The one thing we don’t expect when we turn our lives over to Christ are the difficulties we will encounter. Your family may not approve of your decision, your friends may not be appropriate to your new lifestyle, or your life may not become perfect in every way.
Scratch the last one: Your life will NOT become perfect in every way.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”Matthew 10:34-36
You might ride on a natural high for a few hours, days, or maybe, if you’re lucky, weeks, before life jumps up and smacks you in the face.
Throughout the first years following my divorce, I discovered some hard truths about my faith and my life history: not everyone saw me the same way I did. What did they see?
A Second-Chancer: Singles in my church group, especially women, thought I already had my shot at marriage and had failed. To them it seemed obvious that I should refrain from dating any of the men in the group. To some, I was a very unwelcome form of competition.
Tarnished Goods: I call this the Scarlet Letter effect. Several of the men I dated weren’t looking for a permanent relationship. When they realized they liked me a little more than expected, they backed off. I was unacceptable marriage material. One man I dated on and off again, actually gathered a few of his friends together for a Bible study on this very topic. (I found out inadvertently.) He never could accept the fact that I was divorced.
A Package Deal: Two children meant I didn’t come alone to a relationship, I came as a package deal. The one thing I never expected to hear from men was: “I don’t want some other man’s children.” I’m not kidding. I heard this from a lot of men and not only the ones from church.
Temptation: Married women often looked at me with fear, especially if I moved in their social circles. I discovered that my actions were more closely observed than other singles. I wasn’t sweet and innocent because of my marriage and divorce. Would I lead their husbands or children astray? I recall one incident where a guy in the singles group told me that my jeans had been an ongoing topic of conversation among the married women in a Bible study. I had gained some weight, so my clothes were a little tighter than I would like, but not so much that I was uncomfortable wearing or being seen in them. Unlike these women, I had a limited income and two growing children to feed and clothe. Did any of them offer to help? Nope, they gossiped behind my back.
Why do I mention these things in a blog about my journey to faith? Because they happened to me in the church. People are not perfect, and no matter now much you want them to act like Christ, they don’t always measure up. The hardest part of experiencing their shortcomings is to not let it hurt. I can’t say that I managed that very well at the time. It hurt…a lot!
The good news is that many of my friends, in and out of church, accepted me for who I was and cared about me and my children. My experiences with them outweighed the negatives. I became stronger in spite of the negatives, but many people, when faced with questions of acceptance, turn away from faith. The book of Acts warns us that we will not live an easy life of faith; we will experience hardships.
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:21-22
I expect that many of these concerns aren’t a big deal today as they were when they happened to me. I’ve been remarried for two decades now, so I don’t have a clue what single parents face in the church or dating world. Maybe someone reading this can let us know what challenges they have faced as a single-again Christian.