Recently a very poignant blog post was shared by the poster couple for mixed orientation marriages after a viral post five years ago. This recent post announces their intention to divorce. The post is long, but worth the read. On social media, it has elicited all kinds of opinions and responses.
In the Generous Space community, we have beloved family members who are navigating mixed orientation marriages or being queerly covenanted in a variety of ways. One simple sentence doesn’t begin to articulate the tender, vulnerable, deeply intimate, and personal realities that our friends are experiencing. In our online groups, I see both the care and the sensitivity that arises when this topic is discussed. I see people both speaking their truth from their experience and trying to make room for others to forge their unique path and own their own experience. The longing for authenticity, to flourish, and to embrace and celebrate deep self-acceptance is challenging enough for oneself, more complicated when involving a spouse, and very complex when dealing with different couples in different places in their journeys. It feels like messy, painful, yet beautiful efforts to be family together.
In the Generous Space community, there is freedom to be where you are and to have your best efforts to discern wisely respected and heard.
Clearly, we want to be supportive and encouraging of each other. But how do we best do this when our paths seem to be headed in different directions?
• God is with us in the journey. No matter where we are, no matter what factors are currently influencing our discernment, no matter who agrees with our choices, no matter how clear or uncertain we feel, no matter whether we are committed to or deconstructing things we believe, God is with us. We recognize that in any given marriage there are distinct factors to consider including the reality of children, the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the spouses, the health of the relationship, and the impact of beliefs and values.
• There isn’t one right answer. Sometimes that’s what we wish for. It would make things simpler and easier. And it isn’t hard to find a legalistic fundamentalist who will tell you there can only possibly be one way to please God and/or to live authentically. The good news is that our faith isn’t transactional, it is relational. And in relationship, we grow in understanding each other, we grow in knowing how to love each other – both giving and receiving. This is true in our relationship with God. God know us intimately, personally. God reveals that which is life-giving to us uniquely in the context we find ourselves in. Some couples will choose to remain fully invested in their marriage relationship, some couples may renegotiate what their covenant to each other looks like, and some may separate and divorce giving each other space to cultivate a new life.
• We honour our own and each other’s agency. We all have times when, like Jacob, we wrestle all night with God seeking a blessing. No one can do it for us, no one can tell us what it will be like, no can give us the five steps to take. We need to show up, be present, and do our best to discern what God is asking of us…. and our best will be enough for that point in our journey. When spouses want different things, navigating each other’s agency with love and respect can be painful and difficult. Extending love to a spouse while honouring and loving oneself doesn’t have a nice neat formula and may cause deep grief even in the midst of love and care.
• We haven’t arrived. God is a God who loves evolution, unfolding, revealing, and growth. (And growth isn’t linear but inevitably includes dying and rising.) Our lives aren’t meant to be static. We see through a glass dimly. We welcome child-like wonder and curiosity about what God will do next. We engage with each other with open expectation that “God isn’t done with us yet.” As we listen to one another, we embrace the posture of humility, we resist the urge to project one story on every else’s experience, and we give space for others to grow as they journey.
• We give ourselves and each other permission. One of the things we want to consistently emphasize in the Generous Space community is giving permission to take a break, to opt out, to recognize when engagement is counter-productive and we simply need a rest, to regroup, to reflect. If a conversation is too triggering, it is ok to say, “I’m going to step back and take care of myself.” In Generous Space we embrace both affinity and difference. Sometimes we simply need the comfort and encouragement of being with people who share our convictions and are making similar choices to the ones we’re making. At other times, we have the energy to engage with those who look at things quite differently than we do, who may be making very different choices than we are. These times of dialogue can enlarge us in many ways. The key is to discern when to focus on affinity and when to engage in difference.
• Our commitments matter. Keeping our commitments is much more than a one-time promise. Commitment requires ongoing attention, reflection, dialogue, and understanding. In our Generous Space community, we want to honour people’s commitments. That means we won’t attack, challenge, or question each other’s commitments. There may be times we inquire about what kind of fruit our commitments are bearing, whether they’re life-giving or harmful. But no one should ever feel that their commitments or convictions aren’t respected in the Generous Space community.
It isn’t easy to feel like a minority within a community. Our siblings in Christ who are in mixed orientation marriages, who are navigating queerly covenanted relationships, who are creatively trying to be parents and families beyond typical heteronormative constructs, who are straight spouses, who are recovering from ex-gay expectations, or who are processing trans and non-binary realities within a marriage are deeply valued parts of our Generous Space community and the broader LGBTQ+ Christian population. We see you. We honour you. We support you. And we want to encourage you in your journey to know God and to live fully into your belovedness. Thank you for your bravery and your honesty in our community. We stand with you when it is painful and difficult. We will rejoice when you rejoice, and we will weep when you weep. We are grateful for you and we see Christ in you.