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(Part 2 of 2)
God has made me mighty in that he gave me the strength to walk away from abuse – Infidelity is abuse. It just is. Emotional infidelity is almost certainly either a precursor to physical infidelity or a cover for it (i.e. the emotional affair is not an emotional affair, it’s the regular kind).
I had been on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and in The Washington Post, talking about my marriage to the man who had abandoned me. I’d had interfaith couples writing to me for years, asking me for advice on how to make their relationships work. Do you think I wanted to initiate a divorce? Do you think I wasn’t embarrassed?
If an arsonist sets your house on fire, you get out. It doesn’t matter that you’re going to be standing on the street in your underwear. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t even your sexy underwear, it’s your granny panties. You still get out. There will be contemptible people who will point and laugh and say, “Ha ha, nice granny panties!” The decent people of the world will say, “You just escaped an arson attack, thank goodness you’re all right!” That is what infidelity is. Marital arson.
I stand before you now in my metaphorical granny panties and say: divorce was my escape from that house, and I’m glad that I escaped. No, I rejoice that I escaped from that house.
(Part 1 of 2)
I wish I could make you comprehend the depths of my despair as I got on a Metra bound for downtown Chicago in April 2013. I hope you never have to feel the pain I was feeling as I sat there, crying quietly, hoping no one would notice my tears, my hands resting on my second trimester baby bump. My husband of over nine years had just told me that financially supporting his family—his pregnant wife, his disabled 7-year-old daughter, and his unborn child—was my problem, not his. I had boarded the train that morning so that I could look for full-time work for the first time in 7 years.
My husband had started an emotional affair with another woman in his life some few months earlier, and all you need to know about that is that it consumed him. His time, his money, his compassion, it all went to seeing to this woman’s needs and keeping her in his life. No amount of objection from me made any change in his behavior. There was lying, there was manipulation, there was gaslighting, and there was coercion. I would later write in my journal, “My marriage is dying as new life grows within me.”
My nearly 11-year marriage to an unbeliever tended to leave me feeling like a single parent as my spouse seldom came to church with me. My shift to officially being a single parent has effected very little change in the way I attend church. I come, my kids come with me, and wrangling them to church and back falls squarely on my shoulders. This is a much bigger job for one set of hands than it is for two.
Different churches handle kids in church in different ways, and this variable typically depends on a tradition’s attitude towards children and the size of a church. I have spent most of the past 14 years attending relatively small churches (fewer than 100 in attendance on most Sundays), and it has been my experience that small churches have fewer options for childcare and struggle to find enough workers for the children’s ministry. Perhaps, in part, because with only one main service running, anyone who volunteers for the children’s ministry will be missing church for the week. At churches with multiple services, childcare workers have the option of working in the children’s ministry for one service, then worshiping at a different service.
My situation has always been complicated by the fact that my daughter has borderline disabilities complete with behavioral problems. I cannot count the number of times I have visited a church and dropped her off with the children’s ministry only to have her returned to me mid-service because, “we’re having a hard time with her.” While I understand why children with special needs put a strain on the volunteer resources of smaller congregations, this does not change the fact that when this happens, I get very little out of the service because I spent my time there managing my child instead of participating, listening, and reflecting. I’ve sometimes left services like this wondering why I bothered to come at all.
I wrote a paper on this for an ethics class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School last year. I offer this as a pro-life alternative to the “life begins at conception” position.
My paper was finished in a hurry at the last minute, so I over-relied on online sources, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find that the paper contains a number of errors. Still, the basic framework for my defense of this idea is there.
This was being discussed on a friend’s Facebook page recently, so I thought I would just go ahead and make the paper publicly available. Would love to publish more formally on this subject someday, especially if I could pair with someone with more scientific training than what I have. Feedback is welcome, though I have precious little time for in-depth argument on this at the moment.
Life Begins at Blood (PDF)