Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Sane and Reconciled
If you plan to reconcile with an ex-spouse, my previous blogs have given you many conditions to consider and gone over lots of reasons to be cautious. So I would like to close out this trilogy of blogs by commenting on the flip side.
I am familiar with several couples who have made a successful reconciliation with a spouse. Either reconciling by calling off their divorce or by remarrying after having been divorced. In fact, one of the nicest things that ever happened since I published the divorce books is that I heard from a woman I had never met, that she and her husband had both read the first book, and as a result decided to reconcile rather than get divorced. Apparently, as they read and discovered all the unintended consequences and heartaches, they decided that they would rather invest their time, energy and money into making their marriage work. I commend them.
Sometimes, genuine reconciliation is possible, and can be the best choice for a couple whose marriage has hit the skids. In the case of the couples I am familiar with, for that reconciliation to take place, one spouse in particular had to choose to be truly forgiving and lay the past aside. That same spouse had also to have genuine humility, recognizing that a marriage falling apart takes two - just as much as it takes two to make one work (or probably three, since God’s help is critical). There were some critical steps for both partners; choosing to learn from the past and focus on the future, changing priorities, a willingness to seek assistance and developing patience for a successful restart.
Why? Is it worth all the trouble to reconcile, especially when things have been going downhill for years?
Well, for those couples it was, although it may not be the case for everyone.
Those who have chosen to reconcile, with both partners committing to do the hard work to make reconciliation genuine, have done a noble thing. They have shown their children, as well as friends, whose marriages might also be troubled, that with real effort, wedding vows can be kept even by the most imperfect of us. As a result, the children never have to split their time between parents or suffer the loss of not seeing a parent very often. The example they set may be the very thing that helps their own children through a rough patch in their marriage, when it would be easier to give up. For others who are attempting reconciliation, these couples serve as an inspiration to provide hope that sometimes, it really can be done.
These reconciling couples also illustrate for those who observe them, what the meaning of grace and forgiveness truly are. As the Hebrew prophet Hosea took back his wife after she had left him to go back into prostitution, which became an example of God’s loving faithfulness to His people, so those who reconcile in spite of foolish and hurtful past choices serve to remind us that God still beckons us to come back to right relationship with him.
Because they reconciled, these couples will move forward in life with a treasure of shared memories intact. They will be able to remind one another what the child’s first words were, or where they went for that special vacation. They will likely find that thousands of dollars remained in their bank accounts, instead of the accounts of their attorneys. They also have grown in grace and in wisdom, having learned that their marriage and every marriage relationship is a fragile thing that needs constant care and watering. As a result, they also will look with humble compassion on those whose marriages have fallen apart, knowing how close they came to the brink themselves. Perhaps they will be given a special ministry of helping others who want to save a broken marriage, because they know what it is like, and what it takes to make it happen.
So while I recognize that reconciliation is not a valid option for many, I want to take this blog to commend and honor those who have shown us by example that with diligence and the right attitude, it sometimes CAN be done. You have my admiration, because you have shown what the marriage vows really mean when they say, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
For those of you who have divorcing friends who come to you and tell you they are considering reconciling, and you are fearful they might be making a terrible mistake. Let those who have accomplished it well remind you to be careful. None of us fully knows the inner workings of another person’s marriage. As true friends, we need to stand with a struggling friend who is doing their best to follow God’s leading as they choose whether to proceed with a divorce, or turn to reconciliation. I believe true reconciliation is always the best, first choice. When the reconciliation is not going to lead to a healthy marriage, the divorcing person may well need you and me to lean on to get through. Marriage sometimes requires some real soul searching and taking on tough tasks. As a Christian community, we need to help one another in these days, to make our relationships meaningful and genuine, and honoring to God. Keep your eyes open, there are married and divorced people all around who may need the encouragement that only YOU can give.