The Buckles File: Jim Buckles

The Buckles File: Jim Buckles

After Divorce, Pastor Struggled with Who Was at Fault and Turned to God

THE BUCKLES FILE: Join us as we conduct a Q&A with a longstanding pastor, husband, and father as he discusses his divorce from his first wife and how he coped.

Name: John Buckles

Age: 52

Born/raised: Chicago, Illinois

Family: Now, four children by second marriage – one biological, three adopted — Michael 11, Jayden 4, Nahom 10, Meron 7

How long married: 13 years

When divorced: 1994

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Remarried: 1996

Lives: Westerville, Ohio (suburban Columbus)

Work: pastor at Heritage Christian Church

Hobbies: distance running, most sports

Goals: Honor God where possible, raise godly kids, write a book on Christian hospitality

Dreams: Lots of travel to cool places, Cubs win World Series

Best characteristic: approachability

Worst habit: numerous behaviors related to ADD (pick one)


Q. What were your initial thoughts/emotions when you realized you were getting a divorce?

A. At first a sense of shame and failure. I hated that this is supposed to be the most important relationship in my life and it didn’t succeed. After working through disbelief, sadness, etc., there was eventually some sense of relief, like a lot of weight was off my shoulders. You can’t help but replay the tape wondering what you could and should have done differently.

Q. What is the most challenging part of enduring the first year after divorce?

A. I think the “alone” times were the hardest. I purposefully didn’t immerse myself in so much busyness that I couldn’t reflect on what I needed to “own” and/or learn. I didn’t want to just jump into repeating patterns that might have contributed to the divorce.

Q. What other life factors complicate your healing process and how do you cope with those?

A. I think being in such a public arena hurt at first. Not only socially, but as a (then) college communications professor. A sense of “shame” that an “expert” in communication couldn’t hold together the most important human relationship he was entrusted with. And then as a Christian, that I couldn’t finish the race marked out for me.

Q. Who or what do you turn to heal?

A. First and foremost to God. I drew upon the true power of Christ to give me a strength I could not get from any other source. Secondarily, surrounding myself with good Christian counsel and encouragement. People who could speak grace and truth. People who wouldn’t tell me what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear. I am blessed to have a healthy church and great friends. Another healing influence is to spend my efforts more in serving others than asking to be served. Finally, as a fledgling distance runner, there is a great deal of cathartic therapy in going out for a nice long run in God’s creation, keeping everything in perspective.

Q. What hurt the most during the first year after your divorce?

A. Probably the bouts with loneliness. It was surprising what might set me off. Probably like a human death loss, it could be a date, a situation, a place, a memory, seeing a picture or finding an old knick-knack in a drawer.

Q. What are some of the biggest hurts you’re experiencing?

A. God has been kind to extend a great deal of inner and relational healing. I also have been blessed with a godly wife and now four children. I still, however, have those occasional self-deprecating thoughts and can be more susceptible to being “wounded” by a comparatively harmless comment by my wife.

Q. What is the most difficult part of your experience?

A. Probably the inner turmoil of trying to discern what was my fault and what wasn’t. I wanted to own and not repeat mistakes. Then there’s always the wrestling with God part, trying to discern in His sovereignty why this happened. As a Christian and a pastor, I don’t believe there are many “biblically releasing allowances” for divorce beyond unfaithfulness or abandonment.

Q. What surprises you about your inner resolve in the face of this crisis?

A. I heard once that people are like tea bags and when the heat gets turned up, you find out what is really inside. What I hope is “in there” is Jesus living in me more and more each day. Although I certainly wouldn’t want to go through this again, I am “glad” for how it made me depend more on God and let him rebuild me from the inside out. I actually learned I had to get “weaker”, not stronger, so He could make me strong.

Q. What is your attitude about your future, and possible remarriage, after going through divorce?

A. Certainly, I was gun shy, but in God’s timing, the absolute best person for me walked back into my life. I did get remarried two years later, then had my first child one year after that. Today, 14 years after my dissolution, I have four children and a great life and ministry.

Q. What would you like to add that we did not cover?

A. Just that the answer is inside you, not always just bucking up and resolving to be “stronger and smarter next time. Being willing to humble yourself and let God rebuild your life in a way we can’t. There’s ALWAYS hope when He is in equation and He truly “works out all things together for good (Romans 8:28).”

From the gut — John Buckles’ tips for coping during the first year after divorce:

  • Turn to God for energy and answers.
  • Surround yourself with people who share your faith and values.
  • Realize you must get weaker before you can grow stronger again.
  • Remember there’s always hope (with God).
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