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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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.

    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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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