Today is an anniversary for me… but not one of celebration. April 3rd marks one year since my husband told me he was leaving. My father advised me to give Mathew one full year to have a change of heart and that amount of time will have elapsed officially on April 5th when he took a bag of stuff and left. Nothing has changed since then. I have been struggling with a huge decision: Do I divorce my husband and move on or do I keep waiting for the Holy Spirit to work on his heart?
It matters not what I want; what matters is pleasing God and doing right in His sight. All my friends and family believe I am justified in making legal that which is already a reality- I am an abandoned wife whose husband has no desire to make amends. But just because all the people I care about, respect, admire, and look up to say that I should divorce him doesn’t mean I should. Just because divorcing him and moving on is easier and less lonely doesn’t mean I should do it. We live in an age where personal peace and happiness are more important than obeying Scripture and I don’t want to be part of the crowd who says, “Screw what God says, I’m doing things MY WAY!”
I’ve been waiting for four years for my husband to return to the faith but as I type this, he still claims to be Gnostic and tells me that unless I convert, there is no hope for us as he does not wish us to be (his words) “unequally yoked.”
When my husband first left me and told me that there was absolutely no chance of reconciliation, I was deeply hurt and also depressed that this meant I would have to remain single and biological-childless for the rest of my life or until the unlikelihood that my husband should die or commit adultery (according to Matthew 5:31-32). This is what I believed since childhood and was reinforced in Dr. Firmin’s “Marriage and Family” class my senior year of college. The severity of divorce and permanence of marriage really hit home when I meditated on the fact that remarriage for any reason other than his adultery was in turn committing adultery against my spouse. (I don’t know for sure if my husband committed adultery sexually, but I know for a fact he did so emotionally.)
However, my pastor and elders have sat down with me and told me that they feel I am not sinning by divorcing my husband as he has claimed to be an unbeliever, has deserted me, and according to 1 Corinthians 7, I am no longer bound. This gave me great hope but I still feel convicted by my previous interpretation of Scripture and the thought that I might be sinning against God weighs heavily on my heart.
My dear friend Anna told me that I should research this business for myself once and for all and come to a final conclusion of my own after much study. I borrowed book after book from the library written by different Christian authors but by far the most constructive book was called “Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views.” Each of the four biblical scholars believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God… they just all interpret the meaning differently. Unfortunately, this book has actually caused me more confusion than anything else because I understand and agree with the logic in how all four men came to their conclusions.
And so I must come to a decision myself that I feel at peace with. On the one hand, I believe in a merciful and gracious God who would not fault me for something that was beyond my control. Why would He forbid me from becoming who I believe I was meant to be… a godly wife and mother? After all, God is forgiving of sin and full of lovingkindness; surely I will be in His good favor once again. On the other hand, should I remain single as Paul advocates and avoid having to be forgiven in the first place? But maybe remarriage isn’t a sin in my case after all.
What does the Bible say? The Bible says, “What God has joined together let no man separate” (Mark 10:9).
Divorce is not God’s highest standard. He permitted it because of “the hardness of man’s heart,” (Matthew 19:8) but he still hates it (Malachi 2:16). Though it was permissible, it was still not righteous. Divorce and remarriage for any reason other than adultery is a sin. “But wait!” I can hear you saying. “What about 1 Corinthians 7:15?” Ah, well, did you ever notice how Paul states in verse 12 of the chapter, “I, not the Lord, say…” Why would Paul take the time to tell his readers that HE says, not the Lord, and at the end he tries to justify it in verse 40 by saying “I think I have the Spirit of God.” So he THINKS he is filled with the Spirit when he gives this instruction, but he doesn’t actually know for sure. Notice he doesn’t say, “I AM Spirit-led when I say this,” but “I think.” This concerns me. I don’t know why Paul would contradict the Lord Jesus Christ. If Jesus said, “Only for adultery,” why would Paul feel the need to add, “and desertion by an unbeliever?” Maybe he was saying divorce is okay if he leaves me (the brother or sister is not bound in such cases) but remarriage is not okay? See verse 11, which states that if a wife leaves her husband she should either be reconciled to him or remain unmarried and her husband should not divorce her. (Does this also go for wives whose husbands deserted them? I wonder; the text does not say.) See also verse 39 which says, “a wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” So the real questions are: does “no longer bound” mean that I’m free to divorce and remarry or just divorce? And secondly, does Paul really have the right to speak for God? If he were inspired by God when he wrote that, he wouldn’t have felt the need to add the little prerequisite, “I, not the Lord, say…”?
There are some that argue that the English translation of the original Hebrew in Malachi 2:16 is a poor rendering. Albeit, God DOESN’T enjoy it when a beautiful, sacred gift He gave us such as marriage is rejected, but it is said that the verb “hate” actually belongs to the husband as the subject of the hate. Nevertheless, if God hates divorce so much, why did He permit the Israelites to divorce their pagan wives in Ezra 9-10? Here we observe at least one instance in Scripture in which there was a Divinely-appointed divorce. God would never command His children to sin, so how could divorce be a sin if God ordered it through the prophet Ezra? Of course, this was a special case, but the point remains: God sanctioned divorce on this occasion.
I must come to a place where I feel at peace about divorcing my husband if I am to ever move on once and for all. I still have not found that peace. I am legally bound to him, but meanwhile, I feel like a single person in many aspects and have felt this way for some time. When certain friends and family of mine advised me to “harden my heart” against my husband so that I could get out of bed and get through the day in one piece, I started to let go of my husband slowly but surely. Of course I still feel tender affection for him but I do not feel very much more than that. He deeply hurt me by leaving me, repeatedly lied to my face before and after we tied the knot, and did things behind my back for the majority of our marriage. I could forgive these and take him back if only he’d place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior and follow Him with devotion. I was living with an unbeliever for three plus years and I don’t think I could go back to that now that I’ve been free for a whole year and feel the total liberty and difference it has made on my well-being. I certainly can’t have a family with him; I can just imagine trying to instruct my children according to the Bible’s teachings while he thwarts my efforts every step of the way telling them the Bible isn’t true. No, the only way to live with Mathew again is to lie to him and tell him I no longer believe the Bible is true and I cannot do that. The only other way is if the Holy Spirit moves Mathew to denounce his pride in knowledge and human wisdom and cling with reckless abandon to Jesus.
Meanwhile, my vulnerable heart is susceptible to the charms of single men here in Tucson. I have a “special friendship,” with a certain Christian man at church here but it can go no farther than a friendship until I am “no longer bound” to my husband both legally and in my heart.
I was fully prepared to go down to Town Hall today and sign those papers but something is keeping me from it and that something is God’s will. I am not going to divorce my husband for any reason other than the fact that it is God’s desire for me. Please pray that this matter will be solved soon. Marital purgatory is no fun at all.
Some examples of how wearisome marital purgatory is:
*I couldn’t catch the bouquet at my cousin’s, David and Vanessa’s, and Joanna and Shane’s wedding.
*Every time I sign my full name on checks to pay for rent and utilities, I am reminded that I still belong to someone who has promised me the world but broke his wedding vows and has no remorse for doing so. I no longer wear my wedding ring as it yet another painful reminder. I can’t wait to change my last name back to Albert or be proud once again to bear his name next to mine.
*Every day I turn the key in my lock, I come home to an empty apartment with no one to greet me or ask me how my day was and no one to hold at night when I go to sleep… and no foreseeable future of when I may ever have this again.