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On Divorce and Jen Hatmaker

Dena Johnson Martin

I can only imagine how incredibly difficult the last few years have been for Jen Hatmaker, the well-known Christian author and speaker who has undergone a radical transformation in her theology.

Hatmaker and her husband have built a platform for spreading Christianity by reaching out to the oppressed, the outcasts of society. From serving the homeless for Sunday services to handing out free hugs at LGBTQ parades, every aspect of their lives has been centered on giving love.

Hatmaker made headlines a few years ago when she parted from traditional theologies to embrace same-sex marriage as potentially being “sacred.” Just a few weeks ago, she again made headlines when her daughter “came out” to the public on a podcast.

This week, Jen Hatmaker announced that she and her husband are getting a divorce.

I don’t know where you land on Hatmaker’s theology concerning the LGBTQ community, but here’s one thing I do know: she needs the love and support of her brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t know the reasons behind the Hatmaker’s divorce. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever the reasons, I can assure you that they are both reeling. They have struggled with divorce in light of their faith. They have questioned their ability to be ministers of the gospel. They feel as if the foundation of their lives is gone. Everything in their lives is being questioned, and they are struggling to imagine the future. Their plans to walk together into their golden years with someone who knows everything about them, to sit in their rocking chairs on the porch and reminisce about their decades together…it has all vanished.

In place of their hopes and dreams and plans, they find themselves questioning their faith, the goodness of God, their desire to remain faithful to the One they’ve faithfully served all these years. Their lives have shattered into a million worthless shards. They are left with nothing but a heap of rubble. As they wander aimlessly about, they struggle to know where to start picking up the pieces, how to rebuild their lives.

And such, my friend, is the nature of divorce.

Divorce is a devastating storm that sweeps in suddenly. For those who have a firm foundation on Christ, they will eventually—with much time and energy—find the hope of the gospel, the truth that God resurrects our lives no matter what devastation may sweep in. And that is the hope of a life built upon a firm foundation. That is my prayer for the Hatmakers.

I don’t know where you stand on the Hatmakers theology, but here’s what I do know:

The Hatmakers need our prayers.

I am certain there has been much prayer and work that has been invested in saving the marriage. I don’t know of a devoted Christian that just flippantly throws away his or her marriage. There must be something seriously wrong to bring them to this point. I don’t know if there is a major character flaw that has led to some extensive sin or if it is years of dysfunction that has taken its toll, but I promise the covenant of marriage has not been taken lightly.

As the body of Christ, we are called to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:4). Our theology should never interfere with our love for our brothers and sisters. We should be available to love and support as God gives opportunity.

The Hatmakers don’t need Christian clichés.

And they don’t need prideful modern-day Pharisees pointing out their sins and failures or a theology with which they don’t agree.

“You just need to pray more.”

“You must not have enough faith.”

“What sin did you commit to make your husband (or wife) have an affair?”

“You must not have been an attentive enough spouse.”

Why is it that divorce is the one time we find it acceptable to blame the victim? Why is it that we assume every divorce is the result of two people not working hard enough? Have we not seen enough selfish people to understand that it only takes one person’s hard heart to destroy a marriage? Have we not come far enough to recognize that some people are unable to truly exhibit selfless love?

When Job had everything of value stripped away, he had three friends who traveled from far away to sit with him. For the first seven days, they simply sat in silence, comforting their friend with their presence. Had they stopped there, they would have gone a long way to helping Job start the healing process. However, it was when they opened their mouths that everything fell apart. While Job’s friends said some good things, it was their Christian clichés, their tendency to blame Job for the calamities that struck his life, that pushed Job to his breaking point.

May we never be that kind of friend.

The Hatmakers need a community to support them.

When my husband’s affair was first made public, I went into hiding. It wasn’t until I came out into the public and allowed my church family to embrace me that I began the process of healing.

As a pastor’s wife, it will be especially difficult for Jen. I don’t know the status of her husband’s pastorate, but I know what it is to go from the first lady of a church family to just an invisible face in the congregation. Jen will most likely lose her church family (if her husband remains the pastor). She will lose her position. She will lose many ministry opportunities because of “Christians” who feel she is disqualified because of her divorce.

I know. I’ve been in her shoes.

And yet, the very thing Hatmaker needs right now is a circle of loving Christians to come alongside her, embrace her, walk this journey with her. She needs us, as the body of Christ, to do what God has called us to do: to love those who are downcast and hurting and oppressed as they seek to find healing.

God created us to live in community because it is in community that we find healing and hope.

Jen, I don’t know you. We were only a few years apart as we stood on Bison Hill all those years ago. We both entered into marriage with a fellow OBU classmate, eager and excited to minister for God as a pastor’s family. After years of service to Him and our spouse, we both found our lives wrecked by the pain of divorce. 

But here’s where things are different: I’ve walked this path ahead of you. I’ve seen the joy of wandering in the wilderness, watching God provide for my every need. I’ve seen Him guide my steps, defeat my enemies at every turn. I’ve been led faithfully into the Promised Land, a land of beauty and redemption.

After a decade of wandering, I have found this post-divorce life to be so incredibly beautiful! I have found an intimacy with my Father that I never expected, a joy in watching God restore everything I have lost and more. I revel in the beauty of my broken life.

And I am absolutely certain He will do the same for you. Cling to Him. Let Him purify your heart, your faith, as you embrace this difficult and unwanted journey. Let Him create something far greater than anything you could ever imagine.

I will always be here for you, faithfully lifting you up in prayer, my beautiful sister in Christ. Cling to the Father and watch in amazement as He puts you back together and on your feet for good!

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