Monday, October 19, 2009

Solve One Serious Problem...by Unleashing 1,000 More

Divorce is a lot like a cluster bomb.

Here's what I mean. When a couple decides to divorce, they are initiating what they believe to be the best solution to their biggest problem (namely, the spouse they no longer enjoy being married to). What they typically don't realize, however, is that they unwittingly unleash a series of unforeseen explosions that wreak havoc and create pain not only in their lives, but in the lives of others around them.

The key word here is unforeseen.

Everyone knows that divorce is unpleasant. What everyone doesn't know is that its destruction is much more far-reaching than most anticipate, particularly those that are operating out of intense, tunnel-visioned anger at their spouse (or trying to make the jump out of marriage into a newer, more-exciting relationship). Let's just look at the sheer number of people affected by a single divorce.

One couple divorces. (That's two people affected.) They had, let's say, three kids. (Now we're at five.) Add in the in-laws...just the parents of each former spouse. (Now we're up to at least nine...without even breaking a sweat.) When you start to consider the extended families, friends, pastors, employers and so on, the number of people impacted by just one divorce can get pretty steep, pretty fast. People who don't want to be dragged into it...get dragged into it. A single divorce affects an entire community of individuals to one extent or another, and most of those affected have little or no control over the changes brought into their lives.

I can speak to this because I am a divorced (and remarried) man; I speak from personal experience. Humor me for a minute.

Seeking to "just" get rid of an unwanted spouse, the first (expected) bomb goes off. Then it's followed by another (kids impacted in unpredictable ways), and another (finances inadvertently destroyed), and another (other relationships severed unintentionally) and another (unanticipated job loss). On and on it goes, for years...for decades. And typically, a newly-divorced person who doesn't seek God's will in their now-single lives can make many poor choices in new relationships, and the bombs continue to go off as they live out sinful choice after sinful choice in front of the watchful eyes of their impressionable young children. The bombs continue to go off long after the signatures on the dissolution papers have dried.

As I write this, my wife Shelly and I have just begun our second round of facilitating DivorceCare (a Christ-centered recovery curriculum produced by Church Initiative) as part of the Night Crossing series. Having both lived through divorce ourselves, we can attest to the absolutely devastating effects that divorce has had not only on us, but (worse) on our children. None of our kids (at least as far as we know!) is out looting, setting vacant buildings on fire or drinking themselves into oblivion, thanks entirely to God's mercy in their lives. Nevertheless, it is still an incredible understatement to say that the lives of five children have been "adversely affected" by divorce. And we can both say, unequivocally, that the pain and difficulty we've seen lived out in those five lives alone come from things we never once considered might be a consequence of the breaking apart of our prior marriages. I suspect many (perhaps most) divorced people would say the same.

Having been involved in divorce ministry for less than a year, both of us have looked into many faces distorted by anguish and have heard stories that would strike terror into the hearts of most married couples who might think, "My spouse would never do that..." In short, not only have we lived through our own self-ignited cluster bombs, we've had a ground-floor view of the destruction wrought in many other lives when one or more marriage partners decide that they have "had enough."

Speaking from personal experience, I can say without fear of contradiction that not one, not one, person who decided to get a divorce foresaw all of the effects that this decision would have on their lives 10 years down the road. (I know I didn't.)

Maybe it seems that, now that I'm happily remarried, it's a bit hypocritical for me to be railing on about divorce. I know that in some ways, my remarriage can be a dangerous example that people can point to: "Look at them; they divorced and found each other, and they seem perfectly happy." To anyone who would say that without benefit of knowing some of the deep, deep losses and pain we have experienced because of divorce, even since our remarriage to each other, I would say, "Yeah, you really don't want to walk in our shoes if you can help it."

It's not my "happy remarriage" that has soured me on divorce; it's having lived through the "unanticipated cluster bomb-effect," and seeing how the sin of my life has created pain in the lives of many people I love, most keenly my children. So, I'd just like to throw a warning flag on the track for anyone who thinks that divorce is going to solve their problems. I won't even argue that it may solve one problem, at least in practical terms; I'll instead suggest that you have no idea what other kinds of hell you may be preparing to unleash in your life. Wouldn't it be nice if, before you got too far down the road to dissolving your marriage, you could get some insight into what you are doing to yourself and everyone else around you?

The Crossing is now able, on a limited basis, to facilitate Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce for anyone who thinks that divorce is "the answer." This program does just that; it attempts to show, simply from a practical perspective, the extensive damage caused by divorce, damage that is rarely foreseen. I urge anyone considering divorce to give it a shot. My own life, and that of my wife, would testify to the fact that "divorce as the answer to marital problems" is roughly analogous to "fire-bombing your home as the answer to termites."

References:

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2 Comments:

Blogger lynn said...

Warren,
Thank you for stepping out and voicing your first-hand experience about the "unforeseen" consequences of divorce. This is often a neglected point of view that couples don't consider when they desire the immediate relief that divorce may bring. I am thankful for your ministry to those struggling in their marriage.
Lynn

Oct 26, 2009, 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Kyle Hendricks said...

Thank you for the references, Warren. I happen to be doing a project on this subject right now.

Nov 7, 2009, 12:17:00 PM  

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