139. (UPDATE: since writing this blog, literally hundreds of people per day have been here. Naomi has been doing some interviews lately, which has upped the public curiosity)
139 times people have come to my blog (specifically my book review of The Scent of Water) this week seeking a certain tidbit of information that, if you found this post via a search engine, you most likely are after. And thanks to Word Press for the nifty statistics tool that tells me these things.
Naomi Zacharias Divorce. Divorce Naomi Zacharias. “Naomi Zacharias” Divorce. Is Naomi Zacharias Divorced? Naomi Zacharias Wedding. Ravi Zacharias Divorce (Huh?).
139 times this week human beings ended up on my blog by searching these terms through Google, Yahoo, etc. I have no idea whether or not these are 139 individual people or if someone particularly obsessed with Naomi’s personal life spends his days Googling her. While this would make my heart sad for that one individual, my heart is made sad with the thought that there were 139 people wondering about the personal life of Naomi. And that is only the 139 people who ended up on my blog! How many more people saw my name and said, “I’m not reading what that guy says.” Well, maybe not many. But my point is that there are most likely many more out there who want to know IS NAOMI ZACHARIAS DIVORCED?
Surely some out there who are looking to encourage Naomi, or who have heard of her story of redemption through her divorce and you want to read about what she has already written. But some of you out there have TMZ-itis, and you care about things that do not concern you because you want to know The Skinny, The Scoop. The Dirt.
In the chapter “Flawed Pearls” Naomi recalls a story from Paulo Coelho’s book “The Witch of Portobello.” In it she tells the story of a woman named Athena who was married at age 19 and shortly thereafter became pregnant. And when her child was young, her husband abandoned her. Naomi recounts how this poor girl, abandoned and left alone, went up to receive the Eucharist at Mass one Sunday and was rejected by the priest. She could not receive the sacrament. The priest said, “Athena, the Church forbids divorce people from receiving the sacrament. You signed your divorce papers this week.”Naomi recounts the tale (forgive me for the long quote, but it is worth reading),
She was crushed, speechless, numb. People began to step around her in line to receive the bread that was theirs. In an awful combination of seeing her as invisible and visible, they stepped around her, so she knew they knew she was there. But they bypassed her, for she was an obstacle in the way of their path to greater spirituality…I imagine her to be devastated. She lost something that mattered to her, something she thought would always be hers–something she had given herself to. And it was gone, it claimed her dreams, her respect, her ability to hope, and her very sense of self. She was alone, very alone…
…I imagine many of Athena’s friends turned against her. Some saw her as tainted, regardless of the details. Perhaps others behaved as if she carried a contagious disease, warning her married friends to keep their distance lest they catch the bug of divorce. The most painful thing in her life, or the limited version they knew of it, was fodder for insensitive gossip and irreverent dinner-table conversation. Did they feel the severity of her pain? Did they ahve to watch when her body was racked with sobs, and tears burned her eyes and stained them red?
I imagine that her marital status became a part of her name, as in “Athena, the girl who is divorced. I wonder if they told her there was no place for her in ministry, if they sat in comfortable chairs, dressed in their suits, and held meetings behind closed doors to decide, while their own stories remained tucked away with their coordinated handkerchiefs. Did someone say, “Do you know that God hates divorce?” And did she answer, “I know. So do I. Possibly more than you?” I wonder if it hurt when they pinned the Scarlet D on her, or if she was so wounded and fragile she invited and fully accepted the pain and guilt to add to the punishment and shame she had inflicted on herself.
I have been in those closed door meetings. More so they were classroom meetings at Bible College and Seminary where we were discussing what God has given to us regarding divorce: When is divorce allowable? Can someone get remarried? Can a divorced person be an elder? Can they serve on staff as a “director” of a certain ministry? Does a divorce completely disqualify you from ministry?
In essence, we were asking “Does divorce break you beyond repair? Is divorce truly the only irreconcilable offense in God’s economy?”
Truly we were searching out whether or not a Scarlet D existed.
And in all fairness to us Bible and Theology nerds, these are important questions to wrestle with because they are issues that God cares deeply about. He would not have written about divorce if He did not care about it. And if He cares about this then His people (and especially the shepherds of His flock) must care about it.
But in most of these conversations, and most likely the reason why you are reading this blog, is because you (we) have missed the point completely. Naomi goes on,
Did they know how hard it was for her to come to church that day? And now, in a final act of driving the knife into her gaping wound and out the other side, she was told she was no longer worthy to come to Christ, the one who could give refuge in her anguish. For unlike them, he did know all that lay within her heart. And it was to Him that she actually answered, not the masses who tried to occupy His place.
As the priest finished administering the sacrament, he slowly stepped back to to the altar. Athena stood in the same place where he left her and cried out what many have only cried on the inside:
I ask you, why do you care about Naomi’s divorce? Do you have some planks to clear out of your own eye before you go speck-spotting? As a published author and the daughter of a prolific Christian leader, her life by default is out there for all to see, and to judge. Maybe you are a fellow divorcee and you are looking for someone’s story to give you hope. And to that I say Amen! But I ask you, reader, why do you care whether or not she has been divorce? Have you once thought about the pain associated with this divorce? Do you want to sit in the seat of judgment over her, and consequently gossip about her and slander her? Have you once considered the courage that it takes to admit a divorce, risking credibility and integrity in the eyes of many following this admission?
I hope you are not a TMZ Christian, looking for the gossip and the scoop on this high-profile believer. And if this is you, take a moment and repent. And pray for Naomi, her ministry and her family. Thankfully God can use broken and damaged judges like you and I in His redemptive work.