Integrity through divorce, is that possible?

As I blog on the topic of divorce, I understand that this topic will take several posts.  Please bear with me as I begin to answer a very tough question.  A question that is asked often and a question that stares us in the face because of the harsh reality of living in a fallen world.

“Do you ever advise a friend to walk away from a marriage, even as a Christian?”

To look at this question through the lens of right and wrong or justified and unjustified will not give the clarity that is desperately needed. As I have thought through and prayed about this question, I have remembered the devastating circumstances of godly individuals faced with the harsh reality of a dying marriage.  I am not too far removed from my own divorce that has left deep scars on my soul.

When is it time and when is it appropriate to advise a friend to walk away?  I do not think there is a single time or one event that will be the sign to advise someone to walk away from a marriage. There is usually a culmination of experiences, choices, and circumstances that lead to the very question I am answering.  As believers, we are to take marriage seriously.  Marriage is THE EXAMPLE to the world of the Gospel. It is a beautiful display of Jesus and the church, the bride and groom.  However, when it is a marriage of two people claiming to be followers of Jesus and the marriage is being destroyed by one’s sinful choices and hardness of heart, it is devastating.

Another question to be asked is “what is happening in my friend’s marriage that is leading me to think divorce is the only option left?”  Sometimes it is easy to be caught up in the particulars of a situation and we do not look at the real heart of the matter.  I can only use my own divorce as an example of what I mean. It is a preferred situation when the answer is black and white in scripture.  However, there are circumstances that are not so cut and dry. I found myself in the latter category. It was this reason that I leaned heavily on the principles of God’s Word and one of the particular scriptures that became my heart’s cry is found in Job.  (you are probably thinking, “Of course the scripture was in Job!”  After all, Job went through terrible life-altering events)

Let me be weighed on honest scales,
That God may know my integrity.  Job 31:6

I want to explain this verse so that you can apply the godly wisdom to unwanted circumstances. The word “weighed” means to weigh out. When we weigh something we know exactly what we are dealing with. Weighing something gives accuracy.  In this verse, Job is asking the he be weighed.  If you and I are to be weighed then we have to put everything, all of ourselves in a position of being completely known. For me, it was two years of marital counseling and 4 years of personally entrusting myself to the godly wisdom of a counselor. I deliberately put myself in a place to be weighed – completely known.

For Job, he didn’t want to be weighed on just any scale, he desired to be weighed on honest scales.  Some versions of scripture use the word “accurate”. I found the meaning of this word, honest or accurate, to drive my prayer life and reveal the motives of my heart. The word means, justice; righteous.  The scales of righteousness are not easy to step on and be weighed.  This type scale reveals MY heart not my marriage.  To be weighed on this scale one will not reveal the other person. The only person revealed is the one being weighed by honesty.  Honesty, according to God’s standards.Choosing to stand on these scales challenges our lifestyle and our choices.

We have a tendency to think that if the Bible does not directly address our circumstances then we are stuck and have no direction.  However, I believe the books of Job and Esther are perfect examples of circumstances that are not black and white and God proves His faithfulness to the individual that continually seeks the heart of God. I wrote the following in my book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility,

 If integrity is one side of the coin then Psalm 26:2 is the other side. The American Standard Version says: “Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; Try my heart and my mind.” If we surrender to God’s scales and he weighs us then we must be at peace with how he chooses to examine our heart and mind. To be all right with one and try to manipulate the other is hypocritical. You can’t have it your way and his way. You may have already entered into this area of your crisis. You may be living out the portion of these lyrics to the song “Restored (The Grindstone Song)” by Cheri Keaggy: “I’ve been living against the grindstone, where nothing is sure but the Lord.” It is more crucial now than ever to understand and trust the Lord. There is purpose to your pain. There is reason for your heart being examined and your mind being tried.

Just think, God can KNOW your integrity and my integrity.  This word, “know” means to find out and discern; clearly understand; to know by experience. There is so much solace in knowing that in crazy circumstances God knows what you are experiencing and He clearly understands what our heart cannot. When we encourage others to step onto the only scale that can vouch for integrity, we begin to walk a journey with that person that is acknowledging their difficult circumstances and seeking to understand. This comes through a variety of ways and one of the best ways is to support your friend to seek godly, wise counsel. Entrusting oneself to this part of the process is crucial. It is in the knowing that the fog clears and clarity is given. Becoming aware of the ugly truth and then admitting the truth can be painful.

Integrity in this context means innocent.  Is it possible to come through great devastation and the Lord see you as innocent? Yes.  However, arriving at this takes a lot of time and letting that time be God’s timing. It also requires submission to a process of godly counseling. It demands you be completely transparent with a few safe people. There is a process of being weighed.  As you are faced with how to direct your friend, please begin on the only scales that will safely deliver his/her heart and soul to a life of integrity.

“Our God is a consuming fire A burning holy flame, with glory and freedom Our God is the only righteous judge, Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom We will keep our eyes on you So we can set our hearts on you Lord, we will set our hearts on you!”

There are times that divorce is no option.  Let the process not be dictated so much by the details of the situation, although that can not be completely ignored, but allow for a process that is guided by a life of integrity.

**Please leave a comment; let’s have THIS dialogue.

(I have written in more detail in my book. It is available http://www.amazon.com/Identity-Crisis-Moving-Credibility-Morgan-ebook/dp/B00HE0Q2EC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423669904&sr=1-1&keywords=identity+crisis+joy+anisa

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Divorce: Balancing Truth with Grace

I was asked the following questions: “Without “bashing” the other parent, how do you answer those hard questions that children ask during/after a divorce?” and “How do you break the news to your kids that divorce is imminent?” I can identify with both of these women’s concerns. When someone is seeking the Lord with all of their heart in the midst of circumstances that they have no control one of the best options is to walk through that fire balancing truth with grace. It is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to your children in the midst of such an ugly situation.

When you seek truth and you walk in the truth and you speak truth then you will not be “bashing” the other parent. Children only ask what they want to know. However, they do need to be given direct and truthful answers. What we are called to do is to show grace.  The hard truth will need to be spoken. It is in truth that the way is made for overwhelming grace to wash over us and begin to heal us. If we sugarcoat the truth to make ourselves comfortable and to avoid the difficult conversations then we shortchange the power of grace.

How do you know know if you are “bashing” or speaking truth? What is your motive behind why you are giving the information you are giving? It is not your responsibility to prove the pain that exists in the hearts of those under your roof. They know the pain because they feel the pain. Nor is it your obligation to prove your own pain to your children as a way to win their devotion to you. You can and must walk them through the brokenness with validation of their pain and their own experiences.

The more direct you can be when breaking the news of the divorce to your children is best.  Direct does not mean there will not be emotion.  What it does mean is you are setting a standard within your own home to not ignore the elephant in the room. You are willing and available to be fully present for the tough stuff. That conversation will be very difficult, but the focus is their pain. Depending on the ages of the children the conversations will be different and the emotional responses will vary.

Ultimately, you will need to take care of your soul and guard your heart.  No one is able to balance truth with grace unless you walk in the truth of God’s Word and allow the loving-kindness of the all knowing God to bring into the light what has been hidden in the dark. To lead your children with openness and honesty, you must first and foremost be open and honest with others that are godly and trustworthy.

As you walk in truth and experience grace, your children will begin to have the confidence to do what they see you living. In the darkest times and the ugly circumstances the greatest gift you can give your children is truth and grace. The truth of the reality you all are living and the grace to allow their emotions and the pain of their heart to be validated. Then the great opportunity is to walk with joy knowing that His grace is sufficient and He has you all in His grip. Allowing for every tear to fall understanding the Lord sees each of you and your pain is not invisible. Leading your children with understanding that only God can give purpose to the pain. Give them truth. Give them grace. Give them purpose.

A winner will be chosen from the comment section below for the next giveaway!

Wisdom for parents

When I was asked,”How do you balance raising five children in a blended family – all with different needs and different life experiences? How can we, as their parents, parent them differently without them feeling we are choosing one over the other?”

What a loaded question! It is these type questions that cause me to be thankful that I get the opportunity to get out of the way and only the wisdom of the all-knowing God can shine light in the places we are seeking to understand. As a parent, I am continuously being challenged and growing and failing and seeking the Lord to give me wisdom as I desire to be a good steward of the gifts He has given – my children.

This question is not only applicable to blended families, I believe this can be a struggle for the family that is completely intact. Each child is a different person.  Yes, they may share characteristics but their soul and heart is uniquely created by God. Even in the most traditional family children can have different life experiences. If you were to talk with me and talk with my brother you could wonder if we grew up under the same roof with the same set of parents.  Whether extreme or minor, I am sure you have similar experiences of different perspectives and different experiences than your siblings. With that being said, I think the best way for me to answer the first question is to focus on balance.

Balancing our time and attention and influencing each child that the Lord has put into our care is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. I don’t know that viewing balance as equal time with each child is the best definition. Instead, what if we really understood what our child needs and we become intentional about meeting their unique need. King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, wrote these words, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”.  I want to focus on the first part of the verse not because it is more important but I want to answer the main question. If we as parents are to train up our child in the way he/she should go it will require not only my investment of time but knowing them.  We are to prepare them for what they are designed for, to live life for God and for others. It will be in the knowing that we will have the necessary discernment to see the area of their life that are the weak places and need to be strengthened. The temptation is to give excuse or ignore the areas that are in need of more attention: character, work ethic, friendships. communication, how they respond to negative emotions, and more… Parenting is not for the weak at heart.  The training takes time and knowing, but everyday we have to have a plan of how our child should go. I am so grateful that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning! Ask yourself, how can you train more intentionally (it will be different with each child) and have a plan that is active for today but will also extend for generations to come.

“In parenting, the days are long but the years are short.”

all things through Christ

For years, Philippians 4:13 has been the one verse that has been universal in my life.  When I was asked recently what my favorite bible verse is, this immediately came to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

I can’t think of one life circumstance or any situation that this verse cannot give wisdom and direction.  However, it is important that I keep this verse in context.  So often, we are tempted to use God’s Word like a fortune cookie. This is not a good luck charm. Why did Paul write this short but ever powerful sentence? Philippians 4:13 is the wrapping paper on the gift of contentment.

 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

For years I did not understand the context that Paul wrote Philippians 4:13.  I have to admit I did use it as a motivator, my personal good luck charm. Then life was slammed by a crisis called divorce and single motherhood and I really wondered if I could do all things through Christ and if He would strengthen my very weak and wounded soul. As the days turned into months and the months into year 1 and so on; I did learn that I could do whatever the “all things” were for that day and His strength is perfect.  I did not experience Philippians 4:13 fully until I understood and began to “learn that whatever state I am, to be content”.

The verse that I discovered in my early teens became my most challenging truth. We like the motivational feel of Paul’s words but dare we really experience the depth of these words with the blood, sweat and tears of really being content in WHATEVER state we find ourselves. Can we really live everyday, “in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”. If we only choose to quote Philippians 4:13 as a way to pump ourselves up for selfish gain and personal motivations then we cheapen the truth and we miss the perfection of His strength and the sufficiency of His grace.

We cannot have one without the other.  When I choose to be content in whatever state I am in then I fully experience that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I did find contentment in abandonment and rejection.  I did find contentment in my singleness and parenting alone. I learned that when one chooses contentment, Jesus is there. When Jesus is your resting place,you stop wanting and you begin to be satisfied in Him – the one who sustains you and the one who keeps you.

It is only THROUGH CHRIST that we can do whatever our “all things” are.  However it is only in choosing contentment in those “all things” that we experience a strength that cannot let go.

Order your copy of Joy’s new book Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility at http://www.amazon.com/Identity-Crisis-Moving-Credibility-Morgan/dp/1614489157/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1421095539&sr=8-1

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