I must tell you at times I feel like a “voice crying out in the wilderness.” Often I use this blog to announce and signal alarms within the “Church” and within “Christendom.” Perhaps this is just my nature. Pam often tells me that I act like the “General Manager” of the world. 🙂 That may be true…at least in part…but, I pray that my concern comes from a heart of love and from a sense of urgency to see people come to Christ and know the truth.
One of the areas that has really popped up in my heart and mind lately is an area that I believe it’s time for people of faith to talk about and recognize. What is this topic?
The absolute blindness within the Church today regarding the effects of divorce and cohabitation on our children. In this post I’ll talk about “divorce” and in a subsequent post, I’ll pick up on cohabitation (even though I will touch it briefly here).
Today we continue to sweep divorce under the rug. And I must tell you the reason divorce and cohabitation are such big issues in the church today is because of our casualness toward marriage and the splintering of the family. The nation is in the shape it’s in today because the family is broken.
The Bible says in Psalm 11:3
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The foundation of marriage is being obliterated today. I’ll give you a case in point. It is amazing to me how many people come up to me and almost brag about the fact that they are going to be grandparents and when I ask, “When did your son or daughter get married?” They say, “Oh well…(with head down for a moment), they’re not married, but (now head raised and smiling), we’re excited that they’re having a baby and I’m going to be a grandparent.”
Well, please understand that I’m thrilled a life is going to come into this world and an abortion is not going to take place. But, what happened to marriage? What happened to the conviction that having babies outside of marriage is totally counter to Scripture? Why is it no longer important in our society to marry?
Recently I read a report published by the “Institute for American Values” conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Chicago Divinity School called, “Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?” The subtitle of the study is: “Challenging the Churches to Confront the Impact of Family Change.” The report grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go! I want to share some of what I learned in this fascinating study about what divorce and cohabitation are doing to our children and adults.
First of all, you know that divorce statistics within the “church” are basically no different than in the world. About a 50% divorce-rate continues to exist in this nation. Granted…I will say this now…I know this is a very, very touchy subject and an issue that is a difficult and thorny to address, but it must be brought out into the open and discussed because of the impact it is having on us all.
Now, I know that many of you who are reading this blog have come from a home of divorce. Perhaps you are a child of divorce or you have been divorced. Only you can know the series of emotional and even spiritual hurt and trauma divorce has had on your life. With that said, I want to be careful and sensitive in what I describe from the report to you; yet, I will not “sugar-coat” it.
Today in our nation, one million children will experience divorce in their home each year. And yet, little attention is given to how growing up in a divorced family might shape the religious lives of those young people. In the report, it indicates that only 25% of children who grow up in divorced homes in America will go to church in their adult years, versus 66% of children who grow up in homes with parents who stay married. 25% versus 66%!! That’s a HUGE difference! What’s more, did you know that more than half of all children born to women under the age of 30 are born into homes where that woman is not married?
In the study, it indicates the greatest predictor of the religious lives of a young person remains the religious life of the parent. Dads, listen up! The research shows that “divorced fathers are especially influential in whether their children will continue to have a life in the church.” Often a child’s earliest images of God are a reflection of their “earthly father.” Interestingly, the study found that “grown children of divorce stand at the leading edge of a generation that considers itself ‘spiritual but not religious.'” It’s so heartbreaking for the children. They often live with such guilt.
According to the stats, divorce has a “sleeper effect.” It’s worst symptoms often appear when children of divorce leave home and attempt to form intimate relationships and families of their own. Often, they do so with less ability and less trust and little idea of what a lasting marriage looks like. We know that when a marriage comes apart, a child’s way of life is split into two lives.
For those who experience their parents’ divorce, the most influential problem, according to the study, and the greatest source of suffering, “occurs at the level of their very being.” The question, “Who am I?” “How can I be at all, now that the people who are responsible for my very being are no longer together?”
In the study, there is a brief excerpt from the life of a lady who tells about the night she learned of her mother’s adultery.
“[T]he night when I learned of my mother’s affair…in my mind…is that night of revelation when my family abruptly came undone, even though my mother didn’t actually move out for another year. That night, in the span of minutes, my entire belief system was shattered. And sometimes when the phone rings late at night or someone walks into the room with a stricken look, I feel the same icy tingle I felt so many years ago, as if my body has programmed itself to receive the unexpected jolt. That’s how deep the memory lies for me.”
But, I know what some of you might be thinking. Well, sometimes there are irreconcilable differences or there is abuse and the divorce is necessary. Well, I will tell you straight out that I certainly don’t advise a lady staying in a home where she or her children can be abused in any way. But, everyone always wants to talk about the extreme of a situation it seems. Yet, in this space of blog-time, I simply want to talk about the mass exodus I’m seeing by couples who just flat-out quit on each other because they supposedly “fall out of love.” I often ask people, “Is that like following off the couch?” You see, “love is a decision.” Love is more than just “feelings.” TV, music, movies, etc., paint a much different picture of love, however. Even next week with Valentine’s Day, we will see a “false” idea of true, sacrificial love. We will only see the infatuation side of love that’s all about emotions.
So, we say (to console ourselves), “Well, as long as it is a GOOD DIVORCE, then all will be okay.” Is there such a thing as a “good divorce?” People say there is. They say, “As long as the couple is amicable toward one another and gets along okay in the exchange of the kids, etc., then it can work out just fine.”
Yet, when you talk to the children themselves, you find that the popular idea behind the “good divorce” is actually an “adult-centered-vision” that does not well reflect the child’s feelings and experiences. Bottom line. While a “good divorce” is better than a “bad divorce,” it’s still not “good” because it is still a splitting up of the family. No matter how amicable divorced parents might be, and how much they each love and care for the child(ren), their willingness to do these things does not resolve the situation that a child’s world is now divided in two.
So what do we do? Is this just a guilt-trip for those who are reading this who are dealing with divorce? No. This is not intended to be a guilt-trip for you. But, this is to be a warning signal to those who are currently STILL married and are discussing divorce (and you have children). Hear me! Don’t do it!! It’s not worth it! You are going to have to work like dogs outside the bounds of marriage (if you choose to divorce) to keep things going “smoothly” with your kids. You will have to coordinate with the former spouse times the kids can be picked up (assuming joint custody of even limited custody). You will have to decide about vacations, holidays, birthdays. Do you see? You will still have to “work together” to make all of this happen. If you think a divorce is the answer in not having to deal with that person (your spouse) ever again, you are FLAT WRONG! You will be dealing with them (because they are the parent of your child) for the rest of your child’s life. So, why not put the same effort into working out the issues and problems that you will outside the marriage? Either way, you are going to have to work like dogs to get it done, so choose the best for the child!
If you come from a divorced home and you are dealing with the fallout from that (from years gone by). Or perhaps you are divorced and have children in the home, please know that “all is not lost.” God is a good gracious, forgiving and merciful God. He will help you and your children through the difficulties. He will never leave us nor forsake us. We know that, but I think you need to hear that again. Please understand, this blog post was to sound the call to the young families who are still together. This is a shout of warning!
Please heed the warning.
Part 2 next week… Cohabitation…