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June 26, 1999
Column #930

"Before You Divorce" Videos: A Marriage Saver

     June is known as the month for weddings.  But it is also the highest month of divorces.

     Patrice Williams had not been married to Crawford for a year when their arguments led him to talk about divorce.  That prompted her to consider it seriously.  ''The independent person I was before I married made me try to not become dependent on him. I was a single parent for nine years with two kids who depended on me,'' she recalls.

     That was when someone at her church, the Texas Cathedral of Faith in Beaumont, suggested that she and Crawford should take a video course ''Before You Divorce.'' It was led by Robert and Janis Sartin who had been married five years before they divorced in 1985, and remarried in 1994. With that history, they were the perfect leaders of a course on reconciliation.

     St. Paul, in II Corinthinians, 5:18-19, wrote: ''All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.''  My question to pastors and lay leaders of churches is this: Do you have such a ministry of reconciliation?

     If not, you could create one with the two ingredients outlined here: the ''Before Your Divorce'' (BYD) videos, and a back-from the brink couple like the Sartins.

     When problems arise in marriage, one or both partners begin thinking of divorce. The stigma that was once there, the belief that parents should stay together for the sake of the children, is gone. What is not appreciated is that very quickly, a nearly automatic high speed process begins in which one or both spouses retain an attorney, who tell their clients to separate and cease any contact with their spouse. The possibility of reconciliation drops precipitously when one moves out. The attorneys fan the anger of their clients, and soon the divorce is granted. In many southern states, divorce can be effective within weeks. In the Northeast, the process takes a year, enough time for reconciliation. Result: Massachusetts' divorce rate is half that of Oklahoma.

     BYD videos are a shock treatment to halt the run-away train.   ''Divorce litigation is war. You are going to war against your spouse.  The battlefield is your own home.  It is a hurricane in your home,'' warns Warren Kniskern, an attorney who went through a divorce. He adds: ''Everything is at risk when you hire a lawyer. Don't let a lawyer get between you and your spouse...Work out details through mediation, not litigation.''

     The second video outlines the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of divorce: ''I can't forgive him and I can't forgive her (the other woman).  I am not interested in forgiveness,'' says a furious wife.  But an expert warns: ''The consequence of unforgiveness are significant. It is bad on your health...What it does to your immune system, the pure chemistry of it creates a root of bitterness that impinges everything else.''

     Next is a deeply moving video of what the kids have to say about their parents divorce. Their heart-wrenching stories vividly portray their anger and fear of abandonment. The fourth video makes a case for forgiving one's spouse    again combining average people with expert opinion. ''Forgiveness is surrendering my right not to hurt you back,'' said one.

     What is the impact of the videos?  ''It was really an eye-opener,'' said Mrs. Williams. ''A lot of times you mention divorce without taking into consideration how it will affect everyone in the family, how it will totally annihilate the other person. The videos said forgiveness was a choice. That hit home. If you forgive, you remember what happened, but it doesn't hurt anymore.''

     ''I saw the repercussions of divorce, and decided `I don't want to be there.' It helped me to forgive.  Humility was something I learned, to listen a little bit more.  The workbooks gave an opportunity to research what Scripture has to say, to let you know this is right, it is God's way."

     The experience was equally sobering for Crawford and sparked such a spiritual renewal in him that he has decided to go into the ministry.

     I spoke to one pastor in New York who has shown BYD to six couples, all of whom halted divorce proceedings.  Rev. Paul Dugan of Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura has had to buy three BYD sets, because it is listed in the church bulletin as a resource and so many check it out to watch it themselves or to show it to friends. "We had a couple who were separated for two years, who were willing to go through BYD. They made a new commitment and had a ceremony renewing their vows."

     Another church member, Michael Rothenhoefer, did divorce, but watched BYD and took such thorough notes that he decided to change his life. He quit a job in Los Angeles, requiring a two hour drive each way, and moved so near his ex-wife and daughter that they have a pairing plan of shared custody. His faith deepened.

     To learn more, call 800 489-7778.

Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.

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