The grandparent of a child of divorce emailed me recently to let me know she reads the blog. Her son was in a very bad marriage that he tried valiantly to save, but to no avail. This grieving mother and grandmother wrote that she wanted to "speak out about the hurt and pain for a whole extended family."
The other night, a friend recommended a book to me on shalom. It's a term with which I am very familiar from my many years at Prison Fellowship. Chuck Colson often uses that term to talk about the broader effect of crime. We often think of -- and our criminal justice system often focuses on -- crime as a matter simply between the criminal and the victim. But when a crime occurs, the peace of an entire community is broken.
I experienced this recently. Sitting at my computer working one afternoon, I began to hear an argument taking place somewhere nearby, between a man and woman. It continued long enough that I began to get concerned, so I wandered downstairs and looked down the street to see the couple. He was holding onto the front of her shirt and she kept asking to just be let go. I dialed the police non-emergency number to ask if they could have an officer just drive by to check on things and cool the argument down, but as the phone was ringing, I saw the man begin dragging the woman toward the house while she screamed and tried to get away. Shaking, I hung up and dialed 911. I love my local police because they are always so responsive. Within minutes, two police cars pulled up and were at the house. By that time, however, the man had forced the woman into the house so all was quiet from the outside. She must have convinced the police that everything was okay, because they stayed for a few minutes and then left.
Since then, everything has been quiet in the neighborhood. But the shalom is broken for me. The peace of my neighborhood is not the same now that I have witnessed an assault. I am more anxious for the baby dog to arrive so I can have a barking alarm. I was neither the assailant nor the victim, but the crime has affected me.
In the same way, divorce breaks the shalom of a much larger group than just the couple and even their children. As several of my extended family members have gone through painful divorces, our whole family aches for them. When my parents divorced, I know some of their friends were hurt and felt torn between their friendship for each of my parents. When Christian couples divorce, the body of Christ suffers (or should; we are all members of one body).
At Prison Fellowship, our focus on shalom was about more than theory. It was about finding better ways of administering justice that incorporated restitution and restoration of shalom into the process. You will see a powerful representation of that concept here. In the trailer for this film, you will see men building, stacking bricks, smoothing them. These men are building homes for people whose families they murdered, people who they mutilated and raped. They are doing something practical to restore the peace of the community, a peace they brutally shattered.
So how can the concept of shalom be incorporated into divorce? I don't have an answer, just a question. It seems clear that divorce breaks the shalom of a larger group of people. Are there practical ways that it can be restored? What do you think?