Joy Juggles Counsel and Play in the Park
Bane and Rue were getting the hang of it real quick, throwing the junior sized football like little pros … well, almost. They were having the time of their life, that’s for sure, and Joy was definitely getting some good exercise, too! Their aim was not perfect, which sent her scuttling back and forth to catch, but she didn’t mind. Somehow she also managed to keep up conversation with Effete.
“Yeah … you know, I do absolutely believe marriage is a sacred relationship.” Joy lobbed the ball back in Rue’s direction. “No doubt about it, and I agree, divorce is serious and … yeah, it’s become too easy. Or maybe too convenient. You know, ‘I just don’t love you anymore, so I think it’s time we ended this thing.’ And that happens … unfortunately, tragically. And where children are involved, it can be … huh! Often is disastrous!”
Smack. Joy caught another good, strong throw. “Doing great, Rue!” She tossed the ball to Bane, who quickly returned it. “Good! You guys act like you’ve been playing for years!” Slight exaggeration, but they were getting better. “But you know what concerns me, at least where the church is concerned – the whole church, in our neck of the woods, at least – is how we tend to talk about divorce. I mean, some of the church is almost … I don’t know, slipshod.”
“Hey! You guys get much better I’m gonna put you in uniforms!” Effete yelled across the way. Bane and Rue both smiled but didn’t say anything. “Keep it up!”
“But then there’s that part of the church that, even though they take it seriously and that’s good, they sometimes ask the wrong questions… Or, maybe it’s more like they take the wrong approach, you know?” Joy caught another throw. “Alright guys! Couple more, then what’cha say we go for some ice-cream?”
“Yeah! Sounds great!” Joy and Effete both laughed at just how much the boys had livened up, knowing this had to be one of the best days ever for Bane and Rue.
“What do you mean?” Effete asked.
“Well, there are those who cull through the scriptures all in an attempt to answer what I call ‘permissibility questions.’ You know, ‘When and for what reasons is divorce permissible?’ And, ‘should a divorced man be allowed to remarry?’ And, ‘should the church ordain a divorced man; if so, under what circumstances?’ And it’s not like I’m saying these questions are not good, at least … well, in their proper time and place.”
Joy sent the ball sailing again, purposely a little high to make Rue jump for it. “But so often there’s so little sensitivity. And, yeah, I know, I know! It may sound like I’m about to get warm and gushy, or something like that…” She laughed. “But really I’m not, Effete. I’m just saying there’s always the flesh-and-blood human part of the story. And there’s also, always, the character of God … of Jesus.”
“Proof-texting some case ‘for’ or ‘against’ divorce may be o.k. in college or seminary arguments, but it ignores real life lived in the real world. When you bring it all down into the trenches, where people … love and live, and hurt and cry and laugh, hope, dream and everything else, well … it gets pretty messy. But one thing I’m sure about…”
With the ball back in her hands, Joy looked squarely at Effete. “Any man guilty of the horrible abuse you’ve been through – that you’re going through – has completely, without question, unequivocally forfeited any and all rights and privileges of marriage. And let me be clear, if that’s not clear enough. He has absolutely no right whatsoever to expect, much less demand, your love and respect; absolutely no moral claim whatsoever to your loyalty, your commitment to the marriage, or any right to expect that you will do anything to preserve the marriage, if we can even really call it ‘marriage.’”
She still held the ball while the boys waited silently, maybe knowing it was a serious moment not to be disturbed. “And, yes, I know very well what you’ve been taught in your church, Effete, but listen to me. You do not have to allow someone else’s legalism and theoretical parsing of particular scriptures condemn you to a life of absolute hell… Marriage is sacred, yes, just like you said a few minutes ago. But marriage is so sacred, so valuable, that when someone so grossly violates the sanctity of marriage, as Fen has, he no longer has the right to be married … to anyone.”
Joy released the ball again. “That’s what I’m saying. Marriage is not just a ‘sacred institution.’ And, God, how I hate the word ‘institution’ for marriage! It’s not an institution, it’s a relationship and it’s a privilege, you know? You’re joining your life, intimately connecting yourself, to the life of another, precious individual … sharing the ‘all’ of you with the ‘all’ of them, at the deepest level. It’s an awesome, God-given privilege … and it’s a privilege someone can give up, even destroy. And that’s what’s happened. That is exactly what Fen has done.”
Joy caught the ball again and turned to face Effete. She glanced down and quietly said, “I have a confession to make,” then kind of laughed nervously. Effete’s eyes widened a little. “I’ve been to college and seminary, and I have a few years in ministry under my belt now, but for the life of me I don’t know if I’m saying what I should say…” She shook her head, “if I’m being the kind of counselor you need right now…”
Effete placed a hand on Joy’s shoulder to stop her. “Joy … please. I swear to you, if you think I need … I don’t know … to go see someone, whoever, I’ll go. Just point me in the right direction and I’ll go, but right now … right now, more than anything in the world … my God, I need a friend, and that’s what you are. More than a counselor, and I think you’re wonderful, but more than that you’ve been a friend… You are a friend.”
Joy looked up as Effete continued, “I don’t want to be a burden … but you’re a godsend!” Now she laughed nervously and shook her head. “No, you know … I know I can’t just, like … throw myself, my whole life at your feet and expect you to wave some magic wand and make everything right… Wish I could! But no … no. You’ve listened to me, and you’ve encouraged me and, yes, counseled … but more than anything, you’ve loved me… You just don’t know how much that means to me… You love me and that’s … that’s like a breath of life.”
Joy smiled and held Effete’s other hand. After a few moments just looking in her eyes she conceded, “Fair enough, then. I can be the friend-sometimes-counselor who loves you… After all, the loving you part’s the easiest of all … but as far as pointing you in the right direction, you already know what I think you should do and where you need to go. I’m scared… I’m afraid for you and the boys, Effete.”
“I know… It’s just so hard.” Effete closed her eyes and shook her head. “Yes, yes and yes! I know … it’s tough but I’ve got to make some tough choices, and it’s obvious, and I just need to do it… I know.” She opened her eyes again to look at Joy. “Just … I’m trying. I really am.”
“I know.” She pulled Effete into a warm embrace. “I know, and I’m here for you … the counselor-friend who loves you.” They both laughed.
“Hey! Does this mean it’s time for ice-cream?” They looked down to see Bane and Rue both at their sides.
“Yeah,” Joy smiled at them and chuckled. “Guess it does!”
Written by noblethemes
January 25, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Tagged with Abuse, Abuse Counseling, Effete Sloughheart, Fen Sloughheart, Fundamentalism, Human Rights, Joy Brighterday, Legalism, Life Challenges, Life in Christ, Marriage, Marriage and Divorce, Personal Challenges, Recovering Fundamentalist, Religion, Rue Sloughheart, society, Spirituality
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