How do you feel when you hear that word?

To be completely honest, sometimes that particular combination of letters registers nothing more from me than a small sigh.

It’s not that I’m complacent, but that divorce is so commonplace.  Even the most conservative estimates figure that over 40% of all marriages end in the courthouse.

Other times though, the word “divorce” pulls a deep groan from my heart and mouth.

Especially when it involves people I know and care about.  Or if I’m granted a closer look into the reasons behind, feelings about and effects of the relational dissolution.

Not too long ago a friend from another church I used to be a part of asked me if I had heard the news about 4 or 5 different couples from that community.  “No.  What?”, I replied tentatively.  The one word response was somber: “Divorce”.

I felt like someone had knocked the air out of me.  I thought about those folks, the love I’d seen them display for each other, and about how life had irrevocably changed for them, their families and friends.  I found myself shaking my head even though the person on the other end of the phone couldn’t see my physical response.

Some months back another old friend stayed with us for a night on his way through town.  Nearly a decade ago I stood by his side as his best man and listened in as he promised to devote himself to his bride as long as God gave him life.

Now ten years later I sat next to him on my couch and listened as he spoke about his deep longing to abandon his wife and start a new life.  He had convinced himself that if he could only end his marriage then everything would get better.

His sadness was palpable. It stained his voice, hung on his face and weighed on his carriage causing him to slump deeper and deeper into the cushions of my couch.

What felt much less solid was his perception of divorce as a panacea.  Although I wasn’t inside his head and heart, it seemed to me that he was dramatically underestimating the damage and mourning that would come from walking away from his marriage.

Just so you know, my friend knows what the Bible has to say about divorce as well or better than I do.

However, he, and lots of folks who find themselves in similar situations often need more than a few scriptures tossed their way.  They need to hear from others who have walked that path and found out that what God says about divorce is true.  Specifically- that it is less than what He wants for us and is to be used as a last resort because it has long lasting, deep running effects.  Yes, God stays by us through divorce, and forgives and heals us as needed.  But that doesn’t mean that leaving a marriage will be easy or enjoyable.

For the next week I found myself wishing for someone who could share their own story of divorce with my friend.  To warn him that abandoning his wife wouldn’t fix his life- and would likely increase his pain and dissatisfaction more than he bargained for.

In a previous church community I would have sent him directly to Steve and Sharon.  They are a married couple who both love God deeply and have the kind of wisdom that only comes from living life for a good long while.  They had also each gone through a tough divorce, married later in life and created a blended family.  They are exactly the kind of couple people point to as if to say, “Go ahead and get divorced.  God will make you be happier in the end like Steve & Sharon.”

But if you sat down with them, you’d quickly hear a different message.  They’d be up front with you that the healing takes a long time and that while divorce may get you out of a marriage, it doesn’t fix all of the dysfunction that you brought to the relationship.  Steve and Sharon would tell you about the guilt you’ll feel, the doubts that will nag you and the regret that will build as you come to wish you wouldn’t have hurt your spouse and all the others who suffered collateral damage when the relationship ended.

As you can tell, I have the utmost respect for Steve and Sharon. But my friend doesn’t know them.  Nor does he live anywhere near them.  So I longed for another voice.

And then I found one.

I’ll explain more in the next post.