Facing the Sad Reality of Divorce

It’s that time of year for wonderful wedding celebrations. In many ways I think that this June, after 17 years of marriage myself, I am more committed than ever to the sacredness and significance of marriage, something I’ve written about so many times. So then this June finds me living a terrible irony: I’m passionate about the importance of marriage – but my husband has, sadly, ended our marriage and I will soon be divorced.

Dear readers it’s because my commitment to marriage, and to my husband and our children, was all real that I worked hard to save my family, and to help my husband want to stay within its folds, for his sake as well as ours. I loved him. I believed we were close, and that I was loved and faithfully cherished in return.

But I was wrong. So, when he finally left, my shock and grief were total.

(Out of personal integrity and a desire to stand for what I know marriage should be, I eventually took the steps necessary to legally dissolve the union my husband had already discarded.)

Yet, I know the children and I will be OK.

That’s because I remember Joseph in the Bible, who could say to his brothers even after they sold him into captivity, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” I fully believe that God is sovereign in this, and is even (somehow) using these terrible events for his own honor and the ultimate wellbeing of my children and me.

Already I have been able to do a wholesome thing for my children, and move my four little ones and me from Virginia to a suburb of Chicago, my home, where we have been surrounded and supported by many friends and my large family. We have started a new life in a little town with people with big hearts. I’m thankful that the children are doing well _ and that I have begun to find peace and even joy.

I didn’t always think that would be possible. In the wake of my discoveries there were times when my pain and anger were overwhelming to me. But through this terrible ordeal, I’ve also come to see more than ever that sin is powerful _ and blinding. And in turn, this has convinced me that my husband chose to leave his family not because he (ital) could (ital) see clearly, but precisely because he (ital) couldn’t (ital).

Such thinking is at odds with today’s “divorce culture,” which seems to consistently paint marriage break-ups as at some level rational, not wrenching and destructive (which is why it (ital) has (ital) to deny that there are so many innocent victims of divorce). In contrast, having the understanding that I do I can have genuine compassion for my husband _ compassion which is completely compatible with my appropriate anger over what he has done.

Surely, there are folks who will say, “Ha! There they go again, people like Mrs. Hart, thinking marriage is so important, and her marriage is great, and this was never going to happen to her … ” well, yeah. Guilty as charged. I did think those things. My enjoyment of my marriage, my commitment to it and to our children, and my love for my husband, were all real. And so I end where I started: everything I ever said about the significance and sacredness of marriage _ and yes, the tragedy of divorce _ is true. Now it’s just more tangible to me.

Sadly, the prevailing divorce culture does not seem to consider divorce a profoundly destructive thing. I do. And I don’t just mean for the individuals involved, especially the children. I mean for our culture as a whole.

Yet I also know that my own tragedy does not have to define me, or my children. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that God’s mercies are new every morning, and so even now I can look forward to every new morning with increasing joy and hope in the future.

Betsy Hart is the author of the forthcoming “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting our Kids and What to Do About It” (Putnam Books/August)