Peripherals

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I know I am a little late with New Years resolutions but this year has already taken me to London, Istanbul and the emergency ward. The good thing about traveling is perspective and an important thing about illness can be enforced silence. All of this brings me to a New Years resolution that started germinating In Divorce Care.

One of the classes was on forgiveness. On the face of it, it would seem that the hardest part of a divorce is forgiving the other party. I had put a check mark besides that one as my goal was to move on with my life and to give as little energy as possible to fighting a battle where the treaty was already signed.

While in Istanbul the weather altered between snow and freezing rain. I’d watch as it would pour down on the narrow streets and what most held my attention was the persistence of the street vendors. There was every item imaginable for daily living. Even in the cold the life of the city, unlike in Canada, is primarily lived  outside in the side streets and alleys. I realized that the life of the heart is also caught up in the small daily purchases and encounters we have in the side streets.

Like so much of Christianity it is easier to deal with the big issues. Would you renounce Christ if a gun were pointed at your head? No, we proclaim. We would be heroes, but our lives aren’t made up of those moments. In forgiveness in my divorce it was one thing to say I forgive him but the truth is that forgiveness is a lot harder when it comes to all the other people who had a hand in the demise of my marriage and involvement during the divorce. By ignoring the side streets I had hidden resentments in the shadows. For a real forgiveness to take place I needed to inventory my feelings about these people and events. The problem was I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to relive the pain, and anger and hurt. Who turned their backs and said hurtful things? Who said nothing at all? etc. I wanted it all to be done. I wanted to make one grand gesture and be done with it. I didn’t want to live in the process of forgiveness.

Honestly I still don’t want to do this as it leaves me tired and sad but to really be free I need to search out the peripherals, the real places I have lived and bled so that I can mourn all the other losses and move forward in truth.

Wishing you all a New Year that is more than cliches and richer in joy than you ever dreamed, Sincerely, D.

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Steve Grissom and Me and Christmas Time

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For anyone who doesn’t know who Steve Grissom is, he is the founder and president of Divorce Care.  He also narrates the video series.  Steve may not realize it but he and I talked all through the series. We have been through all the emotions I can think of. There were times when I was about to really react and he’d disappear and another speaker would intercept my responses and turn my attention to the next step.  At times I’ve wanted to mess up his perfect hair and justify my viewpoint or say amen or sorrow for his experiences.

A week ago we finished our Divorce Care classes and we were told there would be one more on Surviving the Holidays.  I wasn’t too worried as I would have my son with me at my mom’s and then I’d do the trade off on boxing day.  I settled in to see what Steve would say. It started as I expected with a review of potential problems and being prepared. Check. Steve and I were doing fine. We explored ways to prepare for celebrating the holidays. Check.  Then things got into misty-eyed territory for me.

He talked about keeping traditions and how that didn’t necessarily work.  I thought about making the yearly gingerbread house. Each year he (my son not Steve) did that with his dad. I had the pictures of them every year.  After R. left  I’d offered to do that with him but he wouldn’t even consider it. Aah. The traditions had lost their joy.  We would need to create our own new traditions.  O.K. That was something pro-active I could do.  A girlfriend of mine was way ahead on that one. Her daughter suggested they drive into the mountains until they found snow. They’d go and find a tree to decorate and open their gifts under the tree. After a rousing snowball fight they’d head home.  How great is that?  Yes I was ready for the challenge.

Then you threw me a curveball Steve.  You talked about custody arrangements and a shared Christmas. Your next words froze my heart. You said it wasn’t a good idea. What???  You and I just worked through the lesson of Reconciliation. It was even suggested that I call him every six months and see if he’d come home. Seriously?  Steve, what are you saying?  Then one of the ladies said that we should ask ourselves if we had pure motives in wanting a family Christmas for the kids.  The implication was that if we were hoping the occasion would rekindle a longing for home then it wasn’t pure.  Now I was starting to steam.  What could be a purer motive?  Wanting to give a child a mended home and to forgive is at the top of my sainthood chart.  Steve and I had hit a rough patch.  I was upset because though I knew my ex wouldn’t come home I really wanted to keep my son’s life as normal and happy as possible.  I was trying so hard to be gentle and peaceful so that my ex would feel comfortable visiting.  That’s when one of the wingmen came in to back up Steve before he and I had words.

It was explained that for the child to be put in that situation could give them false hope. It could be very disappointing and put them back in that  first place of hurt and loss.  I was silent.  I didn’t want my son to go through the pain again.  That was the worst part of being left, seeing the sorrow on his face when dad disappeared.  I had honestly wanted to give him the life I thought he deserved.  It was another loss to realize I had to let both of us live in the reality of the divorce in order for him to heal.  It was another piece of grieving I hadn’t expected, but I was not going to hurt my son to try and preserve the past.  I realized that Steve was opening my eyes to something I couldn’t see.

For you that have taken Divorce Care but haven’t seen the video Survivng the Holidays it is worth it.  If you haven’t taken Divorce Care it is worth the internal conversation with Steve.

I still want to mess his hair up but I’d more likely shake his hand. On behalf of myself and my son thanks for caring Steve and thanks for the chats. D.

P.S. This blog entry was never meant to be interpreted as being endorsed by Steve Grissom or his hair.

knuckle cracking smackdown (part three)

So there I was in a room full of divorced Christians looking at the pastor and the pastor was looking at me with only Matthew 5:32 to divide us.  I braced myself.  I realized I was trying not to cry.  What happened next surprised me.  He said, “Well if I was at Alpha I’d say that that was a very good question D.  Does anyone at the table have any ideas?”.  He was being funny!  I laughed.   I didn’t expect that.  What he said next surprised me more.

“We in the church haven’t done a very good job at dealing with divorce.  We came from a place where divorce was wrong and you didn’t want to be seen to condone it. We haven’t bridged the gap  from rejecting it to helping those who are going through it and we end up just being uncomfortable.  I know for you D. that the church kind of let you down.”  I couldn’t move.  What I hadn’t mentioned in my other two posts was that this Divorce Care class was happening at my old church, the place I’d left because I felt unwanted. Inside I shifted. I started to materialize and not feel so condemned to be a ghost. I waited to hear what was next.

He said (paraphrase),”In this part in Matthew Jesus is talking to the Pharisees.  One of the practices of the time was that if your wife so much as burnt your toast you could divorce her and move on to the next one.  Some of these religious leaders had had as many as 15 wives.  These women were put through the mill of having to be married off to yet another man.  Jesus was pointing out the hollowness of these “godly” men.  He was really defending the women and saying that what was being done to them was using them, discarding them and handing them over to be used by someone else and that this was foul in God’s eyes.  They may have technically felt absolved but at the heart of it was sin.”

Lightbulb moment!  I realized it was in line with Matthew 5:21,22

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.”

I knew that I wasn’t one day going to be entering the Heavenly Gates and get a, “Whoa there girl.  It looks like your record here shows your heart wanted to issue 34 smackdowns on knuckle crackers and gum snappers, 213 on loud cell talkers, line budgers, ooh and a definite smiting on people with rude hand signals.  We have us a mass murderer. See you and stay warm.”

I realized that like so much of what Jesus was trying to drum into the thick skulls of the Pharisees (and us)  was the attitude of the heart rather than the letter of the law is what matters. 1 Chronicles 28:9 ” … for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”

Proverbs 20:27, Romans 8:27, Rev. 2:23.

This made sense. This was the love of Jesus and the heart of my Father.

I know that not everyone will know the context of this verse and so some will make their judgements.  While I don’t like it I can live with being loved and cared for by God.  I was so grateful for the words the pastor shared, personal and scriptural.  I have a peace with Matthew 5:32 and I’m grateful that Jesus stood up for those women and stood up for the truth and I’d like to think that maybe one or two of the men hearing him gave a thought to what they were doing, just as all of us, men and women, need to consider what we do today.

Thanks for letting me share my story.

What did you just call me? (part two)

Yesterday I was talking about the difficulty I had with the concept of Divorce Care in terms of my own situation.  Today I want to talk about something I learned a couple of weeks ago.

We were in session six called “What Does the Owner’s Manual Say?”.  The idea was to explore what he bible says about divorce.  I was pretty sure I knew where this was going.  Once again we would watch a video and then we were told the pastor was going to come a say a few words.  I was doing my best to keep my inside voice inside.  I agreed with the scriptures but it was kind of like preaching to the choir.  I got it, but then we got to Matthew5:32.  “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adultress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  Say what?  I’m a what?  He walks and I’m a whore? I refused to accept this as God’s truth.

I listened to the entire video and heard them soft shoe around the subject stressing whether you were the guilty party or not and that maybe it didn’t really matter if you tried not to divorce etc. I could also remarry if it was a devoted Christian man.  No.  They didn’t have verses backing that up.  I know pop psychology when I hear it and I was simmering.  Now really I’m not a hot tempered person.  I make baskets, rugs, and bake apples crisps.  I’m actually quite calm but being labelled as an adultress was not something I could let

stand or excuse away.  What was the scripture really saying and was I going to be seen as tainted as long as I was in the church?

The other thing the verse said was that if anyone married me they would be an adulterer.  Let me understand this.  I can only remarry a devoted Christian man but if he does this then he is an adulterer. I do not know of any sincere Christian man who’d sign up for that title.  Talk about your double whammy.

By the end of the video the pastor started to talk. Before he got two paragraphs in I couldn’t stay silent.  I said I couldn’t get past this verse and told him I didn’t know how to read it as I did not believe God would label me with a sin I didn’t commit.  What was the truth? Was I condemned to stay single?  If so tell me straight out. Whether I liked the answer or not I needed the truth.  I didn’t want my ears tickled.  I wanted to know what God was really saying.

You have never seen a more uncomfortable looking person in your life. Then he spoke and everything changed. Tomorrow I’ll post what he said.

What are your ideas on this verse?

Air Kiss (part one)

This entry is a bit raw but it is honest. There is not intent to offend and hopefully over the next couple of days its purpose will become more clear.

A few weeks ago I darkened the doorsteps of a group called Divorce Care.  I will be honest in that I’d been completely resistant to it.  It’s a great idea but it was introduced to me at the wrong time and in the wrong way.  Within days of my ex leaving I was sharing the news with some women at my church.  The first response I got was, “Have you heard about Divorce Care?  It’s a great group and will help you handle your situation.”  I was completely floored. Divorce?  Who had said anything about divorce?  I’d said that he’d left.  Where was the accountability?  Where was the coaching about reconciling?  Was no one going to call him and stand in the gap for a marriage in trouble? Who said it was dead?

The last thing I needed or wanted was a video series and a notebook.  I told the very kind lady that if anyone handed me a notebook on dealing with my feelings I would gleefully beat them to death with it.  I felt an outrage at being handed a happy face band aid to fix having my guts ripped out.  When the second person had the same reaction I didn’t hold back on my feelings about how much I was repelled by the idea.  She handled me calmly and said it could give me some coping mechanisms. Who needed coping?  I didn’t want to cope.  I wanted this not to be happening.  I wanted this fixed. I was told that the church was uncomfortable dealing with issues like divorce. Really? Then what good were they in dealing with real people?  I wanted my church to rise up and deal with the marriages suiciding all around them, but no one ever called my ex.  No one ever held him accountable.  My option was a course in a box. Not community, not a personal touch, no connection.  After a while I couldn’t look at the faces in my church and I left.  It wasn’t real, at least not for me.

As you can imagine it was a long time before I ever considered the group.  I established myself at another church where my son had friends and wanted to go.  I found a warmth and acceptance of me in my situation and they allowed me to be a part of the life of the church.  I was grateful.  As my divorce came and went I decided to check out Divorce Care.

It was difficult to walk into the room especially since the course was already three weeks in but I knew if I didn’t go now I never would.  I didn’t suddenly develop a love of sitting and watching videos but I was drawn in by the leader and the other members.  The part that resonated for me were their stories.  Truthfully it would have been a disaster if I’d walked into this at the beginning.  I would have been too frozen and volatile to sit and listen.  I am a peaceful person, really, but filling out questions about my experience when I am traumatized would have been completely wrong for me.  The good news is that two weeks ago I went to a class that offered insight into a biblical truth that allowed me to move forward as a Christian and may have saved me from a world of frustration and hurt.  Next post I’ll share what I learned about my place as a divorcee in the church and God’s community.

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