I was married for over two decades. Neither of us were believers in Jesus when we got married. Twelve years into our marriage, I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”). I no longer cared about material things and keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, I suddenly cared about tithing and giving away money to causes that I felt led to support. I now wanted to pray and read the Bible daily.
As a family, we had been sitting in church every Sunday for seven years prior to me being saved. We went to church because once you had kids, “that is what you do” – take them to church. During this time period, my friend invited me to her church. I thought I would go with her to be nice. I did not realize it at the time, but that decision would be a turning point for everyone in my household. After that first visit, I knew that my kids and I needed to attend this new church.
My husband was not saved, so I believed that the Holy Spirit was leading the family to this new church through me. My spouse did not care if or where we went to church, so we started to attend the new church every week. Two years after making the switch to the new church, my spouse chose to get baptized. I was so excited, thinking that finally we would be on the same page with handling our finances, raising the kids, going on mission trips, etc. Some of that happened, but most did not.
Years went by, and the marriage spiraled downwards in a big way. After many years of prayer and fasts, one final incident led me to take the kids and leave my spouse. At that time, I made the decision to be Christlike – no matter what. I placed this verse in the bathroom mirror to see it daily:
“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV
Never tire of acting Christlike.
“Be Christlike” is a phrase we Christians like to throw around. For me, it meant initially trying to collaborate with my spouse and work through the separation agreement together. This would protect the kids, save time and money, and perhaps provide a healthy example of how to divorce like a Christian.
My spouse chose a different path, which unfortunately has resulted in a lot of money, time, and attorneys. Being Christlike does not mean you refuse to defend yourself or your children. Jesus defended the defenseless. I asked God to show me the attorney He wanted me to have to defend my kids and me against the onslaught. There are Christian attorneys out there, I know a few. Whether you choose a Christian attorney or a non-believer, God will use you to draw that person closer to Him. Conduct yourself in a manner that exalts God at all times, regardless of how the other parties are behaving. You represent Christ. Pray for your attorney, and let him or her know you are doing so and that you are praying for your spouse, too.
Being Christlike for me became praying before responding to lawyers, after my spouse chose the path he did. I would daily bathe my actions and words in prayer; I would spread out legal letters before the Lord like Hezekiah and seek the Lord’s will in all that I do. Every time my spouse tried something, I would “spread it out before the Lord.”
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.'”
2 Kings 19:14–19 NIV.
I kept these verses as a screenshot on my phone and would literally read them whenever I saw an email from my spouse or his attorney. I would then listen for the Lord. This helped me hear Him and be Christlike before responding. It also took my focus and energy off of whatever latest game my spouse was trying to play and onto God and how to bring Him glory.
My spouse came after me and every asset that ever existed whether he had a legal right to it or not. The one item he never once brought up was the kids. He never asked for visitation or custody of them. He only wanted access to their money.
I was dead set on being like Jesus throughout the divorce process. I prayed daily (and still do) to be Christlike to my spouse. My divorce has been going on for over a year now. Some of that length is because I chose to be Christlike. For example, I could have had my spouse served by the sheriff. I chose not to do that, but instead I try to be as collaborative as possible. I also could have filed abuse charges to move things along. I chose not to do that, either, as my spouse did not want the kids, so there was no concern about custody. In addition, the kids would have had to relive what they had endured, and I wanted to shield them from any further harm.
My priority was and is my kids. My abusive spouse knows this, so he would attempt to poison the kids by accusing me of committing adultery or other things that were not true. How I handled this game of my spouse is if I learned of a lie that he told them, I discussed it with my children factually and injected truth. I never called my spouse names or told them anything bad about their father. As the divorce progressed, my spouse came after money that belonged to the kids. I fought to protect their assets.
I am honest with them. If they learn things and they ask, I respond one of two ways: With the truth and only the truth – no emotion or opinions because I view that to be the Christlike approach; the other response is if I do not know the truth, I direct them to ask their father.
There are times that my spouse will plant lies with friends or family with the intent they get back to the kids. I do not pretend to know or assume the truth, so I again point the kids to their father.
They never once have reached out to him in these scenarios. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being. When they have one parent belittling the other and not wanting to spend time with them except to pour them full of negativity, the other parent being Christlike is a stark contrast.
In addition to lying and trying to steal from the kids, my spouse also used my social security number at multiple banks without my knowledge or permission. Again, I could have filed charges. My prayers led me to conclude that pressing charges against the father of my children would achieve nothing. Instead, I closed all the credit cards he ran up, and I froze my credit. I went to the banks and reported the incidents so they put flags on all of my accounts and cards. I informed my spouse that I knew what he did and let him know he needed to get his own credit cards as the ones he used in my name were closed. He also stole user accounts like eBay and assumed my identity in those ways as well.
As the attorneys worked to share documents to determine what was fair, even more things turned up where my spouse had stolen from me or the kids. I chose not to focus on the past, as all money is God’s money. God will deal with my spouse as He sees fit. (Romans 12:19 NLT: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.”).
The kids to this day still do not know all of the things their father tried to do to them. I challenge myself with every conversation as to whether it is gossip or edifying and necessary. Every tactic against the kids has failed because God has protected them.
I take comfort in this verse when I find myself wishing I could share things with the kids that are not edifying and necessary to protect them:
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”
Luke 8:17 NLT
Being Christlike, does not mean being weak or avoiding fights for what matters. It is about focusing your energy on God and what brings Him glory. Defending the weak is Christlike. God does not condone anyone being abused physically, spiritually, financially, or any other way.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Matthew 18:6 NIV
To be clear, I do feel hurt or anger about the awful things my spouse does. However, I quickly take those thoughts captive and hand them and my spouse over to God. My thoughts, words, and actions are what I can control and force to be obedient to Jesus. I gave my spouse over to God and pray for him multiple times a day to have a closer relationship with Jesus.
“It is written: ‘”As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.”‘”
Romans 14:11 NIV
Just like my spouse will have to stand before God and account for all that he did and said, so will I. I am not perfect, but I am trying the best I can to be Christlike and show my kids there is a way to behave like Jesus in the face of adversity. God knows my heart and my intent.
Your actions and words are speaking volumes; what are they saying to those observing you? No matter what fiery darts are thrown at you, you need to look your kids (or whomever) in their eyes and be able to say, “I acted as Jesus would.”
It takes patience, walking in the Spirit, a ton of prayer, and trust in God for everything. The end result will be you will draw closer to Jesus and stand before God having tried your best to reflect His Son.