Partnering with Parkade in the Battle Against Hopelessness

This past weekend (Dec. 5, 2009), The Crossing held a Saturday-morning seminar in conjunction with some of the good folks over at Parkade Baptist. An outgrowth of the DivorceCare ministry that both churches operate, Surviving the Holidays is a “one-shot” attempt to provide hope and healing for those among us who find themselves going through separation and divorce as they also careen headlong into the Christmas holiday, a time of year where we are all expected to be joyful…whether we feel like it or not.

I’m still not sure yet who was more blessed by the event, the participants…or the facilitators (three from Parkade and four from The Crossing). We had 14 people show up to participate, and over the course of three hours we had a chance to get to know each other, in some cases far more deeply than one might reasonably expect for such a short period of time. The common experience we all shared (divorce) was a powerful means of cutting through any social awkwardness in a hurry. Many helpful ideas were exchanged, people were invited to join various ministry groups and, as far as I could tell, everyone walked away with a deeper sense that they really weren’t, after all, alone in their suffering. Certainly that’s what we all hoped would occur.

One of the blessings for me was the opportunity to work with people from a slightly different Christian tradition; heck, we all love Jesus and want to work toward a common goal, right? So I am greatly encouraged by the partnership that we have struck up with the DivorceCare facilitators over at Parkade; we hope to offer Surviving the Holidays again next year and perhaps even cooperate on some additional training opportunities for other DivorceCare facilitators in the area.

By far, though, the greatest blessing came when it was time for us to break up into smaller groups and talk about the video curriculum. This is the point at which we introduce ourselves and get a chance to tell some of our stories and share any ideas that might have come to mind during the video presentation. The end of my first marriage is 12 years or more in the rearview mirror, and so it is that the intense pain and anguish of those difficult years can start to get a little fuzzy. But sitting across the table from someone who was asked to leave their home just a few weeks ago throws those tough times back into sharper view in a hurry.

Since this was the first time that The Crossing had ever offered this seminar, we honestly did not know what to expect, but I think it’s safe to say that there were at least a few people in the room who really needed to be there.

I was one of them.

In short order, I had the opportunity to listen to several people replay the events of their lives that had brought them to this seminar. Some of the details of their stories were nightmarish-horrific, some of them less so, but all of them served to drive home the fact that we live in a very, very dark world indeed. We now live in a world where the vast majority of us look at marriage as something that’s really “all about us;” something that should make us happy. When marriage doesn’t “pay off” on this expectation, we simply close up shop and move on to the next person where we (usually, again) expect to find happiness.

As I remain haunted by some of what I have heard in the past year of divorce ministry, I have to be brutally honest and say that the difficulties in my own first marriage, bad as they were, seem to be as nothing when compared to the sufferings that some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have had to endure, and I know my wife would agree with me on that count. Whenever we reflect on the end of our first marriages, we are both deeply convicted by how quick we were to throw in the towel, especially when we talk to someone who has gone through far worse than either of us and is still fighting to keep their marriage alive.

I’m only one year into divorce recovery ministries, so please take what I have to say with a grain of salt, but it seems clear to me that the lies and betrayals that take place within the covenant relationship of marriage are far worse and far more devastating than anything that some enemy “outside” our personal lives can bring to bear. The marriage and the home are supposed to be places of safety and refuge from the rest of the attacks that we must endure as we go through life in a fallen world…at least I think that’s what most people are hoping for when they say “I do.” So it is absolutely crushing to the spirit when we ask our trusted partner to hand us another belt of ammo to fend off the enemy…only to have them shoot us in the back. When the one we love turns on us, it starts to feel like our lives have become a really awful spy movie, except no one’s laughing at the ridiculous, “totally unbelievable” plotline anymore.

I really hope that at least a few of the folks who attended the seminar on Saturday will make their way into one of the 13-week DivorceCare seminars being offered here in Columbia, either at The Crossing or at Parkade, or any one of the other churches in Missouri that offer the program. I’d certainly welcome the chance to get to know these folks better, should they choose to attend at The Crossing. I’d like to consistently, over a period of time, assure them that they are not alone and that other people really do care. And I’d really like to help them turn their eyes away from the realities of their present situation to the Man Who suffered as we suffered, was also betrayed by someone very close to Him, and died that we might put our hope in a renewed Heaven and Earth, where God promises He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). This infinitely-valuable promise is for all of us who claim Christ, but perhaps most precious to those among us in deep, unimaginable pain.

I wonder if you would consider joining me in praying specifically for the 14 brothers and sisters in Christ who attended Surviving The Holidays this past weekend and are walking through some pretty deep valleys these days? Would you pray also for the divorce ministries of The Crossing, Parkade Baptist, and other churches seeking to bring comfort and hope to those who are really hurting? What better gift this holiday season than to lift these 14 people up to our merciful Lord and ask that He might help them to lay hold of His many loving promises (Jeremiah 29:11)?

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