I am ‘As a Gentile & Tax Collector’ AKA – I Was Ex-Communicated Today

How many people get to say that in their lifetime?

Also I totally told you guys this was going to happen.

This is what was read, out loud and openly to the congregation of my former church today. I’m just so grateful to God that Leif has decided not to attend there anymore or subject our children to this terribleness.

Where is the love, people?

Bold emphasis mine [brackets mine too].Italicized theirs.

 

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ:

On September 1, 2013 Elder [name redacted] read during the divine service an announcement that the Consistory decided to proceed to the first step of public discipline with a member of [name redacted].

According to Article 55 of our Church Order the Consistory needs to ask the advice of Classis before proceeding to the second step of discipline. The Consistory asked for that advice of Classis at its meeting on September 17-18, 2013 by presenting the circumstances and the care given to this individual without the name of the individual being mentioned. During the course of the discussion it was mentioned that a few months ago this member stated via e-mail to the Clerk of Consistory that she wanted to resign from being a member of [name redacted]. At that time this request was denied because the Consistory didn’t see that option in our Church Order nor do the By Laws of [name redacted] allow for such a termination of membership. After much discussion Classis gave our Consistory this advice:

“…classis advise the consistory of [name redacted] to consider acquiescing to the request for resignation from Mrs. X and thereby recognize her as standing outside the communion of the saints and consider her as one excommunicated from Christ’s church.”

The Consistory voted to accept that advice and to act according to it. Towards that end we have called this special meeting of the [name redacted] membership.

Up to this point the Consistory has proceeded according to Matthew 18 and our Church Order and we have not made known to the congregation the individual that we have placed under discipline. Because this individual has requested to resign from the church of Christ [Side note: WTF? I am still a member of Christ’s church — just not this particular congregation. I have never asked to be removed from my savior, whom I rely upon daily. Gah.] the Consistory considers that excommunication and we are treating it as such. Normally there are two other public steps of discipline including the announcement of the sinner’s name prior to the announcement of excommunication, but given the circumstances and the request of this member, Classis advised us to proceed to this final step.

At this time, then, it is appropriate that we announce to you again the sin of the individual as well as her name. We do this with heavy hearts and with the prayer that the Lord will give her saving faith and once again bring her into the communion of the saints. The Consistory of [name redacted] has used the Keys of the Kingdom in the exercise of Christian discipline towards Jennifer Erikson for the sin of filing for divorce without Biblical grounds and no attempt to reverse those actions.

Form for Excommunication:

As you know we have announced to you the great sin committed and the grievous offense given by our fellow-member, Jennifer Erikson, to the end that, by your Christian admonitions and prayers, she might come to her senses, turn to God, and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26).

[Another side note. Snare of the Devil. I’m sorry, but I just snorted. Y’all should’ve heard it. It was totally sexy. Snare. Of. The. Devil.]

But to our great sorrow no one has yet appeared before us who has caused us to understand that, by the frequent admonitions given her (in private, before witnesses, and in the presence of many)[False. Very, very false. I met with Leif and one elder the morning after I left him, and one elder, ALONE, soon after that. They both said I was a sinner-sinner-pumpkin-eater and I figured I was better off not heeding their advice to meet with My Pastor], she has come to any sorrow for her sin or has shown the least evidence of true repentance. Since, then, by her stubbornness she daily aggravates her transgression, which in itself is not small, and since we have made known to you the last time that in case she did not repent, after such patience shown her by the church [Patience? Y’all have ex-communicated me in less than six months. When has that happened before? I mean like maybe if I were convicted of a crime or something, but hot dang this was lightning quick — which I guess is your decision to make, but to then brag about your patience is making my eyes roll] we should be constrained further to grieve for her and to come to the extreme remedy, we are therefore at the present time compelled to proceed to her excommunication. We do this according to the command and charge given us in God’s holy Word. Our purpose is that she may be ashamed of her sins, that by this corrupt and as yet unrepentant member we may not put the whole body of the church in danger, and that God’s Name may not be blasphemed but reverenced.

Pronouncement of Excommunication

Therefore, we ministers and rulers of the church of God at this place, being assembled in the Name and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, declare before you all that for the aforesaid reasons we have excommunicated and hereby excommunicate Jennifer Erikson from the Church of the Lord [Again, sorry, guys, you can’t ex-communicate me from God. Only from your church.]; that, so long as she persists obstinately and impenitently in her sins, she is excluded from the fellowship of Christ, and of the holy sacraments, and of all the spiritual blessings and benefits which God promises to and bestows upon His Church; and that she is to be accounted by you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matt. 18:17), according to the command of Christ, who says of His ministers, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven (Matt. 18:18).

Exhortation

Further we exhort you, beloved Christians, not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of such sin—not even to eat with such a one (1 Cor. 5:11) to the end that he may be ashamed; yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (2 Thes. 3:15).

In the meantime let every one take warning by this and similar examples to fear the Lord and diligently to take heed: let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12); but having true fellowship with the Father and His Son Christ, together with all believing Christians, to remain firm to the end (Heb. 3:14), obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). You have seen, dear brothers and sisters, in what manner this our excommunicated sister has begun to fall and gradually has come to ruin [ruin!]. Learn, then, from her how subtle Satan is to bring man to destruction and to draw him away from all salutary means of salvation. Guard yourselves, then, against the least beginnings of evil, and according to the admonition of the apostle, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1–2). Be sober- minded; be watchful (1 Peter 5:8); pray that you may not enter into temptation (Luke 22:46). Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. 4:7), but work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12); and let every one repent of his sin, lest our God humble us again and we be obliged to mourn for some of you; but may you, with one accord living in godliness, be our crown and joy in the Lord.

But since it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13), let us call upon His holy Name with confession of our sins.

Prayer of Confession

O righteous God, merciful Father, before Your high majesty we blame ourselves for our sins and acknowledge that we have justly deserved the sorrow and pain caused us by the excommunication of this our late fellow-member; indeed, if You should enter into judgment with us, we all deserve to be excluded and banished from Your presence on account of our great transgression [No. Comment.]. But, O Lord, be gracious unto us for Christ’s sake; forgive us our trespasses, for we heartily repent of them; and work in our hearts an ever increasing measure of sorrow for them, that we, fearing Your judgments which You bring upon the stiff-necked, may endeavor to please You. Grant that we may avoid all pollution of the world and of those who are excluded from the communion of the Church, in order that we may not make ourselves partakers of their sins, and that he who is excommunicated may become ashamed of his sins [Church copy-editor apparently got lazy. I’ve been a girl up to this point]. And since You desire not the death of the sinner, but that he may repent and live, and since the bosom of Your Church is always open for those who return, kindle, therefore, in our hearts a godly zeal, that we, with good Christian admonitions and example, may seek to bring back this excommunicated person, together with all those who through unbelief and recklessness of life go astray. Add Your blessing to our admonitions, that we thereby may have reason to rejoice again in her [yay I’m a llama again!] for whom we must now mourn, and that thus Your holy name be praised, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

So yeah that happened.

I’d have words, but they’re kinda unnecessary, right?

And to think … I used to be scared of what these people thought of me.

The Real Fixer

I’m a tool.

That’s what she said!

I swear it will make sense in a minute. But I gotta set it up first.

If you were an evangelical teen girl in the late nineties, you probably had a colorful woven bracelet that said F.R.O.G. You wore it with your WWJD? bracelet, along with your True Love Waits ring and your short-shorts, because you were in high school and your legs looked fabulous, even though you didn’t fully appreciate them at the time.

F.R.O.G.

Fully. Rely. On. God.

And if you’re anything like me, you told yourself that you did.

I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and probably only remember the exact moment I asked Jesus into my heart because it came as a result of my brother dying, and my barely-cognizant toddler self wanted to go to Heaven too.

So. I’ve always relied on God to see me through the tough times.

Except maybe I didn’t.

I said I did, and I thought I did, but now that I think about … I’m unconvinced that I ever actually did.

Here’s the deal: I like to fix things. I like to teach, preach, educate, and share. I like to put myself in other people’s shoes and try on their rose-tinted glasses, and offer mine for them to try on too. I want to understand people, and I want them to understand me. It’s why I’m a blogger, people.

It never occurred to me that I might come upon a situation I couldn’t somehow fix. Maybe periphery things, like that chick at work that possibly didn’t like me, or a bad hair day, or when the movie sold out before I bought my tickets … but even those things could be fixed in a way. Be nice and stay out of Crazy Chick’s way. Wear a cute hat. See a different movie or go to a later showing. Fixed and done.

Here’s the thing about being a fixer — it feels good. It feels really, really good to see people experience happiness and know that you had a part in it. The Christian part of me tried to give the credit to God, even (especially?) in my own heart, but the pride I felt in being the tool God used to change something on this earth for the better betrayed that credit.

It’s probably like a mirror thinking it’s beautiful when a pretty face gazes upon it.

The problem with this line of thinking is on the other side of the coin. If, as God’s tool, I can create peace and happiness and harmony, then when bad things happen it must be because I wasn’t a good enough tool. Must. Try. Harder. Change tactics. Find a new solution.

A better tool could’ve fixed it. A better mirror would’ve reflected something beautiful when confronted with ugliness.

And as good as it feels to be the tool that creates beauty, that’s as bad as it feels to be the useless, discarded tool that’s no good at fixing things.

The past several years have been a slow process of untangling myself from thinking that I had to put up with the bad parts of life, because obviously if I’d done a better job of fixing them, they wouldn’t have been be so awful. I never declared anything broken — I just hadn’t found the right combination of duct tape and elbow grease to fix it.

In other words, I was not fully relying on God to be The Fixer. He was merely the power behind my glorious Tool Self.

Instead of feeling grateful that God had chosen me, out of all the other people He could’ve chosen to accomplish something good, I took the credit for myself like a hammer might take credit for pounding in a nail.

Newsflash: It doesn’t matter which hammer the carpenter uses. Feeling bad and taking the blame for not being able to fix something is as futile as a hammer feeling bad for not being able to hit the nail on the head.

The hammer must rely on the carpenter, and so must we also rely on God.

Otherwise we are on dangerous ground, becoming like King Saul, who refused to wait for Solomon to perform the sacrifice. Do you know what happened when Saul took it upon himself to do what he considered to be the Lord’s work, but didn’t actually trust and rely on God to get it done according to His perfect will and own good timing?

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13: 13-14

Saul’s lineage would’ve ruled the kingdom of Israel forever, but because of his own selfish desires to be the fixer, instead of totally relying on God, he screwed himself over.

Let’s not be like King Saul, mmmkay?

How appropriate that God the Fixer sent His Son to earth as a carpenter.

God knows the blueprints of our lives, and if we can only yield to Him, He will use us for His glory, and we will become His treasured tools, as inseparable from Him as a two-year-old from a favorite lovey.

Bottom line: Pay attention to God when He keeps trying to use you as a screwdriver, or an angle plane, or a chisel or whatever.

He made you and He knows your purpose. Stop beating yourself up because you’re a monkey wrench that did a horrible job trying to be a clamp.

God has a perfect plan for you, and you are the perfect tool to accomplish His grand design. Trust that He is using you exactly as He intended, even if you never thought about yourself in that way. It is only when we decide that, as tools, we know better than the carpenter that we run into trouble.

Be a beautiful, glorious tool.

That’s what she said.

(I told you it would make sense.)

This Is Not a Post About Church — It’s About Target.

So hi.

I had this big long post all typed up for y’all about the church drama aftermath, but I forgot to save it.

Just kidding. Jesus saves my soul, and I save all my writing just about every other sentence. The truth is that it’s long and messy and super sad and I’m trying really hard to have a positive attitude and not get trapped in the quagmire of crap surrounding this particular situation.

There’s more to life than that. Which is why I use words like quagmire — because that’s seriously a great word.

So I’ll tell you that Leif, to his credit, has decided to take the girls to church elsewhere on his Sundays.

And that’s all I have to say about that, because a dead horse is not worth beating.

Now onto more interesting things — like shopping at Target.

You may or may not have heard, but I’m a single mom now. And single moms aren’t exactly rolling in dough. Also, I’m the one that moved out, and I took very little with me. So now I have this mostly empty house that needs some stuff.

The girls took care of the lack of a dining table by turning the dining room into a campground. Done. And they have beds, I bought a couple cheap couches, and there are stools at the kitchen counter. We’re making do, and honestly, I’m enjoying the minimalist lifestyle for a bit. Cleaning is much easier this way.

But I really wanted some backyard furniture. The girly girls have been loving having a yard after years of condo-living, plus I’m one of those I-love-nature girls, so I’ve been wanting a place to park my rear that wasn’t the retaining wall or the plastic child-sized picnic table my parents let us nick from their house.

Enter Target. I took the girls to get some sunscreen, a kiddie pool, and a box-o-wine, and looked up to see this:

Target girls on chairs

 

And then I saw this:

Target chair price tag

Which led to this:

Target cart

But then on the way to the register, I saw these!

Target stools

And this:

Target stool tag

And so with one hand pushing the loaded cart, the other carrying one stool, Thing 1 diligently carrying the other, and Thing 2 dancing along backward behind us, we made our way to the register.

The lady took one look at us and asked, “Would you like some help out today?”

Yes. Yes I would, thank you.

Then this happened:

Target trunk

And that, my friends, is Target done like a boss.

Bitterness & Truth-Twisting

“You do love to poke the hornets’ nest, don’t you?”

A dear friend made this comment to me in good humor after she read one of my recent blog posts. To be clear, I don’t love it — but I’m not afraid of it. And oh boy, did I take a giant whap at the stinging, buzzing insects with yesterday’s post.

Of the myriad of responses I received (both public and private), I was able to categorize them into two main subsections: The people that were horrified over what happened to me, and the people that were horrified that I was talking about it.

From that latter group, the main thought expressed was that I’m just bitter, and that I’m twisting the truth to drag someone’s good name through the mud.

Am I bitter? If hurt, sad, traumatized, and a little bit angry equals bitter, then by all means, label me as such. However, I did not post what I did out of bitterness or resentment. I did it because I feel that I have been treated, and still am being treated, abominably.

I did try to keep this private. Was I supposed to post all the private communications back and forth that lead to my hand being forced to say something publicly in order to protect my integrity and reputation? Did y’all want to know that I begged the elders to hold My Pastor accountable for his un-pastoral action toward me? That I begged my husband to see how wrong it all was? And that after all that, I begged for some time and space to be left alone so I could regroup and figure out where to go from there, and that in spite of my pleas, the weekly and sometimes daily haranguing continued?

Had these people taken the thought and care to listen to my concerns, rather than jump to unquestionably defend the man that felt like it was his God-given duty to inform my husband of a rumor he’d heard that I was leaving him before talking to me about it, this might have all turned out differently.

But it didn’t.

When it became clear to me that we’d reached an absolute impasse, and that no reconciliation between this church and myself could be reached, I attempted to resign.

One does not simply resign from a churchI received a lengthy response from one of the elders condemning me (again) for not being a good little girl and going to My Pastor and the consistory to allow them to hear my story and help me fix my marriage. I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but geez louise the cognitive dissonance is astronomical. The letter also said, “… It is impossible for us to grant you your request.  One cannot simply resign from a church and we can’t release/transfer your membership under these circumstances … simply bailing on [name redacted] is not an option as much as you wish it was (sic).”

Side note: I did meet with this man several weeks ago, and told him my ‘Biblical grounds’ for divorce — grounds that every other trusted, Christian male I’ve met with has said, “Yup. You’ve got grounds.” He said that he didn’t believe I did, but I should come share with all the elders the heartbreak I’ve experienced and let them judge for me. Because that’s encouraging.

Anyway, since apparently I’m not allowed to resign, and I’m currently ‘in sin’ by not letting these guys decide for me whether or not I have a right to make my own life decisions, I’m going to be excommunicated.

What this means is that they will eventually get up in front of the entire congregation, where my children still attend every other week with their father, and announce to all that I am an unrepentant sinner, and will be “suspended from all privileges of church membership, including the use of the sacraments.” Our church order (Article 55) says my offense will be explained, which as far as I can tell is that I filed for divorce without their permission.

Which is why I wrote what I wrote, and why I’m writing what I’m writing now.

Now as to this whole “truth-twisting” business … this is the truth of what I’ve been going through. It is raw and bare and ugly, but it is factual. Shedding light on a situation doesn’t mean I’ve twisted it.

There are plenty of people that defend My Pastor’s actions, and that’s their choice to make. Everyone has his or her own definition of what constitutes intolerable behavior, and I understand that many feel that My Pastor was acting out of love and kindness by reaching out to my husband about his wayward wife. If you choose to defend this man, go ahead and do it. But don’t try to pretend like I’ve twisted the truth by sharing my perspective.

For those of you that feel I’m dragging his name through the mud … what name? I have never made publicly known what church I attend or who my pastor and elders are. I’ve even untagged myself on Facebook when other members have checked me in. I haven’t kept that information private for any reason other than that my husband asked me to, and I respected his request.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m very busy bitterly starting a new job, decorating my new house, catching up with old friends, rediscovering the true grace and mercy of Christ, thinking up fun summer activities for the girls, and painting my toenails.

How My Husband Found Out I Was Leaving Him

Our pastor heard a fourth-hand rumor and told him before talking to me about it.

Just like I’ve never really talked openly about the huge problems in my marriage out of respect for my husband, I’ve never shared about the challenges I’ve faced in my church, or how over the years my pastor became my nemesis. So long as I submitted to his spiritual oversight, I kept my mouth shut out of respect for his office.

But seeing as I’ve just sent off my official church membership resignation letter, and will likely be excommunicated shortly (oh yes, they can excommunicate me even if I resign — they are refusing to accept my resignation. I think there’s a name for religious groups that won’t let people leave on their own accord. I think it starts with C, and it ain’t Church.), I have some pretty fantastic stories to tell you.

Starting with the one about how Leif found out I was leaving him.

Before I begin. Some history. For years, my relationship with My Pastor has been fragile at best and contemptuous at worst. I take that back — it’s been destructive at worst. Honestly, if this were my only exposure to ‘Christianity,’ I’d likely be an atheist. Thankfully, my faith in God is stronger than my fear of men, and I feel like I’m finally getting right with Him again after years of wandering in the wilderness.

Which is kinda ironic, given the amount of Repent, Sinner, repent! communications I’ve received from the men in leadership at my (former) church.

Anyway … here’s the highlight reel of interactions between My Pastor and me …

There was the time I was severely reprimanded for standing and rocking a sleepy baby Thing 2 in the back of the church during worship service — we have a cry room for moms to hold their babies! Never mind the fact that I was keeping an eye on Thing 1, who was sitting in the pews by herself while my husband served the church as an usher.

That was followed shortly with an admonishment for having the audacity to suggest we start a cooperative nursery, so that parents of very young children could occasionally worship together in peace.

Did I ever tell you about the time My Pastor commented on my Facebook wall that I was in direct violation of Romans 13 by being involved with the Tea Party movement? Yeah, that happened. And it was the day before I was hosting a ladies tea party for the sisters in his congregation.

Remember all the GMA hullaballoo about Victoria’s Secret earlier this year? My Pastor said I was acting unwisely “to take covenant children shopping at a store that clearly uses soft pornography to market its product.” Again he did this publicly, on my Facebook wall. I got a visit from church leadership over that incident, and it was basically decided that they were going to ‘let’ me shop where I wanted and even write about it. I believe they said they were going to grant me a little bit of grace. My Pastor never apologized to me for the atrocious way he handled the situation — he only defended himself as acting in a pastoral manner. Seriously.

Through all of this and more, I have cried buckets of tears. I have begged my husband to find a new church home. His response has always been some variation of, “The perfect church is called Heaven. We made a commitment to this church, and need to understand that it’s led by fallible men.”

Ah, Christian oppression … isn’t it insidious?

Anyway, I could write volumes on the crap I’ve endured over the last 7+ years of attending there. But this is a post about My Pastor’s betrayal of me, and my husband’s defense of him.

What happened was that I had a friend. She was a relatively new friend, but we had a connection, and I trusted her.  I had been talking to her for several weeks about possibly finally ending it because I just couldn’t take it anymore, and then one Tuesday I told her I was going to do it on the upcoming Friday.

Long story short: Instead of telling me she didn’t believe I was doing the ‘Christian’ thing, she told her husband, a seminary student. Instead of encouraging her to talk to me about it, he told one of his professors. Instead of encouraging his student to talk to his wife to talk to me about it, he told My Pastor. Instead of asking if the initial contact had been made, as per directed in Matthew 18, My Pastor began harassing me the next day via phone, email, and text.

I had a busy day, and had an inkling as to what the whole thing was about, so eventually I texted him back and asked what it was regarding. A ‘pastoral matter,’ I was told. Ok, fine. No reason to take time out of my life if he couldn’t even be bothered to answer my question.

I tried calling him back mid-afternoon, but got his voicemail. Told him I’d give him a call in about half an hour. Within that half an hour, Leif called to tell me he was on the way home. I think it was around 5pm at this point, and he hardly ever comes home early.

My senses were on red alert as I called My Pastor back again. Keep in mind that the last time this man addressed me personally, it was to call me a bad mother on my public Facebook wall. He picked up the phone, and said he had heard some disturbing news. I made a joke about not having written about my panties on the internet recently, and he didn’t even laugh. Pfffttt.

He told me that he had heard a rumor that I was planning on divorcing my husband. I told him it was just that — a rumor. Then he told me details that could have only come from one place. I said very calmly that I needed to speak to my husband. My Pastor asked me three or four times if the rumors were true, and somehow I managed not to flip my lid at him. I told him I needed to speak to my husband before I could talk to him any further.

“Well, I was concerned, so I called Leif and discussed it with him … “

I hung up the phone. Thanked God in Heaven that the girls were at my parents’ house that afternoon. RAN through the house throwing clothes, documents, girls’ lovies, and other various items into my car.

He walked in the door. He didn’t know I knew he knew, and he seemed unperturbed. Distant and detached, but that was nothing new. We shared a quick kiss (what would turn out to be our last), and I asked him if he minded taking the dog out for me. I grabbed my phone and my keys. I had no idea how this was going to go down.

He got back from taking the dog and went to the kitchen to wash his hands. I sat down on the other side of counter bar.

“I want to know what My Pastor told you,” I said as evenly as I could.

“Yeah, we should talk about that…”

“I want to know what My Pastor told you,” I repeated.

He paused. Dried his hands. Took a deep breath. Sighed. “That you were planning on filing for divorce on Friday,” he finally admitted.

So there you go. My Pastor had actually told my husband, based on a fourth-hand rumor, without talking to me first, that I was planning on leaving him. That. Just. Happened.

“I filed for divorce last week,” I told him flatly. “I was planning on telling you this Friday.”

It wasn’t more than a 15 or 20-minute conversation, the details of which are irrelevant to this particular story. I walked out the door. Spent the night at my parents’ house with the girls. Told them it was a fun slumber party because Daddy was having a boys’ night.

The next morning, I went back to the condo after taking the girls to school, talking to my therapist, and contemplating drinking before 9am (I stuck with Coke Zero). He was home. We sat in the living room and talked for maybe 45 minutes. There was a lot of silence.

I told him how incredibly inappropriately My Pastor had acted; how he had made it impossible for me to go to him in a time of need by his previous treatment of me, and how he had gone behind my back and told my husband something deeply personal and painful based on a rumor he’d heard.

My husband defended him as doing his pastoral duty. I looked him straight in the eyeballs and said, “The fact that you are defending this man’s actions yesterday is one of a thousand reasons I cannot stay married to you.”

That was a month and a half ago. I’ve spoken to two other leaders at my church, and they have both defended My Pastor’s actions that day. And they have both asked me time and time again to ‘repent of my sin.’

Did you know that apparently it’s up to men in the church to decide if you have cause for divorce, not God? I keep wanting to ask them if they’re going to tell God on me, but thus far have managed to refrain.

So that’s the story of how my husband found out I was leaving him. Last I heard he’s still going to My (ex) Pastor for council on the matter of his broken marriage.

Because I’m sure that guy has my best interest at heart.

**Note to clergy everywhere: There is more than one side to every story. Before you begin condemning one party and begging them to repent of their sin, you might like to try lovingly and graciously asking them what the heck is going on. 

The Things People Say

“Jenny, I only have one comment on your blog posts this week.”

“Yes?” Here it comes. The Judgment. Whatever, I’ve been so judged throughout my life and especially recently that it barely registers anymore. I’m a conservative woman that works in politics and now I’m a Christian wife separated from her husband — I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of Judgey McJudgersons.

“You didn’t slam him. Good job, Mama, I know that must have been very hard, but your kids will reap the benefits.”

THANK YOU!!! Yes, that’s the kind of encouragement and support that’s appreciated right now — as opposed to the accusations (both veiled and bald-faced) that I’ve been getting about what went wrong in my marriage and/or how I’m acting wrongly now. Because yeah, that’s happening.

There are no less than 8,497 reasons I filed for divorce and moved out with the kids. Like I said, there was no one big event that led to this … it was a slow erosion. Death by a thousand cuts, if you will. It would be easy and momentarily satisfying to air our dirty laundry and garner some sympathy, but I’m thinking long game right now.

The long game is that we have children and I have a conscious. Leif is their father and their hero, and there’s no reason for them to feel otherwise about their daddy. Being a loving dad was never an issue.

Side note: I just went back to first blog on this to get the link above, and I made the mistake of reading the comments. What was I saying about Judgey McJudgersons again? Just … wow.

Anyway. Leif is a good dad, we have amazing kids together, and I hope and pray that at some point we can be on the same page.

Now. To the people that seem to be under the mistaken impression that I’m a selfish, selfish girl … I roll my eyes in your general direction. Here are some of the comments I’ve gotten and how I would like to respond.

Marriage isn’t a joyride — it requires a lot of hard work. Tell me about it! It requires extra hard work when one person thinks everything is just fine and the other is miserable. You can only drag the horse to the water so many times and watch it not drink before you throw your hands in the air and walk away. Sometimes it’s not about giving up; it’s about letting go.

You’re hurting my feelings by blogging about your separation. Wow, I’m so sorry that talking about this instead of shutting up about it is hurting *your* feelings. I’m also sorry someone tied you to a chair, propped your eyelids open, and forced you to read my blog. If I were to force someone to read something it would probably be Steinbeck or Fitzgerald, but to each their own.

It’s not fair to Leif to be blogging about this. Look. I’m a blogger. Before I was a blogger, I was a sharer. I’ve been telling stories about my life to anyone that would listen for as long as I can remember. Leif has often told me that the first time he really noticed me was when I was 17 and speaking to our entire church congregation about a mission trip to Mexico I’d just gotten back from.

Talking about my life and experiences is who I am. He knew it when he married me and he shouldn’t be surprised by it now.

Jenny, you need to humble yourself to God’s will. Seriously? No, really … SERIOUSLY?? Please tell me again how you know more about God’s will for my life than I do … Was it your tarot cards or your crystal ball? Because you sure as heck don’t know what happened in my marriage, let alone what’s happened in my heart and brain.

I love you but … I’ve been hearing an awful lot of I love you buts recently. No. You either love me or you don’t. Just because you preface something diminishing with an I love you doesn’t make it ok. Love does not boast, even about itself.

He wants to change. Into what? A pumpkin? If he wants to change, he’ll do it. I hope he does some self-reflection. Everyone needs that.

God hates divorce. Yes he does. But sometimes He allows it. When did getting divorced become the biggest sin outside of murder? I missed the part in the bible that says God cares more about marriage than His people.

This is a sad situation. I know there are lots of people upset that I’m being vocal about it, but for every one of those there are ten people offering encouragement. And I’ll take 10-to-1 odds any day.

Divorce & Piety

Before I begin ranting, I would like to take a few sentences to thank every single person that has reached out to me in love after yesterday’s bombshell. I hold you all near and dear to my heart, and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. My most appreciative thanks to every woman that recognized herself in my words and took a moment to tell me that what I wrote mattered to her … I can’t even express my love and compassion for you right now.

Now. To those that would condemn me for this. I have something to say to y’all.

One of the hardest things for me to face when deciding whether or not to leave my husband was the censure from other Christians that I knew I’d be exposed to. In the secular culture, divorce is sad and all, but more or less accepted. In my world, it just isn’t an option. Especially when it’s between two believers that haven’t had affairs.

I used to be full of righteous judgment for Christians whose marriages fell apart. I believed they weren’t faithful enough to God, had lousy communication skills, and/or generally put their own selfish desires above God’s commands. As little as a year and a half ago, a dear friend told me he and his wife were splitting, and my response was an immediate, “You can’t DO that!”

To this friend, and to every other person I have judged without knowledge of what lay in their hearts or where they stood with God — I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I assumed you were giving up … now I know you were moving on.

I’m sorry I thought you should try harder … now I know you tried everything but selling your soul.

I’m sorry I thought you were putting yourself ahead of your kids … now I know that your children were never, ever an afterthought in your decision.

I’m sorry I thought you were stumbling in your walk with God … you might have been, but that wasn’t for me to judge.

I’m sorry I thought I was better than you … I am the same as you.

To every person that has insinuated or even flat-out accused me of sinning by separating from my husband after years of prayer, reflection, denial, realizations, more prayer, begging, and even more prayer — please un-bunch your pious panties and go read Matthew chapter 7. There’s something in there about a log and speck you might find particularly interesting.

I needed a time-out for my marriage — possibly a permanent one. But every person that tells me I’m going against God’s will by separating from my husband drives me further away from wanting to reconcile with him.

Details aren’t needed. Leif is the father of my amazing children, and I want nothing more than to be his friend again someday, regardless of what happens in our marriage. But things have been very broken between us for a very long time, and it took every ounce of courage I had to take the step that went against everything my religious culture told me but somehow I knew God was telling me was right.

To be told that this beautiful, wonderful thing I have learned exists in my soul, this thing that gives me the strength to flip my life over when nothing else has worked, this thing that has made me braver than I thought possible, and made me rely on God more than I ever have in my entire life … to be told that this is a perversion of His plan for me? Well, it would suck, but things have been so full of suckage the past few years that all I can really do is roll my eyes.

Now I understand all the eye rolls I once got. I hope that you never do.

10 Years, 9 Months, 12 Days, and 2 Kids Later …

I filed for divorce.

So there’s that.

This decision was arrived at neither casually nor mutually. While Leif would be quite content to stay married forever, I am not, for reasons I do not feel the need to discuss at this time.

I know the question you want answered: What happened? Sorry to disappoint you, but nothing happened. We could blame the fact that we got married too young or too fast, or had kids too soon, or worked too many long hours, but the fact of the matter is that lots of relationships include those variables and turn out just fine in the end.

There is no one moment in time a person can pinpoint and say, “Aha! That’s when it all started to fall apart!” You don’t just wake up one day and say to yourself, “You know, I think I’ll file for divorce today. For kicks and giggles.”

Divorce is tragic. It rips families apart. It leaves emotional scar tissue in its wake. God hates it. It is never to be taken lightly. It is an option of last resort. Well, except for murder, but that’s illegal and I hate blood, and oh yeah, it’s evil and I hope I never hate anyone enough to even entertain that idea.

I know there are questions, so I’ve done my best to preemptively answer some of them below. Because I’m a blogger and I like to share.

FAQ

Q: How can this happen when you guys seemed so happy?

A: Once upon a time we were happy. Not every couple’s story ends with a “happily ever after.” Once you start to realize you aren’t happy, there’s a very long period of time spent in denial. I am happy, dammit! Things are just rocky right now, slowly transforms into, ok, I’m a wee bit miserable, but I’ll be happy again soon.

This doesn’t happen over weeks or months, but years. Then you start to question your sanity, because there are some good times sprinkled here or there that glimmer of hope that things are changing and the heat wave will break and beautiful flowers will bloom on the morrow.

If you’re a blogger, you share the good times and only occasionally the bad, and you hold fast to the belief that things will get better. Behind the scenes, you hope and you pray and you beg and you try everything to make it work. You yell and you cry and you apologize and try to ignore the fact that there’s been no real resolution.

You remember how happy you were to walk down the aisle and say, “I do,” and promise your heart to another. You hold onto those memories with a vice-like grip. You look at your children, little human beings that you made together, and think things can’t be so bad, because look at this amazing goodness that came from your union. It will get better, right?

In other words, denial is a powerful thing, and not everything is as it seems.

Q: What about the girls?

A: They are bright and wonderful children who are very loved by two devoted parents. With some counseling and time to grieve and adjust, they will be just fine.

Q: How can you call yourself a Christian?

A: If you call yourself a Christian, you have no business asking that, you hypocrite. If you don’t, then the only answer I have is that I believe in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that my soul was bought at the price of His blood shed on the cross. That doesn’t change with my marital status.

Q: Have you thought this through?

A: Gosh, no I didn’t! I didn’t think at all about how much this will hurt our friends and loved ones, how it might affect my daughters’ romantic relationships later in life, the grief of our happily married parents, the awkward social situations that are bound to arise, the inevitable financial strain …

Q: Do you know how hard life is as a single parent?

A: Probably not. I didn’t know how hard motherhood was going to be either. No one can fully anticipate what trials the future holds. One day at a time, baby.

Q: Is there any chance you guys could work it out?

A: It’s unlikely, but I have agreed to hold off on definitively answering that question or finalizing anything until some of these festering emotional wounds have had a bit of time and space to heal.

Regardless, I believe that ultimately all things work together for God’s glory, even the nasty bits. So even if we don’t work out, I know everything will work out in the end exactly as it’s meant to be.

Q: Are you still living together?

A: No. (Please see previous Q&A and note the ‘time and space’ contingent.)

Q: Where are the girls?

A: They’re living with me, and Leif has visitation. We’re working on figuring things out. It’s been all of less than three weeks since the fit hit the shan, so we obviously don’t have an ironed-out schedule at this point. So far we’ve been making sure that they know when they will be seeing the other parent next, because apparently stability is important.

Q: Is this why you’ve been so quiet on the blog front this past year?

A: Basically. My life has been consumed with getting through my days, aching at not being able to get through to my husband, questioning my grip on reality, questioning our history, and questioning God. And tears — lots and lots of tears.

In other words, it’s hard to think up something to share with y’all when all I wanted to write was, “Sooooo … my life is falling apart around me and the scotch tape I’ve always used to hold it together doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore…”

Q: What can I do for you?

A: Please be respectful. Don’t assume anything. No one knows what goes on inside a relationship except the people in that relationship, and even then it occasionally often gets convoluted.

Pray for us. Don’t take sides. Don’t pray for reconciliation and don’t pray for divorce. Pray that God’s will be done — no matter what the outcome. Because guess what? It will be done. God is kinda almighty like that. So I guess … please pray that grace be plentiful all around as we wade through this crap.

And of course, the most important thing is our children. Hearing negative things about either of their parents will not benefit them in any way, shape, or form, and as my great grandma always said, “Little pitchers have big ears.” So if you have something negative to say about either one of us, I kindly ask you to take a deep breath and remember that there are children involved.

So … I Went to Mormon Church.

There's a basketball court in there. No joke.

I figured what with a Mormon on his way to the White House and all, it might be an interesting and hopefully insightful experience to visit a worship service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So I did what I usually do when I have a Mormon-y question, and asked Justin to take me.

So last Sunday we set out for an LDS sacrament meeting. That’s apparently what it’s called – not worship service. No big, just vernacular so far.

Mormons are nice, y’all. I know we’re not supposed to lump groups of people together and label them, but I’ve never come across a not-nice Mormon. Like most religions, there’s a good mix of young, old, white, black (and everything in between), tall, short, fat, thin, smart and not so smart … but they’re all freaking nice.

Oh, and they have a lot of kids, too. You have heard about the five Romney boys and the 18 Romney grandkids, right? It’s a stereotype for a reason, people.

Since Mormons are so nice, I met several people before the service meeting even started. A lot of college and grad students at the Cambridge ward (I think that’s the word for congregation?) in Massachusetts.

Before I forget, I’ll add a side note: While we walking to church, we passed a Starbucks and decided we were hungry. Neither of us had coffee. Justin had apple cider or something because Mormons don’t drink coffee, and I had my usual chai tea latte – no wait – I had a skinny salted caramel mocha. Never mind. I was going to say I was well on my way to the full Mormon experience of no coffee, but no. Move along, nothing to see here …

Photographic Evidence

Back to the church part – I met lots of nice people. The sanctuary (meeting room?) had pews a lot like ours. There was a big indoor basketball court in the middle of the building. Justin told me every ward (stake? Which one is the building and which one is the congregation?) has one.

The meeting was called to order, there was a prayer, and we sang a song out of the hymnal. I was pleased to discover it was just as abysmal as some of the ones in our Psalter. Loooong and in a key no one but Justin and a couple others could hit. Dude can sing. I mouthed the words. Everyone there silently thanked me without knowing it.

Then there was communion. I had asked ahead on the procedure for that, because at my church, you have to get permission from the elders before service if you’re not a member. In the United Reformed Church, you may only take communion if you’re a member of a gospel-preaching church and under the spiritual care of church leadership. Some churches leave this up to the individual’s conscience, but our particular congregation asks you to talk to someone first.

Anyway, Justin had said it was fine, but I felt weird about it because it’s such a sacred thing at our church, so I passed. But I’ll tell you about it anyway, because if you’ve read this far, you’re probably as fascinated by the LDS church as I am and are dying to know more.

First- the kids take communion. Justin says it doesn’t mean anything until they’re eight and baptized. All Mormons get baptized at eight in the way that babies are baptized in Calvinism and Baptists when they make a profession of faith. I got to go to a Mormon baptism once when one of Thing 1’s friends invited us to attend hers, and it was super cool. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some time.

Second- they passed it around and everyone sat in their seats and partook immediately rather than waiting and doing it together as a congregation.

Third- most, if not all reformed churches I’ve been to offer grape juice as an alternative to the wine. I figured that would be the case. Nope! It was water. Jesus turned the water to wine and the Mormons turned it back again. Go figure.

After communion, there were three “talks” that definitely weren’t sermons. And two of them were given by WOMEN. Soooooo weird for me to see women up at the podium, addressing the congregation at a Sunday worship service sacrament meeting. That does not happen in the URC. Not even a little bit.

Now let’s discuss these talks, mmmkay? They were really great. Super motivational, well thought out, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Totally not sermons. “When do you do exegesis??” I whispered to Justin.

“Exe-what-us?”

“Exegesis! When the pastor takes a section of scripture and interprets it…”

Totally forgot that Mormons don’t have pastors in the way that evangelicals think of pastors. We only stayed for the first hour, and apparently Sunday School is where scripture study comes in, so I may have to go back sometime just to see what it’s like.

The other thing about the talks: I felt kinda like I was at a motivational conference. I wanted to clap for the speakers when they were finished, and I half expected them to take a bow. Like I said, they were definitely not sermons in the sense that I think of them.

Overall, I’m glad I went. Justin likes to tease me that he’ll make a Mormon out of me yet. That’s usually right before I punch him in the neck and tell him I’d get kicked out so fast it would be the shortest-lived Mormon membership in LDS history. I don’t know if y’all know this, but I really enjoy wine. Plus that whole continuing revelation thing that I don’t believe in.

I might will never be a Mormon. But they’re not scary. They don’t worship weird things, they don’t judge others (as a group, at least … I can’t account for every individual church member), and they are welcoming and friendly. They’re family oriented, but don’t disallow divorce. They honor mothers that stay home with the kids and the ones that work outside the home with equal regard.

They’re good people, y’all.

I gotta say one more thing before I leave this subject alone for the moment: MORMONISM IS NOT A CULT. I’d encourage anyone considering not voting for Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith to go check out an LDS service meeting.

And try not to be as ginormous a dork as me telling everyone, “This is my first time!”

Oh, and if you ever want to check out a reformed church to see what my typical Sunday morning consists of, drop me a line and I’ll find you one in your area. We serve wine for communion. Just saying.

Top 7 for the Week of August 17th

This week, Ashley and I talked about:

  1. The Atheist Group Threatening Action Over Singing Children
  2. Obama Thinks We’re All Stupid
  3. Mothering
  4. Joe vs. Hillary: The VP Debate
  5. Chad Johnson’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
  6. Toure and the N-Word-ization
  7. The Best of Joe Biden
Plus we have a rant Shel Silverstein poem, a dirty joke, and of course our Dude of the Week.
Happy listening!

Listen to internet radio with Top 7 on Blog Talk Radio