The Heart of Remarriage
When Matt and Mandy decided to get married, they vowed to do it right. They would love each other till death parted them, and get married in their church in a ceremony witnessed by friends and family. Excitedly, the couple booked their wedding date in the chapel and planned their reception. Mandy bought a beautiful wedding gown, and the pair picked out rings. They lined up their premarital counseling appointments and showed up a few minutes early for the first session, eager to hear the words of wisdom their pastor would impart for their blessed union.
They entered the pastor’s office, where the men shook hands and clapped each other lightly on the back, and Mandy gave the pastor a light hug. Then the couple sat down in chairs across from this man they respected—and waited.
Suddenly, the atmosphere turned slightly awkward. The pastor cleared his throat, obviously trying to find the right words. Matt and Mandy looked at each other anxiously. You see, Matt and Mandy were each getting married for the second time. She wasn’t the young, first-time bride, but a divorcee with an ex-husband two states away and two small children. Matt had a former wife who now attended church across town and three kids who went back and forth between mom and dad. The comfortable, wood-paneled church office suddenly began to feel stifling.
This scenario, or something like it, happens in churches every day. Well-meaning couples who have experienced the pain of leaving a marriage or losing a spouse through death or divorce want to get married for the second (or more) time, and well-meaning, caring pastors and ministers feel uneasy or don’t have the right tools to counsel them on how to do it. Couples on the brink of remarriage desperately need wisdom, and their damaged hearts long for a blessing. They’ve heard the warnings of family and friends. They already know the odds against a second marriage making it. They live daily with the pain of “friends” who gossip, judge or just no longer invite them over since their marriage ended.
Still, Christian couples who believe that God has offered them a new chance at love for a lifetime make joyful plans for remarriage. They want to build a family that will honor God, and they desire to be used by Him as a living picture of redemption. They need acceptance and solid advice, and they turn to their churches to receive it.
Often, the pastor isn’t sure how to give it—the advice or the blessing. After all, praising the two for remaining sexually pure before the union doesn’t exactly fit, and talking about how the marriage will change when children enter the picture usually doesn’t apply. (Been there, done that.) Finances are muddied with child support coming and going, and simple suggestions for better communication hardly cover the sticky circumstances remarried couples will face, with former spouses who create chaos and children who may hate their stepparent. Plus, most loving pastors have counseled hundreds of marriages in trouble and watched remarriages fall apart right and left. They feel torn between hoping this union will last for the sake of all the kids involved and wanting to say, “Are you sure you want to do this?” (the polite version of shouting, “Run for the hills!”). They want to provide wisdom but aren’t sure what the right words are to say.
When premarital sessions are over, couples smile and shake hands with their pastor again, but the smiles are now strained, and all feel relieved to be parting. The three may engage in a few more of these stilted conversations before the wedding, most likely never getting past the past and on to issues of the heart that could heal. Instead of getting a good start for a healthy remarriage, couples often feel guilty or frustrated at the lack of empathy and understanding. And pastors and lay pastors who care about these couples and want to marry them with a blessing may feel like they have failed to give hope, wisdom and solid resources to give remarriages a great start.
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