22 June 2017

Dear Lysa, God doesn't hate you because you are divorced.

I had some really exciting news last week. 

I learned an article I submitted to America Magazine was going to be published. #cuedancinginmyoffice
You think I am kidding? That really happened.

I've had several people in my life encourage me to start to do more freelance writing, so it was encouraging to learn my first pitch will actually be published.

The title? God hates divorce. But He doesn't hate divorced people. 

The words come from a time I met with the vice rector (now one of our regional bishops) of our local seminary. Since then, those words have taken root deeply inside me as I look around and see a gaping hole when it comes to pastoral care for divorced people or those with irregular marriages in the Catholic Church.

I prayed those words over Lysa TerKeust this week as I learned she is divorcing her husband after learning he was unfaithful with a women he met online.
I am sad for her, her husband Art, her kids and grandkids. 

Having made such a decision myself, I know she didn't make it lightly.

On the day I would have been married for five years, I just find myself thinking about this woman I'll probably never meet and what she has to be thinking and feeling, especially as one who is in the public eye.

There will be some people who will question her decision or say there are never Biblical grounds for divorce. And there may be some who say you can only walk away if circumstances meet certain grounds. Some will say she was brave for leaving and some may say she was a coward.

And while I wish the best for this suffering family in such a painful time, I am yet reminded of the great need there is in the Church today for so many people who are hurt, wounded, and suffering.

All of us, all of "them". 
The alcoholics, ragers, cheaters, sex addicts, marriages in crisis, abused, divorced, drug addicts, etc.

Pope Francis has used the image before of the Church as field hospital on the battlefield: "The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds...And you have to start from the ground up."

My own lived experience is calling me to speak into a specific area I see a desperate need for greater support and pastoral attention. I am not really sure how what it will look, but bit by bit the Spirit is lighting something up in me that's not dimming anytime soon.

Like the Pope said, I want to do my own little part to help heal the wounds of hurting people...especially people who traveled a similar path that I have.

It feels weird to say, but I almost feel like going through a divorce has expanded my heart a hundred fold for people on the margins; people who facing great pain, suffering, and struggle. 

In a world where 50% of marriages end in divorce sometimes the commitment of marriage can look scary or that it cannot be done. One the most numbing experiences is to start to listen to the subtle whispers of the Evil One..."You'll never have a good marriage"...."you can't do this right"..."no one will ever love you." To enter into that inner dialogue never bears any good fruit and is spiritually dangerous.

I know sometimes I can catch myself feeling overwhelmed or anxious about not being able to have a healthy, life-giving marriage someday. I mean who wants to repeat the same mistake and get another divorce?

Today I would have been married 5 years. Its funny looking back I still remember the day crystal clear, but now I can look back with a healthy level of detachment and acknowledge it as a chapter in life.

I thought today would always be one the happiest days of my life and it sucks that it didn't turn out that way for me. But that doesn't mean I'll never get it right someday.

Today I just keep thinking about another sister in Christ whose walking a path she'd never thought she would have to travel...

Lysa, I hope you are surrounded with support and love from every angle. I hope you find an amazing counselor that will help you deeply forgive Art, forgive yourself, heal, and accept and grow from this painful reality.

Yes, God hates divorce. But He doesn't hate you. You are brave for leaving. And you'd be just as brave for staying too.

The heartbreak and pain of divorce are something our Father cares passionately about. They are deep, painful wounds that need healing and care. Don't run away from these wounds.

Because just like the sacred wounds of Jesus bring us our freedom, facing these painful wounds will profoundly and radically change you if you let God lead the work.

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  1. This is beautiful and so needed, Patty. I am so thankful for your voice on this issue.

  2. Patty, I have tears running down my face. Thank you for realizing the need for this support. I was married for 24 years and our divorce was devastating to me but I too believe that profound change is ahead of me. I pray daily to leave behind the "why wasn't I enough?" I am divorced 2 years now and finding my way. I am grateful to have found your blog and hope that I can somehow help others too.

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