By Cynthia Moberly, Contributing Writer
Throughout the past three years, I have refused to acknowledge the one thing that separates me from much of the Asbury community: I am the product of a broken marriage and was not raised to follow Jesus. I lived through a terrible divorce and custody battle, and I did not have Jesus to lean on in those times; neither did my parents.
For the first time in my life, I am in the minority. There are few students at Asbury, especially in leadership, who were raised by non-practicing or non-Christian parents. I recently sat at a table with nine other Asbury students and slowly realized that every single one of them had “strong Christian parents.” I was alone.
Unable to share my story for fear of being dismissed, I Googled, emailed and questioned my mentors. All information I found about non-Christian family members was research based strictly on millennials who are, as Christianity Today claims, “rebelling from their families.” There was nothing helpful for someone like me, rebelling not from honoring my mother and father, but from passive, lukewarm Christianity.
Senior Rob Reyes explains that, though it doesn’t happen often, the most difficult part of having divorced parents is when other students assume things about his life because of his Christian background.
“The only times it makes for weird situations is when people assume since I’m from a Christian family that my parents are still together,” he said.
Surrounded by the children of passionate and loyal Christians, including pastors and missionaries, it can cause those who come from non-Christian or broken backgrounds to become discouraged and ashamed. Many of my peers have never felt the pressure of being the only Jesus follower in their family or living in a broken home, and some, as in Reyes’ experience, assume that no one else at Asbury has either.
No one read the Bible or prayed with me as a child, taught me about the importance of purity as a teenager or showed me how to develop relationships rooted in the love of Christ. It seems unfair to complain about coming from a non-Christian home in a world where Christians are persecuted daily for their beliefs, but it is important to acknowledge that there are members of this community who were not raised by Christian parents.
Many of my peers have never felt the pressure of being the only Jesus follower in their family or living in a broken home, and some, as in Reyes’ experience, assume that no one else at Asbury has either.
It is vitally important that these students and peers are not patronized for their lack of understanding of a Christian worldview. Institutional and systematic rejection from peers, coworkers and professors when they make assumptions about students, such believing that all have been taught the story of David and Bathsheba, can be detrimental.
Talking about the implications of divorce on families would start allowing those affected to say, “Me too,” instead of hiding in shame. Acknowledging varying backgrounds for biblical knowledge among students would enable more people to join conversations as they are learning what it means to know and follow Jesus.
Alyssa Pelletier, a senior whose parents are divorced, says that she sometimes feels judged or pitied. She is an example of the stigma that follows children of divorce in a Christian community.
“I also have the awkward situation of having lost a parent after they were divorced,” she said. “People get really uncomfortable and apologize, which seems silly because this is real life and these are my experiences, and they have really helped to shape who I am as a person.”
I believe that my story happened in the way that it did to teach me to wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises. I claim the promise of Acts 16:31 for my family, as many other Christians do: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”