Angela’s Interview

Nov
2011
13

posted by on Divorce Encouragement

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Angela\’s interview Pt. 1
Angela\’s Interview Pt. 2
Angela\’s Interview Pt. 3
I got a call from a friend and fellow author the other day. She asked me to answer a few questions for her blog,  http://angelaruthstrong.blogspot.com  The interview was fun, Angela did a great job. You can click on the links above to see it on video…
Q. Jeff, I attended your divorce recovery class, but I don’t know your story? Please share a little of your past experience with divorce and infidelity.
Angela, I was kind of an upside-down kid who grew into an upside-down young adult… I was raised in a typically dysfunctional American home, and I met and married an equally dysfunctional young woman. We were not Christians at that time, so we had no concept of a pure and bonding courtship, we just did what normal couples did. We met and moved in together, and we were married about a year later. We were mostly happy for about two years, but my former spouse had some very deep and hidden feelings for someone in her past that I was not really aware of at the time. When that person would become available between relationships every couple of years, the two of them would secretly contact each other, and she would secretly make plans to leave to be with this man in a distant location…

This individual who constantly lived in the shadows of my former spouse’s mind and heart was not stable in relationships, so invariably the two of them would break up, and invariably my former spouse would want to come back to me. I loved my wife, and I truly believed that she wanted to change, so we reunited and renewed our vows several times after these lengthy periods of separation and infidelity. I had a very hard time relinquishing my devotion to the wife of my youth, so we actually remarried once, after she had divorced me to be with this man… But after ten years of brutalizing one another in trying to make a ravaged relationship work, she divorced me a second time, and we went our separate ways…

Q. How did you end up starting the Grace For Divorce program at Calvary Chapel?
In those periods of separation from my spouse, I developed a solid relationship with a small church in Southern California. When I became a single adult, I started up and began to lead a singles group in that church… In speaking from my heart to single adults, I developed a passion to bring real-life, Biblical divorce and relationship education to hurting people. I started writing a curriculum which eventually became our book, “Working Through The Crisis”… I met my wife Joanne during that time as well. Then the Lord brought us to Boise and to Calvary Chapel many years ago, where we settled in and began to teach and refine our message to those who are reeling from the pain of abandonment and divorce…

Q. What does a divorce recovery program like yours have to offer abandoned wives?
Angela, many of the faces we see in our Grace For Divorce classes are those of hurting and abandoned women. I think the initial feeling in the hearts of most of those women is one of amazement that there are so many others in the room who feel exactly as they do… For hurting women; I believe the camaraderie, the fellowship, and the heart to heart learning from one another in the small group setting is a huge part of what makes the Grace For Divorce program so special. I’d like to think the teaching from our textbook, “Working Through The Crisis” brings some quality education along with some Biblical peace and insight to the lonely and difficult situation these women face as well.

Q. I once said I was going to write a book called “Second Class Christian: My Life as a Single Mom,” and you agreed that it was a fitting title… How do you see the church treating divorced people? And what should be done differently?
Angela, I really think that pastors and church people treat divorced and single people as generously and compassionately as they know how, in most cases. I think some churches might do a better job than others, but every pastor has a very big job to do, and every pastor does his job to the very best of his knowledge and ability…

Most pastors have never been divorced or abandoned by their spouses, so it is difficult for them to speak personally to the subject of divorce and abandonment, and pastors have a responsibility to speak the whole truth to the whole church, so they can’t speak just to divorced and single folks from the pulpit all the time.

In my opinion, churches could speak more often to the specific needs of divorced and single adults. And I believe they should support an effective divorce recovery program to help the broken ones get to a place of relational security and wholeness with God and with others. When this is allowed to happen in grace within the church, these emotionally shattered folks might be less likely to repeat the relationship choices which have tended to contribute negatively to the pandemic divorce rate that ravages all of us.

In most cases, an effective divorce outreach in any church will usually be started and maintained by a passionate individual who shares a common experience of divorce and abandonment with the ones he or she is teaching. As we work with interested people to bring our program into another church, we make it very easy for leaders to capture the vision and move that vision into a successful class experience, but it still requires a caring and determined person to make it happen in any church.

Q. You have said that most divorced people will fall into one of two categories. The first category would be rescuers or givers, and the second category would be users or takers. You’ve also said your Grace For Divorce class was mostly made up of rescuers or givers. What do you mean by that?
I have seen, in my years on this planet that the world is made up of two kinds of people. There are those who are self-centered and those who are others-centered. Self-centered people mostly go through life thinking about what is good for them and others-centered people mostly go through life thinking about what is good for others. It is good for a person to be others-oriented. However, if an others- oriented person has not learned good boundaries in relationships, he or she will often rescue a selfish person, totally sacrificing his or her wants and needs in a relationship to please that self-centered, using individual.

In these rescuer/user match-ups, usually the rescuer gets the fuzzy end of the Popsicle stick. Often these relationships start out very passionately, but the user or taker simply loses respect for his or her rescuer, and the user often becomes emotionally or physically abusive to the rescuer. The rescuer is often reluctant to let go of the user, often because the rescuer has made the user his or her reason to live.

When a self-centered user or taker finds his or herself single again, they usually move on to another person and a new relationship. But an others-oriented rescuer is often left behind to try to figure out how to rebuild his or her life. So we often find broken, rescuing people in our classes, where we hope to help them see their life’s purpose in a God who passionately loves them. We also hope to bring them some practical knowledge in determining to have disciplined relationships with healthy people from now on.

Q. I remember that you were a big believer in a lifestyle of sexual purity for single adults. What are your recommendations for a couple in a dating relationship, and how long should a person wait after a divorce, before they start dating again?
Well Angela, those are very loaded questions, but I’ll start with the last question first. Whenever someone asks me how soon they can start dating after their divorce, I always remember my mom telling me, “You can’t go in the pool until two hours after you eat, otherwise you’ll get a cramp and you’ll drown, and then you’ll die”. I usually found a way to get into the pool way before my mom’s prescribed two hour restriction had passed.

It’s rarely effective to tell a person they can’t do something they instinctively want to do, because the tendency of our flesh is to knuckle up in our hearts, and to simply jump up and do the thing we wanted to do, in spite of the risk of consequences. The fact is; that a person is free to date anyone they want, anytime they want. But a person is also free not to date anyone at all for a very long time, and for most people, that’s usually the more prudent decision.

Angela, the question is really a matter of the heart, because we as Christians were not really called to have a person in life, we were called to be a person in life. I believe that, in becoming the person we were called to be, we will be way more effective and careful in choosing the person we might have been called to have.

Angela, now that we’ve established those points of contact, we can move on to your second question; “What  would I recommend to a dating couple to give themselves a good opportunity to have a sexually pure and bonding courtship, in a culture that expects them to simply ‘go with the flow’ of a relationship.”

I believe that sexual purity is important, because having sex before marriage mostly halts the natural bonding process that a courtship was designed to accomplish in a couple. Engaging in sexual adventure in a courtship, places a feeling of guilt and disrespect into the ongoing relationship and marriage, that simply wouldn’t be there if the couple remained sexually pure for the long duration of discovering and establishing his and her love and respect for one another.

The best recommendation I can give a dating couple is to determine at the very beginning of an intimate friendship that a long-term, sexually pure and bonding courtship is important to both of them. Then the two of them will be accountable to one another in making physical purity and mutual respect a part of their shared history to last a lifetime. If a couple will determine at the beginning of their relationship to be sexually pure, the rest of my recommendations are simple, just have fun and enjoy your bonding time together, but be careful of placing yourselves in a position that won’t allow either of you to escape from a situation of escalating physical passion.

We say that a courtship should be the most fun you’ve ever had with all your clothes on, but there must be a method and a plan to a successful courtship, because courtship is really a romantic version of an observational interview. Many of us share a history of giving our hearts to someone who simply wasn’t qualified to have our hearts. We can’t afford to do that anymore.

I believe a single person should begin very quickly, to create a list of qualities and traits which they know are essential for a qualified person to have, before that person could own his or her heart. That list should include things like spiritual history and commitment, family history, relationship history, financial skills, sense of humor, etc. Using your list, you can determine if the person you might have is really the person you are looking for. We’ve included an outline for that list in our book.

Q. Going into this Christmas season, what is a healthy way for a woman to deal with her feelings of loss, in not being able to have all of her old traditions and memories from previous holidays?
Well, I can really get myself into trouble when I sound too practical in these matters of the heart, so I asked Joanne to help me put some thoughts together on this subject. Separation and divorce is a heart breaking event, and we wish it never happened to anyone, but it happens every day to all kinds of people. The way to survive a heart breaking event is to be as flexible and creative as you can be. There will be some holiday traditions that you will be able to preserve after the firestorm of divorce has passed through your life, and there will be some that you simply cannot preserve. But you can always find new traditions to replace the ones you’ve had to leave behind.

I remember when I was a single dad, my son and I had a tradition of going to a particular all-you-can-eat restaurant on Thanksgiving. We had fun doing that, but when Joanne came into the picture with her family of three sons, my son and I acquired new traditions. We still have some of the traditions that Joanne brought into our family mix, but others are simply not practical anymore, so now we do something different.

Q. Please tell me about your books and what inspired them.
I’ve already related most of the story behind our textbook and personal study guide, “Working Through The Crisis”. This book has grown from just a few pages into a 150 page workbook which includes several charts and graphs that a class facilitator can easily use to convey the discussion points to an audience. We also have a Leaders Guide to Working Through the Crisis which helps folks start their own class or home study group. Of course, “Working Through the Crisis” works equally well as a stand-alone workbook for individuals. It has 10 chapters, and we take the reader through their entire divorce experience, from handling the grief of separation, all the way up through dating, considering a new courtship, and choosing a new spouse. We’ve found that several folks who’ve bought this book for their own study have been inspired to bring a Grace For Divorce group to their home or church.

“Destined For Him” is our second book, it’s a commentary on the Book of Ruth, written primarily to single adults. Once again, we developed the ideas for this book in teaching our Grace For Divorce class. We really found that we were using the story of Ruth and Boaz in a much different fashion than most Bible teachers were, as we were looking at God’s divine interaction in the Biblical and cultural events of this couples’ meeting, their courtship, and their historical impact upon the world. This book makes an excellent companion to our Grace For Divorce workbook, and we have a package price for both, if someone were to contact us.

Q. What other advice would you have for a woman who is trying to move on, after her husband has moved out?
Angela, first of all, thanks for asking these questions, I’ve really had a blast answering them. We really know first-hand that separation and divorce are brutal events that sometimes occur within the timeline of our lives upon this earth. We really have to remind ourselves that this time we have upon this earth is by far, the shortest time we are going to spend anywhere. We probably won’t get; this side of heaven, all of the answers to all of our questions about the whats, whys and wherefores of our particular circumstance. But we can grow from this experience, and we can rest in the absolute knowledge that God is not mad at us and that He is not only carrying us through this trial now, He truly has a good plan for our lives into the future…
Jeremiah 29:11 says… “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

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