The thought occurred to me the other day, sitting in the soccer stands, watching another of my son’s high school games. I must be contagious. Why else would the former friends and soccer-watching-fellow-parents keep a judicious 20 feet away from me? They’ll say hi, assuming I make eye contact and they haven’t looked away fast enough or assuming there’s no one else within a 50 foot radius and they have no choice in order to avoid a major social faux pas.
I wonder if wives tell husbands they’d better not have friendships with these divorced guys — they might catch that divorce fever and then their marriage is headed for the ICU as well…. I’m being a bit facetious. Of course wives don’t have these conversations — they don’t need to — their husbands already get it from the negative reactions their wives have to any alternative view of the situation then the poor single mother who now must make a go of it on her own.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not judging any single mothers — there are many of them out there who are doing whatever they can to ensure their kids have a great relationship with their father and are working their tails off to support the now split family. I’m judging this judgment that our society has for single fathers where we are guilty until proven innocent — and theirs no trial or place for us to ever prove that innocence. So we are just guilty. Most mature adults realize that it takes two to tango. Most parents tell their kids that there are two sides to every story and maybe rather than judging the side we don’t know about, we should be curious and care enough to find out what is happening on both sides of the equation.
Instead, we have experiences like a week ago. One of the mom’s from my old church walked by with her 8 year old son (whom I taught in his Church Programs). We used to talk very regularly in our small group. I knew her kids well — I’d taught them, coached them, and been their camp counselor. As they walked by, I saw the 8 year old tug on her arm and say (not quite out of reach of my ears), “Momma, why don’t we talk to Mr. Jim anymore.”
I would have given $100 to hear her response.
I’m fairly certain I didn’t treat divorcees as contagious before I went through this. I’m also fairly certain I didn’t go out of my way to love on them. One of the last times I was at my old church, I walked in late to a pre-Easter service and there was a chair open next to an acquaintance of mine. It was three months after my separation and filing for divorce. It was a pretty emotional time for me. I sat down next to Charles. He immediately patted my knee and made me feel welcome. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in tears. Just that little human touch meant so much at that moment for me. I wasn’t contagious to Charles.
All of this reminds me of the approach Jesus took toward the divorced and the contagious in the Gospels. The woman at the well had been divorced 5 times and was living with her current man. Jesus treated her with respect and love when no one else would even talk to her. If you look at the interactions with the truly contagious, like the lepers, even then, Jesus had no qualms about touching them and being involved in their lives.
What we need is more people treating divorcees and non-divorcees a like as non-contagious and people needing love. Go do that today.
- Supporting Friends During a Divorce (designmom.com)