There was a couple I vaguely knew in college. They got married shortly after graduation – young, beautiful, headed for glory. After just a year or two, the young wife suffered a terrible accident leaving her brain damaged. And shortly after that, the young husband divorced her and went on his way.
Passionate debate ensued among us twenty-somethings, especially among those of us who barely knew them.
Pro-Divorce: This is not what he’d bargained for. Who wouldn’t divorce someone in his situation? He was only 25 years old. He had his whole life in front of him.
Anti-Divorce: What about “in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live”? How could he leave her when she needed him the most?
The truth is that we have no idea what we would do in such circumstances. We might think we know exactly what we’d do, but we don’t. We honestly don’t.
[I remember the Pro-Life-Parade-Marching Mom in my first church who phoned me late one night and begged me to take her 15 year old daughter to get an abortion.]
As my brilliant 20-something TBC recently reminded me upon discussing the most valuable things she learned in college: We Cannot Take Things At Face Value. We cannot know what someone is going through. We cannot know all the factors involved in their making very personal life decisions. We cannot possibly know every back story, every consideration, every secret circumstance.
Perhaps we’ve even had to make a similar decision, and yet the details of our particular decisions are never the same as the next person’s decision.
Only God knows. And God loves us.
And so next time we see someone whose toddler is throwing a fit in the shopping mall, or we hear about parents who send their child to a boarding school, or we have a neighbor who sends her mother to a mental institution, or our sibling moves to the other side of the country from his ex, or a church friend makes a choice “we would never make” – consider the fact that we may not know exactly what we would do.
We pray for grace and ask for cosmic guidance. And when our friends make choices we say we would not make, we offer grace to them as well. Jesus died for this.
In loving memory of DES (1967-2014)