I’ve changed my mind

This morning, I got a skype message from one of our customers. Someone who had bought a payment plan that should have taken 3 months to pay off….one payment every month. He informed me, in his words, “it’s been 3 weeks, and I don’t like your software. Please cancel my next 2 payments, and refund my original first payment”.

Problem is, we have a no-refund policy. In fact, we go so far out of our way to tell people, before they purchase, that it’s a no-refund-no-return policy, I’m amazed anyone buys our software at all. At least, I was amazed in the beginning – until I realized the implication of our policy.

It eliminated the ‘tire-kickers’. The people who had no interest in ever really committing to us, the software, or the training. They were the “try and see” people, who bounced from software company to software company looking for a magic cure to their day-trading woes. Their software payments, continually recycled and refunded over and over again. When we tool the policy and changed it, we started to use words like, “commitment”. Commit to us, and we commit to you. If the software doesn’t work – if there’s a technical error that prevents it from running and we can’t fix it, we’ll give you your money back. Otherwise, we’re joined at the hip. So far, for every 100 people that purchase from us, 99 out of 100 follow the protocol, and learn the software. Only 1 out of 100 people call their Visa card company, and request a refund….usually telling the auditor that we’ve defrauded them.

It occurred to me, that I was more upset with this one customer than I usually am when the 1/100 guy shows up. Sitting here now, it’s because I’ve realized that I wasn’t as angry with him as I was upset with some friends who are “requesting a refund” . Friends who are getting divorced.

I generally hold people to 2 different standards when it comes to divorce. There are people who hold a biblical world view – and people who don’t. The people who don’t – well, they can remarry and divorce as many times as they want – with no restrictions or obligations to the contrary. No impediments whatsoever. It gets a little trickier with the 2nd group.

For those people, marriage takes on a whole new dimension. It’s a commitment of mythical size and importance. So big of one, that we have a completely different word for it. A “covenant”. Only this covenant – this “contract” has 3 signatures on it. The husband’s, the wife’s, and God’s. It’s such an important covenant, that God uses it as the single descriptor to define his relationship to the church. We are the bride, and he is the bridegroom.

Interesting thing about Christian marriage statistics. Evangelicals, as a demographic – are more likely, and not less, to divorce. This, fascinates me.

There is only 1 loophole in the marriage covenant. It’s the big “no-no”. Some theologians argue that infidelity isn’t even an escape hatch from a marriage – that the word “fornication” implies that when 2 people are betrothed (like Mary and Joseph) that if one of them had a sexual affair before the wedding, it could be called off. But otherwise, anything beyond that was a non-starter.

I’ve walked through 6 couples who’ve divorced so far in my life. 3 “believing” couples. 3, non-believers.  Among the 3 “believing” couples, there is always a phrase that emerges in the discussion….with haunting probability of appearance.

“You can’t really judge from the outside, looking in.”

“If you really understood the background, you’d understand”.

“…there are some things I could tell that I just can’t.”

The last man I confronted about his divorce uttered these words, right on schedule. I asked him, in return, if his wife had cheated on him. “No”, he said. I asked him if his wife was physically, or verbally abusive – was she beating him? “No!” he said, shocked that I would imply this. “Well, (name withheld) so far as I can see – I don’t really need to know what I don’t know, because what I do know from what you’ve just told me doesn’t allow you to break your covenant with her, or with God”.  He had no response, and just looked down at his table.

I’m watching another family explode, again. This one probably hurt the most. No one has cheated. No one has physically abused the other spouse, or even verbally abused the other. There are no drug addictions involved. Just a lot of heart hardening. A lot of, “we’ll be happier apart as opposed to together-ing”.

What hurts the most is 3 fold, I suppose

First, that no one from the outside – people who profess to care about this couple, are counselling them, biblically. There’s a quiet acceptance of it…a silent complicity and agreement that maybe this is just the best thing that could happen.

Second, the people on the inside want no interference, or correction from the outside. There’s no sense of “the body” at work. No involvement, please.

Third, there’s no limit to the blast radius of this decision. The separation, and divorce, is already spreading outwards like a Hiroshima mushroom cloud. It’s touching the lives of others out one, two, and very possibly 3 generations.

If I’m honest, I think these three things scare the shit out of me. First, because if I ever get stuck in our marriage – no one is coming to help me or save me. No one will stand up and say, “this is wrong. It’s sin. It’s not God’s will for your life. Honor your commitment. Trust that he’ll save you. It says you’ll find joy in your suffering. Hang on”. No one is coming.

Second, because heart hardening, so far as I can see going on the 6th time now – is an incurable disease. It’s the one condition God promises to not save you from. If you willingly do the thing he’s said not to….willingly stop loving someone you promised to love forever, someone God had “cleaved together” with you – he lets you have your wish. No amount of cajoling or counselling can saved a hardened heart.  What scares me most about heart-hardening, is that you don’t know you have it. It’s gradual, and quiet – stealthy. Every little argument that goes unresolved….every time you should have said, “I’m sorry”, or “I forgive you”, or, “Please help me”, or “I love you”, and didn’t – it hardens more. It’s impossible to monitor yourself – and requires someone from the outside to tell you that it’s happened. But again, – no one is coming to help (see paragraph, above)

Third, I don’t think the church body really works. Or at least, I’m really starting to doubt it. I can count the relationships on 1 hand that I have with people that are “authentic” biblical relationships. That number went from 1,200, to 5, in as many years. This last time around with this couple – I thought I’d see a miracle in the body – I thought I’d see God show up, and the early church model – coom-bye-yah magic do it’s thing. But it didn’t. Not so much as a peep.

For the 6th time in a row, I will sit here, quiet – as someone tells me and the world that God will forgive them for their divorce. That he is gracious, and accepting of our mistakes. I will think the thoughts in my head that I always think, and choke back my words as the person tells their respective communities, “you just don’t understand what’s happening behind the scenes”. Everyone will nod their heads, afraid to say anything.

Some of them will see the divorce go through, and think to themselves, “Maybe I’ll be happier if I do that too, after all God forgave “xxx”, he’ll forgive me, too.  There’s a great verse that says to confront someone when they’re sinning, but to be careful so as to not sin yourself. That happens with divorces. Over and over and over again.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this, long term. I don’t have anywhere really left to go, worship wise….body wise. But what I thought I’d see here, isn’t here. Or at least, I don’t see it, or can’t see it anymore. None of the casseroles or apple pies mean much when stuff like this happens.

I’m going to love my wife, and my kids. Ask for forgiveness, and forgive. I’m asking the people that I know would speak, TO speak into my life, when they see my heart hardening. I’ve given them permission to do that.  I’ve told my wife I’m not leaving. Even if she serves me papers – I’m not leaving. That I’m going to fight for her – for us, and honor my commitment to God up until my last breath. I only ever made 2 promises like that – one to her, and one to him. But as for everyone else – well, there’s just more insanity than I think I can digest anymore. Maybe it’s time to opt out and focus on the five fingers. Maybe that’s why Jesus said “where 2 or 3 are gathered, I am in their midst”. I guess I have more questions than answers.

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2 Responses to I’ve changed my mind

  1. dave says:

    Mike, I often feel your frustration with the body. We (the body) love each other as long as it is convenient. I’ve never found the church welcoming or loving beyond the initial hello and happy to see you crap. The Sunday friendly but I wouldn’t talk to you at the pool attitude. I have had church friends drop me as soon as they got in a “better” circle. I to struggle to feel like I fit and that it is the right place to be. I will keep searching as well. Thanks for being honest and saying some difficult things. Too many come into marriage thinking if I don’t like it, I can move on just like a car. It takes hard work and not every moment is Shangri la.

  2. Todd says:

    I understand where you are coming from, it can be lonely, but don’t be discouraged. We can’t put our hope in people, only in God…people disappoint. Only God can fill our cup.

    And while God may forgive the person for the sin, He hates divorce and there are severe consequences, people forget that part, or don’t care. It’s like folks are afraid to speak up, hold them accountable, speak truth to them, encourage them in the Lord, because they think we aren’t supposed to judge, but “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those on the outside” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 People often think that if you are holding them accountable you are judging.

    What do you do when it seems the majority of the church is still on milk, and they have no desire to be off of it…… I pray that God will change their desires.

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