—by Kathryn Haueisen

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).

…but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:15).

For those of us with firsthand experience of divorce, Matthew 5:32 and 6:15 are about as comforting as a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. Divorces tend to be painful and contentious. They end marriages, but not relationships. What God has joined together never can be fully put asunder. But what happens after the divorce?

Conventional wisdom is that time heals all wounds. That may be true, but it sometimes takes a very long time. Last November—Thanksgiving number 15 since my daughters’ father and I severed our union—one of our daughters hosted the annual feast. There I found myself seated between my first husband and my current husband. It had the potential to be either a sitcom or Greek tragedy.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. I have many happy memories of gathering to give thanks, trotting
out favorite dishes and taking on the challenge of getting everything to the table on time at the proper temperature.

When my daughter offered to host the annual feast, she informed me that she intended to also invite her father. I wondered how the day would go. He and I have crossed paths often at other family gatherings since the divorce. We’ve both attended graduations, funerals, milestone birthdays and even a wedding when one of our daughters remarried. Some events went fairly well; others were incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

Last Thanksgiving seemed to mark a turning point in our post-marriage relationship. We regaled our young adult grandchildren with stories of pranks pulled and challenges overcome when we were younger. We all talked about places we’ve traveled in recent years. The conversation seemed to ebb and flow easily. It was good to see the grandfather of my grandchildren reconnecting and enjoying the delightful young adults they’ve become.

I realized that perhaps this Thanksgiving meal resembled the weekly Great Thanksgiving meal I’ve so often experienced in worship. Though the term “forgiveness of sins” was never spoken, it was an afternoon of forgiveness all around.

Kathryn Haueisen is a retired pastor who spends her time traveling, reading, writing and volunteering. As a Mission Investment Fund capital campaign consultant, she leads two or three campaigns a year for ELCA congregations.

This article is excerpted from the November 2018 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.