The Casserole Rules?

One of the sad things that my family has to deal with is that 3/4 of the children in the house are forced to attend a heretical church on the Sunday’s they spend with their biological father. Because of this I sometimes will peruse that ecclesiastical communities webpage and social media to see what the flavor of the day is. Today I came across a linked blog post entitled “The Casserole Rules” which is located here Blog Post.

The general theme of the post is that the church communities do nothing to help those who are left for divorce, yet they go out of their way to help the sick and widowed. The writer says, “There is no YouTube video, no manual, no to-do-list for how to do it well. Yet the one thing I did learn is that you won’t get a casserole from church when you’re in the middle of burying a marriage.” “I realized this after the fact. A year after my husband left and before the divorce was final, my dear church friend lost her husband to a sudden heart attack….There are dozens of casseroles in the church freezer.” “When Joe died, the church stepped up big for Sue. She had meals for months while she figured out how to manage the house and budget by herself. She had lawn boys, free electricians, and pro bono mechanics when her cars broke down.  She received hundreds of cards from church friends – we watched them overflow her mailbox. Women came to clean her house. Strangers did her laundry and folded her towels.  And not one person asked what she could have done differently to avoid Joe’s death or suggested that things would get better because some new man would snatch her up in a second.”

I’m not sure why, but this post rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because she answered her own question in the opening sentence when started her blog with the phrase “Unless you air your dirty laundry, divorce in the church is as isolating as a child’s tantrum at the Sunday morning service.” Maybe it’s because I experienced the death of a spouse, not just the death of a marriage and I don’t understand what she went through. Maybe it’s because she exaggerates the level of support that the church community gives to the widows.

She wrote “And not one person asked what she could have done differently to avoid Joe’s death, or suggested that things would get better because some new man would snatch her up in a second.” Maybe that’s why her article was so off-putting to me. See, when you lose a spouse to death you hear the opposite things. I wrote about it a a few years ago. Welcome to Big Glass House. I will offer that the church community was there for my family in the first few weeks, maybe months. Yet, they could not understand what it was like to be navigating the way forward after that bombshell. The world is full of divorced people, especially in the age group I was in at that time. She says there are no manuals, no how to do lists for doing it well. You want to find a unicorn? Try finding a married 1 time, never divorced person who is able to enter into marriage into the church. And maybe that’s why it rubbed me the wrong way. I had no one to talk through this experience with, not one person that I knew in my age group who was walking the same type of journey. I can promise her that there is no how-to-do list for moving forward in your 40’s after the death of a spouse. No Youtube video for how to answer your childs questions on why did this happen. Death of a spouse or death of a marriage. You move forward not because people are supporting you in the early part of the experience because ultimately that support wanes and turns against you.

She writes that there are no judgements around these things (death or illness) and we do not need discernment about who was in the wrong. My experience says that she needs to use a qualifier in that statement. Something like there are no judgements around these things, early on. The reality of either situation, death of a spouse or death of a marriage is that we move forward because that is the only way humans can move. We can’t go back in time and we can’t stay stuck in the present. The difference between the two is one is taboo (death) and the other is commonplace (divorce). The sameness of the situations is that in either case, people are judgmental and like to talk/murmur amongst themselves. How do I know they do that about divorcees? My wife can tell you all about that. The sideways glances, the questions like, “Are you getting married in the church?”. You know, instead of not being passive aggressive and just asking “was your previous marriage anulled”.

The one thing that she wrote that I would echo completely is “loving our neighbor is a rule that means need is need, and grief is grief, and a casserole is the love of God made real for all who suffer- no matter the cause. And that my friends is the takeaway from her blog and mine. Stop talking about other people. Stop being judgmental when confronted with a situation that you have no knowledge, experience or understanding of. Just be there to offer the love of the Church and a shining light for those who may be walking in darkness.