I've been thinking on divorce and life in the Church a lot during the Advent and Christmas season. This is the time of year, more than any other, that reminds me of my past, my shortcomings, the wounds I have inflicted on my family and those around me.
When I happen to find myself in a conversation with someone about the evils of divorce (I avoid these conversations, but you'd be surprised how often they happen anyway), I leave feeling shamed, acutely aware of my failings. No one needs to tell me what divorce does to my children. No one needs to tell me that it's not the Christian Ideal. I am keenly aware of these things, and never more so than during the holidays.
That said, I had an epiphany today about the Church and specifically about how our culture allows the Church to do some things uniquely well, if we let it. I would guess that no where else is the possibility of sexual redemption quite so attainable. Divorce is readily available in this country and, probably from a faith perspective, often abused. But to allow divorce is not to say the bond was not valid or blessed. It simply acknowledges a painful reality--This bond is broken. Only in the wake of acknowledging that brokenness and shame is there an opportunity to be made whole again, either by fixing it or admitting that it is dead. And even if the hard reached decision is the latter, life can be made beautifully whole, like a stained glass window reflecting and refracting light in a completely different way than an unbroken pane of glass. It's not easy. Putting together a stained glass window is a painstaking process, but the results of careful, deliberate workmanship are breathtaking.
I'm not advocating for divorce. I have never encouraged someone toward divorce, and I doubt I ever will. My husband and I have said more than once that divorce is like jumping out of a frying pan and landing in the fire, and there's really no way to know ahead of time which is worse.
I am attempting to express that divorce does not render someone a pariah, any more than pride or arrogance or intemperance. There are consequences, but there also is repentance, light, life, and redemption, regardless of the failing.