When I was dealing with the complete blowup of my marriage, which had been held together by the most delicate of threads for over two decades, I was allowed to suffer horribly by people who should have been there for me.
When we moved to Connecticut from Florida we were outsiders. We are not FROM Connecticut, though I do have a sister here. When we joined a church in Middletown we discovered a strange dynamic. Lots of control and legalism (we were told where we could sit during services, our children were checked to be sure they weren’t chewing gum, lice checks on children’s heads without parental consent, and so on). It is strange that that felt off to me because the first church I joined after committing myself to God as a Christian was a borderline cult. That’s a whole ‘nother story.
So we didn’t stay long at this church in Middletown.
When we moved to our small town dream home, we joined a local church. The pastor ended up resigning after a scandal. Sheesh, we weren’t doing well at all. The church went without a pastor for a long time. Then finally a new, part-time pastor came on board.
This pastor told me one time that I was outgoing because I was insecure. Um, okay. Maybe not so good. I was committed, however. I stuck it out.
Fast forward several years to the point where my husband and I are told we can no longer serve in a certain capacity because we are having marital problems. Because we were having a difficult time, the threads of service were severed. Honestly, it was that service that was holding us together, the only thing we had in common at that point.
It isn’t like he was having affairs and I had abandoned my children. Nope, we were just struggling like we had for years. But it got way worse when we moved to Connecticut.
Fast forward a couple more years to marriage counseling, husband walking out, me not letting him back, a short reconciliation and then a final split. During all of this I was told a lot of things that I thought were strange but honestly my life was surreal, so who was I to judge what was normal and what was not?
Finally, I realized that I was a woman in a church who had separated from her husband (my decision). I had not done enough to reconcile with my husband. People avoided me. There was no compassion or support. During this whole time I was very sick with Lyme disease that just wouldn’t go away? I got worse and worse, my health declined, yet I was running the household, taking care of the kids, and there was no personal support. No meals, only a couple of calls (same person who didn’t really approve of my choices), and finally a declaration by the pastor that she could not rescue me.
What the hell?
How about anything? I was so raw, so wounded, hurting so bad, while also struggling with the loss of my health, that looking back I think it is a miracle that I survived.
Do you know who suffered the most? My kids. They lost their mom to Lyme disease, their family to separation, their church because I finally just quit going.
But what stuck with me from those years were the comments from people.
The statement, “No one can rescue you; you must depend on God,” is religious talk for: “You made your bed, now lie in it!”
It is common knowledge that in Christian circles the blame for a marriage breaking up is usually assigned to the wife. Unless there is infidelity on the husband’s part (and even then the wife is expected to forgive and reconcile), the woman is expected to do whatever is necessary to make the marriage work. If a husband beats his wife, that MIGHT be an acceptable reason for divorce, but not always.
So when I heard the words “no one can rescue you,” I gave up on my church.
Christian leaders have come up with a lot of excuses for not helping their people. But this one is just the most ludicrous I have ever heard.
Of course a pastor should try to rescue someone who was drowning. Of course a pastor should reach out to those who are hurting the most, suffering the most, feeling lost. Of course rescue should be at the top of his or her list.
I learned a couple of lessons from this time:
1. In most churches, if you give the church money and attend services, you are considered in good standing.
2. If you are too sick to attend services or too poor to donate, you are not considered in good standing.
I don’t regret my choices during this time. My only regret is that I didn’t find a lawyer the day after my husband walked out on me. That is my only regret. Well, maybe that I stuck around at that church so long? Maybe.
Husbands can be abusive, but churches and religious leaders can be abusive, too.