Tough decisions

When a woman loves a man with SSA (Same-Sex Attraction), she takes on a lot. If that isn’t the understatement of the year, I don’t know what is.  But she does – and she does it willingly because she sees so much more of that man she loves than his SSA.

Some of them will say, “This is not who I am, and I don’t want to be trapped here,” and they do a lot of hard work to get beyond  . . . to discover a stronger and better, more whole self — because although it’s not a popular thing to say, SSA is a soul wound.  That probably deserves a lot more consideration than I have time for right now, but I’ll say it again: SSA is a soul wound.

And so often, the man she loves too often hangs his identity on that SSA.

So this woman, she loves her man. And she sees in him a nobility of spirit and a beauty not only of form but also of soul that goes well beyond the physical, and she believes in him, and she invests herself in him –because that’s how women do things – and she looks for ways to help and support and encourage him —

Sometimes those ways aren’t wise. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to shelter the people we love that we can start to treat them like our child instead of our equal.  He has these struggles, these anxiety issues on top of everything else, how can I help him? and meaning to do the best, she sends the message that, in her eyes, he is small and weak and can’t do it without her . . . which is part of that soul wound, to begin with, that he’s small and weak.

“He’s got all these struggles and I’ve got to support him — I’ve got to take care of all this other stuff so he can take care of himself.”  I hear it said with a raw panic in the wife’s voice. “I don’t know what to do to help him, but he needs my help. I have to help him!”

Well, there might be a bit more to consider.  If he’s getting appropriate professional help with some of these issues —

I think it’s got to be one of the hardest things a woman can do, to look at her man, to see his wounds, his fears, his weakness . . . and take her paws off the things she could so easily fix for him if only he’d let her . . . and let him deal with it.

Because that’s what a man needs to do. He needs to deal with it – whatever “It” is.  He needs to know he’s competent and capable. That he’s strong. And that’s really the best way a woman can tell her man that she sees him as a Man, simply by backing off.

“Well, I know you can handle this. I believe in you.”

But it only works if she backs off, detaches, and lets him fight it out by himself — whether it’s anxiety disorder or depression or the plumbing crisis under the kitchen sink.

Even when it feels as if the roof is going to collapse over her head and the earth is going to open up beneath her feet, she’s got to keep her paws off.  Even when she sees just what he ought to be doing but he isn’t seeing it and she wants so badly to get in there and fix it for him . . . she’s got to turn her back and get about her proper business and let him struggle.

A woman can’t fill the need a man has to be validated by another man (ideally his Dad), but she can meet his need to be respected as a man. Even when he can’t see that need, it’s there. We can’t replace the absent masculine affirmation every boy needs, ours has its own value.

And if we withhold that respect, we can do a whole lot of damage.

Sometimes the best support we can give a man is just to get the heck out of his way.  Make a safe place for him to collapse when he needs it, maybe —  safe from humiliation and belittling or patronizing — but basically stay out of his way and let him be and do the normal things men do as a matter of course.

The Bible and Divorce — Part III — Dr. Dennis Sheppard

The real problem comes from later interpretations of this text. For example, the Puritan emphasis on moral purity meant that any moral failure was scandalous and divorce was considered a moral failure. When you combine that Puritan ethic with Fundamentalism’s insistence on a literal interpretation of Scripture in the early 20th Century you get a formula for the “sine-qua-non” of scandals. What made divorce so scandalous in this milieu was that it was public.

It was not until the sexual revolution of the sixties that the divorce rate began to rise, aided by the new laws on “Irreconcilable Differences,” and No-Fault Divorce. Among the fundamentalists the primary reaction was an enforced legalism where they refused to marry divorced people and excused their behavior by calling “remarriage” a sin. Some churches, who have a congregational form of government (where they make their own rules), even passed policies that no divorced person could get married in their Church to further enforce this legalism.

This creates several biblical and theological issues. First, even if a divorce was a sin, God forgives sins and therefore we should not hold the divorce against a person. Second, it puts more emphasis on the second marriage than it does upon divorce itself. Third, it punishes people who come out of untenable marriages. An untenable marriage is one where one spouse is abusive physically, emotionally, or sexually. An untenable marriage is one where one spouse is continually unfaithful. An untenable marriage is one where one spouse comes out and declares his or herself to be gay or lesbian and therefore feels alienated from the straight spouse.

When fundamentalists argue that adultery is the only reason for divorce they are (intentionally or not) punishing people who get a divorce for all of these other valid reasons. Going through a divorce is hard enough without having additional pain heaped on you by a Church that has embraced legalism rather than the love of Jesus for hurting people.

Divorce is a tragedy in any circumstance. It is a failure of a marriage covenant that hurts the divorcees, their families and friends. It also breaks God’s heart. However, God’s will is for a marriage to be fulfilling and life-giving. It is meant to be joyful and sustaining. So, remarriage is not a sin, it is an opportunity to have the marriage God intends for people to have.  [NOTE FROM LAURA:  In the Catholic Church, we have to go through a tribunal to determine whether a first/former marriage can be declared Null before we can be married in the Church, and without that Declaration of Nullity we are required to abstain from the Sacraments — Not as horrible a process as it sounds in this statement, but that’s a topic for a future post — L. ]

If two people are meant to be one (unity of relationship) that means that they forsake all others for their spouse and therefore they both must be committed to this understanding. This means that their hearts, their lives, their faith, and their love is joined together. It is no longer “me”, it is now and always will be “we.” We do not lose our individuality as human beings, we merge it into a new relationship where our individuality takes a lesser priority and our marriage becomes the number one priority of our lives.

Paul Stookey poetically captured the essence of marriage in “Wedding Song’ (There is Love).

Well a man shall leave his mother, and a woman leave her home
They shall travel on to where the two shall be as one
As it was in the beginning is now until the end
A woman draws her life from man and gives it back again
And there is love, there is love

So many people have been wounded by the legalistic interpretation of these texts; but that was never Jesus’ intent. He loved people no matter what had happened in their lives and he sought to love and heal people who have been hurt by life.

We should love people who are going through a divorce and support them as they work through to pain and hurt from the death of a marriage and the transition to a single life. If they do choose to marry again we should encourage and support them in their new marriage.

There is no place for condemnation or accusation for divorced persons. Rather we should care about them and live out the Scripture that calls us to love our neighbor. Remember, whatever we do to the least of these, we do also to Jesus. (Matthew 25:45)


Scripture and Marriage – Part II – Dr. Dennis Sheppard

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus does a marvelous side-step and turns their question on its head. Jesus is in effect saying that they are both wrong because they started the debate with the question of divorce rather than with Biblical understanding of what marriage is supposed to be. Jesus then quotes from Genesis 2:24, and added the prohibition that what God joins together human beings should not divide. Jesus is therefore indicating that marriage was both a physical and spiritual relationship. It is a lifetime covenant between a man and a woman and God and therefore is a sacred relationship and not just a human one. (In Mark’s version Jesus reacts in the style of a wisdom teacher and asks what Moses said about divorce in the law.)

In response to Jesus’ compelling words the Pharisees posed the obvious question, if marriage is so sacred why did Moses (the great Law Giver) permit divorce as long as a man gave his wife a “Writ of Divorce? Jesus explained that while it was not what God intended, Moses made a concession to the hard hearts of the people. You see the men were going to divorce their wives anyway and the “Writ” was the only protection the women had. Without that writ to prove they were divorced they could not marry again.

Jesus also made it clear that divorce should not happen where two people are one unless there is unfaithfulness. The word used here is the Greek word “porneia” which can mean any moral failure including fornication, unfaithfulness, incest, sodomy, and adultery. The main idea being that if one spouse has sexual relations (and that includes any sex act) with someone other than their own spouse and shatters the unity of the marriage then divorce may be an acceptable option. However, the Biblical teachings on marriage make it clear though that unfaithfulness does not end a marriage people end marriages. In other words, unless two people are willing work together toward healing and restoring the unity of the marriage covenant then the unity of the marriage is irreparably broken. One person cannot make a marriage work no matter how hard they may try.

Jesus was saying, that when a person divorces their spouse, just to be with someone else, then they commit unfaithfulness of the highest sort because they are going against God’s intent for marriage. He is not saying, that when a divorce person remarries it is automatically adultery, although it has wrongly interpreted this way. Jesus does not under any circumstances condemn divorce or remarriage. He rather seeks to correct the notion that divorce is an acceptable way to get rid of your spouse so you can live with someone else. Marriage is to be taken seriously and sacredly but God does not condemn us for failure; God forgives, God heals, and God restores.


The Bible and Divorce – Dr. Dennis Sheppard (Part 1: The Gospel Passages)

Matthew 19:1-12

1When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick.
3Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”  4“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’5And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’6Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
7“Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.  8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”
11“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps.
12Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”


Mark 10:1-12

1Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.
2Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”  3Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?” 4“Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”5But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife,
8and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 10Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

The issue of divorce was brought to Jesus in an attempt to trap him into saying something controversial that could be used against him. However, Jesus used this issue as a teaching moment and in so doing provided us a clear picture of his understanding of marriage and divorce. (

Marriage and divorce was a hot topic of discussion and debate in the time of Jesus. There were two Rabbinical Schools that had staked out an argument on either side of this hot-button issue. The first of these was the Hillel School. This school was very liberal in their teaching on marriage and divorce. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any offense (not having a son soon enough, burning a meal, losing her looks, etc. The Shammai School, on the other hand, was very conservative and taught that a man could divorce his wife only for unchastity (adultery). This debate was brought to Jesus and the Pharisees were basically asking Jesus which side he was on?


The Importance of Right Theology — Introducing Dr. Sheppard

This is one of my favorite cartoons, ever. Sound theology does have a way of bringing us peace, even when it directs us to hard decisions.

Unfortunately, a lot of us are subject to unsound theology, which has quite the opposite effect. Reading over comments on the Janet Hinds story on MercatorNet, indeed, Janet’s own testimony, one of the things that has stood out in is the number of women who are told they have to stay with their gay husbands, no matter what, because “God hates divorce.”  Well, of COURSE He hates divorce! Divorce is the destruction of the very core of the Institution He established in the Garden, in the time of man’s innocency . . .

Yes, God hates, divorce, but there is an occasion when divorce is permissible:  it’s not “adultery,” but “porneia” — which includes the full gamut of sexual depravity (recognize that term as the root of “pornography”?).

I knew this, but I’m not an authority or expert, so I asked my friend Dr. Dennis Sheppard for some help.  Dr. Sheppard is a retired United Methodist pastor with degrees in Theology from Duke Divinity School (M. Div.) and Drew University School of Theology (D. Min.), and additional coursework in Psychology and Counseling from Campbell University. In short, he knows his business, and he’s rock-solid, theologically. He has agreed to write for Surviving the Rainbow on theological concerns. In response to the comments mentioned above, he’s agreed to begin with addressing the issue of divorce.  His exegetical commentary on divorce begins in the next post.

Remembering the “Golden” boy

Two years ago I went to Houston for a Wives Healing Journey weekend. I have to tell you, I went in defensive and more than a little defiant, and it turned out to be one of the truly defining events of my life.  If you can go, I recommend it.  And I hope more resources become available for us, because so far as I know, this is IT and one thing simply isn’t enough.

During the course of the weekend, I cried enough to use a giant box of tissues (I, who never cry!) which in itself was a wonderful release. But I also got past the nagging anger and bitterness that have dogged me for more than thirty years to remember the boy I used to know and love. I’m not sure that wasn’t equally difficult because he seems so terribly far away, now, replaced with someone so very different, and that’s cause for a different grief.

Remembering DH as he used to be, I was shocked to realize I still love that dear, beautiful boy who is buried somewhere under all the ugliness he’s piled on over the years. And being able to love him has been revolutionary for me.

No, I don’t mean a romantic love. The time and possibility for that is long past and won’t return. I mean a love leading to an appreciation for that better self I used to see, a desire for him to be restored to his better self, a desire for true and authentic Good in his life. Good, even though I’ll probably never be able to see it or benefit from it. The Greeks called this particular type of love agape; in Latin, it’s caritas (charity).

It’s understandable and — more than acceptable; it’s necessary, I think, to be angry over what has happened to us. But when we focus on and cling to hating that person who hurt us, we trap ourselves.

The fact is, DH isn’t a monster, and he never has been.  I lost sight of that for a while, too long a while.

Love is the only way out, back into peace and joy.

Forgiveness, the essential component

We go through a lot, we wives of homosexuals. The manipulations, the spiritual and psychological abuses… I think I’ve mentioned before that every one of the ex-wives I’ve ever spoken to or communicated with live with depression of some degree or other. Then there are the family battles, the drive to try to protect our children, or – I wonder whether this is prudent or a big mistake – even our husbands in the early days when we’re just discovering their homosexuality and geared toward “protecting” them and maybe even their families from knowing the truth…

And we carry this enormous load of sorrow and suffering and how do we survive?

The answer is simple: we forgive.

When we consider how he lied to us, we forgive.
When we consider how he mocked and ridiculed us, we forgive.
When we stand under a barage of insults, we forgive.
When we agonize in the neglect, we forgive…
When the manipulations get ugly and things we never dreamed of happen… we forgive.

Now, I want to make something VERY VERY CLEAR. Forgiveness is not shrugging our shoulders and pretending something awful didn’t happen. That’s not forgiveness – that’s unhealthy self-sacrifice. No! We can draw our line in the stand and take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to protect ourselves and our children – and in fact I am increasingly convinced we must, not only for our own sakes or for our children’s but also for his sake – so that we don’t become complicit in his self-destruction.

What we cannot do, however, is clear: we cannot, we must not, harbor bitterness, entertain thoughts of recriminations.Not toward him, not toward his mother, not toward the kids who decide he’s telling the truth and his being gay had nothing to do with the divorce…

No, Forgiveness means that we let God dispense the justice.