This morning I was listening to K-Love Radio while driving.  They had a caller giving a testimony of God miraculously reconciling him with his estranged wife.  He stated they had been moving toward divorce, each side had attorneys involved, and he had already purchased another residence.  Then, the morning of Sunday, February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, he and his wife happened to arrive at the church doors at the same moment.  They were both overcome with emotion.  They both said they needed to find a way to make their marriage work, and his wife sat beside him, in the seat he had been reserving for her each week.

Further interview questions revealed that neither party has yet apologized for anything, but they have both committed to seek counseling in their church for healing of their marriage and working past their issues.

The interview ended with cheerful congratulations and encouragement, “You’re doing the right thing,” followed by an exhortation, “We have to remember our spouse is not our enemy.  Even though it may sometimes seem like it, our spouse is never our enemy.”

Great praise story, right?  Classic example of a couple struggling with commitments until God unexpectedly intervened, right?  Every reason for congratulations and best wishes…no cause for cynicism or doubting, right?

And yet…doubt I do. Not just this story, but so many similar stories with fairy-tale-like endings... Click To Tweet

…whether I say anything or not, in my heart I wonder and pray.

I know how easy it is to get swept up in emotions, especially on Valentine’s Day, and how difficult it is to complete the hard work of reconciliation.  More than that, I know how little control either individual has over the outcome of relational issues.  It takes two committed hearts working toward a common goal to build a marriage, but it only takes one hard heart to destroy a marriage.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I firmly believe in God’s desire and ability to heal broken hearts and broken relationships.  And I firmly believe in God’s ability to perform mighty miracles.  I’ve seen His miraculous power first-hand.

Yet, in listening to this account, there were little tells that left me wondering… Click To Tweet

The fact that it was such an emotional instantaneous decision on St. Valentine’s Day…a day when emotions are likely to run high for divorcing couples.  The fact that they ‘just happened’ to both arrive at the church doors simultaneously…coincidence or contrivance?  The fact that neither party has yet apologized for anything…how serious can the reconciliation be with no discussion of issues and no repentance of wrongs?

Perhaps the brightest flag was his reference to saving a seat for his wife each Sunday…while actively pursuing divorce and purchasing another residence.  That’s not normal behavior.  One doesn’t come to church each week with sincere expectation of reconciliation while actively pursuing divorce every other day of the week.  So, why the behavior discontinuity?  One possibility (the one he seems to want us to believe) is that he was simply overcommitted in a relationship to a spouse who had no interest in reconciling.  BUT, the reserved seat seems a bit too showy for that level of sincerity…especially given how he slid that into the conversation to make sure we, the listening audience, all knew how gratuitous he was in his weekly seat saving.

No, to me, the saved seat comes across as being done largely for appearances…as a manipulation tool to influence the opinions of others.  In fact, it would be a classic abuser move, designed to jab guilt toward his victim while simultaneously eliciting compassion from the rest of the church (poor guy must be heart-broken…just look how he saves her a seat every week).

If we assume the saved seat was manipulation, we can also see how easily he could arrange to ‘coincidentally’ arrive at the church doors the exact same time as his wife on St. Valentine’s Sunday…knowing she would be particularly vulnerable on that day.

Then, for the ‘coupe de grace,’ call K-Love Radio first thing Monday morning, announcing the recommitment to the world while simultaneously giving God the ‘glory’ for the success of his manipulative scheme.  That publicly commits his wife whether she was ready or not, and by giving credit to God he projects the perception that to back out would be to act directly against God’s will.

Do you see how slickly that could be pulled off?

Now, you may be thinking I’m reading an awful lot into a few words…and you would be right.  The truth could be much more innocently naïve and much less malicious in nature.

Some would say I’m being cynical…that I’ve allowed my life experiences to make me too negative…too unbelieving.  I would say through my life experiences I have gained wisdom and discernment.

While I don’t know the truth of this specific situation, I do know the more sinister version is too often the reality.  And I do know Christians, in general, are often all too gullible and all too blind to evil.  Too often, we naively assume every marriage is worth saving, despite clear evidence to the contrary.  And that simple false assumption plays directly into the abuser’s manipulative schemes…duping good Christian people into believing the abuser is a saint while his victim is in need of repentance.

I’m not sure how I would have handled the caller if I had been with the K-Love team.  But I can tell you for sure I would not have affirmed to him he was ‘doing the right thing’ when there is a distinct possibility he may be doing great evil.  And I absolutely would not have said “Our spouse is never our enemy,” because I know sometimes a spouse is a great enemy indeed.

Your thoughts?


[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]


21 thoughts on “Cynical?

    I totally agree with the raised eyebrows at this story.
    Saves her a seat?
    Neither has apologized?
    Arrives at he same time she does?
    Both overcome with emotion? Yeah, umm, WHAT emotion??
    Fear? Victory? Defeat?
    Hmmmm…there are tonnes of examples here of classic abuser behaviour.
    The church needs to realize that there are manipulators everywhere. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all known them. Famous people and unknowns.
    Was this woman guilt tripped into believing that she HAD to come back to him because God timed it just right?
    I want to hurl at this kind of sickly sweet sentiment.
    God said He hates divorce.
    BUT???? He doesn’t forbid it!!
    If someone is getting the tar whupped out of her, she needs to run. If a man is being cheated upon by a hypocritical wife, he needs to leave.
    There seems to be more forgiveness/help/understanding outside the church than IN.
    Enemies abound, spouses included.

    • “There seems to be more forgiveness/help/understanding outside the church than IN.”

      A very sad truth.

      Unfortunately, the culture of most churches seems very geared toward giving grace to anyone appearing remotely repentant…yet harshly judging anyone acusing someone else of wrongdoing. It makes a perfect setup for an abuser to manipulate opinions to make himself look like a repentant saint while his abuse victim is rejected as harsh and unforgiving.

      In general, we are sadly lacking in wisdom. We understand the ‘gentle as doves’ but completely ignore the ‘wise as serpents’ part.

      Thank you, Jennifer!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

    • You know…every morning since this broadcast, I have woken up praying for this woman.

      I have no idea of the real circumstances and don’t know either of these people. But something feels ‘off.’

      So, she has been added to my prayer list as someone in need of prayer.

      I pray that God will give her wisdom and discernment…that the Holy Spirit will wrap her in His holy comfort…that He will speak truth to her heart…that she will be able to discern the difference between truth and manipulation…that God will give her the courage to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than the intimidation of man.
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  2. I agree with you here, Joe. While the reality may be somewhere between manipulation and grace, it’s a really terrible example of a praise story.

    The problem, as I see it, is that it points to a rather capricious God, one who will overturn the ‘rules’ of human behaviour to give a miracle that looks attainable…but that can lead many couples to destruction if they buy into it.

    I can understand the ‘saving a seat while pursuing divorce’ – when I divorced Barbara I was horribly divided against myself, and imagined myself swept on a tide of events I could not shut off.

    And if she would have turned up at the church door, on Valentine’s Day or any other day…what would I have done?

    I would have fallen to my knees and begged forgiveness. As, eventually, I did.

    But it was a long, hard road, one that made me not only bury but burn my pride, and it’s not quite responsible for K-LOVE to make this kind of path look easy. If salvation of any sort was easy, there would not have been much need for the Cross.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 119 – A Caregiver’s PsalmMy Profile

    • Yes! As a general rule, any marriage that has proceeded that far toward divorce has enough issues that it will take a ton of hard work combined with strong commitment and high levels of accountability to turn things around.

      Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your perspective on this!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  3. The fact that it came from one party only does leave me wondering. We really don’t know anything about what is going on here. There is a real possibility that this is all part of an attempt at manipulation – it would fit that quite well.

    • Yes, I agree there is definitely not enough information to really know. The scary (sad) part to me, is most Christians seem geared toward always accepting the simple cheerful surface version as the truth, without ever even thinking to consider possibilities of abuse playing a role.

      We need to grow in wisdom!!!

      Thank you, Forrest!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  4. Hey Joe,
    I too tend to be cynical about a lot of stuff on K-LOVE including the meaning behind the words to many of the songs they play.

    You might enjoy a program called Issues Etc. it’s my favorite.

    Hope you’re doing well.

    • In general, I enjoy listening to K-Love, and have learned not to expect anything terribly in-depth. After all, their DJ’s are hired for entertainment skills more than for theological knowledge or counseling skills. They usually do a good job of living up to their billing, “Positive, encouraging, K-Love!”

      BUT…sometimes, I have to speak out… 😉
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  5. Valentine’s Day!! Really!! It is not really a HOLYday. It just happened to fall on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. I know that with God all things are possible, but, falling into each other’s arms because of a greeting card, flowers and chocolate HOLIday and the emotions that surround it, I’m not buying it. Marriage is a rough road when it is with 2 committed people who choose each day to actually love one another. It is miserable and destructive when one doesn’t keep their vows.

    Maybe this couple did need to give it another chance, but those who have been abused and hearing this on a Christian channel may come to the conclusion that they must persevere. My X spouse was the enemy. After divorce, he is still the enemy and lets me know that he is still out there and as he said, “You have a lifetime of me getting under your skin”. The church “leaders” call it harassment. I call it stalking. The law says that I can’t get a PPO because I don’t have enough prove that I could or am being harmed.

    I don’t even understand why both would continue going to the same church if they were divorcing. Him holding a chair for her was manipulative and controlling in my opinion. It was not a loving response. Perhaps making a show for the crowd. Am I cynical? Maybe, but I see red flags all over the place. God may hate divorce, but he divorced Israel. He was patient until his patience ran out to the sin they were committing. I believe that He sees that it is necessary in destructive, abuser anti-marriages and gives us divorce as an option.

    • “Maybe this couple did need to give it another chance, but those who have been abused and hearing this on a Christian channel may come to the conclusion that they must persevere.”

      I completely agree!

      Too often, in Christian circles, there exists an underlying unspoken (false) assumption that every marriage is worth giving another chance and no marriage should ever be given up on. It is a lie directly from Satan! But a lie that is widely believed by many within the church.

      Thank you, Brenda, for adding your experiences to the discussion!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  6. I agree with you, Joseph. Their pleasant little let-bygones-be-bygones sounds like a truce born of sentimentality, rather than a surrender to a Will higher than their own.

    • “Their pleasant little let-bygones-be-bygones sounds like a truce born of sentimentality, rather than a surrender to a Will higher than their own.”

      I love how you phrased this, Larry! So true!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  7. You have wisdom in this realm where many do not, Joe. I think some of the issues or “flags” that you raised are valid and should be cause for greater self-awareness in our own attempts to reconcile. We cannot achieve a superficial recommitment to our mates when it must be built on a track-record of humility, confession, responsibility and accountability. It’s not all that lovely sounding and that’s why we run from it, but it is where we must live if we ever hope to find healing for our hearts and marriages. Thanks for your very thought-provoking post, my friend. I’ve added you to my prayers, so keep up updated on your progress!
    Beth recently posted…Comment on My Husband’s View on Spiritual Leadership by Andrew Budek-SchmeisserMy Profile

    • Ah! You’ve added another dimension to the discussion, Beth. How does this relate to how we deal with issues in our own marriages?

      You’re right. There is always a temptation to pursue an easy superficial recommitment rather than do the hard work of working thru difficult issues.

      Thanks for adding that dimension to the discussion!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  8. Sometimes we need to hear a story such as this for us to believe again or to be reminded how faithful and powerful our God is.

    Thanks for sharing what you heard on the radio. It has blessed me.

    • Yes, our God is most certainly powerful and faithful!

      However, this particular story, I think, has less to do with God’s faithfulness than with man’s manipulation and/or wishful thinking.

      Thanks for sharing, Lux!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

  9. Your thoughtful post brought up a church related marital memory for me, Joe.

    here is a woman I’ve known casually for about 20 years in our small town. She is gorgeous, friendly, and high energy. She’d been divorced after a 15 or so year marriage, and I saw her with a new beau at church. They sat in the front row, he with his arm around her shoulders. Always. There was something about the arm around his shoulders that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Now, my husband does that sometimes too, and I see other men do it but there was a sinister vibe I got from 10 rows back -week after week. I never even met the man but it remained. Fast forward about 10 years and she confided to me in the grocery store they were getting divorced because he’d been abusive. I asked her if he had ever choked her and she said yes. I mentioned about the arm around the should at church and she said he told her he ‘owned’ her. Sh said how he would physically abuse her, to the point of bruises and wounds on her body ever since they got married. He told her he specifically ‘picked a Christian woman because you can’t divorce me”. She finally got up the courage to speak to the pastor about what was happening…AND THE PASTOR TOLD HER SHE NEEDED TO WORK IT OUT. Nothing about he would talk with the spouse, or get professional counseling, or get the hell out. It delayed her leaving, but she finally left that man but not the church. I have since left that church, it turned my stomach to see him preaching up there and knowing what he told this woman. Sickening.
    **And your other reader’s comment about there being more compassion and forgiveness outside the church is totally spot on.**

    • It truly is revolting, isn’t it? These preachers and teachers who idolize the institution of marriage…turning it into a false god on whose altar they will gladly sacrifice the well being of an abused spouse and abused children…for whom NOTHING is more sacred than divorce avoidance.

      If it repulses you and I, imagine how much it must repulse our holy, righteous, loving God, who throughout scripture consistently condemns those who treacherously abuse covenant partners and who consistently offers redemption and deliverance for those who are hurting and in need.

      Blind guides!!!

      God help us all!

      Thank you, Denise, for sharing this story!
      joe recently posted…Cynical?My Profile

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