Friday, February 13, 2004

D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Amy Grant's fall from grace following her divorce from Gary Chapman is the subject of an article.

The writer notes that he placed a telephone call to--
Mercy Me lead singer Bart Millard to ask him about working with Grant. At age 31 and just stepping into the national spotlight himself, Millard said he's flat-out in awe of her. And, he's angry that the flak over her divorce hasn't entirely faded.

"It's mind-boggling to me," he said. "What good is the church, if we're going to eat our wounded?"
Good question. But not so simple.

I've mentioned Grant before -- perhaps too flippantly here, when I mentioned the "Grant Line" being akin to the Mendoza line.

I have to wonder -- do I judge Amy Grant too hard? Maybe so. I don't think I've bought an Amy Grant record since 1999 (her separation was announced at the end of 1998) -- yet, I still buy CDs from Larry Norman, who's been married three times by my last count (and has a very personal account of this here: Dark Passage [but who knows how accurate this is?] -- or Randy Stonehill, twice married.

Do I judge her more harshly because she's a woman or because she's Amy? Is this some weird variation of the "righteous fox" effect? (I doubt this -- I was happily 'attached' before I ever heard of Amy, and then engaged to the same girl, before Amy's engagement.*) I have to ask these questions in the interest of healthy self-examination; but I don't think this is the case.

So many of here earlier songs, especially from the unguarded period, reflect a struggle with relationships. Yet they always encourage the person to persevere -- especially important in a marriage. These songs have been both very personal and very encouraging. For example, in "I Love You" she writes:
Oh to stay your princess / If I only could
If you never saw the rotten / Only saw the good
You'd still be prince charming / But we would never know
How it's in the darkest times / True love finally grows
Come on true love grow
And in "Find A Way" she sings:
So you stand here an angry young woman
Taking all the pain to heart
I hear you saying you want to see changes
But you don't know how to start

Love will find a way (How do you know)
Love will find a way (How can you see)
I know it's hard to see the past and still believe
Love is gonna find a way
But did she take that advice to heart?

I think a lot of my judgment and my attitude goes back to the circumstances of here divorce, set forth in several articles, one is in this posting.

I'm going to quote extensively, because I want to be fair to Grant.
Throughout their marriage, Grant asserts she was committed to making the marriage work. But in August of 1998, after years of counseling, she made a different commitment, and she went to the pastors with whom she had been meeting and to Chapman. "I said, 'I believe and trust that I've been released from this [marriage]. And I say that knowing that even the Bible says the heart's deceitful.'

"And anybody could so easily say, 'You're completely deceived,'" Grant interjects. "I guess a part of being deceived would be that you wouldn't know it. But to the best of my level of peace, I had a very settled, unshakable feeling about the path that I was going to follow.

"We all met together and just said, 'You know, if the mercy of Jesus doesn't extend to a situation like this, then it doesn't go very far, does it?' So we started meeting to pray toward individual healing, to help mediate our lives, to try to pursue the most respectful path possible toward divorce. I think that there was a part of us that felt incredibly tender toward the other one all through the divorce."
* * *

If our God His Son not sparing
Came to rescue you
Is there any circumstance
That He can't see you through

* * *

Continuing from the article:
Grant pauses for an extended moment and continues.

"At some point you see the path ahead of you, and you say, 'I have to walk this path because I believe it's the path that I have to walk,' regardless of anybody's opinion."

"This [divorce] has been just unbelievably humbling. But it has been healing. It makes me incredibly thankful that God is a God of second chances."

Grant recalls something a counselor told her. "He said, 'Amy, God made marriage for people. He didn't make people for marriage. He didn't create this institution so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.' I say, if you have two people that are not thriving healthily in a situation, I say remove the marriage. Let them heal."

* * *

Hey little girl running out so fast
Gotta stay put for love to last
Why you gotta say
That love has gone away
It's not like that
Everybody hurts when the feelings fade
If you want 'em back
You know you gotta stay
No running
Love's coming back
Like only love can do

* * *

Gary had a different perspective, according to Amy. "His feeling was that this is our life, this is our commitment, and being true to this standard and keeping this vow is the most important thing for us, for our children, for our spiritual wellness.

"Gary has the kind of valor toward ideals that would make people overthrow governments and run armies. I think we all have different gifts, and I think one of Gary's is that he is like a standard-bearer. And if I have a gift, it's compassion. And at some point those things are different. They're really different. That's kind of a positive way of looking at some dynamics that have a negative side as well."
* * *

I love you
Deeper than I ever dreamed of
I need you
Staying here 'til we can work it out
I want you
Knowing that through all the changes
I love you
Somehow I just had to tell you now

* * *

Throughout the middle part of this decade to the present, the subject of Grant's relationship with country singer Vince Gill has been grist for the mill of gossip, tabloid and Internet discussion groups.

Among the rumors? That Grant and Gill are more than friends; that they were having an affair; that they are secretly married; that they plan to be married. Amy denies having an affair and being secretly married or engaged, and she prefers not to waste time addressing rumors more specifically. "I didn't do many things right, but I didn't do a lot of things wrong that I was accused of."

She acknowledges she and Gill developed a friendship in the early '90s. "I was invited to do a Christmas TV special with Vince in 1993. And I said, 'I'll tell you what: I'll do your TV show if you will do this Nashville Christmas [concert] with me.' I didn't hardly know him, and I don't really like television stuff. But I was packing to leave, and Gary said, 'I know you're gonna have a blast with this. I don't know him very well, but I know him better than you do. And you guys are cut from the same cloth.'

* * *

Got myself in this situation
I'm not sure about
Climbing in where there's temptation
Can I get back out
I never can quite find the answer
The one I want to hear
The one that justifies my action
Says the coast is clear
something on the outside
Says to jump on in
Something on the inside
Is telling me again

Better wise up
Better think twice
Never leave room for compromise
You better wise up
Better get smart
And use your head to guard your heart
It's gonna get rough
So you better wise up

Take a look at your intentions
When you have to choose
Could it be that apprehension
Might be telling you
To back off now is better
So take your heart and run
But get your thoughts together
Before they come undone

* * *

"All I know to say is that I walked into that situation, and I felt like I had known [Vince] for a long time."

Since that time, the two have worked together in a number of professional settings, like when Gill sang on her 1994 project House of Love (Myrrh/A&M). More recently, they have appeared in charity golf outings and Gill sings on A Christmas to Remember.

* * *

Promises made to last
These are the hardest to find
Touch me now, let me know
Your love will always be mine
As the years go by
And the fire of my love surely grows
Baby you know

Whatever it takes baby I'm gonna be there
Whatever it takes baby you've got to know
Whatever it takes to be true to you
I'll love you to the end
Whatever it takes baby I'm gonna be there
Whatever it takes baby you've got to know
Whatever it takes to be true to you

* * *

Grant continues, "I didn't get a divorce because I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill. Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard -- and this is [what] one of our counselors said -- sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they're like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence.

"Through all of that process in my life, Vince was a friend of mine," she continues, "It's not adulterous, but it's just messy" because their friendship existed already.

Grant does acknowledge that she is now dating Gill [Šulik: they are now married], although she clarifies that he was not her boyfriend while she was married. She is also clear to say that she was not a confidant to him when he went through a divorce in 1997. "I have boundless respect for him, and he has always been so respectful of me....

"I think it happens that you meet somebody and you go, 'I feel like I have met a true complement.'"

Not that meeting such a person is a unique phenomena. What does Grant think happens when a married person meets a "soulmate" who is not their spouse?

"Well, I would say this -- I do know that when you have invested in something for a long time, sacrificed for it, nurtured it -- I'm talking about a relationship -- it has a value that no spur of the moment meeting can compare with."

She continues, "We create boundaries around things that are important to us; that's all out of protecting something that already means something to us. You just protect what's valuable to you. It's something that becomes more and more valuable."

After a long pause, Grant continues, "If somebody is unable to protect what they have at home, it's either because [she pauses] they don't know how to value a good thing or it's not a good thing," she says, her voice trailing off.

"If people say, 'She was leaning on a man emotionally that she wasn't married to; she developed a friendship that was inappropriate....' I want to go, 'You know, if you're gonna list my faults, let's get to the real meat. You ain't even scratched the surface with that stuff. Let's get real. Humanity is humanity. You want to know what my real black ugly stuff is? Go look in a mirror and everything that's black and ugly about you, it's the same about me.' That's what Jesus died for. This should not be a surprise to any of us."

Okay, fair enough. Jesus died to redeem us from our sin.

But then why didn't you take the advice that you yourself offered up to us. It's not that you were wrong in what you sang -- it's that you didn't listen to it and act on it.

And really, that's why I don't listen to these songs that much anymore. I know that for Amy Grant, although they purported to be personal and 'real,' it was all a fake, a fraud. You tell us one thing, but when someone comes along who's a little bit better, it's okay to bail. And how do we justify our sin? By saying that God made us this way and it's okay. He'll forgive us in the end.
*In fact, my fiancee (now my bride of 20+ years) and I were working on an independent Christian magazine on our campus back in the very early 1980s (it was distributed to colleges throughout Virginia). My fiancee did a telephone interview of Amy for the magazine, although we ran out of dollars to publish the magazine before that issue came out. Amy and I are the same age -- so our lives haveparalleledd -- she was at Furman with a friend of ours from high school, that's how my bride made contact with her. Marriage is there to serve us -- and if it doesn't meet my selfish, self-centered needs, I can boot it out, because God created it to serve me, not vice versa. (to hell with anyone else, like my spouse, or the kids, or the family who gets injured. i want what i want and god is here to serve me.)

Maybe Bart Millard is right -- maybe we do "eat our wounded." But actually, I think the reverse is true. I think we fail to hold each other accountable in any sense of the word.

I've gone on far too long already. I've got more to say -- a lot more -- but that will have to wait for another day.

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