My fingers linger over the keyboard.
I reread the question, struggling to make sense of it–struggling to make sense of my upset. I am in the fourth year of a very happy marriage, expecting our third baby, and pursuing God’s mission as a lifestyle. Finally I am in a good place, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
But there it is, the application question glaring at me from the computer screen.
Have you ever been divorced?
If yes, please explain the details of your divorce.
The cursor blinks at me and I don’t know what to say. The details of my divorce are still hard for me to think about five years later. How dare they ask me that! Tears well up in my eyes as I’m faced with that feeling again. I’m still not good enough, and this divorce is going to follow me around forever.
The Shame of the Past
Six months ago when I sat in front of the computer trying to imagine the faceless woman at the other end of the email and how she would react to my story I felt many emotions. I felt ashamed because I had a divorce at all, and because the nature of that entire marriage was shameful. I felt angry that an Adventist organization would scrutinize my life in such a way. I think the winning emotion on this particular day was unworthiness. I had dealt with it for months upon months. Although I had moved on to have a wonderful husband and a beautiful family, something lingered.
The feeling of unworthiness still stung.
I grew up in a world where I never saw divorce until I was 9 and my best friend at public school had a dad she called “Mike”. My parents will be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this year, and although I’m sure every couple utters the “D” word from time to time, they stuck it out and every other marriage should too. That’s what I thought. I always imagined I would work through anything with the man I chose to say “I do” to. After all, what is that worth when one day you find yourself saying “I don’t”?
When the Dust Settles the Baggage is Claimed
I barely visited these emotions when I actually went through the divorce. It was fast. Two months of trying to “work it out”, one month of begging him to sign the papers, and another to wait. It was easy. Actually in comparison to the craziness that I fell into following my divorce, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Over time I’ve left the other stuff behind. The drinking and guys stopped just months after my divorce, but what wouldn’t go away was the divorce itself. How do you come back from that? The words would run through my mind endlessly “What God has brought together, let no man put asunder”, and yet the two of us together with a local judge had no problem whatsoever ending a marriage. It was easy and it was over, so why was I calling my dad’s phone number with tears dripping from my eyes when I still couldn’t find an answer for the application question?
The Promise of the Future
I think each of us has a certain transgression that passes through our mind when we think of “unforgivable”. For me, I was certain I was doomed in the eyes of God and of those around me after my divorce–not only because my marriage ended, but because I ended it. Yes, my ex decided to leave, but when he wanted me back, I refused to stop with the divorce plans. I read too many articles on domestic abuse and went through too many counseling sessions at the Safe House for Women to go back into that relationship.
A divorce is not something you can fix easily. In our age of television and Hollywood romances, yes, we see a divorced couple mend things and remarry from time to time, but it’s sort of a solid, man-made end to something God blessed. These things dragged with me through the end of that marriage and the beginning of this one. I realized that if I could forgive my ex for the horrors of our marriage and not feel anger toward him any longer, that I had to at some point forgive myself, and in turn accept God’s forgiveness. It’s true divorce, like many other things I’ve done, is a sin, but what we tend to forget while we’re wrapped in our own turmoil is that God forgives those sins. He can do that because He sent His own son to die in our place. If God was willing to do that, I don’t think He’d let me ruin it so easily.
Yes, I was upset by the application question–hurt even. But only God knew that I was still struggling with that one blight on my record, that one sin that wouldn’t go away. God knew how to move me through that. I had to accept His forgiveness. I had to essentially accept His sacrifice at Calvary. Yes, I knew what He did. I knew that some two thousand years before God sacrificed His son for the sins of the world. What I needed to accept, though, is that Jesus died on a cross two thousand years ago for that sin–the one I committed today, the one you committed yesterday.
God doesn’t generalize His love and grace for us. God is specific. He knows the hairs on my head, and yours. He knows my struggles, and He knows yours. He knew that I hadn’t dealt with what I believed was a grave sin when I divorced.
What sin are you holding onto?What forgiveness are you withholding from yourself?
God knows your struggles.
He knew mine.