Fight Indifference in Divorce

Black & White photo of people indifferent to woman lying in the street .Indifference doesn’t seem threatening in the turmoil of divorce. Often, it seems as though indifference would be a welcome relief. To some, indifference is even the goal. Why then, must we fight indifference in divorce?

In my self-centered thinking, I assumed expressions like, “You don’t turn your back on a friend,” and “Blood is thicker than water,” were fairly modern. Maybe that’s why Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 58: 7-10) stood out and I knew, as I sat on the hard, wooden pew facing the altar, the words were intended for those who would turn their backs on their own by having an affair or seeking a divorce:

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.

I just knew God directed those words at those who turned their backs on their vows, justified affairs, or proudly pointed out how successful their resilient children were while ignoring the implications of, “resilient.”

People say there are two sides to every story. Others gossip about how no one is innocent in Marriage or in divorce. However,

In divorce, there really can be a wrong spouse and a wronged spouse.

Worse, there are innocents hurt in divorce. Children become the sacrifice a parent is willing to pay for happiness. Historically, we find other examples of parents sacrificing children, but it seems never before have so many parents been so ready, willing, and able to sacrifice their own for the pursuit of happiness.

Often, the abandoning spouse finds himself, again or still, miserable a few years later while those who fully commit to Marriage find they have worked through difficulties and are in a better place despite life’s ups and downs. Common sense tells us this may have something to do with divorce reversing God’s natural order. Naturally, the adult should be protector and provider, nurturer and role model; the child should be gifted with positive, selfless examples of how to create Joy rather than seek happiness.

Divorce turns God’s natural order upside down, as a parent puts his or her own pursuit of happiness above a child’s right to a stable, loving home.

As I reflected on the need for us to fight indifference by not turning our backs on our own, I knew God’s message went deeper than the finger pointed at an abandoning spouse. God’s finger was aimed at me as I sat in that hard pew. He hadn’t put that message in the Bible so I could piously feel above than the sinners I’ve invited into my life. He put that message there so I could examine what was going on with me. It was a message I needed to absorb.

Accepting indifference masks pain in the moment.

The result of indifference brings anger, bitterness, and hate.

Acceptance vs. Indifference

My husband left almost eight years ago. The pain at the time was life threatening; however, since then, my boys have grown and I have changed. I realize no man can have an affair and while putting his wife and children above himself. He must first convince himself their needs don’t matter as much as his own. He must become indifferent to them.

The struggle then transfers to the loyal parent. The same indifference that attacked the cheating spouse threatens to attack the faithful spouse under a different disguise. This is the disguise of tediousness in the every day.

While many victims of divorce know they would never fall to the same indifference as their spouse, they are at risk for a different kind of indifference. The tiredness, the overwhelm, the pain, of doing life alone forms a batter that becomes a lump of indifference that can sit oppressively on one’s chest.  The oppression forces air from one’s lungs and squeezes one’s heart. It makes one consider throwing up one’s hands and giving in. It threatens to kill responsibility and love and hope.

Indifference in single parenting is dying a slow death.

It is giving up. It is exhaustion of the soul. It is a never ending laundry list of things you are solely responsible for. It is watching fun others who have more time and money and fewer challenges (that you know about) have and wanting desperately to share in some of that. It is in wanting desperately rather than hoping faithfully. It is the crushing of dreams and the lowering of expectations.

Indifference confronts a single parent who has gotten so caught up in the day to day grind, that she cannot see the long term.

We forget that Saint Monica prayed for her son, Saint Augustine, for 17 years while he led a wild life, openly defying her wishes, mocking her prayers with his very existence.

We forget that Saint Helen prayed for her son, Saint Constantine for years before he finally became Christian and brought an end to Christian persecution in the Roman Empire.

We forget the rest of the promise from Isaiah tells us that by not turning our backs on our own, by fighting indifference we are promised true relief, healing, beauty, and grace.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

We forget that our children need us.

We forget that the very indifference that led the abandoning spouse astray now tells us to throw up our hands and give up.

We forget we are called to greater.

Do not turn your back on your own, even when confronted by oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech, and the light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

There is promise in those words and in the readings that follow especially when linked together. Do not let the gloom of indifference allow you to turn your back on your own. Let your light break forth like the dawn. Be the light in the darkness for your children and for others. Indifference is what happens when we get caught up in ourselves. Instead, “Let your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

Sunday’s Gospel reading wraps it all up nicely,

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden! You are made to flavor and shine and stand apart. You are not made to fade into the gloom of indifference.

The day to day battles of single parenting and of living alone after divorce tear at your heart. There are days when you may want to sit in a ball in a corner and do nothing but cry. There are days when you want to throw up her hands and walk away. There are days when kids choose the abandoning parent despite all you’ve done and you wonder what it’s all for.

But today is not the end anymore than indifference is your goal. You were given a spirit of strength, courage, and love. God calls you to Love even when it is difficult. He calls you to persevere and find Joy in all circumstances. He calls on your to pray without ceasing. He calls on you to shake the sand from your feet when necessary but to keep moving.

God never calls you to be indifferent because He knows indifference is the first step toward defeat. your soul is His to win, not yours to give away in defeat! Hand defeat over to God and let passion and Love win!

Want to learn how to defeat indifference? Check out my new site, Strahlen Grace, which will debut Sunday, February 12, 2017.

God Bless…

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2 Comments

  1. Heidi on February 9, 2017 at 10:34 am

    The circumstances of divorce can vary so much! I am a Catholic mother of five boys who filed for divorce after discovering that my husband of 24 years had an “addiction” to sexual acting out: prostitutes, porn, group sex…. No amount of counseling was going to fix him; he had chosen a path and he no longer had the spiritual strength to make better choices. His soul was broken in a way I had no power to fix. He also, as I discovered, has multiple Cluster B personality disorders that are the root of his inability to be honest with himself or anyone else.

    For a while I wrestled with the appropriate spiritual response. My first response was forgiveness, but when it was clear that forgiveness meant enabling his continued risky behaviors, I had to ask if that was really what God was calling me to. The answer became clear through a series of God Winks.

    Divorce was not indifference, but active protection of the spiritual, emotional and physical health of myself and the young men I am raising.

    Saving the marriage is not always the same as saving the family.

    Just my thoughts. Blessings to you.



    • Strahlen on February 10, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Hi Heidi,

      Thanks for commenting! I am so sorry for what you have gone through. There is no one “normal” situation in divorce! Ugh!

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m going to disagree about there not being indifference in your divorce. It sounds to me like there was indifference – on your husband’s part. It took me a long time to realize that forgiveness is not capitulating and submission is not throwing yourself under a bus. God values us as His creation. Too often we forget that and lose ourselves. I am glad you are being proactive in not going that route. I also hope your boys don’t go with your ex and say that society has become indifferent about what is truly in the best interests of the child, especially in cases like yours. I am so thankful you are not indifferent in your raising those boys. The biggest threat I see to families in situations like ours is that, after solo parenting day in and day out, one can become exhausted and tempted to give in to hopelessness and thinking that life will never get better. That can sometimes lead to a form of indifference causing children, even teens and older children, suffer the faithful parent’s indifference on top of the cheating parent’s indifference. I pray that never happens with you and your boys!

      My goodness! Five Boys! We have to stick together! 🙂

      Thanks again & God Bless…



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