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Why this Christian author had to change her name

This popular blogger and author changed her name after she experienced an unexpected life change. Now she's getting honest about her struggles with her conservative Christian audience.

When she got divorced and remarried, this popular blogger and author had to change her name. Now she shares about the difficulties of divorce in conservative Christian communities. -  Photo Courtesy of Anne Marie Miller
When she got divorced and remarried, this popular blogger and author had to change her name. Now she shares about the difficulties of divorce in conservative Christian communities. -  Photo Courtesy of Anne Marie Miller

When she got divorced nnnd remarried, this popular blogger and author had to change her name. Now she shares about the difficulties of divorce in conservative Christian communities. – Photo Courtesy of Anne Marie Miller

Her name is Anne Jackson. Well, it used to be. Now it’s Anne Marie Miller.

She’s a popular blogger and Christian author who’s penned such books as Mad Church Disease, Beating Burnout, and her latest, Lean On Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable, and Consistent Community. Her divorce and remarriage resulted in a name change, something that can be a little tricky when you write primarily for conservative Christians. In this interview, she takes her own advice and gets vulnerable with us about the difficulties of divorce and what is has taught her about faith.

RNS: You are the “writer formerly known as Anne Jackson” or just “Anne Marie Miller.” Why the name change?

AMM: In March 2013, I married a wonderful man named Tim Miller. Call me old fashioned, but I subscribe to the belief of a wife taking her husband’s surname. I understand there’s no Biblical command to do it, but I see it as symbolic of the two-becoming-one, taking on his vow to protect and cover me, and my vow to honor and serve him.

Before that I was Anne Jackson, because in 2003, I married my first husband and changed my birth name to Jackson.

July 26, 2010 was the last day my world was normal. I’ve named it “The Day Before” as I’ve worked toward health in counseling. “The Day After,” July 27, 2010, I received a phone call that would forever change my life. The only part of the story that is mine to tell is that on that day, I learned my seven-year-long marriage was over. A few short months after my 31st birthday, I was divorced.

RNS: Forty or 50 years ago, if a conservative Protestant got a divorce, they might have been shamed out of their congregation. Now, there seems to be more grace. What was your experience?

AMM: Those closest to me knew from the damages my marriage suffered. They surrounded my ex-husband and me with love and grace and care. They opened doors and guest rooms and meals and hearts to us. They never stopped loving me, and they sacrificed for me. My church family did the same. I never once felt shamed by those who I hold near.

Now, those I don’t hold so near – the anonymous (or not so anonymous) voices on the internet, acquaintances and even publications, weren’t always so kind. There were several people who I traveled with, shared stages with, or endorsed books for who separated from me because, in their words, it would send “mixed messages.” A major Christian publication used lines from the public statement announcing my divorce out of context and started a firestorm of hateful words.

The people who said they were friends but were trying to build a name for themselves left me. But those who were more concerned with building a name for Jesus and His redemptive power showed nothing but grace.

RNS: Some conservative Christians claim that divorce should only be permitted when there is infidelity. Others say it should never be permitted. What do you think?

AMM: The day after the divorce papers were processed, I had intentionally planned a trip to Africa with a non-profit. I thought being surrounded by friends and some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in a country I love would be a spiritual resting place and an escape from memories that haunted me. As I boarded a plane, I apologized to a friend of mine for being quiet and emotional.

“I can understand why the Bible says God hates divorce,” he said. “God doesn’t hate the people going through it, but he hates what it does to their spirit.”

I couldn’t agree more. I wish that we lived in a culture where divorce wasn’t even a word in our vocabulary. I believe that marriage is sacred and for life. People whose lives are threatened by abuse need separation until they are safe, and “infidelity” occurs in ways outside of the physical act of sex.

I’ve had people email me and ask me if their situation “qualifies” them for a divorce. People take divorce too lightly, it seems. If they knew the depth of pain that’s caused by divorce, I think there would be fewer and fewer divorces. It’s not just a physical separation of two people; it is the tearing of a spiritual fiber that God himself has sewn together.

Image courtesy of Thomas Nelson

Image courtesy of Thomas Nelson

RNS: What has remarriage taught you about love, grace, restoration, or whichever spiritual word comes to your mind?

AMM: I honestly didn’t think I’d remarry. I casually dated a couple of men after my divorce and realized I was perfectly content being single. And the freedom a single life brought as far as travel and mission and call was glorious.

It took my now-husband, Tim, a little while to convince me that I could trust my heart with him. But one night, God almost audibly whispered to me that I could. It was unmistakable. I consulted with the spiritual advisors in my life if remarriage was even an option for me, and they more than confirmed and affirmed they saw it not only as an option, but a necessity.

Tim is a strong leader. So am I. We butt heads at times, but God has so faithfully grown us in the almost two years we have been married. It has been difficult at times, but it is those hard times that make us holy.

RNS: You’ve written a book about “finding intentional, vulnerable, and consistent community.” How was finding this different for you now than it might have been 10 or more years ago?

AMM: Before this crisis, if you asked me if I had a good community to lean on, I would have answered with a confident “yes.” I found my illusion of security in an address book full of friends and family members who have always offered me anything I needed at any time. I found it in the thousands of people who “knew” me online. But when the crisis of my divorce entered my life, having an army of friends wasn’t enough. I was committed, but I wasn’t vulnerable.

I needed to have intimacy with my community. I needed to know I could go before them emotionally naked and ashamed and not be wounded further. I needed to know I could bleed on them, cry on them, and that they could be a life support for me for a season, breathing air into my lungs until I could start breathing on my own again.