When I was a young girl, I found my mother’s wedding dress tucked away in the back of a closet. As I slipped into the beautiful white dress that was several sizes too big, I twirled around in delight with dreams of my prince charming. Never did my idea of happily ever after include the possibility of divorce. Years later as a grown woman, I stood before my husband in another beautiful white dress and clung to his promises to faithfully cherish and protect me. Now, as a single divorced mother, I’ve had to wrestle with the deep pain and betrayal caused by unfaithfulness and grieve the loss of my marriage and my happily ever after as I had planned it.
I struggled to write this because I realized that I wanted to be able share my story with a pretty bow wrapped around it. The reality of grief though is that it’s very messy and just when you think you have a handle on it, a memory or date triggers an avalanche of emotions and you feel as though you are back at the beginning. For years I poured myself into what I thought was going to be a redemption story of my marriage. After first finding out my husband had been unfaithful, we spent the next three years working to rebuild love and trust through counseling, intensive marriage retreats, and church groups. Despite my hopes, continued unfaithfulness eventually shattered trust beyond repair and I wrestled with God as He urged me to open my clenched hands that held tightly to my desired outcome for my marriage. I sensed God asking me to trust that He still had a redemption story for my life apart from my current circumstances.
The process of learning to release control and open my clenched hands up to God was, and continues to be, very difficult. My first response to the trauma I endured, was to attempt to control my circumstances as a way to control my pain. When my marriage first ended, I went into survival mode. I was deeply hurting, but I had to put on a happy face and continue to pour love into my young children. Within weeks, we had sold our home and I had moved away from my friendships, church, and community to find refuge closer to family. Learning to deal with the challenges posed by trying to create stability for my children while their world was being turned upside down was heart breaking and I hated that I couldn’t protect them from the fallout of our broken marriage.
For months, I didn’t fully allow myself to experience the depth of the losses I had endured because the pain of it felt like it would crush me. In recent months though, I have sensed that God was calling me to allow Him to probe my heart and reveal where I needed to fully grieve so that I could move beyond the anger and fear to find deeper healing, forgiveness, and freedom. I started going through a divorce care class at a local church and doing some counseling. It has been painful and hard at times to look back when I strongly desire to just be moving forward. My counselor helped me to see though the importance of writing an inventory of my losses of past memories and future dreams lost. I needed to bring God into each and every painful moment, and trust Him to give me the strength to surrender my “rights” to hold on to each memory and give a foothold to bitterness and unforgiveness. This has not been a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that has continued to bring me to my knees and cling to His promise that He will give me the strength to do what I know I cannot do on my own.
The difficult journey of acknowledging my losses, has also led me to wrestle with where my identity and security lies when the hopes I’ve held closest are stripped away and my future seems unclear. Satan wants me to believe that my worth is less than because my husband chose other women. Satan’s lies want me to live in a place of shame that my marriage has failed. Satan wants nothing more than for me to hold onto unresolved anger and bitterness that will keep me from experiencing the freedom and healing of forgiveness. God’s truth though has been revealing to me that the essence of who He created me to be, can never be taken from me or changed by someone else’s choices. The essence of who I am is that I am a beloved daughter of the King and my father who loves me deeply promises to bring beauty from ashes and use my pain for His glory and my good.
I have found so much hope in what has become a favorite verse, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). I can’t honestly say that I’m laughing at the days to come yet, because there are still many days that I am paralyzed by fears of the unknowns and I feel stuck in my pain and anger. During these times, I sense God lovingly and patiently reminding me that I can trust Him to give me all the strength and dignity that I will need to face whatever challenges today holds. I am clinging to the promise that God is writing my redemption story and will continue to use the difficult things in my life to show me the beauty of trusting in Him and resting in His love.