On divorce: different isn't always lesser

April 2, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Views | Rachel Wilson

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My parents divorced a day shy of their 23rd wedding anniversary. I was 7 years old, my brothers 13 and 17. My mother did everything she could to make us aware of the situation, yet continue cultivating a normal life at home. She did a heck of a job; to this day, I think I had a phenomenal childhood. I was in Girl Scouts, played soccer, won the science fair and was a regular at the children’s art center. It didn’t faze me that my parents lived in two separate houses—all families are different, I thought. Who cares, right? Wrong.

One Sunday at church, when I was 14 or 15, a congregation member told me how “sorry” they were for me—how badly they felt that I came from a "broken family."

Surely, people—adults, peers and extended family, among others—had thrown these words at my family and me for some time. It wasn't until that Sunday, however, that something didn't settle quite right. I was fired up, offended even, and I didn’t know why.

As I've gotten older, I've processed my family’s situation and others' thoughts on and perceptions of it extensively. I’ve spent hours, days, journals, tears and — Lord knows — tons of coffee dates and counselors pondering this very idea. To be quite honest, I have yet to come up with an answer as to why my family ended up the way we did— why it couldn't have been another family, or less public, or whatever you will.

Yet, interestingly, it's not the lack of answers that gets to me. Rather, it's others' ignorant approach toward my situation. Not because I want them to view me differently, but because I want them to see outside of themselves and their comfort zone.

It seems all too often, we, as Christians, have a set ideal of what the Christian life should look like—a poster man or woman of Christianity. Unfortunately, when we perceive one’s life to differ from this ideal in the slightest, our ignorance takes initiative and judgments prove the product.

Life is messy. So are a lot of things. Divorce is one of those things. But please understand, divorce isn’t always a cop out— something that resulted when two people gave up. I’ve heard the phrase “they didn’t try hard enough” more than I’d ever like to admit. Each situation is unique. Blanket approaches don’t work, especially with divorce.

So, to the pastor who questioned the reasoning of my parents’ divorce or the authenticity of my mother's faith in Jesus Christ; to the small-minded individuals who couldn't find enough stuff to talk about and decided my family was a good topic of choice at prayer meetings; to the extremely loud evangelicals who don't believe in divorce or second marriage: please, don’t feel bad for me, or for anyone, simply because I have divorced parents. More importantly, please don't let ignorance get in the way of seeing the truth of various situations—including my own.

Truthfully, I’m thankful I come from a divorced family. Divorce has given me such a unique perspective on this life and my faith. I’ve been challenged  to show grace to those around me. I’ve been challenged to not accept blanket approaches. I’ve been challenged to understand people’s situations, even if I don’t fully agree with them. I’ve been challenged to feel the wounds of this world a little more deeply.

Please understand, I do not think marriage was created with divorce in mind. Nor do I think divorce is something to be taken lightly. Those directly involved in divorce know the extent of the repercussions and hurt more than any. I fully believe marriage was created by God and is an institution He can take full delight in. However, I do believe that divorce was the right choice for my family. Yes, Christian America may look down upon and label us as "broken,” but we are not broken, or at least, no more broken than anyone else. We are all broken human beings doing the best we can in this life, and I think that's enough. Let us thwart the notion that different is lesser. Sometimes, different is just different. Let us relish our differences.

For me, I count myself blessed to say that I have two families. Each plays different but necessary roles in my life. Today and every day, I have two families to cherish and be cherished by—two wonderful yet different units to support me, listen to me, believe in me, grow with me and love me. And for that, I am certainly grateful.

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