It has been a long, arduous road. Since I made the decision to be a part of organized religion, some 20 years ago or so, it has been a very interesting journey. And now...now that I have broken the bonds of obligation, judgment, and guilt, I am finally free.
My mother saw it coming. I just want to put that in writing somewhere, although I wish she could see it. Long before her passing, she questioned my involvement in a religious congregation. Oh, she most certainly believed in the Most Holy G-d of the Universe, without question. What she didn't have any faith in was the people who gather in His Name. "You are going to get hurt, Liz. No really, listen...I've walked this road myself, and it was painful." As usual, she was right.
Even with that warning, I was unprepared for what awaited me. The sheer shallowness and aloof judgement was something it took me all those 20-ish years to wrap my head around. And here is the crux of the matter: just because I make every effort to not judge others, accept them as unique, G-d created individuals, and respect their choices as their own, doesn't mean they will afford me the same privilege. This has been a difficult lesson, to be sure.
Here is the hard truth: I am divorced. That's right, I made the agonizing and difficult decision to divorce...not just one husband, but two. I could go into great detail of the circumstances, but suffice it to say that the decision to cease living life with each of the men I loved beyond measure, enough to walk down the aisle, was not an easy one. Nor was the divorce process, regardless of what may or may not be said. But wait, you say, doesn't G-d hate divorce? As it is written in the Old Testament book of Malachi, chapter 2:
“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the G-d of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (ESV)
We are probably more familiar with this translation:
"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the G-d of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." (NASB)
Or how about this version from the King James:
"For the LORD, the G-d of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously."
However you wish to translate the verbiage, it is clear that the man who divorces, or puts away (abandons, neglects, or abuses) his wife that he took to protect and provide for, covers himself (his garment) with violence. This man is also told to guard himself that he does not treat his wife with cruelty or treachery. And yes, G-d hates it when a man (or anyone, for that matter) deals treacherously with another person. Thankfully, in the times in which we live, both men and women have the opportunity to leave a situation that is unhealthy or hurtful. What a blessing!
I am divorced and G-d doesn't hate me because of it. In fact, Yeshua (Jesus) states in the book of Matthew that the divorce decree was given, or allowed, due to the hardness of men's hearts. Hard, unloving, uncaring hearts are the reason the divorce decree was given. Have you ever known anyone with a heart like that? The bottom line is that I don't believe that G-d hates me because I am divorced and I don't believe that is what Scripture says - although I know that is what the church says. You can disagree with me if you wish, but at the end of the day, I have to live my life and answer for my decisions, no one else.
And isn't that the deal about judgement? When one thinks they have it all down, they turn to cast their eye on another to make sure they are doing it just as they deem right? For years, many women have lived in the lonely prison that is a loveless, abusive marriage because of their religion or born the burden of public stigma of being a divorced woman. Do you hold the opinion that G-d hates those who divorce? Do you feel justified to shun or condemn them because of it?
This takes me back to freedom; the freedom to make my own choices. What a breath of fresh air! How many get a chance to start over? How many want one?
Onto another naked truth: I have several piercings and a tattoo. Even as I type that, I can hear the gasps of the religious "right." They shake their heads at the sight and ask "why??" citing the Torah, Leviticus 19:28:
"You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord." (ESV)
Well, thankfully, I am not tattooed in memory of the dead; nor am I practicing idolatry or pagan worship with the tattoo I chose. I found this article by author Walter Jackson (excerpt below) that addresses some points that are rarely considered in this debate, but echo my own thoughts:
"The following observations are in order:
(1) This same chapter (Leviticus 19) also provides instruction for appropriate conduct in conjunction with offering animal sacrifices. It requires leaving certain portions of one’s crops unharvested (in the interest of the poor). The sowing of two types of seed in the same field is prohibited. The Hebrews were not to wear a garment with two different fabrics combined (e.g., wool and linen). When new fruit trees were planted, none of the fruit was to be eaten for the first three years. There are restrictions about how the man’s hair was to be cut, and the manner in which his beard might not be trimmed. Keeping the Sabbath is enjoined, etc.
Why should we focus on one of these injunctions to the exclusion of the others?
(2) The immediate context of Leviticus 19:27-28 suggests that Moses was attempting to inoculate Israel against the emulation of certain heathen practices related to idolatry.
For example, the prophet forbids “cutting the flesh” in the passage under consideration; yet no one contends that medical surgery is being condemned. Rather, “cuttings” in the flesh “for the dead” are in view (cf. also 1 Kgs. 18:28). This was an idolatrous practice.
Too, ancient archaeological evidence indicates that some of the Canaanites would tattoo themselves with the names or symbols of their favorite “gods.” This appears to be what the prophet is condemning, not the modern custom of “esthetic” tattooing – regardless of how distasteful such a practice may be to many people.
(3) Since the New Testament does not address the issue of tattooing specifically, one must be guided by principle. Any practice that is vulgar, gaudy, or a distraction to one’s Christian influence should be avoided. But, to some extent, this is a matter of taste and judgment.
No one can presume to prescribe conduct for everyone else in matters of this nature. Is it appropriate for women to wear make-up? How about permanent eye-liner? May men and women adorn themselves with jewelry? May they pierce their ears?
Christians must attempt to employ sound judgment in such matters, and give no occasion to the adversary for reviling (1 Tim. 5:14). Moreover, a Christian’s personal privacy and right of choice must be respected in ambiguous areas of judgment. This is the most a wise Bible instructor can say."
Yes, I am divorced and tattooed. I feel truly free of religious bondage! I am free to choose without the vile judgment of those who think they have it all figured out. I am free to make my decisions without feeling the heavy weight of religious finger-pointing and the resulting self-doubt of my faith. My faith is a gift of HaShem, and He alone is the One I follow and obey, not the misinterpretations of the religious pseudo-Sanhedrin. Others can judge all they wish, but I would like to gently remind that we ALL must answer for our actions, even judgement against others.
Q: "I saw your tattoo...why? what are you doing??"
A: I am enjoying freedom for the first time in my life! I am fully living, looking forward to a shining future of schooling and more, fully immersing myself in the love and companionship of my beloved family and friends, and I am absolutely thrilled at what the LORD has given me. How 'bout you?