I’m divorced. Well, not really. I’m now married. Happily, with five kids. But I have been divorced, or, more appropriately, have gone through a divorce. There’s a difference.
When I was fifteen, I was a parking attendant at the Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons and annual Tom Petty concerts. Now, I manage the ventilatory support of premature babies and run ALTARWORK, a worship arts ministry. To say “I’m divorced” is no different than to say “I’m a parking attendant”.
The past does not define us. Divorce, in particular, is not a label.
Many Christians disagree. Many Christians deem divorce the mark of death, the breaking of God’s covenant, the dreaded scarlet letter. It’s one of those ‘sins’ that is given greater weight than others - like, you know, killing people, being gay, having loads of premarital sex - and, likewise, damns those who go through it to raw ditch pits and hellfire.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning divorce, rationalizing for its acceptance, or making excuses for anyone (especially me).
But let me break this divorce thing down for you.
- According to the Bible, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” (Mark 10:12)
- “And if she (his wife) divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:12)
Okay, that pertains to 50% of married people today. And we all know adultery is explicitly listed in the commandments.
But then there’s this:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 19:27)
Light the torches -- we’re all gonna burn.
Even the disciples, after Jesus recited the laws for marriage, said to Him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)
A bold proclamation to make to the Savior himself, no? In other words, screw this...
Seriously, though, there is no justification for divorce in the Bible, right? I mean, apart from the fact that Moses permitted man to write a certificate of divorce to his wife and send her away. And that Joseph set out to divorce Mary when he discovered she was pregnant with Jesus (no, they weren’t married at the time, but most translations speak of Joseph sending Mary away, while some actually use the word ‘divorce’).
And that it’s better to live in the desert than with a “quarrelsome, nagging, complaining wife”. (Proverbs 21:19) Funny, there’s no proverb about being better to live without clothing in frozen tundra than with a lazy, apathetic, philandering husband. (There should be.)
And clearly all adulterers are condemned to hell, right? All who have lusted over someone not their spouse, all who have defiled the marriage covenant? Never mind King Solomon, son of David, who took on 700 wives and 300 concubines (that’s having sexual partners in quadruple digits, for those counting), was otherwise deemed wise, and is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church (“Righteous Prophet and King”).
So Christians who lambast divorce may as well rip Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon from their Bibles. No need to take those seriously. Oh, and Proverbs. Shred that, too. Let’s not give weight to those pearls of wisdom, since they were scribed by a rapacious egomaniac who once worshiped the many gods of his many wives. And those kitschy “Proverbs X:Y” tattoos? Best ink over those, lest not fess up to believing in a religion soiled with contradiction and hypocrisy.
But I digress.
- What if a marriage was entered into without an exchange of vows before God?
- What if a spouse becomes atheistic?
- What about physical abuse?
- Mental abuse?
- Pathological lying?
- Arranged marriages?
- Mail order brides?
- Til death do us part?
We are all made in His image, yet we are all deeply flawed. I’ve done more than my fair share of shameful things. I’ll have a long wait at the gate. But, grace isn’t messy. Grace is clean. It’s spotless. It’s perfectly transparent. We’re the ones who supply the filth. Grace cleanses it. Us. It’s the antidote to our imperfection. It’s what makes us beautiful in an ugly world.
Getting divorced gave me a second chance at life. A resurrection of sorts. I’m far enough removed from it to be able to look past the low points:
- walking thirteen miles home from a twelve hour night shift in the dead of Michigan winter, through ice and thick snow embankments, after my car was repossessed for nonpayment while I was working
- spending Christmas day alone without a hint of human interaction; being wide-eyed for a week straight after a horrifying stint with an antidepressant
- moving back in with my parents because I couldn’t afford rent
My life was the ugly reflection I stared at in the mirror. My arms were lined red from tweezer blades. I lost fifty pounds. My personal demons celebrated. And I lost God.
But God never lost me.
Instead, He extended mercy in the form of a record, a beautiful girl, and a little idea. The record? Third Day’s Revelation. The girl? My wife, Heather, the love of my life and mom to my youngest twin boys. And that little idea? Well, that became ALTARWORK. Jesus’ mercy and grace allowed my life to turn in ways that have helped glorify Him. It pushed me in directions I never thought I’d take. It molded me into a person I never thought I’d be.
Life is hard. Redemption is real.
We all have our places in the sun.
Jason Ramsey is the founder and executive director of ALTARWORK, Inc., a worship arts magazine. He's married with five kids - including two sets of twins - and walks the tightrope of family, job, and ministry with both eagerness and unease. He gravitates towards mental health advocacy, social and religious equality, hard-life fiction, classical liturgy, modern worship, the Detroit Tigers, and all things Michigan State University. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
*This post is a part of the "This is My Story" series. To read more, click here.
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