DIVORCED FROM HOME

Pieces

I’m not sure anyone makes the connection between divorce and homelessness.  If they do, I sure don’t see it; I never hear about it.  Even I neglect to talk about it much, though to my credit I have given it honorable mention as far back as some of my earliest blog posts.  (I posted about it within my first 20 publications.)

I am not in a position to quantify, measure, or in any way professionally analyze the correlation, but I sense strongly it is there, and it is causal – at least in part.  I personally experienced a brief brush with homelessness as a young adult, and I experienced the divorce of my parents when I was young and my own marriage as I entered middle age.  I have insider knowledge as well as observation from the field, and I want to call the church to look into it.

As with so much, the American church is out of touch with both homelessness and divorce.  I think in this regard, the church tracks right along with the wider culture’s denial of death – you know that phenom where we culturally brush death to the margins?  Jesus, of course, does not marginalize pain and suffering, but rather seeks it out for his loving attention, but Americans deny, deny, deny in countless ways big and small.

Even the attention we give to such pain is generally a diversionary tactic reinforcing the larger and more important denial.  Our help with suffering is always at least as much smokescreen as help!  I recall as a newly divorced person, I arrived at a church (featuring “Divorce Care”) in relative (almost complete) anonymity and asked for help.  I was sent to a small classroom where I showed up before anyone else and waited.  Finally, the “instructor/facilitator(s)” arrived once they realized they had a live person seeking their care!  (It seems the program was not well utilized by others, and sometimes no one showed up at all.)

I was greeted warmly, as you might expect, and shortly we were joined by one other person, a woman.  Ha!  There were two of us at this fine Wednesday night Bible-meeting!  And since we were “running late,” it was said, “We better get started.”

At that point, the one instructor announced to the other that we were working our way through the video series and had last watched number five.  Thus, we needed to prepare to show number six.  He then turned to his two new pupils and gave us each a little workbook.  The cost of the book was $10, but we could pay next time.  He apologized for putting us in the middle of the series, but it made sense to him that we stay on course with it rather than start it over for new people.

What was the video lecture about?

It was about how to deal with children of divorce.  You see, when you get divorced, you are not the only one suffering, but the kids also.  They often feel it’s their fault!  This comprehensive video series covered that phenom too, and we were jumping in on it AT THAT POINT.

I raised my hand.

There literally were only four of us in the room, only two of us pupils, and I raised my hand!  I was called upon to speak, which I did.

I announced that I had no children from my marriage.  I wondered if I really needed this video at all and seeing as how no one else had arrived except one, perhaps a different video would be more “effective?” – if you know what I mean.  At that, the other lady was asked if she had kids, which she affirmed, and so we stayed the course with the video series despite its complete uselessness to me.

Now… Even I think this next observation sounds a bit whiny, self-centered, and pitiful to me, but I am a firsthand witness as well as experienced, but I was in bad shape that night.  I was in need of help!  I needed some hope and healing.  I was in acute pain of a deadly sort.  I wasn’t entirely myself. 

But the church couldn’t be bothered with my needs.   This multimillion-dollar enterprise had a program for divorced people and keeping up with the video series was more important than the people being served.  (Might explain why attendance was so low.)  You would think that lesson five on handling finances or lesson seven on dealing with depression would have been suitable to both the pupils, but instead we stayed with lesson six, and “served” only half the class with a video while serving the need of keeping up with the series, and while maintaining a “Divorce Care” ministry which looks good in the brochures, anyway.

You would think we could just set the whole video series aside and just prayed.

As it turns out, the “instructor/facilitator(s)” were themselves personally experienced with divorce.  Presumably, and I definitely believe this, they came to the task with uncommon care because of it.  But I suspect they had been assured that they need not be overly skilled in leading a group; they need only set up the video and assign some reading in the book.  I have to guess at that; I don’t really know what caused us to be so slavishly bureaucratic.

Meanwhile, the church could boast in its “Divorce Care” ministry, one of seventy the church provides to the larger community!

What can I say?

I got my rubber stamp and never returned.  I think now, I know why we were the only two in attendance.  We were new and didn’t know better.

Oh… by the way… the same church is one of the MAJOR sponsors/contributors to Lubbock’s Premier (Pseudo) Homeless Church too.  (If you’ve read here much over the years, you know that wonderful ministry runs on a million-dollar budget serving the homeless in amazing ways with all manner of extensive services yet manages to kick the flock to the curb every night at about 5pm closing time.  (All in the name of Jesus, of course.))

Disconnect

I think I have said enough now to demonstrate the disconnect between what we say and do, what we mean and what we really mean.  There is a smokescreen there behind which we hide our lack of care, a smokescreen that looks like care in the brochures, but maybe not so much down at street level.

I in no way think this problem is exclusive to the church I attend(ed) or to the church of Lubbock.  In fact, I think the church of Lubbock is highly representative of others.  We are deeply American through and through.  Even our most cherished rituals by which our most historically sectarian exclusivity and rigidity are shed now more in some esoteric, even generic and cultural, shame than in well-thought-out repentance.  It’s all a little too kneejerk and consumerist.  Probably with a deeply denied fear that the church is shrinking, and a desire to make ourselves more appealing to seekers in hopes of staving off oblivion.

Hmmm…  The gates of hell cannot withstand us, but we will sell out at the first sign we aren’t part of the cool kids’ clique.

I reckon I am starting to cast too broad an aspersion with that line of thought, and it is a bunny trail, really anyway.  But I will let it stand as a marker.  Argue it if you want, you might change my mind or enhance my opinion, nevertheless, whatever the reason, there is this disconnect.

Reframing

I think we need to consider carefully whether “homelessness” isn’t – AT LEAST IN PART (a significant part at that) – a result of divorce.  I don’t see the two matters as all that much separate.  Homes are being broken in this culture every day, and anymore, it seems so matter of fact in the church as well as the larger culture!

For that matter, the whole notion of “growing up and leaving home” is a modern phenom for most people!  A version of it has always existed, I think – certainly since Abraham and Sarah, but it has not been the go-to lifestyle for the public at large until the Industrial Revolution and especially since WWII.  Sure, there were always soldiers and sailors and merchants and some Gypsie-type cultures, but not for the masses.  These days, you are born into a home and from diapers you are set on a course to grow up and leave it for the American Dream.

Marriages in more primitive cultures are so often arranged by the parents.  Your sex life is a gift from your parents!  It’s not something you leave home to discover.  But in the late 1970s, when I was still in the first grade, I laid eyes for the first time on pornography my older cousins had secured when I went to visit my family who lived in another state!  “Home” was spread out, invaded by porn, and we were all on a cultural trajectory designed to leave it.

We trash our homes like we trash a rental car!  It’s our cultural way.

I doubt very much that the church can or should try to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, but we surely should address such things somehow!  Can you remember not so long ago when James Dobson was all the rage with his “Focus On The Family”?  Can you remember not that long ago when one of the major political agendas was “family values”?

Where is Dobson now?  (Old, I know, but what about his concerns?  When was the last time you focused on the family as a church?)

Where did our political agenda for the family go?  (Is it all tied up in resisting CRT now?  In revamping election procedures?  Really???)

Hmmm…

I think “Home” got lost at church.

It is so easy, these days, to look at bums on the side of the road and think, “They like living that way,” or “They are just lazy and don’t want to work.”  I won’t deny there is SOME truth to that sometimes.  But if we place even that truth (to the extent it is true) in the larger framework of historical and cultural understanding of “home,” we might find there is an anchor which the culture around us has come loose from which facilitates the drift into new chaotic waters where we currently find ourselves.

And I would champion that kind of analysis.

I suggest the church consider it, and then let’s see where we go from here.

Hey…  As an addendum to all of that

Let me hasten to say, and link you to another post, that I found deep healing for myself as a divorced person in a little book by Erik Routley called, Ascent To The Cross.  Maybe that little book just spoke to me in a language only I could receive, but as a divorced person dealing with the throes of bewilderment and personal pain, I joined Jesus in Routley’s little book as he examined the Psalms of Ascent and we joined Jesus singing them as he made his journey to that fateful Passover where he would die.

That book says NOTHING about divorce!

Not a word.

And yet in it, Jesus found me and asked me to help him climb that mountain to his crucifixion, and I found meaning in my life as I joined him doing that.

If I were leading a “Divorce Care” ministry, I would pass out copies of that book!

Here is a link that the post on that:

This Little Book Might Have Saved My Life

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