My dear friend Roger was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when he was 18 years old. He suffered through the ordeal three separate times. Through a crazy turn of events that included the second tumor disappearing after prayer, a new found faith, a televangelist praying for the intimate details of his unknown situation on national TV, a survived horrific car accident, and many more incredible details, he doesn’t have cancer any more. He does, however, have a huge scar on his neck.
Mr. Rogers (no relation to my friend Roger), the host of the children’s PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood carried a piece of paper with him everywhere he went that said Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.
If I didn’t know Roger’s life changing story, I might see that scar as ugly. I might assume that he got it because he was a violent person. Or I might overlook God’s hand in the story, thinking simply that he have done something brave on his own. All because I never asked his story.
From the minute Roger took several hours to tell me his story, that scar became one of the most beautiful parts of him to me, because it was such an indication of the mind blowing faithfulness of God in his life. It told his story. It is a mark of God’s unfathomable love, and it is also a mark of how strong Roger is having been through that trial and still trusting in the goodness of God.
I was reminded or Roger’s scar last night after talking to a friend who is going through a very difficult divorce. As he told me his story, I realized that he had a scar just as prominent as Roger’s that people saw when they looked at him. A scar named divorce. Without knowing his story, you might think it was ugly. You might think he had it because he is a bad person. But maybe, just like Roger, if you knew his story, you might see that scar differently.
If you have been divorced , you are unique in that your scars are displayed for the world to see, and they are difficult to cover up. Divorce is so personal and so public. Many of the rest of us have scars underneath our clothes, scars that other people can’t see. We can hide them well. But divorced people are forced to show their scars to the world.
I went through the vicious divorce of my parents when I was 11 years old. It did not feel right. It was devastating. Two people being torn apart from each other feels unnatural and horrible because it is unnatural and horrible. In the deepest love story, God marries his bride and the marriage is eternal. So it doesn’t feel right for earthly marriages to end.
In God’s original plan, people would never stop loving each other and would never be ripped from each other like that. For reasons we can’t understand, we do not always live in that original plan now.
It seems that the church often judges divorced people, doubting their faith and their integrity. But think about this for a moment….how much faith does it take to keep believing in a good God after going through something as horrible as divorce? How much integrity does it take to keep going to church when there is so much judgement attached to going? How much strength can a person possibly hold after so many tears, so many yearnings, so much desire for things to be different?
Now, I know this is a controversial topic, because the bible says very specifically that “God hates divorce.” (Malachi 2:16.) I think this verse points to the compassion of God more than anything. Who loves divorce? Even when things are horrible, divorce is such an unnatural ending.Of course God hates it! And I believe that it should be a last resort and not just the default thing to do when things get difficult.
But I am not here to argue scripture. I absolutely admit that there are many verses that point to divorce being something that God would never want. But we can’t use those verses to label people who are going through their own personal hell as sinners. We don’t know their story. It is not fair of us to label them that way, and it is not at all helpful.
First, we as the church need to bring counsel and do everything we can to see reconciliation. But if reconciliation doesn’t happen, we need to have compassion. We need to recognize that these are people who have walked into their own personal cave and come out still believing in God’s goodness. They have the wisdom that only comes with experience. They understand how to love better a second time. We as a church need to humble ourselves and learn from their experience.
The longer I walk this earth, the more I am convinced that when we walk through difficult things we have two choices, to become bitter or to become stronger. Deuteronomy 30:19 says “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” People who have chosen life, who have chosen to become stronger through their trials, especially one as difficult as a divorce, are worth listening to.
If you see a scar on someone called divorce, take the time to learn their story. Learn about the scar that they bare. Their scars are beautiful because they point to the strength of the person carrying them. A strength that all of us could learn from.