Trading gold for dust – thoughts on the decision to divorce

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I was recently asked to offer a few words of encouragement for an old friend considering a new direction. She wants to leave her husband; her reasons are justifiable yet she hesitates to take the first step. She stays, contemplating, ruminating, and investigating – paralysis by analysis. She doesn’t want to make a rash decision; nor should she, but she also knows her current path will continue leading nowhere – for her and her son.

The decision to leave a spouse, end a marriage, and destroy a family may well be the most important one could make. The consequences are life altering for all involved –visit any prison to fully grasp the fall-out of the broken family.

Divorce should always, in every single case, be the last and inescapable final resort – only when every alternative is spent and the wellspring of forgiveness and grace have run dry should divorce then be considered. Nor should the decision be made alone, but must include careful attention to the advice and wisdom of trusted friends, family, and professionals – paying particular attention to those who disagree most vehemently. To land upon so fateful an alternative should feel excruciating and leave us with heavy hearts and troubled souls.

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I’ve never been an advocate of divorce; something that begins with such hope and enthusiasm, like marriage, should never be allowed to wither and die. Yet divorce is the unfortunate consequence when individual happiness supersedes any shred of faithfulness to commitment and responsibility.

But neither do I view marriage as an absolute; that divorce is never an option and we are to remain wed regardless of the circumstance. Marriage should never be likened to an Alcatraz  – where upon entering one is forbidden to ever leave.  Yes, God hates divorce; He also hates pride, envy, lust, selfishness, and idolatry, not to mention that thing you do after your wife goes to sleep.

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Fear is the most common reason people stay in bad marriages; a heart stopping anxiety about the unknown once a judge’s gavel slams down and two broken souls are propelled into life, alone. And our fear is warranted – divorce is not without extraordinary insecurity and unending sacrifice. When familiarity disappears, anxiety soon follows; financial fear, “How will I get by?”, kid fear, “How will they react; will their grades fall, will they shoot up a school, get pregnant?” Then there’s our own loneliness, “Will I ever find someone, again?”  We look at these questions and wonder if the well-worn but well-known path we’re currently on is not preferable to the dangerous unpredictable terrain of the unknown. Many are never able to move past these fears and self doubts and remain in dishonorable, unhealthy, and soul crushing marriages until they grow too old to care or find a way to manufacture joy and contentment through harmful means.

But remaining in a noxious marriage is no less a sacrifice – every day we stay, when our best judgment screams otherwise, is to forfeit our future for someone who will never be part of it. To remain paralyzed by fear is to buy comfort and security on credit forgetting the high emotional interest our indecisiveness will ultimately demand; and the longer we remain the deeper in debt we get until we’re so upside down, so spiritually bankrupt, we can never leave.

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We should think soberly and seriously about divorce, but after we’ve meditated, evaluated, sought wisdom, and prayed – most especially prayed – and we’re left with the undeniable reality that to leave is the only way – we must act. Staying, delaying, or hesitating only serve to weaken our resolve and give us a reason to negotiate those golden opportunities of tomorrow for the moth-eaten misfortunes of today.  Furthermore, we must recognize it’s not only our futures that are forfeited. Our children’s tomorrows remain inextricably tied to the fate of our own and this alone should give us the courage needed to step forward onto that uncertain and unexplored path leading us to a brighter future – with those who will be part of it.

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