Lipstick on a Pig

When things don’t make sense to us, most times we should assume that we are not stupid.  (There are exceptions; but let’s start with this thought - when you think something is “off”, pay attention.)  A common example of putting lipstick on a pig for me is when a couple in the middle of working through infidelity come to talk to me about God’s view on divorce.  We know a couple things about divorce from the scriptures: (1.) God isn’t a fan and (2.) God made provision for it in the Law.



It doesn’t sound like a problem for a pastor, right?  One spouse and usually both, are deeply worried about violating the covenant they made before God when they wed.  We can check off option 1 above - God isn’t a fan of divorce. Inspired by God’s way of seeing, I try to live in agreement with God.  I grieve over divorce too. I empathize with their grief.


But I’ve learned to ask follow up questions. Without fail the person most vehemently championing for the “God hates divorce” position breaks eye contact and all of a sudden finds my office-grade, coffee stained carpet fascinating when I ask him/her to rate their passion level for God’s command that reads:  Do not commit adultery.


See my point?  Something is off in this discussion; someone is not ready to talk truth.


A cynical person might suggest that the adulterer in this situation might be using the scriptures as a way to manipulate his/her spouse to stay in the marriage.  At a minimum, surely the adultery is worthy of discussion if we are concerned about God’s way of seeing.


Instead of using scripture as a supporting document for our own preferences, I would suggest that we realize that even on thorny issues like divorce - where we know God loves us so much he hopes we never have to go through that suffering AND he made legal provision for it - we keep our eyes on the bigger picture.


Don’t put lipstick on a pig.  


How might you be putting lipstick on a pig?  Any incongruencies in what you believe versus how you are living?  Anything that you are trying NOT to notice?


But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth.  But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.

~ Romans 1, The Message


Can this marriage be saved?

When I was a little girl my grandmother had a monthly subscription to a magazine called “Ladies Home Journal”.  It had a monthly feature entitled, ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’. I read it with rapt fascination. The format was always the same - first one spouse, then the other would share their perspective. Next, the therapist would “weigh in” and finally the conclusion would be sort of a “what happened afterwards” wrap up.   I tried to predict what “the expert” would advise this couple in advance. I noticed a pattern that “the first person seems right until the second person speaks” - and was thrilled when I found a proverb that spoke to my experience. Although many of these marriages were “saved,” some were not. I understood that not all relationships are salvageable.  Sometimes the marriage is the mistake.



But this is not what I learned at my grandparent’s church.  Divorce was a sin, not an admission of human fallibility. Divorce split up your family AND required that you change churches.  Or, stop going to church at all. I thought the “Ladies Home Journal” was making more sense than the pastor on this one but my grandmother assured me I was wrong.  (She could not explain to me how her pastors kept running off with women who were not their wives.)


My grandmother taught me that love is unconditional and so are relationships.  A “good” Christian girl didn’t get divorced. I assume this is the same message she gave my mother.  But in point of fact, “good” Christians do get divorced - at about the same rate that everyone else who gets divorced and doesn’t go to church.  My grandmother, who I love with all my heart, gave me bad intel. I understand that she was doing her best, teaching what she had been taught, but she got this one wrong.  I just didn’t understand how she could get it so very wrong when she was serving on her fourth pastor search committee because of the infidelity and eventual DIVORCE of the three previous Senior Pastors!!!  This made me feel like I was on crazy pills.


It is also spiritual malpractice.  What I have learned is that when what I am being told is a spiritual truth adds chaos and confusion rather than clarity to a situation, I need to step back, take a breath and seek additional (wise) counsel.  Choosing counsel is a big deal; I need to seek counsel with a broad range of understanding and one that isn’t operating within the same “system” that I am living in. Spiritual truths can withstand scrutiny.


Tomorrow we are going to unpack that concept a bit.  In the meantime, can you think of times when you have been confused about what you were taught or read in scriptures that did not jive with your reality?  How do you work through that?


Honesty may be the best policy but it sure is hard to practice it in real time.  In my family of origin we have historically embraced conflict as a form of intimacy - in the worst of ways.  This has been our family legacy - one I had hoped to avoid. Over the decades I worked pretty hard to try to stay connected with my family.  I was bossy and codependent and tried to smooth over conflicts which were not mine to manage. Other times I was passive-aggressive, trying to sneak in suggestions for change in the hopes that we could establish relational equilibrium and avoid conflict.  I cajoled. I bargained. I even tried to change the system. My greatest disappointment in myself are those times when I did not trust my own instincts, choosing instead to try to mitigate harm rather than addressing it openly. Innocent people were hurt in the process of me trying to avoid the breakup of a family system.  None of it worked long term. My family of origin is all busted up. We sit in opposing camps and even on my best days I doubt reconciliation will occur.



Oftentimes I reflect back on my efforts to maintain relationship and wonder if those efforts were a waste of time.  What seemed like a sacrifice for love now feels more like being played for a patsy. But here’s the thing - I bet if you talk to the “other side”, they feel pretty hurt too.  And therein lies the problem with honesty. We are all spin doctors in our own personal soap operas. We misunderstand ourselves and one another.


In the next few days I’m going to try to unpack a few principles that I am learning as I try to lean into this difficult disappointment. I am going to share a couple stories, poke around in some passages of scripture, and maybe make a few seemingly random points. But my end game will be to bring this all together in a way that I hope challenges the way we think about our faith in light of our daily experiences. I fear that some of what we believe is wrong and it actually tempts us to be less honest with God, ourselves and others. It also makes it less likely that we will be able to utilize our faith as a guiding light.  I hope to address these issues and help sort through some of the confusion of believing things that the scriptures do not actually teach and then trying to live THAT gospel.


Do you struggle with telling yourself the truth about what you believe and how you live?  Why or why not? Do you have any concerns about your own ways of relating to others and to God?  How does this affect you personally? Professionally? Within your community?