The last time I taught about divorce in my youth ministry, the kids from divorced families left in tears.
I didn't set out to make them cry. In fact, I intentionally remember trying to set up our conversation so as not to isolate these vulnerable teens.
Despite my best efforts, however, these teens left feeling isolated, judged, and “less than” those from in-tact families.
That was five years ago.
I haven't taught about divorce since.
But this year, as my student leaders and I brainstormed topics for the upcoming year, divorce came up. When it did, my heart plummeted and I secretly hoped this issue wouldn't score well in our visual voting system. Much to my chagrin, it did.
A teen wrote her name on the “divorce” post-it note.
To be honest, this stunned me.
This girl's parents are divorced and it's not something she's talked much about. So I followed up with her and asked if she was sure she really wanted to lead this discussion. She reassured me, quite confidently, that she did.
Together, we worked through the process of planning her discussion.
When she turned in her first attempt at questions, I was amazed.
Despite her family's story, she didn't shy away from the passages in Scripture that say God hates divorce. She dove into them, head-on, with grace and compassion. As we continued to fine-tune her questions, I grew more and more excited for this girl's discussion, which she led last week.
As she did, I sat in awe of her.
She began with an activity designed to help teens share about divorce in a non-threatening way. She then shared, vulnerably and openly, about her family's story, using it to emphasize why this discussion was important to her. Finally, she walked her peers through a thoughtful, honest, grace-filled discussion about an incredibly sensitive issue.
This time, rather than leave in tears, the teens from divorced families dominated the conversation.
My student leader's willingness to share her own journey through this difficult situation made it safe for others – some of whom I didn't even know had divorced parents – to do the same.
The night was filled with holy moments in which God reminded me that sensitive issues aren't something to avoid, but rather, to talk about with grace and compassion; That vulnerably sharing our own stories always encourages others to share theirs; And that God uses the sharing of those stories to bring healing to ourselves and others.