I was married for almost 25 years. Sure, some of those years were rocky. There were good times and not-so-good times. But we tried. It was during those times that I believe we were modeling how to reconcile, accept, and love unconditionally. My children watched. My children learned.
And then in 2007, on a sunny Saturday morning, my husband announced that he was leaving. I truly thought he was just going to the store or something as I was totally clueless. That was the worst day of my life. When one party in a relationship refuses to continue to work through the issues at hand, there is only destruction. My children, although grown, continued to watch and to learn.
I’ve learned since that horrible time in my life that to work on the problem is probably the most difficult task you will ever be involved in. And some people just cannot handle it. Also, I think that some people grow from mistakes, some people learn how to move forward, and others, well, they just do not. But when a relationship ends, hurt is always the result.
I say all of this to point to the situation boiling within the United Methodist denomination. I personally do not believe that there can be an “Amicable Split.” Why? Just like every divorce that involves property, children, and assets (and this relationship in particular has LOTS of these things), one party will feel like they lost somewhere. And the hurt….I’m not sure that many of our congregants could survive the sheer pain. I’m wondering if I’m up to another divorce.
Days after my husband left, I felt helpless and hopeless. My very soul was in such pain that I did not think I would survive or that I even wanted to. The so-called “amicable split” has not even occurred yet, and I’m already experiencing those feelings within the church that I have been a part of for 50 years. Sure, this talk of split or divorce has been brewing since before I became an ordained elder in 2009. That was partly why I felt so called to stay within the UMC – to help make things right. I believed that Christ’s followers would be able to put God first and work together for the least, the last, and the lost. I believed that by being faithful to the call on my life that maybe God would use me to make a difference. I believed and I prayed and my children watched and learned.
The struggle to remain “married” (in a covenant relationship) to the denomination has not been an easy one. I never thought that I would feel such brokenness and pain. I never thought that I’d see such abominable behaviors toward ‘the other” coming from those who proclaim Christ as Lord. I never thought that I’d be faced with divorce again.
And all the while, my young adult children watch and learn. They hear such hatred and vile speech coming from “religious” folks. They see cultural differences of other humans being condemned. They see a failure of humanity, God’s children, to love as God loves. Perhaps that is why they have little to do with “church.”
There was no right side or wrong side in my divorce. We were both at fault. We had failed in our covenant toward one another to give 100% of ourselves to the other. We had failed in communication. We had failed in respect. We had failed. And 7 years later, the struggle to be civil toward one another when in the same room is full of tenseness. I truly think that we both would agree that we could have, and should have, done better.
A divorce within the United Methodist Church will not be amicable or easy or without much, much pain. And know that all of God’s children are watching. What example are we setting if we, follower’s of the Christ, empowered with the love and gifts of the Spirit, cannot do better?