When we get married, we have the starry-eyed dream of ‘happily ever after,’ and especially if we were to marry another Christian. That would make it just perfect or would it? I would like to introduce you to new author, Keabecoe Choene, who has just written a book on her emotional journey through divorce, “When Life, not Death do Us Part.” I asked her whether she would like to share a little bit about herself and why she wrote it with my readers.
Deryn-Tell me a bit about yourself, Keabecoe.
Keabocoe –I am a servant of the Lord. I grew up in Bloemfontein, one of the major cities in South Africa. My mother was a single parent trying to raise four children (two brothers, my younger sister, and I) with my grandmother’s help. In South Africa, grandmothers often helped raise children where parents were separated either by work or relationship difficulties.
I am also a mom to an eight-year-old and an aunt to my two nieces and nephew, my brother’s children.
Deryn-Did you grow up in a Christian environment?
Keabocoe –Yes and no, my family considered themselves Christians like so many South African families, we attended church weekly, but that is the only time we thought about God. I come from a semi-traditional background that worshipped ancestors and yet went to church. Growing up, I considered that the norm. I was ‘born again’ when I was nineteen when I turned fully and totally to Christ alone. I have been a child of God, servant, and follower of Jesus Christ since, and now I am thirty-nine years old.
Deryn-Your perception of marriage was viewed through your home experience with absent fathers?
Keabocoe –Yes, I never knew my biological father, I only met him when I turned 30, and he passed on two years later. I grew up in a household of very strong women. My grandmother took care of us until I was 12 when my mom fetched me and took over. My mom got married to my stepdad; it was a short marriage, though. My stepdad was absent most of the time that my mom was married to him, or maybe he seemed absent to me because I was in boarding school. When I was on school break, I went to my grandmother to visit. I must mention that I did not grow up with my mom in the same house until I was 12. I stayed with my grandmother, who had 11 other grandkids.
Deryn-Did your experience with your parent’s marriage influence your expectations of marriage?
Keabocoe –I had no expectations of marriage growing up. My mom and stepfather divorced because he physically abused us. I did not want to get married. I saw no need for it, strong women raised me, and I knew how capable I could be as a woman; I never wanted to be a mom at all. I did not even imagine it. But my idea of marriage changed when I was born again. For some weird reason, after getting born again, I toyed with the idea of getting married and having children.
Deryn- What part did your culture and tradition play in your expectations of marriage when you met your husband, who was the pastor at your church?
Keabocoe –In my culture and tradition, the male (husband) pays the Lobola (the bride price) to the girl’s family. My ex-husband had to pay lobola for me. Since we were both Christians, him being a pastor, I expected a great marriage. My silent meditation going into this marriage with a man that knew God so profoundly was that my husband would hear from HIm regarding me; by virtue of us both being Christians, I thought that the marriage will work.
Deryn-Your husband also was a Ghanaian and not a South African did you find that even though you were both Africans, the customs of his culture and his expectations were different from yours?
Keabocoe –My ex-husband grew up completely different from how I grew up. He was born in a foreign country; the only thing we had in common was the love we both had for the Lord; I had never in my life seen such deep devotion to God’s work. He was a giver and loved people tremendously, and I was attracted to that. I could look at him, and his heartbeat was just echoing and serving God. We shared that passion; that passion fueled us. Early in my marriage, I soon found out that we needed more than a passion for God to make this marriage work.
His expectation of a wife was not my reality. My demand of him stepping up as a husband was construed as opposition from him. Neither of us was prepared to put in the work our marriage demanded. There were too many people speaking loudly into our marriage, and those same voices drowned us. Our relationship fell apart, and although we kept going, we went our separate ways in marriage. When our son was born, I could not even remember how to laugh out loud.
Deryn-The voices in your marriage, who were they?
Keabocoe –They were Church members and his friends. My ex-husband listened to so many other people more than he ever listened to me. The church and the people drowned any passion I thought I had for ministry. I needed to go back to the Lord, who had called me. I did not have a voice or the will to fight anymore.
One day I looked at myself in the mirror, and I could not see myself; I saw someone who looked like me. I had poured myself out for everyone, and I had not received the same fuel back. I kept fighting everyone who was a threat to my marriage that I neglected managing myself; the more I tried to address these things, the more things got out of control. I had to compete with the church for my husband’s attention, and I could not stand being third place. I knew I had to walk away. And I did.
Deryn-That must have been hard for you?
Keabocoe –That was extremely hard, and I wish the voice of the Lord was much louder. The sad part about getting a divorce as a pastor’s wife is that you have no pulpit to explain yourself to anyone. My ex-husband did his PR and told everyone what he wanted to tell them and what he told them was further from the truth. The only truth he told was I was the one who filed. And because I filed, the church hated me for it. And they were not ashamed to say and show it.
Deryn-What was the Church’s response to you?
Keabocoe –I ceased from being his wife, and I became their enemy; I became the person against his success in ministry. The story he preached not only on that day but continuously, was that I was against his success in ministry. That so many people believed that narrative always baffled me, firstly if I had been against his ministry why would I leave my job and join him to build the same ministry? Secondly, any wife’s joy comes when her man succeeds, his wins were my wins; if he lost, I was counted right there beside him. Why will I want to lose? Any sane wife wants their man to succeed, I wanted him to make it, I prayed that he would, yet I could not watch him in the ministry and fail as a husband and father.
Deryn-What was the reality of being a pastor’s wife in your situation?
Keabocoe –I knew he would be applauded for his ministry, but he failed dismally as a husband and father. He was hardly home. We never went anywhere as a family unless it was ministry-related, and even when we went for ministry, there were too many people with us. We went places alright, but it was work, not family. I got so tired of traveling; I wanted him home. We had no family life, he knocked off late and left early, and when questioned, I was labeled as an “unsupportive wife.”
The church could not wait to get rid of me. When the time for the divorce came, some people were delighted that it was happening. Yet others branded me evil and backslidden. It is too distressing to write all the things that were said to me during that time. I was shattered, discarded, and dismissed.
Deryn-What happened when you left the marital home?
Keabocoe –When I left my marital home to go back home to my mother, my older brother came to pick me up. I packed my clothes and my son’s clothes and left the house. My ex-husband was not home then, and he was out of the province. When he returned, he found me gone and asked me where I was, I told him that I had left, and he said okay. His aunt called me and asked me why I left. I told her I was tired, and I cannot live like that anymore. She told me that in their culture, if a wife goes, the husband does not fetch her; she must either come back, herself or her family must fetch her. I told the aunt that in my culture, a wife needed to be fetched from her family. He never came to fetch me, and I never went back, it was just wrapped around in the culture. I was super disappointed when he did not fetch me because he truly did not want me or loved me.
Deryn-How did I come to the point of peace?
Keabocoe –When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus answered him, and he said, you shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you worship. The divorce for me was the lowest moment of my life, yet it was a time that God brought me back to worship Him and Him alone. When I thought I had lost it all, my all to me was my husband, position, and material things, yet I had to realize that I had it all along. I had put the Lord on the back burner.
You can’t serve Him effectively without worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth. I had lost my way. Yes, I was serving Him but was I worshiping Him? Worshipping Him is not singing songs to Him about Him. And before I lost my husband, I had turned lukewarm. Like David said before I was afflicted I went astray. My heart was hardened by many other things I did not give to Him. I had carried a lot. In my time of true worship, I stripped it all off and laid bare before Him, I had no desires for anything else, I had reached my crossroad, I had come to the end of me, I was utterly broken. I found my peace when the Lord said in your broken self you are good for me to work with. I could not believe such love, forgiveness, I had to repent of my sins, of getting a divorce, and in that time, the Lord was setting a foundation that no man can shut.
Divorce was hard, painful, and life-transforming for me. I did not see the green pasture everyone raved about after getting divorced. I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I did not want to live, yet today all I live for is Him,” In Him, I move, live and have my being”. Without Jesus Christ, I am truly nothing.
Deryn-What is your book about and what do you hope your readers will gain from it?
Keabocoe –The book is an emotional journey of my divorce; it covers subjects such as anger, guilt, pain, hurt. I documented how God took me through all those phases and eventually led to my healing. It was tough being a child of God and going through a divorce; I faced a lot, including many Christians rejecting me.
I hope that my story will be an eye-opener for many other married people. I pray that it brings healing and salvation to other people who are divorced, going through a divorce, or thinking about divorce. I hope that it also serves as a warning that serving God is great but putting Him first is greater. And after Him, it must be your family, and then working for God can take its rightful place.
Thank you so much Keabecoe Choene…………….
If readers would like a copy of your book where can they obtain it?
When Life Not Death Do us Part
Links for the book
Just want to say THANK YOU for sharing and being honest.
I would very much like to read your book, it sounds like it will help many people, and that they are not alone.
Thank you both for this interview. I an currently writing a book for pastor’s wives so I found your perspective interesting.