Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 2: Contentment
Staff Writer | Hailey Gomez
Divorce is disruptive. In both Christian and secular settings, it is an act that makes a “normal” family “abnormal” in society’s eyes, and the effects can linger long after paperwork has been signed
It affects children, communities and friends. While many can understand and sympathize with someone who has an illness or death, divorce is simply stuck somewhere in the middle of these two. People can’t find the right words to say. Like a virus, it spreads throughout a family and leaves it to fend for itself.
Within the church we often hear the phrase “work things out” when marriages begin to have troubles.
Carolyne Call, author and associate conference minister in the United Church of Christ, wrote an article called “Spiritual cul-de-sac: How the church fails the divorced.”
“The divorce blade cuts into our sense of identity, our self-esteem, our perception of God, our hopes for the future, our relationships with family and friends, our jobs, finances, beliefs and worldviews, and our faith. It’s an indiscriminate process that tears a fabric that’s been woven over years,” Call said.
Kathryn Chevalier, a senior at George Washington University, grew up within the Christian community. Chevalier is aware of how her identity was impacted after the divorce of her parents.
“The most difficult thing about having a divorced family was having to reconstruct my ideas about marriage. When you are a child and you see your parents marriage, you see and accept their behavior as the definition of marriage, [but after the divorce] you start to wonder if there is something more to the relationship between a husband and wife than what was between your parents,” Chevalier said.
Divorce does more than just end a marriage legally, it has the power to tear down one’s identity and idea of community.
It is in community that one learns who they are. Community also happens to be one of the most important qualities of Christianity.
Andrew Root, an author and associate professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary, writes about the effects of divorce in his book “The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Youth, Family, and Culture).”
“When that community is destroyed, it is a threat to the child’s being. Divorce, therefore, should be seen as not just the split of a social unit, but the break of the community in which the child’s identity rests,” Root said.
At Azusa Pacific, students thrive on community. With things like discipleship groups, chapel and mentors it is clear that community is deeply rooted in APU’s values. But, is the Christian community reaching out a hand to those in their most broken moments?
The church has a history of expecting perfect marriages. When marriages within the church end in divorce, some families feel ostracized.
“My family and I were so involved… we had a rich network of supportive Christian people that we loved and when my parents announced that they were splitting up, that all went away.”
Chevalier explained that, “Family friends stopped coming over, my friends didn’t want to hang out with me anymore, and at school, kids even told me that my parents were going to hell because they were getting a divorce… I felt like I was disposable to the Christian community.”
The thing with families is that they look completely different from one another. Like the vast shades of our skin colors, or the array of cultures — the “ideal family” has no definition.
“These people assumed that divorce is a kind of cheating; in other words, if we had taken our marriage seriously enough, it would have worked … even though we strive for a spiritual ideal, marriages can fail,” Call said.
So where is the peace in the destruction?
It is in knowing that facing the brokenness can bring freedom and healing. Like facing a fear, facing brokenness takes a courage that opens a door spiritually and mentally.
Paul Maxwell, a writer and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute, wrote an article about how children of divorce can find freedom in God’s love called “To the Sons and Daughters of Divorce.”
Maxwell states, “We see God’s protective care for children of divorce. We see the structures that he has set up to care for the weak and his grief over the violence that breaking these structures does. God is the lifter of weight. He is the untier of knots. His specialty is in redeeming — in healing, restoring, and strengthening. His forte is in trauma, and in complex pain — not always in fixing or explaining right away, but in being-with.”
Divorce shakes and unravels those who are affected by it, but there is peace to be found amidst the destruction. That peace is found in community.
Chevalier said, “I have come to understand the sweet truth that your true family is whoever chooses to sit with you in the flames of life and to embrace your pain. We all have a choice in who we call our tribe. To me, the word family feels like the word God. It is so big, so wide, and so all-encompassing that ultimately, it becomes as sacred as we allow it to be in our lives. What a gift.”