Part 5 of 5 with co-authors Joe Cobb and Leigh Anne Taylor who have recently published "Our Family Outing: A Memoir of Coming Out and Coming Through" in which they describe the process of ending a thirteen year marriage and creating a new way of being family in the wake of Joe's coming out.
Vows and Honor
These were the words that Joe and I spoke to one another in our wedding on August 10, 1985 as we exchanged rings, “With all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.”1
These were the words from sacred scripture that were read in that same service:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.2
A new vow (Leigh Anne)
The day that Joe and I signed the divorce papers, we met in the formal living room of our house on Herschel road. While we were talking, a realtor was showing the house to the couple that would ultimately purchase it. It was awkward to have such an intimate and difficult conversation with strangers wandering through the house, but we did it. In doing so, we set the course for the next season of our lives, a course that enabled us to write this book ten years later.
When we signed the papers, we vowed to “speak and act in loving ways toward one another and about one another,” especially in front of the children, and for the sake of the children. This new vow, which was as important as the one we made on our wedding day, had the same guiding and restraining power that our wedding vows had had for me.
I was unfaithful to this second vow only once, when I spoke bitterly about Joe with a girlfriend. I was ashamed of myself for blaming Joe as soon as I said the words. It was enough to stop me in the future, to cause me to measure my words, to give Joe the dignity that he deserved and to take the high road of mutual respect and honor. I did not have the power to do this myself. I wanted to blame, to suffer, to play the victim, to invoke pity from others. I did not have the power to speak and act in loving ways toward Joe and about Joe within me. I had to pray and journal daily to work it out, to ask for help, to halt my bitter thoughts and tongue. I could not have done it without daily spiritual, emotional, and psychological work.
A new vow (Joe)
Some time after Leigh Anne interviewed for an accepted a new job in Blacksburg, we discussed the reality of her moving with the kids to Virginia. The thought of being so far from the kids was devastating to me, but I also knew how healing the move would be for Leigh Anne. I couldn’t imagine limiting her or them in any way. One of the papers I had to sign, since we agreed on joint custody of the children, was my consent for them to move with their mother to another state.
While I felt as though I were signing everything away, I knew this would be a step toward all of our healing. I also knew that we would do everything we could to ease the distance for the kids, planning visits and lots of phone calls, and making space for each of us to grow into our new lives.
The day we signed the divorce papers is a blur in my memory. Our house was on the market, Leigh Anne was beginning to pack things for a move and finish things up at work, and I was trying to be supportive, while grieving along with them.
What I do remember is that, even with the reality of the papers in front of us on the coffee table, there was such love between us. The pain of signing papers legally ending our marriage was transformed into a buoyant hope as we spoke new vows, to speak and act in loving ways toward each other and about each other, for the sake for the sake of the children and for our health and wholeness
Though we didn’t write the words down and sign them as an official document, they were etched in our souls, and set as a seal of honest, authentic love.3
How did Joe and Leigh Anne live out the vows that they made
to each other on their wedding day?
How did they live out Paul’s description of a loving Christian relationship, even though they divorced?
Is there any wisdom from their experience that would benefit the greater church, as it struggles with the question of full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters?
. . .
A note from the authors...
During the course of sharing these blogs through the Reconciling Ministries Network, we have been touched by the surprising and heart-warming ways in which our story is making a difference in people's lives and relationships. We pray, that through the transformative power of telling our truth, you may be able to share your truth to the people in your lives who most need to hear it, and who will be blessed by your sharing. Remember that Love has the power, through grace, to make each of our stories holy. And Love has the power, through reconciliation, to create new ways of being relationship with one another.
Joe and Leigh Anne
1 The Book of Worship, Christian Marriage 1, Blessing and Exchange of
Rings, pg. 121-122.
2 Colossians 3:12-17
3 Our Family Outing: A Memoir of Coming Out and Coming Through, pg. 151-152.
Their book is available for purchase through their website:www.ourfamilyouting.com and through all major on-line book and e-reader formats. For books purchased through their website, they will send personalized and signed copies.