My wife, Christian recording artist Miranda Landers, and I recently celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Years after we both went through very painful and public divorces, I’m so thankful for the churches that’ve had Miranda and me out to sing, speak, or both at marriage events like banquets, conferences, retreats, etc. As a divorced-and-remarried couple, we can’t help but notice how rare this is.
For the most part, only married-never-divorced people are invited to sing- much less speak – at these events. Divorce – if mentioned at all – is presented as something to be ashamed of. Remarriage, blended families, etc., are rarely addressed. Also missing is any kind of serious discussion about abuse and neglect in their many forms and how they affect us all. I wonder sometimes if the leaders planning these events have given much thought to the number of divorced-and-remarried couples who attend.
If I could make just a few simple suggestions that might be helpful for a church planning a marriage event…
Acknowledge – A good first step would be to acknowledge the presence of divorced-and-remarried couples at these events. Some have left the church – at least for a season – but many have returned or never left. We’re here and we need to know that you see us and that we matter.
Validate – Another step would be to validate us as human beings and couples. Things happened that we thought would never happen to us, that we didn’t want to happen to us, and that we wish hadn’t happened to us. We need to know that we’re not less than the married-never-divorced couples around us.
Listen – Divorced-and-remarried couples have so much to offer. I like to say that not all my divorced friends were bad spouses – and not all my married friends are good ones. We’re all in this together and can learn from each other.
Include – It’s time to include divorced and divorced-and-remarried people among those invited to present at marriage events. You wouldn’t have an event about gender issues and invite only men to speak or an event about race and invite only white people to speak. To have a marriage event and invite only married-never-divorced people to present is to create an echo chamber of sorts. Diversity will only make these events more helpful and meaningful for all.
We’ve been blessed to work with amazing leaders around the country who are seizing the opportunity to make a difference. They’re making bold moves in terms of who they invite to present and even the topics that are addressed. Because of their courage, divorced and divorced-and-remarried people are feeling hopeful again. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This makes us very happy.