I have been wanting to blog about same sex marriage and the church for a while now, but I feel like I could only do that if I was willing to share some information about myself and I really didn’t want to do that. This past week, however, the PC (USA) voted down an amendment to change the definition of marriage. There are many proponents of the amendment (and those like it in other faith groups) that say that they are preserving the sanctity of marriage. To those people I say, YES, because good Christian, heterosexuals don’t get divorced. I must have not lived through the most devastating, horrible, life altering event in my short life 5 years ago. That didn’t happen to me. Oh wait…I am getting ahead of myself.
14 years ago…(that would be 1998) There was a young woman named Jennifer who met a young man named A. He was a junior at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. She was a freshman at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. The formed a friendship and about a year after they met they began dating. A graduated from college the next year and moved to Waco, Texas where he took a job with Baylor University. By the time Jennifer graduated in 2001, A was living in Evansville, Indiana with a full time job. Jennifer considered moving to New York City after graduation, but by this time, she was madly in love with A and decided that she was going to move to Evansville, Indiana to be with him. It was hard at first. A lived in a little one bedroom apartment and Jennifer didn’t have a job, but they made it work. Jennifer only had $400 in her pocket when she moved there, but after a few months she found a job and quite frankly was so happy to be with A that it really didn’t matter. They had dated almost 3 years long distance, so now that they were in the same place at the same, they could conquer the world.
On Christmas day in 2002, A proposed to Jennifer with a ring she had picked out and of course, she accepted. The way it felt to Jennifer, ALL of her dreams were coming true! This was only the tip of the iceberg though because over the next 18 months, A would get offered a dream job in Greensboro, NC, they would move back to Jennifer’s home, plan a dream wedding, build a dream house, by a brand new car and be well on their way to living the “American Dream”.
Fast forward a couple of more years and in the fall of 2006 Jennifer decided to go back to school to get her Masters in Business Administration (MBA). This again, was a dream of hers and she felt like once it was completed it would poise her for a long career that would compliment A’s growing career as well.
In the Spring of 2007 though, things ran off the track. On the afternoon of Palm Sunday, A blurted out that he didn’t want to be married anymore. Considering they had just celebrated their 3rd anniversary, Jennifer was blown away. Over the next 7 days, Jennifer spent countless sleepless hours trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep. For lack of a better term, she was on auto-pilot. Clearly this was all a big mistake. A was just really stressed out. He was just confused. He was just overwhelmed with all of the things that had been happening. Over the next few weeks it became pretty apparent that things had not been right for a while. It became evident that A had been seeing other woman, on a regular basis since Jennifer started graduate school, but also other times over the course of their almost 10 year relationship. There was sexual betrayal of course, but there was also financial betrayal. Over the course of the 6 month long affair that A had with a prostitute he had spent almost $25,000 on gifts, dinners, hotel rooms, and simply companionship. These were financial burdens that Jennifer chose to bear because it became apparent that A was completely financial broken and her attorney told her that there was no point in trying to get the money because there wasn’t any to get. Jennifer had to visit the doctor every 6 months for 3 years getting tested for every disease under the sun. Not because she had engaged in risky behavior, but because her husband had abused her trust and violated her body without her permission. Jennifer had random women calling her, threatening her life, all because the man that she chose to love had betrayed their relationship.
Eventually Jennifer had to sell her house and her car because she couldn’t afford them on her own salary. She had to move back in with her parents because she was essentially homeless. Thank God she had a place to go. She had no idea what she was supposed to do. She was never supposed to be a statistic. When she got married on March 24, 2007 that was forever. Was she perfect? Never. But she had always loved, honored, and cherished A. She had endured countless hours of punishment from A’s family just to love him. Punishment you say? Jennifer had one major strike against her when it came to love. She is a Christian and A is Jewish. As far as Jennifer was concerned this was a non-issue. She fell in love with A and he was the one for her, but for A’s family they never fully got over the fact that Jennifer would never leave behind Jesus for the sake of love.
To be fair though, Jennifer did leave behind Jesus, at least in practice. She was attending church every few months, but as so many young people do she wasn’t practicing her faith on a regular basis. So when her life fell apart she didn’t know what to do. Obviously God was punishing her. God hated her. God had abandoned her. God was showing her what happens when you fall in love with non-Christians. THIS is GOD! Angry, hateful, smite filled, punishing, all powerful. There was no place for divorced people in the church.
Over the next few years she would learn that this wasn’t God. God is love. God wants us to have love. God wants us to be in relationship with others. We, as humans, don’t get to choose who is accepted into the kingdom of God. Jesus died so that we may live and while there were times that Jennifer considered taking her life, she owes it to Jesus and his sacrifice to keep trying.
i don’t know why this story is so hard to tell, except it is embarrassing, disgusting, humiliating and shameful. I don’t know why I can’t tell it in the first person. But at least I had the chance to experience it. I was able to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. I couldn’t control who I fell in love with, who God made me to be. Almost 18 months ago, God showed his love to me through the Young Adult Volunteer program and in 30 days I will finish my year as a YAV. It has been such a hard year and I am so surprised it is already over, but this year IS the reason that I went through those experiences. This year had made it all worthwhile and I am leaving Hollywood filled with the grace, compassion, and love of my community. There have been hard times over the past 11 months and I hope I have had an impact on their lives, but I never thought I would recover from divorce. There I said it, DIVORCE. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover, but I know that I closer than I ever have been before.
I know that God made me in his image, and he made us all in his image. As Christians we are instructed to love one another, not just the ones that are like us. Not just the ones that we are comfortable with. Not just heterosexuals. Everyone deserves the same choice that I had. To share in the joy of marriage. The joy of becoming one and growing together. We can say to “call it something else” or whatever BS we want, but as long as we deny the rights of others to be in a mutually beneficial, equal rights relationship we are not living in the image of God. We are saying that they are “less than” as humans. That we are “more than.”
I will never profess to be a Bible scholar. Maybe one day, but not now. But I know that I didn’t go through a divorce because A was Jewish, although some have said that to me. I went through a divorce because marriage takes TWO, EQUALLY COMMITTED, EQUALLY ENGAGED, LOVING PEOPLE and unfortunately A wasn’t that person. Those two people don’t have to be of opposite sexes. I hope one day to fall in love again and be able to get married again. I can only hope that by that time, Presbyterians (and all Christians) have stopped focusing on the things that divide us and start focusing on the things that bring us together. Until then, I will try to do my part in supporting same sex relationships and fighting for equal rights for all.
Preserving the sanctity of marriage requires all of us to value what it means to be married, not on the sexual orientation of the people wanting to be married.
I love you all,
P.S. Please email me if you want to know more/have further discussion. I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else or the church or anything. I don’t think A is a bad person, but even on my worst day I didn’t deserve what happened to me.