues where the couple don't agree, the judge decides. My best understanding is that, in general, child support is determined by a formula that looks at lots of economic factors, then the judge normally has some discretion to modify it or allow it to be modified based upon the particular circumstances.

Sometimes there is a mediator involved. A mediator works with a couple to work out their separation agreement privately. Some couples will voluntarily use them if they can't agree between themselves, but don't want the expense of a court fight. Sometimes I believe the court can order or at least strongly suggest that a couple try mediation, before taking up the court's time and resources with a full blown contested divorce.

Another whole aspect of family law is called protective orders. This is where someone does not feel safe with their spouse and asks the court to protect them by ordering their spouse, on threat of arrest, to limit contact with them. Here I am a little more familiar with MD law because I have watched some people deal with these. Again, all of this goes by state, but in MD I think it is relatively easy for a spouse to file a form with the court for a protective order. The court can fairly quickly put one in place to protect people they believe may be in imminent danger, but then a hearing is scheduled to determine the facts and make longer term decisions. Men, if you have a major struggle with anger, be aware your wife and kids maybe scared of you more than you realize. Please seek out and get professional help immediately. Far better than facing a protective order. Well, I hope this has been a helpful and accurate overview of some very complex and emotionally scary topics.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shock and Awe and Then Persistence

This is written primarily with those in mind who are right in the midst of an extreme marital crisis. One partner is seriously threatening divorce, or one partner has left or been asked to move out.

I often talk to people whose spouse has just left them or asked them to leave and they say things like "I would do anything to save my marriage. What can I do? I'll do anything."

I don't know how many remember in one of the Iraq wars the strategy was "shock and awe". In other words our military unleashed a massive assault on multiple fronts that was designed to "shock and awe" the enemy. Strategies like that don't win a war by itself; you still need persistence.

So, if you have just entered a marital crisis or are in the midst of one, here are somethings that you can do to "shock" the real enemy, which is Satan. Then, hopefully it will "awe" your spouse enough that they start to say to themselves, "Hey, in spite of their faults, my spouse is serious about our marriage. Maybe I need to rethink my desire to leave this marriage. At the very least I am not going to be able to quietly walk away from this marriage." One caution - do not put too much attention on how your spouse acts or reacts. Remember that you are primarily trying to be pleasing to God, and He loves it when people get determined to do the right thing.

If you really want to save your marriage, your relationship to God has to be number one in your life. After that you will need to put marriage number two in a way that you probably never have before. This may or may not be in the form of direct interaction with your spouse.

Okay, let me say it another way. If you really want your marriage back, you need to make consistent choices that indicate that you really do put it number two behind God. Things such as:
a. I want to go golfing, but maybe I should go to counseling for my own issues.
b. I have waited for years to buy a Corvette, but my spouse is willing to go to a marital intensive retreat and it is going to take several thousand dollars.
c. I really like bowling on Wednesday nights, but that is the only night I can go to Divorce Care that sounds like a good program that will help me.
In decisions like these you need to be saying by your actions that your marriage is a priority. It is also not a time to be postponing things you know you need to be doing for your marriage. If you are already in legal proceedings the clock is already ticking. If you are not, your spouse's clock may be ticking down before they take drastic legal action.

Hopefully you get the idea. Your marriage is either important enough to make an all out investment of time, money, and effort in the here and now or it isn't. You can try to make half hearted efforts like counseling once a month, and read one book a month on marriage and apply one minor point in your life and hope for the best. But there is a good chance that the clock will tick, your spouse may become more aggressive legally, and one day before you know it, what money you have left after lawyers, child support, etc. will be yours to spend on your 'vette, your golf, your bowling, but you will be going home to an empty house and sharing your kids with your ex-spouse on a schedule that is overseen by the court system.

As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, my wife and I were separated 16 months before we reconciled. I am going to list alot of things that I did during this time and put stars by them. Other things on this list are things either I didn't do for various reasons or things that I have learned about since then. My suggestion is to study through this, check my references and other areas on this blog and ask God what He wants you to do and when He wants you to do it. There is no guarantee for saving your marriage. Even today I don't totally know exactly what the most effective things were that I did either in my wife's view or God's view. I am thankful that He and she honored my efforts, even when sometimes the implementation wasn't the best.

I am trying to inspire you to go all out, not to boast about what I did. I am trying to give you a realistic picture of what it may take to get your marriage turned around, and what it took for mine. Sometimes in our short testimony, I am afraid our readers will think that Sharon and I only did a couple of things, and - poof! - our marriage was healed, then will try one or two things I mentioned, things will get worse or no better, and will give up. That's not it at all, as you will see.

*If you are in a church, have the pastors or elders pray for you and your spouse any chance you get, whether in private or at altar calls.

*Fast before counseling appts., critical meetings with spouse, or on a regular basis. Study and consider longer term fasts.

*If you are attending another church and they have open altar calls, go forward and ask for prayer. (I was shocked recently when my former counselor asked me for a testimony to give to an African missionary who had prayed for me when visiting her church. He had even had his congregation in Ghanna pray for us.)

*If you know some people who are well versed in prayer - have a special gift of intercession - talk to them, listen to them, and have them pray for you. People who have this gift love to pray for others.

*Avail yourself of prayer on the web. Rejoice Ministries has places for general prayer and even to list your court date. Shiloh Place Ministries allowed me to e mail them prayers.

*Read and pray "Power of a Praying Husband" or "Power of Praying Wife" by Stormie O'Martian.

*Pray the "Stander's Prayer" on the Rejoice Ministries website, but only if you are really all out serious about saving your marriage.

*Pray against the spirit of divorce

*Intensive Prayer Counseling. I went to Healing House Network for two days of intensive prayer.

If you are near or pass through Kansas City, consider spending several hours at the International House of Prayer. I just did this recently and was refreshed. They have prayer and worship 24 hours a day. You can even subscribe to it by streaming video.

*I did the "Believing God" Bible study by Beth Moore. I desperately needed to believe God for my marriage.

"Knowing God" by Henry Blackaby I did years ago and it was a solid study.

Bottom line, do something that suits you to really draw you closer to God whether that is just reading and praying or doing a study. If you feel guilty because you have let these things slip, just be honest with God about. If you really thought you were doing well with God, and your situation feels like He has betrayed you, be honest about that also.

If there are certain issues that your spouse has complained about for years, now is a good time to work on them, especially if they are the same issues other people in your life confront you with. Things like anger, addictions, etc.

*Professional Clinical Counselor
*Same sex mentor

*I spent a month at Meier Clinic in Michigan. It is a Christian outpatient care facility dealing with anxiety, depression, addiction, and more.

*Coaching. My counselor was just learning coaching when we were separated. The coaching approach really helped me. (Counseling vs. coaching requires some discernment. Number one with either is to find out if your counselor or coach is marriage friendly, ie. they will really encourage you to hang on when the going gets tough. You need to take stock of yourself, if you strongly suspect a major psychological problem, are on meds or suspect you need meds, or are struggling with suicidal thoughts. You should look for a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor. If you more know what you need to do in life, or are searching for direction, a coach might be called for. I had both by the end.)

*Mentors walk beside you sharing their own life experiences. We had mentors early in our separation who tried to teach us some communication skills. The depth of our problems eventually exceeded their compentency level so they encouraged us towards counseling. We also had same sex mentors when we did "Reconciling God's Way".

If your spouse refuses counseling/mentoring/coaching with you, make it your goal to be all that God called you to be. As you make progress on that, there is hope that your spouse will notice, so when you reconcile you will have a better marriage because you will be a better you.

I would have done one of these in a heart beat, but Sharon was never willing. In same states you can even petition the court in a divorce proceeding to order more counseling, or to attend an intensive.

We eventually went to a one-day PAIRS training (more info later on blog). The key was that I asked her to attend even though she had said no to many other things. By God turning her heart she was willing to go.

The intensive, Retrouvaille, started in the Catholic Church, but there are Protestant versions also. You and your spouse go to a hotel, retreat center, or some other venue, from Friday night to Sunday evening. A series of talks are given by former Retrouvaille participants whose marriages have been healed. The talks are the same all across the country but each presenting couple tells their own story as they give their presentations. The assignments given are all between you and your spouse so you don't have to share with others. They have a very high success rate. I interviewed with an intake lady who shared that when she and her husband went 10 years ago they were living apart and he was having an affair. I was in tears as she shared how God had reconciled their marriage.

The National Institute of Marriage spun off from Gary Smalley's organization. Robert Paul is a primary leader there and I think Gary Smalley's son is also. They are headquartered in Branson, MO, but also do intensives in Georgia. They have two- and four-day intensives where you and your spouse work with a counseling team. In the two-day it is all private counseling; in the four-day it is a combination of group and private counseling.

Sharon Hart Morris, in California, does customized one-on-one intensives. I believe she is willing to fly to other areas of the country to do them, also.

Marble Retreat Center in Colorado specializes in on-sight intensives for people in various levels of lay and professional ministry.

*Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce" is a five-session DVD series that is a wake up call about the negative consequences of divorce including some awesome testimonies of healed marriages. Ideally you watch this over several sessions with your spouse and a facilitator. You then do an intensive Bible study. The facilitator helps you discuss the issues such as legal, emotional, financial, children, and reconciliation that are raised in the DVD series. It is not marriage counseling.

Sharon was not willing to watch this with me, so I watched it myself and became even more determined that there was hope for our marriage and that I was not giving up.

*Divorce Care is a 13-week DVD support group for those who are separated or divorced. The format is watching a video about the week's topic such as finances, depression, anger, new relationships, or reconciliation, and then discuss the videos and as much of your personal situation as you feel comfortable. On the DVD there are experts sharing about the week's topic and then there are people who have walked the journey sharing also.

I actually attended three different groups in two different cities (not my own town) all at the same time. The group format and the videos were tremendously used by Jesus to pull me out of a very deep depression. One of the pluses was that I got a front row seat as to how women thought and in some cases I was finally able to understand what Sharon had been saying over and over again for years, because sometimes those women said the same things in a slightly different way that I finally got. There were some awesome testimonies of healed marriages in the DVD.

Fresh Start is a weekend designed to help people recover from divorce. I had never heard of it when we were separated, but I have met one of the presenters and think it would probably be a quality program.

Inverse Ministries. I met Clint and Penny Bragg after we reconciled and have heard their story. Basically they met, had a whirlwind courtship, got married as the darlings of the church, and were divorced less than two years later. They moved three thousand miles apart and after 11 years, miraculously reconciled. Their testimony is one full of hope for troubled marriages.

*Reconciling God's Way. Joe and Michelle Williams had multiple marriages before each other, then as Christians went through a major separation. Out of that experience they wrote Reconciling God's Way. The format is that each partner, if both are willing, has a same sex mentor and a workbook that walks you through 12 weekly lessons that help each partner get focused back on God. The mentor does not need any special training. Ideally you start reconciling by doing some dates and exercises. Even if only one partner is willing to participate, this is designed to help that partner get on track with God.

Sharon and I started this at the same time. However either on our week 3 or week 4 date, she told me she was getting a divorce. She didn't finish the study, but I did and I am very glad I did, because it truly helped keep me on track . I will forever appreciate my mentor who hung in there even when things looked hopeless.

The Seventeen Steps by Father McGinnis. Father McGinnis is an Episcopal priest who interviewed alot of separated couples who eventually got back together. He pulled out the common steps that they went through to get back together and then compiled them. Normally several couples meet on a regular basis and discuss each step. Not sure where there are groups meeting or if there is a website. I hope to write these steps later on this blog. I think he has hit upon some key issues that every reconciling couple will need to walk through for healing to be complete.

Divorce Busting with Michelle Weiner Davis. I read parts of her books and parts of her websites and was inspired. Her approach is to find practical solutions for couples that as problems are solved one at a time, healing occurs, regardless of the why's of the problems in the first place. She offers a Divorce Busting Coaching service by phone where coaches help you quickly sort out action steps to save your marriage. I considered doing this during our separation, but wasn't sure if it was alot of marketing hype or really solid stuff.

My motto was "Anything is better than spending time, money, and effort on divorce attorneys."

Are you overwhelmed and worn out yet? Do you think you don't have time, money or energy to do all of this? My encouragement is to pray about it then start with one thing, or two things. Ask for God's help as you get started and then later try more. I don't know what combination will work for you, but I am hoping to inspire you not to quit. Most likely, short of a life threatening illness or injury, reconciling your marriage is going to be the biggest challenge of your life.

I went through cancer and chemo at 30 years old and in my opinion, healing from that took far less energy, took alot less out of me, and less faith on my part than our 16 month separation.

I am not trying to depress you, but to level with you. Hopefully your marriage can turn quicker and easier than ours did, but it might be harder.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage - What is Biblical?

During our separation, I spent alot of time focused on what God wanted me to do. I will continue to share some of that journey and those thoughts and my conclusions in this blog.

Our situation was made easier in that Sharon and I were both Christians and we both accepted one another as Christians (not that all of our actions or reactions were Christ-like). Neither one of us was involved in an affair. Neither of us had a major addiction such as drugs or alcohol. In the time just before our separation, but more during it, my anger started to surface. I never hit Sharon, although I exploded in a rage some in her presence; she had a legitimate concern about what I might do.

Now that we are helping other couples, and have privy to seeing a more broad range of marital/ divorce situations, I realizing many issues that I didn't personally have to face; but people are asking me what I think about this or that. I am going back and reading and reflecting more on some materials I picked up during our separation on broader issues so I can either give a more definitive response from a Biblical perspective, or I can point people to some good solid resources with a reasoned Biblical view on lots of the nuances in these situations.

I will remind people to check with their pastors also. I am working with people from many church backgrounds, and the various pastors and denominations have different views on many issues. The more I read the more I realize that marriage, divorce and remarriage are complicated areas in life, and even pastors who have studied, preached, and counseled for years are rethinking some of their beliefs. What I do think that I need to emphasize over and over again is that people need to dig into the Bible, dig into the books, spending their own time in serious and prayer and study about their personal circumstances. They have to live the rest of their lives with the decisions they make in these times, and I hope to encourage them to really wrestle with God over these decisions. Don't completely rely on my viewpoint, their pastor, a book, or convential wisdom to make their decisions for them. But rely on God.

Lately, in addition to just studying the scriptures for myself like I shared elsewhere in this blog, I have been studying "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible" by Jay Adams, the writings and blogging of John Piper and others at CBMW and at Desiring God, and "Marriage and Divorce, God's Call, God's Compassion" by M. G. McLuhan.