Disclaimer: This blog is me thinking about my Christian struggles in public. If you’re in a place where a little negativity might shake your faith, please, don’t read any further. Love and Light.

 

“Religious people don’t believe actions are good or bad because of the results of those actions. They believe actions are good or bad because God has decided those actions are good or bad.”

– Ezeani Johnbosco

After I read in the Bible that adultery was the only eventuality permitting divorce, I became flustered. I mean, I understand why adultery is a condition for divorce but I don’t understand why it is the only condition. To make something the only condition, one would assume it was the worst-case scenario and as you see me so, I can think of things worse than adultery (in my opinion, at least). Things like discovering your spouse is a psychopath or a rapist or a pedophile or a serial killer. Things like being married to a physically abusive spouse exhibiting traits of sexual violence. Things like being married to a person who traffics children or engages in ritual killing or secretly sells crack to teenagers. The gist is that if you ever find yourself in any of these conditions, you can’t walk away. All you can do is trust God and hope for the best.

When people like me ask questions of situations like this in church, the preacher usually says the solution is to “separate” and not “divorce”. By separate, they mean live away from your spouse and get your shit together and act like he doesn’t exist while you wait for God to work on him. I really don’t see the point, or the difference. One is legal and binding and the other isn’t.

Now, I am not pro-divorce (if there’s anything like that) but I don’t side with the Bible either. To side with the Bible is to agree that people should pay for their mistakes for the rest of their lives or till something comes and kills their spouse.

Let me explain.

At most Christian marriage conferences, nobody talks about divorce. If they do, they mention that it is not the will of God and everybody moves on. After this honourable mention, the rest of the conference is dedicated to teaching you how to make the right choice, how to know the will of God, how to differentiate husband from harvester or whatever euphemism they come up with for men whom you should not marry. After all the directives, you are prayed for and told to go home.

Brilliant. Yes, it’s brilliant (no sarcasm here) but there is a slight problem. Of course, I agree that people should think carefully about whom they marry. Of course, I agree that people should look for red flags and question their choices but the bottom line is this: People will always make mistakes. People will always choose what’s bad for them. People will always imagine they can outsmart or tolerate or convert the devil. When this happens (cos it will), what happens to those people? What do you do when you realise you have made the wrong choice? Or that you’re in a situation where the only way is out (this is where some people will say what God cannot do does not exist)?

In secondary school, I thought I wanted to be an engineer. I dreamed of it, I prayed for it, I slaved for it. Fast forward to university. I’m becoming an engineer and I absolutely detest it. I want something else now. Should I be made to stick with my “mistake”?

Of course, divorce has implications and of course, marriage is not just about happiness and what-I-now-want. Of course, marriage is supposed to be a human demonstration of the love between Christ and his church but what happens when the man is not like Christ? What happens when the woman is a failed church? Should you remain tied to something that brings you grief? Should you wake up every morning knowing that your life will now be a product of your folly? What if there’s someone out there who can love you better, someone who can properly mother your children? What if there’s something beautiful waiting for you on the other side of divorce? Yes, marriage is an agreement but do you have to stay with someone who no longer cares about the agreement? Do you have to stay with someone who can no longer “agree”?

This is the same issue I have with submission. You have to submit and this isn’t dependent on whether you’re being treated right or not. You hold up your end of the bargain no matter what, in rain and in sunshine but this is a topic for another day.

The Bible’s stance on divorce is about the permanence of your decision and the cementing of your fate. It was Jumoke Adenowo who said our lives are a sum total of every single decision we have made. In her words, what we said yes to and what we said no to brought us to this exact point where we stand. Smart woman that she is, Jumoke understands the gravity of decision making. And somehow, every day, we wake up and pay for the decisions we made yesterday. Everyday, we decide if we want to make new decisions or if we want to continue with what we’ve always done.

I believe in new beginnings and semi-fresh starts. I believe in salvaging. I believe in undoing, in repairing. I believe in healing and re-choosing, deciding that it’s not too late to become something more, or something else. I don’t think I want to be stuck in a place where I can no longer change my own circumstance. Sometimes people need to walk away. So, dear reader, can we talk about walking away?

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m torn between agreeing with your write-up and adhering to the dictates of my christian faith. It’s a terrible place to be in. Anyway, I’ll still go with what you’ve written here. People should be able to leave abusive relationships and seek solace elsewhere especially when the situation seems untenable.

    • Well, it wasn’t written so you would agree. It was written because it is what I think which is, again, not fixed in stone. Sometimes, I worry that God doesn’t really understand the depravity and complexity of the human condition.

  2. Interesting take but I wouldn’t blame Christian marriage counsellors for emphasizing on choosing who to marry than how to break through a bad marriage. If two people go with that mindset of “we’re going to be in this forever as much as possible ” it could be a guiding point. Life does happen sometimes, but divorce is also painful, and single parenthood can be weighty. It’s better not to even marry the person in the first place. And when it comes to cheating and breaking hearts, people who have before are 3 times likely to do it again. Best thing is for a couple to have counsellors they both respect and trust identifed before marriage who can still be there for them in marriage. Prov 11:14 says in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. There’s no one size fits all marriage rule but if we’re going to follow Bible then we do to the best we can. Also submission isn’t necessarily master-servant, it could be more like head and co-head. Adapting, not squashing under. And yeah in Nigeria, there’s that stigmatisation of single mothers and divorced women – when indeed a man often has large responsibility. But there’s that sense of family that Africans have compared to the West I think – which can actually be good at times.

    As per separation, it’s not in the Bible but Christians in abusive marriages do it – it suffices sometimes, but honestly I don’t wish these things though they are more frequent nowadays. Also Nigerian men are unnecessarily deceptive when they have problems – and won’t even admit – till every thing tears apart. Marriage is work I assume, being unmarried, but maybe because we’ve turned it into an achievement, it multiplies issues and silent suffering. Looks exciting but so complicated . God help the singles, I guess.

  3. If one has no prior knowledge of the bad habits, say what you mentioned above, of his/her spouse. It’s as good as the marriage did not exist in first instance. Deceit can never make a marriage valid. The persons involved should leave. In the case where the bad habit was learnt during the course of the marriage, there is room to annul the marriage.
    It’s not only adultery that instantiates annulment, I don’t want to use the word divorce. ( Catholic perspective though).

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