Lance is in America and I am here. I went to church by myself. Greeted fRamily members and new friends. Sat down to the beginnings of a praise song. It was so odd not to hear his booming voice sing along. So strange to not lean over onto his shoulder, or to hold his hand when the Pastor prayed as was our usual thing. I ended up holding onto my own hand and fiddling a lot with my bible. It was unsettling to see the empty chair beside me, I picked up my purse from the floor and plopped it on the chair in an attempt to fill the void. And then, taking my own advice from my last blog: How to Run to Jesus with Arthritic Knees. And I found, “Yet, I am not alone, for the Father is with me!” John 16:32b! What followed were thoughts about the single people in my life, those who face the empty seat every week, and not just at church, but everywhere, even at home.
It wasn’t too long ago I rode the so wrong high horse of judgementalism towards divorces. It was my contention that IF ANYONE got divorced it was completely selfish and if you got divorced it’s because you weren’t trying hard enough. Oh, and, that God hates divorce. And then someone very close to me got divorced and it was very clear that in order to protect her family she did the best thing for them. A mother protecting her children. How can that be wrong? And, turns out, from her ex’s actions and lack of actions, it was the absolute right thing to do. Her church did not help in any way, there was no compassion, support, encouragement, certainly none of Jesus’ grace, mercy or love anywhere. The fall of the high horse was short but painful.
Since then, God has lead me to more beautiful women whose husbands were chameleon Christians at best and abusive at the least. These men seem to hate their blessings…their wives and children. They only want something to show off, or display….is a wife compelled to spend her life these ungodly conditions? Is this what God would intend for the lives of His children?
In the ESV version of the Holy Bible, the oft quoted verse of ‘God hates divorce’, is translated, thusly, “for the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit and do not be faithless.” Malachi 2:16. The reason it is not the typically translated “God hates divorces” is because the compliers/researchers/preachers/teachers who put the ESV version together believe that even in the latter translation the emphasis is not that God hates the DIVORCED, but DIVORCES. The ESV Bible has a huge section on how they came to conclude the scripture thusly, which I would encourage you to check out if you are interested. Our problem is we very often hate the divorced, the people. We don’t show any of Jesus’ grace, mercy or love and instead condemn and ride off on our high horse without having done anything except pour verbal vinegar into the existing wounds of the divorced person. In the person who is close to me divorce, no one should have trouble, because her husband was unfaithful numerous times, emotionally abandoned her family, and he was emotionally divorced her when he sent her away. And I’ve met many women since who have experienced the same thing. How sad God must be that when one of His children hurts the most His other children do nothing but righteously judge and kick them when they need HIs grace, mercy and love the most.
The empty chair beside me is a reminder that single people, moms, dads who once had a marriage relationship and participated in church together, must be painfully lonely at first, coming to a place where they once were two and now, alone. My friend, Mel, tells me that even when she was single, never having had the experience of the marriage relationship in church yet, she felt outside, not included. I don’ t think that it’s intentional, it’s just that people are focused on themselves or on those who are obviously doing something wrong – like, in their opinion, getting divorced.
I am glad that God fractured my judgemental attitude towards divorced people. I hope that He will continue to remind me that Jesus’ actions were always full of grace, mercy and love, and strive to have those be my first reactions.
I pray I don’t have to experience the empty seat too often. But, mostly, I pray that His children will love His other children and be listeners, encouragers, supporters. I’m not saying, however, that we should just ignore blatant disregard for His word, but instead, we should be totally absorbed and soaked in HIs word, it should be in our hearts and on our lips. It should be like our language. And, in this attitude, I am sure that those who have to sit with an empty seat beside them, will, hopefully, not be sitting alone for long.
I leave this post with a peaceful picture for you. One I took in Tahiti. Tahiti Sunset. Blessings to you.