Regarding My Divorce: I Don’t Want Grace, I Want Love
Let me start off by saying, when I say “I don’t want grace”, I do NOT mean it in the overarching sense of my faith. I NEED grace. I depend on grace. Every moment of every day is only possible because of grace. That statement “I don’t want grace, I want love” is about my divorce specifically. And what do I mean by that? I mean, I do not believe that divorce is something that I need or want people (or God) to “overlook” or to “deal with”. It’s not something that requires people to summon up their most gracious feelings to extend to me. It’s something that was necessary, and as painful as it was, I am comfortable with it being a part of my life. I am comfortable with my decision, and I believe strongly that God is comfortable with it too. In fact, my faith depends on it.
Just today another well meaning Christian told me “The great thing is, even if you were wrong in your divorce, there is grace to cover that”. I completely understand the point this person was trying to make and why he thought it was encouraging. He wants me to look forward in confidence and not be hindered by my past. What he does not understand is how my experience translates that statement. What I hear is, “The great thing is, even if God hated you enough to pin you down while you were being hurt and hold you in place with a ‘high view’ of marriage, he can overlook you wriggling out from his death-grip”.
Many people fail to understand that the view that God’s law is violated by divorce in circumstances of extraordinary pain (neglect, abuse, adultery, abandonment) is a view that God hates us. I’m sure they would deny this. I’m sure if John Piper were sitting here right now talking to me he would insist that God does not hate me at all, even after I divorced. He is graciously open handed on the issue (so open handed that he could get along with his own church that takes a different view). In fact, I had a good friend (so close, in fact, that he shares my son’s middle name) tell me we could “agree to disagree” on the issue of divorce. It struck my heart deeply when he said that and we will never be as close again.
I cannot “agree to disagree”, nor can I accept that I might require “grace” to cover the divorce (though I certainly cling to grace for every sin I committed in my marriage; I will not claim to have been a perfect husband). I simply cannot accept that God would hold me in my marriage and subject me to that intense pain at the hand of my ex. That makes me an object of God’s hatred, at odds with the core of my faith that God loves me.
To accept even the possibility that my divorce was a sin is to accept the possibility that the foundation of my faith is a lie. Even grace, the great distinguishing doctrine of Christianity, flows from God’s love. We only get grace from God because he loves us. Permanence doctrine is not a secondary issue to me; it strikes at the core. If I do not have God’s love, how can I have his grace?
So I am making an appeal to the Christian community: please stop offering me “grace” for my past. I don’t want it. I want to you affirm that God loves me and that he was not OK with my pain. You may not know the circumstances of my divorce or what went on in my marriage, but if you believe my life bears fruit and that I am a genuine believer, I think it is safe to trust that I fought hard for my marriage and held it in a very high view. You do not need to worry about whether or not I require grace or whether I was to blame. You need only love me and show me the love of Jesus, and that is what I will do for you.
And yes, there will be grace between us, even grace for you if you do offer me “grace” for my divorce. But how much better would it be if I didn’t have to fear vulnerability with fellow Christians, knowing that I’m always one potential step away from hearing another person imply that God hates me? It would mean the body of Christ could be a safe place for me, and that would be remarkable indeed.