Blazing Center / Family / January 10, 2017

When a Marriage Dies

Eleven and a half years- that’s how long it lasted. Eleven and half years of marriage and then gone. It ended in death, though nobody died. Just the marriage. I say just, but it is a death as much as any person. When she told me she was finished it was like a knock at the door from the police chaplain – utter shock, not real, numbness, anger, fear. Lots of fear. Or was it grief? C.S. Lewis wrote about how grief felt so much like fear, so maybe it was that.

By the time it ended and the signed order from the judge came through it wasn’t shock any more. It was the final breath of one dying from a wasting disease, a rattling soft whiff that passed with so little fanfare it felt almost illegal given the celebration that started its life and the effort that had gone into keeping it alive. It’s strange how a marriage begins with a party attended by everyone you love (and a few you’re obliged to invite) and ends with naught but a signed document passed from judge to clerk to postman.

The grief was softer too, though no less strong. It was not a raucous, raging thing but rather the constant ache of something missing. I’ve read of soldiers having had limbs amputated yet still being able to feel the limb that is gone. They feel pain where there is no appendage to hurt. This is that pain, or is it grief? It’s hard to tell, and maybe it is both.

2016 was a year of losses celebrities, heroes, icons, and American hope and decency all seemed to pass away. For me it was the year I lost my marriage. Actually that’s not true. It was the year the loss of my marriage was completed. It had been dying for a long time despite every effort to resuscitate and recuperate it. It just did not want to live any longer because, unlike kidneys, one cannot make up for the loss of the other and do the work of two.

I write. I write to process and to share. I write because I communicate better and more deeply this way than any other way and because it is the taproot of my emotions and beliefs. This means to write well I must be honest, to put forth words that reflect what is real in me, my heart, my life, my faith. Honesty doesn’t mean utter transparency – life can (should) still be private. It should be shared with real people in real moments of real life, not just in print. But the best writing, the kind that means anything, is honest writing.

It must not pose as something it is not or come from a place that does not exist. It ought not give the reader an impression things are one way when they are quite another. And if writing must not do these things it means the writer must not, since without the latter there is no former. So I write this now, reader, so you will know the place from which I write. It is not a confession. It is not a memoir or an exposé. Neither is it an argument for or against anything. It is simply a writer revealing his context a bit so that his readers, if they care, can know from whom they hear.

MY PLACE

While these last years have been ferociously difficult for me they have been the proving ground for God to me. Never have I been lower and never has He been closer or greater. I do not say this in a Bible-band aid way. No band-aid has stopped the bleeding yet – yet. But God has given me life as I bleed – through His word and His people. I feel as if I am dying daily and yet I am as alive in faith as I have ever been. The tattoo adorning my right forearm – I believe, help my unbelief – has been inked on my heart as well.

And strangely I believe more in marriage now than I ever have. I believe it is worth fighting for and investing in. I belief it is worth pain and tears and patience and forgiveness and then doing all of that again and again. I believe it is a gift, a gift that God gives and gives and gives each day. It only ends when one or both stop accepting the gift any longer. I see marriage as a miracle, designed by God and utterly dependent on Him.

And I believe life is lived offline, with people who are in my life – friends and loved ones and counselors. There are those who write stories of their ups and downs and life’s ebbs and flows – relational trials, work crises, personal struggles – and it works for them and their readers. I am not one nor will I ever be. My life is still private and my own, not to hide anything but for my own sanity and health (and yours too). But from life writing flows, so life must, in some manner and to some extent, be shared. So I share.

WHY WRITE THIS?

I question my own motives in writing this. Is it sordid? Is it to gain sympathy? Is it to avoid criticism or worse, to benefit from the publicity criticism brings? Lord, I hope not.

I want to be forthright and honest. People feel deceived when they sense a thing is hidden or when it is confirmed it was. I want to be able to write freely without feeling as if a portion, a defining portion, of my life must be concealed for no reason other than privacy. I want to be able to write about faith and life in all the ways I have before without tap dancing around the land mines of marriage and love and pain. So I write this to diffuse the explosives, or maybe explode them in a controlled environment.

My hope is that readers will trust me as much or more after reading this. Or maybe they are disappointed or offended; if so I understand. I do not offer an explanation or any details – those are for those close and invested to know. But I offer this piece as a show of respect, for the relationship (if that is the word) I have with readers through the written word and the common pursuit of truth. I want to be trusted and not just trusted – trustworthy.

And I write this for reality, to reflect what is in the world where we live. Life is brutal and hurts so much there are not words. Yet we live it. I write in the midst of it. We read looking for something because of it. And God is good in the midst of it and hope shines through the darkness of it. These do not make pain dissipate nor do they take us away from it. We still live this life, and write it. So we must plod ahead, in hope, together.




52 Comments

Jan 11, 2017

Thanks for these honest words. Really, truly.


Jan 12, 2017

You describe the sensation well, and it’s good to have a reminder that I am not abandoned by God in similar circumstances.


Jan 15, 2017

Saddened to hear this. May the Lord restore the years the locust have eaten.


Jan 19, 2017

Barnabas,

I ‘stumbled’ across this insightful, heartfelt and candid write up; God has a funny way of putting things right in front of your face when you need them. I too am experiencing this circumstantial grief. I have never leaned on God so much as I have in the past six months. He never forsakes. Prayers for strength and growth my friend.


    Feb 03, 2017

    Katie – i am so sorry you have walked (or are walking) through this. Your words about God never forsaking are true and not to be forgotten! Thank you for being encouraging.


      Jun 14, 2017

      Barnabas
      After reading this I came to the conclusion that no matter what anyone else says you have presented yourself as trustworthy, and honourable
      Thankyou for your candid and open sharing of the reality that makes marriage worth fighting for. I struggle with fighting for a worthy marriage daily and who knows I may lose, I lean on him who knows my frame and that of my wife , Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron,
      and one man sharpens another.


Jan 26, 2017

You sir are a very good man.


Jan 30, 2017

Dear Barnabas,
An unsolicited public statement regarding circumstances such as your own is not helpful to others. It may appear like “honesty.” It isn’t. Honesty would have revealed more, though prudence probably prohibited you. If such is the case, prudence should have reigned stronger through silence. As a husband and father myself, what you’ve written comes off far too squeaky clean than the reality of marriage I’ve had the joy of struggling through for 15 years. Of course, my livelihood does not depend on public perception. For that, I can sympathize with you and still say gently: silence would have been better.

None of what you wrote seemed salacious or necessarily awful. That much is good…though one walks away with the impression (right or wrong) that you are a victim and Lesley is the one to “blame.” I can’t help but see certain similarities between what you have written and other Christian celebrities in similar circumstances.


    Feb 08, 2017

    Wow- I definitely didn’t come away thinking he was saying his wife was to blame. I read it completely opposite- that no details were necessary, that those types of details weren’t the point of the blog.

    I also have to disagree that this type of blog isn’t helpful. It’s extremely helpful to me.


      May 31, 2017

      Hi Cyndi,
      perhaps I stated it too strongly. It is difficult to not get the impression that Barnabas was “innocent.” Leslie let him know “she was done.” Barnabas is more convinced than ever that marriage is worth fighting for.

      As I said, the way he relayed this tragic story may very well be accurate. My skeptical sensor was triggered. May be a false alarm, but always worth acknowledging.


    Feb 22, 2017

    These stories, as hard as they are, need to be shared if we’re to have honest and authentic community. Sharing publicly like this, in a way that keeps some things private but points to the complexity and challenge of relationships, makes it easier for others to share their stories, both publicly and privately.


    Jun 02, 2017

    I agree. The carefully chosen words give the distinct impression that Lesley is the one to blame for ending the marriage (“one kidney couldn’t do the work of two”). Even if this is correct, the reader has no way of knowing. And it’s patently unfair to Lesley who has no public platform. Silence was the better part of discretion here. Blogging about the divorce in this manner is not godliness, it’s crisis management. Honesty in this situation means admitting your fault while protecting the other. Barnabas did not do this. Worse, he did so under the guise of being humble and honest.


      Jun 02, 2017

      Glenn,

      That is a potential motive and starting place for such a post, yes. And our motives are never pure, even if they are largely right.

      I would simply ask you to look at the comments from others who have been through a similar struggle or who are helping someone through one and see whether there might also be a good reason for such a post. Silence is the better part of discretion oftentimes, and as you noted the most did have carefully chosen wording – that is silence of a sort too.

      But silence often leaves people feeling alone when they are not. It leaves people disconnected and suffering and those can break a soul down over time. I hope that what I wrote connected with people facing those difficulties and offered some point of connection and help.

      Discretion means many things, and sometimes it means sharing a painful and complicated thing in an effort to help others and keep short accounts.


Feb 03, 2017

So helpful, sharing with some friends who have walked this hard journey.


Feb 06, 2017

I was where you are about 10 years ago. I wish I could say I handled it the way you did, but the thing about our God, is that no matter how much I tried to push Him away, he continued to pursue me. He’s been gracious enough to turn the mess I made of my life into a blessing to reveal his glory. I thank you for your honesty.

BTW, I heard you on the Bad Christian podcast and tracked you down here. I’ve added the Happy Rant to my queue.


Feb 08, 2017

Really appreciate this honest post- thank you for sharing it.


Feb 13, 2017

Thank you for sharing. After 18 years of marriage, 4 children and 15 years in full time ministry as a pastor’s wife, I filed for divorce last year with the blessing of my pastor, church family, our marriage counselor and all of my family and friends. Satan is real, sin is devastating and hearts harden. But tere is very little writing on the reality Christians who love Jesus and still end up divorced. Your candor comforted me and I’m sure will comfort and encourage many who have found themselves where you were when you wrote this piece.


    Jun 02, 2017

    Angela – I am so sorry you have faced this. I am glad these reflections offered some comfort and encouragement.


Feb 13, 2017

In the midst of the questions, regrets, incomprehensible thoughts, fear, anger and pain, keep believing.
Keep on believing that God is in control and will always be in control.
Keep fighting for joy…joy in God, from God and for God.
May grace be multiplied to you and to your wife and children as well.


Feb 24, 2017

Barnabas,
Thank you for sharing. I know there are some who will jump at every opportunity to point out the flaws in you and your post, as well as in other avenues where your story has been/is being told. I pray that you’re experiencing God’s tremendous love and grace even in the midst of all of those things. Indeed, it is true that God hates divorce, but just like every other sin, Christ died for it. You are no less loved, and no less a child of God, nor is your ex wife.

When I first heard of your news, my reaction was one of ache and sorrow for you and your family. I was genuinely moved to tears for you. Though, thankfully, I’m still married, it almost wasn’t the case about 4 years ago. Sin had wrecked havoc on my marriage and nearly taken everything. Hearing your story took me back to that moment 4 years ago, and made me have tremendous compassion on you.

I’m lifting you in prayer as you are in my thoughts.


    Jun 02, 2017

    Thank you, Stewart. That is really encouraging. I greatly appreciate your prayers.


Mar 08, 2017

I was really taken by surprise when I read this, and at first, I wondered if it was a fiction piece. Could you really be relatable, realistic and human? You aren’t just a face behind a brand behind a motive? This piece you shared has been helpful and comforting in ways I’m sure you can imagine and in ways you will never know. Thank you. Peace and best wishes.


May 01, 2017

[…] When a Marriage Dies  […]


May 06, 2017

I just came across this. I’m so sorry. Whatever the circumstances, I pray for grace and healing, for you and for your kids.

Good for you for deciding to keep the private things private, except to the people close to you. When the slings and arrows fly in circumstances like this, the lyrics from an old James Taylor song come to mind: “Some of them his friends, some of them her friends, some of them understand.”


May 15, 2017

Thank you for this. I read it on the day my husband of 13 years filed for divorce. We have three children. I didn’t know my marriage was dying–it was like it was given 3-6 months to live and we made it to the 4 month mark. It is the death of an already envisioned future and the death of who I knew my husband to be. I am sad you have gone through this too. The Lord has been my support and will continue but nothing really stops the bleeding like you said.


    Jun 02, 2017

    Julie,

    I am so sorry you’ve experienced such pain and loss. I hope my words offer some hope or point you towards it. It is real.


May 31, 2017

Just listened to your discussion with Richard Clark…I rescind my criticism. My apologies. Good convo, very helpful!


    Jun 02, 2017

    Thanks for your open-mindedness and willingness to engage, Craig! I really appreciate the spirit and intentionality.


May 31, 2017

Dear Barnabas, I almost NEVER reply online to blogs and posts, but today I am making an exception. Thank you so much for being honest and transparent. I sincerely believe that you will bless many as a result! Praying for you, brother!


May 31, 2017

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17


May 31, 2017

Barnabas, I appreciate that you are open to sharing, yet honoring your ex wife/the mother of you children in the process. I am a divorced pastor. Its part of my story. Not the best part, but part. You being open, and not hiding helps guys like me. Its helps us not be such a dilemma for others in the ministry world. It helps the church engage a hard subject. Thank you.


    Jun 02, 2017

    Chad,

    Thanks for the kind words, and I hope these words are a help to you and others like us who are navigating divorce.


Jun 01, 2017

I just found this – day 2 since my paperwork has been filed. Your words and willingness to share them brought me more encouragement that I tbought immediately possible.

Thank you!


    Jun 02, 2017

    Jay,

    I am so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing and all that goes with it. I’m thankful these words helped in some way.


Jun 01, 2017

listened to the podcast. thank you for sharing as its something that needs to be talked about. with a similar background i felt shame at first and wondered why i couldn’t fix it. i felt like you were saying all the things i had been feeling and its good to know i am not alone as i walk this journey b/c i like you went looking for something and couldn’t find it…only this blog and then the podcast yesterday. I am still praying for the miracle but paperwork has been filed.


    Jun 02, 2017

    I’m so sorry, Rebecca. Keep praying! Miracles happen and God makes dead things alive.


Jun 01, 2017

Thank you for sharing this. My family as well as others who are involved in ministry have experienced this loss. There is pain involved regardless but I understand when your father is a pastor it adds something to the equation. Unlike some I believe this is very helpful to others who are hurting. Your thoughts and feelings are so well expressed here. I think it is great that you shared this even if it was just for your own healing! May God bless as you.


Jun 03, 2017

I needed to hear this tonight. Bless you. Stopping to pray for you now and thanking God for this. It helps.


Jun 04, 2017

Hiya – I stumbled across this page from sunny England & it hit a nerve straight away. I am going through a similar situation, but identical feelings & emotions by the look of things. To hear your pain & see that you still have your faith – it helps others so much. Brave man for confronting yourself & sharing with others. Very much appreciated though… thank you, from a stranger in faith


Jun 04, 2017

Hi Barnabas,
So sorry for your loss. I have been a Christian for several years. I have come to realize how naive I am!
My daughter married and didn’t last. 4 years later she married again, not an ideal situation, as they have a child to consider. Both are believers but they have really struggled, wrongs and hurts on both sides. They are in a solid church and have been having counselling. They are persevering but I am no fool, that Satan is out to kill and destroy! I feverently pray their marriage lasts and becomes strong, I pray the same for my other children and I hope they pray too!
Thanks for sharing!
God Bless


Jun 07, 2017

In our ministry with parents we suggest, “What’s concealed gains power, but what’s revealed can be healed.”

Thanks for revealing – in a way that can be healing for any walking through marriage struggles. I’m certain this “reveal” will be healing for you, and encourage others toward healing. Thanks.


Jun 07, 2017

I was married for 19 years when my husband said he didn’t love me anymore and I was too Godly. He told me that in August of 2012, and finally left in March of 2013. It was not my choice. I have worried over what some Christians would think of me. I have had people say, “Well, he left YOU.” in both good and bad ways. There is a lot of shame with divorce. While, I wasn’t perfect, this clearly wasn’t my doings. I applaud you for tackling this topic! We need people to be compassionate and caring. Not judgmental. I don’t think God judges us on this issue at all, because He knows the truth of what happened.


Jun 08, 2017

Thanks for the honest and salient sharing, Barnabas. Let go and let God. May the Lord grant you peace in your heart and sunshine through the darkest days.


Jun 08, 2017

It still amazes me how God puts things in my path exactly when I need them. My husband left me just over a month ago. The hurt, anger, and confusion are real and vivid, but your post has reminded me once more that God has not forsaken me, and He never will. Thank you for sharing and for reminding me of the truth.


Jun 12, 2017

I thank you for bringing out into the open the honesty of your divorce. After a 22 year marriage (to a minister), I almost didn’t make it through the drawn out days of separation and then finally, divorce. Mine was almost a Hitchcock-style emotional abuse story and it almost landed me in a mental hospital. I hung on to faith like a life line and God, who is always faithful, hung on to me. I just cried oceans each day for many, many months. That was 22 years ago, and I still cannot talk about it without inner trembling. I ended up with a diagnosis of PTSD and struggled through that. It still lingers.

But God is good. I am now joyfully married to a Jewish man who came to Jesus 11 years ago (after meeting me). We celebrated out 10 year anniversary recently.

Trust God. In the dark days and the sunny days. May God bring you through this season with stronger faith than ever. He is faithful.


Jun 16, 2017

Barnabas, my heart aches for what you are going through. I can’t imagine the pain of your marriage ending. I appreciate you writing about it and pouring some of your heart out. Grief is a suffocating and strange, mysterious thing. Your resolve and strengthened faith give me hope that I can experience again a closeness with God. After losing our third child in 2015, it has been hard to trust God and feel His goodness. I am encouraged by your words and by your honesty. I truly mean this when I say, I hope you never stop asking questions, digging deep, and staying hungry for God.



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