Patsy Rae Dawson
Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you to everyone who responded to my announcement about my divorce. I treasure your prayers and encouragement. Most of the emails came from people who benefited from my work; and thus, are familiar with my teaching. Others asked, "Don't you write marriage books? How could this happen?"
While people who are only casually acquainted with my study might assume an inconsistency, the answer is:
I practice what I teach
For 40 years, I've emphasized God’s command for our sanctification to overcome marriage problems—putting mental effort into changing the mind to bring about lasting results to solve complex marriage problems. If you’re unfamiliar with the role of sanctification, you can read about it in Adultery & Sexual Addiction: A Plan for Healing the Soul and the Marriage.
How do we know if we can save our mate?
In Marriage: A Taste of Heaven, Vol I: God’s People Appreciate Marriage and Vol. II: God’s People Make the Best Lovers and the Challenges in Marriage: What to Do when Sin Inhibits Love classes, I discuss I Cor. 7:10-16 where Paul taught Christians to set boundaries to force sanctification on unbelieving spouses to protect the children from sin in the home. Even then, Paul explained the mate could refuse sanctification and leave the marriage.
Paul concluded, "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" Neither you nor I can choose for another person—not our mates and not our children—no matter how much we love them. Paul said all we can do, which is what I've always taught, is create a home environment that makes it easy for the other person to make the right choices and harder to choose wrong.
We all bring childish behavior to our marriages
Everyone brings some harmful conduct into the marriage learned in his or her childhood, myself included. After describing love in I Corinthians 13 as patience, kindness, unselfishness, lack of score keeping, faithfulness—all missing qualities with sin in the home, Paul summarized in verses 11 and 13:
When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. … But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
My observation is, as Christians, we need to continually work through sanctification at growing up in Christ to learn how to love our neighbor as we love our self. Generally, we don’t have a clue about how to love ourselves or others.
I now teach others what I would do differently in my own marriage
Years ago, someone said, "You're like a Christian Dr. Laura, a little bit in your face." But a little bit in your face is not enough.
During these last years, I found myself being a whole lot more in everyone's face including the articles I wrote for two new Web sections, Radical Change in Teaching and The Good, Bad & Ugly, and my advice to those asking for help:
You need to kick and scream until you embarrass the alligator to get his or her attention that this problem is destroying your marriage. You say you fight about it from time to time. But as soon as you ease up, doesn't your mate go right back to the way he or she was before? I've observed over the years how few wayward spouses are motivated to put in the effort to become sanctified to make lasting changes. The only way I know you might convince your mate is to embarrass the alligator while you still have a chance for saving your marriage.
God does not guarantee we can save our marriages
God doesn't guarantee every marriage can be saved, only that every problem can be solved. As part of his solution, God provides divorce to deal with those who reject sanctification. Since the 80s, I've taught for a wife to call the police for an abusive husband is as righteous as partaking of the Lord's Supper. Scripture-based divorce is also as righteous as partaking of the Lord's Supper. God ordained both divorce and the handcuff-cure as honorable ways of escape from sin in the home and for protecting our children.
If more Christians practiced God's ways of escape, they would provide powerful peer pressure among other Christians, and fewer children would become “unholy” from being raised in sinful love-starved homes.
Indeed, the last e-mail I received said:
Thank you for including me in your letter informing us of your divorce. It came as quite a shock, but I am glad you are healing. I can hardly fathom it, but it has caused me to take a look at my own self and marriage and try to be the best husband I can be.
God sometimes asks his servants to make supreme sacrifices
Vol. II, Chapter 16: "Sexual Problems in Perspective," explores I Corinthians 7:10-16 and offers examples of how God on occasion asked his people to sacrifice their happiness by marrying an unloving person, or never marrying, or taking away their family. Sometimes God uses extreme measures to teach us about life and eternity.
Job, whom God allowed to suffer to silence Satan’s false charges, provides the easiest example to see this. After walking with God through the death of my son and the destruction of my 46-year marriage, I can say like Job:
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee. (Job 42:3-5)
To God be the glory forever and ever, for his magnificent love and teaching sanctification for husbands and wives who dare to conform their hearts to his enlightening word. Truly, we serve a wonderful Creator. May God forgive our ignorance as we learn from hindsight how to better love each other and to become more effective teachers.
Always in God's service,
Patsy Rae Dawson
December 20, 2010