Judging By Its Cover

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.

First of all, I’m pretty sure that I have found the ending to my book.  I am excited to write about it. And, of course I can’t give it away here.  You’ll have to buy the book (wink, wink)!

I have had a lot to process recently.  Whereas before, I might have been stricken with grief or pain for weeks upon end, questioning God; fairness; my purpose or path — simply questioning the meaning of it all – I found myself digesting the circumstances, and thanking God that He allows me to live such an amazingly blessed life.

I thank God for my freedom.  I am beyond blessed.

I feel like I’m on standing confidently upon neutral, solid ground.  I’m open.  I’m expectant.  I’m hopeful.  I’m happy.  Holy shit, I got to sing Jason Robert Brown‘s new musical with Jason, himself, and Tony Danza two nights ago (!!!)  So many blessings are being handed to me —  so lovingly — by the Creator of the Universe, and I am grateful to receive them.  And, in writing this, I feel like I’m turning into that Precious Moments-loving, Sunday School-teaching, scrapbooking, squeaky-clean Jesus lover that can’t stop the Christianese talk.  Even the “shit” is holy!

Crank up the Christian radio station, pop open the Martinelli’s and let’s PARTY!

The truth is, God is so good.  He is good, all the time.  And what I’ve learned from the past three years of sheer hell is that He has never forsaken me.  My husband may have left me a long time ago, but God never has, and He never will.  He has been so gentle and loving; slow to anger; quick to forgive, and extends me way more grace than I ever do, myself.

My prayer is that I am growing, transforming and learning to become more like Him.

So…

Amidst the roller coaster of the past few days, I received an email from a friend of mine.

She opened with saying that she was proud of me for not allowing my divorce to define me, and for not having turned my back on God, despite my circumstances.

I knew it was coming – the “but”.  I continued reading.

My friend told me that she was not, at this time, able to “like” my blog’s Facebook page.  She had thought and prayed about it, and even sought counsel from people whom she trusts.  And, whereas she understands my deep love for Jesus, even despite my “rough” language, she was afraid that others may not.

She apologized, and reminded me that she is the wife of a pastor to — in my opinion — majorly conservative and ignorant people, which means she is being watched; open for criticism.  In addition, she and her husband really feel like they are called to be missionaries to those people.  She was sure that if they read even just the title of my blog – bookThe Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce, they would immediately judge us both.

She hoped I would understand, and assured me that she would support me as much as anyone, if she could.

My heart was pumping furiously in my chest when I read my sweet friend’s message, but I immediately responded in kind. Of course I understand.  In fact, I am a recovering “rules and regulations” Christian, myself.  I grew up thinking that if I abstained from premarital sex, my marriage would be stronger and more blessed than those who had put out, or shacked up, beforehand.

Seriously.  Ugh.

I went to a college that placed strict rules against drinking, smoking, dancing and sex (of any kind).  I believed that if I used “rough” language, I’d be a horrifically bad example of Jesus’ love to others, or that what I had to say would immediately be negated because of my foul mouth.  People simply wouldn’t know that I was a Christian if — or when —  I drank, said “crap” (or something much worse), gyrated my pelvis to music, or went “in dark places with boys” (thanks, Mom, for that one).

I have watched couples, whom I have sat down and chastised for engaging in premarital sex, go on to have amazing, strong and loving marriages, and produce healthy, beautiful children. Once, X and I grumbled about and almost refused to go to a couple’s wedding. X was even the Best Man! Together, we believed their marriage wasn’t going to last.  What horrible thinking, and how deliciously ironic!  I have since apologized, and the couple quickly forgave me. Obviously, the old me was extremely ignorant and hurtful, all under the banner of Christ.

Well, look at me now!  I’m divorced.  I’ve been in jail.  I even performed in a “strip show” on Broadway.  I’ve made out with men: in private, in public, and even on an airplane.  I say “fuck” sometimes.  Loudly.  (FUCKITY FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!)

And I love and believe in Jesus more than I ever have in my entire life.

Christian or not — we are all covered in God’s amazing, loving, tender grace.  Obviously that isn’t an invitation to live carelessly, but we don’t have to be afraid of strict judgment from the only One who truly has the right to judge us.

And so, the more I thought about my friend’s email, the more frustrated I became. I want her to not care what people might think.  Of course I would never want to do or say anything to jeopardize our friendship, and I certainly don’t think that defending my flippant, hilarious, yet real use of foul language is worth the battle.  Sadly, I do understand my friend’s position, even though I would have never known if she “liked” my blog page or not.  I’m not keeping tabs, but maybe I should start. (Kidding.)

I realize that The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce is not for everybody.  Perhaps the title is offensive, or misleading.  Perhaps it alienates readers who are not Christians, or simply those who aren’t interested in reading about divorce.  Most certainly the subject matter is provocative, but it is definitely not limited to Christians.

My book just might get judged for its cover, alone.

Yet.

Divorce is a taboo topic, especially in the Christian community.  Nobody really talks about it, except for the standard, “God hates it.”   Additionally, any books out there on divorce are either ways to avoid or recover from it; extensive psychological analysis of why/how it happened; or success stories of how people patched their marriages back together because they were both willing to do the hard work.

Although I am sure those books are helpful, some of them make me want to vomit.  What about the relationships that don’t survive?  Can those people end up happy?  How do they get through it, in a real way?   Furthermore, I guarantee that anyone who has been through a marital crisis, a breakup, or a loss of any sort, has dropped an F-bomb here or there.  And what about grace?  Where are those stories?  Where is the reality; the true expression of humanity?  Those of us who are separated, divorced or going through a divorce — regardless of fault or blame —  need to know we are not lepers; outcasts; alone.  Especially in Christian culture.

I am quite sure that we didn’t ask, or plan, to be in the position we are in.  Some are victims of cruelty, abuse, abandonment, addictions or infidelity.  Some just got married too young.  Some, like X, don’t know who they are or what they want, but don’t want to be alone.  Some bear the weight of the scarlet letter, and don’t want to be reminded of their mistakes.  Others are miserable in dead-end marriages, and just want out.

God’s grace covers us all.  Nothing is irreparable.  Nothing can separate us from Him.  God offers reconciliation and redemption, for each individual person. How do I know this?  I’ve experienced it.

I understand my friend’s feelings about her and her husband’s ministry.  I am not a pastor or a theologian, but, guess what?!  I have a ministry, too.

It’s called The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce.

My prayer for this blog-turned-book is that people will see Jesus, even through my self-proclaimed bad behavior and language; even through my own judgment of myself and, at times, — gasp!! — other people.  (Did you read the paragraph about scrapbooking and Martinelli’s? That one is sending me straight to hell.)

I realize that I will face criticism or judgment no matter what I say or do, but I’m OK with that.  I’m real. I’m human. I make mistakes.  My “good behavior” or glossy Christian appearance isn’t going to save me from anything.  It certainly didn’t save my marriage.  Clinging to God, who so fiercely loves me, is the only answer.  Keeping my eyes focused on Him, and my heart aligned with His, keeps me moving forward and growing into the woman who He created me to be. That is my belief, and I will proclaim it loudly, using the voice that He has uniquely given me.

God is the only reason I have survived divorce, and divorce is but a tiny hiccup in this amazing adventure called life.

17 thoughts on “Judging By Its Cover

  1. Esther says:

    I, too, have been so blessed and encouraged by your blog. It has allowed me to slow down and recognize the healing journey I am on. I completely devoured the majority of it over the weekend! This post, among many others, speaks so deeply to the constant struggle I have felt during much of the past year. You have put a voice to so many of the feelings and emotions that I have felt during the end of my marriage. The way in which I found out, how he acted engaged at first and made me think he wanted to try, and then they way I found out more, and even the way in which he finally left for a job. It’s uncanny how many things from your story I found myself relating to! While my divorce is not final yet, I do believe that God has freed me to move on and to no longer struggle in a marriage filled with continuous broken trust an little to no connection. As a pastor’s daughter, I have faced a barrage of comments and feedback about how I couldn’t possibly be honoring God by giving up on my marriage. I was even chastised recently for how God never turned away from the Israelites even though they were completely unfaithful (as if that is what being Christ-like means). Anyway, all that to say, thank you, for being vulnerable, for sharing your story, and for acknowledging the struggle that so many Christians feel who are going through this same thing. It so great to know I am not alone.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for this entire blog…it was not what I was expecting from a “Christian Gir’s Guide to Divorce” but it was excactly what I need. I am continually being asked by other Christians if there is a hope for reconciliation and can’t I do anything to save my marriage–I don’t see them reaching out and dragging him out of his bad choices and “reaching out” to “help” him during this time while I am forced to wait to file. I am still a Christian, Jesus still loves me, and it’s ridiculous that I have to defend myself.

  3. I just remember reading about all the boxes the experts of their day tried to put Christ in, and ended up judging him so falsely they couldn’t see who God really was. I’m afraid that legalistic and dogmatic Christians are doing the same things these days, and not only that – try to impose their own legalism and behavior on the rest of society, at least here in the U.S.

    In the end, Jesus himself says Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s his one and only commandment. Nowhere does that commandment say “Judge people and condemn them for their sins” or “bang this dogma over your head 3x a day for salvation!” Quite the contrary, at least in the Jesus I know and love.

    Each one of us has our own path, our own struggle, and our own final judgment. Pretty sure the bible says that Mercy triumphs over Judgment, and the Divine Mercy of God is pretty amazing. One of my pastors expanded on this and suggests that God is far more willing to love us than he is to punish us. We need to recognize that and while admitting our imperfection, cling to his everlasting, eternal and merciful love.

    Because we sure as hell ain’t gonna get that from our life partner, or anyone else on this planet for that matter!

    I connect with this post very strongly, Leslie. I know it’s a bit old now, but it goes to show you that the story you share is timeless, even though the timeline itself may be static. I love the paradoxes of life that faith in Christ brings. Amazing!

  4. Jessica Jane says:

    Amazing post! It reminded me of what my minister said to me once. He asked me to rate myself out of ten as a Christian. I was too embarrassed to tell him. He smiled and said, you are a ten. God sees Jesus’ righteousness, not your failings. You are a ten out of ten, as is everyone else who is covered by Jesus sacrifice.
    Thank you for the encouragement – and the reminder that getting hung up on rules and regulations is exactly what we are NOT on about as Christians.

  5. Alisa says:

    Thank God for you and your ministry! I can’t wait for the book!

  6. Shannon says:

    Love it. All of it.

  7. Beth says:

    All I can say is….that the Lord has definately put this in my life right now for a reason…I am a believer who’s husband has/is having an affair and has chosen to be with her instead of his wife of 20 years and 3 amazing teenagers….and i have read all 74 chapters in a day…thank you for hope that there will be normalacy again someday…i will remain patient and continue to lean completely on the Lord…Bless you for putting your self out there…and in a “real” way….

    and your right, as a born again christian going thru seperation and divorce, i have discovered “rough language” ….. My mom says she didn’t remember raising a sailor! 🙂

  8. byesac says:

    I would hope that the way one was raised is an integral part of who one is. I would also hope that those who do live their lives by strict or rigid values or rules are not judged for that. To each his own.

    I think you and your blog are admirable because you do not make it about, “look what happened to me.” You don’t seem to hide from your shame or from others’ judgements; you are honest, reflective, and courageous.

  9. Beth Schreiber says:

    So proud of you, Leslie! Yes, sometimes it’s ugly, and sometimes the f-bombs fly (and believe me, they’ve flown from my mouth plenty) but life is sometimes ugly. And divorce is definitely ugly and hurtful and horrible! But God’s grace covers it all and we can only heal through Him. I completely understand about not caring what other’s think about you and, while I do care to a certain extent, I’m not afraid to be who I am and I’m really glad that you’ve written this blog/book like it really is and haven’t whitewashed anything.
    As a divorced Christian woman and a single mom it’s really easy to feel alone and alienated. I’m blessed to have a church that embraces and loves those that are often shunned in other churches. I’m even a member of a single moms’ bible study that the pastor’s wife does on Sundays. But, for many, your book, your real look at being a divorced Christian woman, may be the only real support they ever get. I applaud you for being real and having the courage to share your story.
    Love you Les!

  10. Bets says:

    amazing post! I’m drinking your koolaide!!! xoxo

  11. Maria Lee says:

    I LOVE THIS POST!!! I tell you, the less I try to live like what I was raised to believe a “good Christian” (whatever that is) is, and the more I’m just my authentic self, warts and all, the closer to Jesus I feel. And the day I stopped caring about what other Christians thought about me, the more I felt like God could do actually do something useful with me. I hear ya, sister!

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