Six weeks after his ordination, Dr. Steve Mentzer found his marriage of 10 years and his ministry in shambles as he dealt with the shame of a Christian going through divorce.
He left the ministry for four years before returning to use what he had learned to help others in similar situations. Mentzer turned his experience into a book called Broken Vows Shattered Lives that chronicles his thoughts and actions alongside valuable help for those like himself wondering if they have failed God.
DadsDivorce.com editor Matt Allen talked with the pastor and counselor from his Pennsylvania office about divorce as a Christian, the reactions from his congregation, and why this book also applies to those who aren’t religious.
What’s different about your experience with divorce, so much so that it made you feel like your story needed to be shared?
Everybody looks up to pastors as sort of a higher being. I wanted people to realize we are no different and that we experience the same pain. Maybe someone will think if that guy went through this difficult phase and he is a pastor then maybe I can do it, too.
Though this book was a part of my doctoral dissertation, it’s not written as a clinical piece but a combination of clinical and personal. It’s designed as an easy read and as I go through each specific topic, I add an author’s note about my journey at that particular stage.
If someone is reading this, maybe they will realize their feelings aren’t so far out of the norm and it’s just part of the process.
How much more difficult was a divorce for you because you were a pastor? Did your congregation understand it?
You were persona non grata. I felt rejection and loathing. Felt like I was doing something wrong and I was being punished. Here I was a clergy member getting divorced so I left the vocational ministry for four years. People can recover from it, but grief will always leave rope burns. It will always be there.
I did come back, though. My new wife and I have a speaking ministry and we visit churches.
What brought you back?
It was the sense of a burden. The Lord called me as a pastor and I needed to use what I had learned to minister to other people. My present wife and I sit down with new couples that have come from a divorce and now want to get married. We talk to them about how they can be successful with their next marriage.
What about non-Christians or non-religious people? Will they be able to get something out of this book?
Very much so because they feel the same pain as I do whether they go to church or not. This is not a Christian book. The author is Christian, but the process of divorce recovery is still the same; understanding where you’re at, who you are, who you were before, surveying everything, realizing that the pain you are going through will go by.
This book is designed to help people. It’s not evangelism.
What is the one thing you want people to take from this book?
There is recovery. If you cannot deal with the anger and bitterness you will be doomed for your next relationship, so don’t carry the baggage with you. If you can deal with these issues before your next relationship then you will have a much better chance of succeeding.
Dr. Mentzer has made available an excerpt from his book. For more information and to purchase the book, visit the Broken Vows Shattered Lives website. You may also e-mail the author your questions and comments.