The Christmas Gift

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This year I thought I was on track for Christmas.  It’s been almost three years since R. left and we’ve achieved an amicable relationship.  He is settling into his new marriage and I was getting on with my life. After two years of procedures and surgeries I am pain free and able to enjoy so much more. And yet,…

During the divorcing phase you always seem to be scrambling for papers, and waiting and waiting, and applying for documents, balancing statements and wondering how to do more with less than half of what you had.  I felt like Indiana Jones running from the huge round stone that would crush me.  At times I thought it might even be a relief, but one day it stops. Sort of,…  The divorce is final and you grope around for ways to make the little broken bits fit and yet you don’t quite have the interest.  You know if you sit too long you will never move again so occasionally in spastic fits you snatch at something so you can feel like what you are doing is actually living. Eventually it becomes steadier,…more or less.

For me the circuit breaker became travel.  No I didn’t win the lottery but I had accumulated air miles and I am all about the art of making every dollar work hard. Eventually colour seeped back into my world.  It was a different world but I was learning its customs. In time I started to become a native and realized I needed to take other new comers by the hand and show them around.  I saw that God had another land for us to inhabit.  Not familiar but home, …in a way.

When I came back from a trip with my mom this November the first thing I heard was that my son was OK and my ex had lost his job.  My stomach clenched.  Our support, medical and insurance would be gone in a few months.  I fell back into that pit.  Everything spun.  Fear ripped through my new strength and shoved me on my haunches.  My bones were so new and fragile, my soul was spun sugar and I waited for everything to snap.  And then,…

There was no time to focus. I had handcrafting sales to prepare for, birthdays to celebrate, Christmas to decorate for and a journey to Bethlehem that only I could take. My heart needed to be called home.  I laughed I prepared, I baked, I cleaned, and I even entertained with a minimum of anxiety and internal  hysteria. We all set the bar differently,…

Tonight I took my son aside and tried to map out sharing arrangements for Christmas. Where would we be?  Who would get the choice parts of the holidays? When would we travel? What parties did he want to be at?  What were the youth events?  How were we going to manage the expectations?  What did he want for Christmas? Could he makes lists for everyone?

In the midst of all that there was the unspoken anxiety about losing the house, the income and my medication. Chemo. isn’t cheap.

My son came and put an arm around me. “Mom what I want is a stress free Christmas.  You and I have such a good life together.  Promise me you will have fun. That is what I want. I want us to enjoy the holidays and not worry about the calendar.  You’ve done enough. You are enough.  You are Christmas to me”.  My son had just given me his list.  He was asking for peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men, whatever comes our way.

He was asking for joy to the world. He wants a silent night, a holy night. He is saying come all you faithful. He is telling me not to be afraid because there are glad tidings of good news.

I really needed good news. I realized I really hadn’t stopped running in over three years.   Here I was asking for him to tell me what the perfect Christmas gift would be and instead he showed me and placed it in my lap.

No matter whether your Christmas is red and green,or blue or bathed in heavenly light I pray that you find a gift in your own trip to Bethlehem. with love, D.

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Love Connection

I sat at the Starbucks gripping my green tea lemonade and waiting for my blind date. Well it wasn’t exactly blind as I’d seen a picture but we’d never met and we’d never even talked. It wasn’t exactly, in the strictest sense of things a date, as much as a coffee meeting.  I have to admit that I’d been the one to initiate things.  I felt it was time and there was a lot riding on this.  I knew what I needed to do but this was so uncomfortable.  I double checked my reflection in the window.  My makeup was looking a little tired,my hair was a little flat and I was a little bloated but I sat up straighter and thought about what I’d say. Then the door opened up.

“Hi, oh my gosh you are gorgeous”.  Oh no I did not just say that. I scrambled.   “I’d seen a picture, your wedding picture but it doesn’t do you justice”.  I could not believe I just said that to my ex husband’s new wife. Seriously?  What about “Hi. It’s nice to meet you.  How are you doing? Thanks for having coffee with me.” as opposed to being a complete goober and blurting out the first thing I could think of to this utterly beautiful petite woman who drifted in, long beautiful tresses draped over her adorable outfit.  I knew before she said anything that she was also a lovely person.  I’d heard she was sweet but I needed to lay eyeballs on the woman who was now my son’s stepmother. She confirmed that opinion by just running with the conversation as if it was the most normal thing in the world for her new husband’s ex to comment on her looks and make reference to the wedding.  She earned definite points for graciousness.

After she got her coffee we talked.  My ex and I got our final divorce decree in July 2011. In December 2011 he met this woman, but February he was talking marriage and by August they were married.  None of this sat well with our son.  I’d warned my ex that our son needed time to get to know her and build a relationship but somehow he decided after a couple of encounters to announce their engagement and then asked my son if it was OK, sort of like when someone lights up and asks if you mind.  Unfortunately it wasn’t going well.  The troubling thing was that my son likes everyone.  There were times at school when someone might give him a rough time and I’d be ready to take it to the principal’s office and he’d say no. “Mom if they are acting out it means they are probably upset about something. I don’t want to make their lives worse.”  “Really?  I mean good for you” (even though I was itching to give them a swat).  This was the first time he’d refused to like someone.  He wouldn’t say her name, or talk to her more than was necessary.  I was all kinds of worried about this one.  As a past medical social worker I had a dozen scenarios playing in my head and none of them good.  Here is where love comes in.

The easiest thing in the world would have been to sit back and let things play out.  I had been translating between son and dad all their lives.  Ever since the divorce I’d been trying to keep these two together.  What I knew was that God designed my son to love.  Anything I did to interfere with that was harmful to him.  In loving my son I had to do everything in my power to keep the love flowing between the two of them.  Please know that my feelings have thrown every justification at me for being a righteous jerk, but my son’s heart is more important.

Now I had a new challenge.  I needed to help my son love his new stepmother.  It didn’t take any time to see what a pure spirit this woman had. I saw how she loved my ex and would have his back. I saw her heart as a mom for her own kids.  There was only one thing for me to do.  When I got home my son was still awake.  “Hey sweetheart. I had a great time.” I said. ” No seriously. I really like her.  I want you to know I feel really free.  I think she’s a good woman.”  My son hugged me.  “Love you mom. Thanks.  It’s going to be OK” and I knew it would be.

Does this hurt? Yes.  My heart aches when he is away. She will be easy to love.  I know that God designed his heart big enough to accomodate more people than me. Sometimes love hurts but in Christ it is not an option.  May God help us all to love way beyond what we thought possible. (Update in the “comment” section). D.

Sticks and Stones

Today I lied to myself and I lied to my son.

“Sweetheart mom in not feeling well.  Could you phone auntie Tammy and get her to take you to church?”.  I told myself that the headache I had was possibly becoming a migraine and the stiffness in my hips would make it just too much to get through a church service today.  Slowly the bedroom door closed and it would be one more Sunday without mom. Usually it was because of illness but not today.

I got up and as I started to move around I realized that the headache was only minor and the joints were not as swollen as I’d made them out to be.  I was in pain but the truth was that I was depressed.  I’d felt it growing over the last few weeks and had tried to combat it with getting out and doing some walks, talking daily to friends and making sure I washed my hair, did my face and got on with my life. Slowly I have felt the fatigue shrouding me in a mist that has been pulling me away to where even just the act of getting ready in the morning leaves me exhausted.  I am still able to break through and be grateful for the beauty of something as simple as the apple festival I went to yesterday.  It was a real challenge to make myself go but I know I had to counter balance the urge to cocoon.  It was a gorgeous fall afternoon and the setting on the river bank and all the people and children bustling about was really wonderful.  You felt connected with real life, but it was life you could observe and interact with only as much as you were willing.

This morning, the thought of a room full of worshippers, the singing and all the spiritual, emotional and physical engagement was too much.  I have such a wonderful group of people but I am so afraid of the depression being too close to the surface and the emotions churning around. I knew that lifting my face to God would have me in tears.  I do not want to cry.  I have no reason to cry.  OK we all have reasons but I want to be normal.   After going through a divorce and a couple of years of surgeries and ill health I want, more than anything to find normal.  I don’t want my normal to be sadness.  I want all the sadness gone and a clean slate, new skin, a fresh beginning.

In the back of my head I hear the echo of one divorce care leaders’ statements, “Divorce leaves scars that never go away.”  I was shocked.  I did not want to hear that. I don’t want scars. I don’t want sadness.  I want,…. I don’t know what I want but I know I am tired.

A study came out that the brain cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional pain. I saw that in play when my son was in football. A boy would miss a pass or mess up a tackle and would fall.  He would grab his leg or lie on his back and either wince or not move.  It wasn’t intentional. He felt pain but as the medic explained, the humiliation or upset sometimes translated into the boy thinking he was physically hurt. He wasn’t faking. The old saying about sticks and stones is wrong. Names can hurt you.  Sorrow can ail your bones.

This last month (months, years) has been hectic with good and bad things.  As I go through this season I will label the pain for what it is.  It will pass. It has before and it will again.

My prayers are with all of you as you go through your seasons.

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.

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.

Unguarded Moments

(photo used with permission from “Remember to Play Events)

This weekend was a very rare event for me.  I found myself utterly alone.  My son and the dog went with my ex. for an overnight. I had a busy Saturday planned with a women’s Christmas brunch, cookie baking, gift wrapping and packing for the holidays.  What ended up happening was an all night battle with kidney stones and no sleep irrespective of what pain killers I threw at them.  By morning there was no fatigue or pain relief and I was in no shape to go anywhere and eat, craft, or chat.  Again I felt so betrayed by my body.  I think I may have even been a little resentful towards God.  “Didn’t you want me to get more involved with the ladies at the church?  I was willing to go out and socialize and expand my social network. Could you not pulverize a few minerals and let me get on with my life?”.  I was a step up from depressed because I could feel something, unfortunately it was not positive.

I was completely at a loss but I did notice one thing. Silence.  There were no voices, no footsteps, no TV, no computers humming, and not even any spinning thoughts. I was free to choose a topic to think about or nothing at all.  For a while I lay there in that rare state of clarity and almost held my breath as if it was a deer that might startle if I moved too quickly. Without meaning to I started to process some of the feelings I had about Christmas. Yesterday I talked about the legacy we leave our children but it didn’t mean that sorrow isn’t something that we need to deal with, it just meant that we shouldn’t unduly burden our children with our sorrows. I realized that I had to face what I needed to mourn before I could fully celebrate.  I hadn’t done it before because I needed to be strong, on patrol and holding things together while I was on duty.  I hadn’t been ready.  Suddenly it was there.

It was like packing away certain ornaments that would not be hung again. The three of us would never share those family moments by the fireplace for stockings, hot chocolate, or a special Christmas breakfast. I needed to stop looking at items in the store and thinking, “Oh he’d love that.”  We would no longer have gingerbread house building competitions. My son won’t do it anymore without dad.  Tears started to flow. I had the freedom, in this silence and aloneness, to grieve.  I grieved the future Christmases that would never be and the sharing of times of worship and praise at church to celebrate the center of our faith.  There would be future services but never all together. Never as a family. I grieved for what was gone and for what would never be.  I let the pain wash over me and didn’t try to stop it.  Eventually it began to recede. I was exhausted and flat but some of the pit that I’d carried in my stomach was gone.  It was almost two years since he’d left and I was finally at a place where I could believe that the light at the end of the tunnel was not attached to a train.

The silence had been a gift of sorts.  I can go back to seeing the beauty in the season as it is intermingled with the sadness. All the different filaments are woven into a tapestry made beautiful by the contrasts.  I am grateful for the unguarded moments so that I can carry on.  Wishing you all a season of unexpected blessings, D.

Christmas Legacy

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I hadn’t seen Pam in years.  Pam and I used to be neighbours. I was filling up the cart getting ready for my son’s birthday party.  We exchanged greetings and told each other how good we looked. “So” I said, “Are you almost ready for Christmas?”.  Pam looked at me and said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas. One of the reasons I married Joe was because he’s a J.W. and they don’t do Christmas”.  I didn’t know what to say.  I know many people don’t celebrate Christmas but I’d never heard of someone marrying someone to get away from feeling any sense of obligation to the occasion. Pam launched right in. “When I was little Christmas was the worst time of year. The minute the music started on the radio I would get a knot in my stomach because I knew my mom would turn into a nightmare. It was like she hated us because now she had to shop, now she had to cook, now she had to clean, now she had to entertain, now she had to wrap gifts and now she had to write cards.  Everything was a misery and so by Christmas morning she would refuse to come out of her room until she felt like it and we felt the hate.”  She told me how they’d tried saying no gifts and that make her mom angrier. She said the gifts they gave often sat untouched as if the godess had rejected the offerings because the offence was too big and not forgiven.

I stood there imagining the pain.  There were no words. We went on to other topics, hugged each other, and went our separate ways.  What started to stab me was my own attitude.  Just that morning I’d been complaining that I’d have to get the cards out and the price of stamps was ridiculous. No, I didn’t think it would turn my son against Christmas but what legacy was I leaving him?

I know that being divorced or separated or even in a tense marriage, Christmas can seem to magnify the pain because it is supposed to be a time of family harmony and togetherness. It represents a lot of what we’ve lost or never had.  The happiness of the season can almost seem to mock our sorrow or make us feel that we can’t live up to the ideals.  When we see advent scenes and see the plays and hear the songs they give a tranquil sweet veneer to the event but what was it really like?

Mary was a teenager who gave birth without family or village women to help her. How terrifying. She was really alone in the equivalent of an unheated garage. There was no one to help her with the process or aftermath. The wisemen did not show up at the stable. It was about a year or two afterwards when they were in a house. She was with Joseph who would have had no experience with these things and then poor local sheep herders. I’d like to think that some of the local women came to help but there is no record of that.  The point is that the first Christmas had none of the warm trimmings of a home decorating show or Christmas special. Pain and sorrow are native to Christmas.  The birth was marked with an immense importance and knowing that may have given Mary comfort but it was not easy.

The question is, what legacy for Christmas are we going to give to our children?  Do we give them our stress, sorrow and sense of profound disappointment?  Our attitudes can affect the children for the rest of their lives.  Are Christmas cards too much this year? Don’t do them.  Is a huge dinner too much? Have a potluck. No one to celebrate with? Create your own tribe of others without families.  No money or time for a big turkey dinner?  Try tacos. Really.  One year we were moving into a new house one week before Christmas. Christmas eve came and we couldn’t do the dinner. All I had was a package of taco shells.  I made them and sprinkled them with chopped red and green peppers. I presented them as Christmas tacos. The next year I had things together, presented the full turkey dinner and my son looked at me and said, “But where are the Christmas tacos?”  From then one we make sure it is a dinner that celebrates the season.   The biggest decorating need we have is the environment we create for our children. Being loved and treasured, being given those extra moments of warm attention is what will make any event special.  Be good to yourself.  If you are alone, allow yourself moments of kindness to yourself. Allow yourself moments away from the presssure of what you think your life should be.   Just stand in thankfulness for the singular reason for Christmas.  I say this because though I feel a lot of physical pain I feel an escape when I do this. I am grateful for so much. Those things will be the meditation for the season.

I’m wishing you all that escape from the consumer jungle, the made for TV event, and the confines of our own expectations. Watch the video “The Advent Conspiracy” on YouTube and have a peaceful Christmas,    love, D.

The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything

The title for this post is not actually a delusional rambling.  I save those for close friends, family and politicians who come to my door soliciting votes. It is a chapter within The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a sci. fi./humour book by Douglas Adams. In it a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42 The Ultimate Question itself is unknown.  I read this years ago and thought it was rather brilliant.  In the past couple of years I realized it has huge theological significance.  Now don’t run away yet.  I promise I will bring this back to something that makes sense. Honest.

When I got married I knew it would be forever.  I married a man who would never leave.  I would have put money on it. I would have ended up broke. Thanks for not taking that bet.

Afterwards I tried to make sense of what had happened.  Why didn’t God fix it? Why didn’t he tell me how to fix it?  Why didn’t he fix us? What purpose did he have in this? Why didn’t it work?   I don’t need to keep on going. If you’ve gone through divorce or trauma you have your own list of hurts and confusions.  It was easy to feel that others were looking at me as defective and the unspoken “if you’d had real faith this wouldn’t have happened.”

Thankfully Mr. Adams came to the rescue and he did it in the form of the book of Ruth. (No really.  Please hang on. It will make sense in a minute.)

Naomi marries a man named Elimelech. They have two sons whose names mean puny and pining.  Really.  Who gives their kids names like this? Famine has hit Judah so we may have a hint as to how desparate things were. Imagine how you would be praying, begging God for help.  Save us. Save our boys. They decide to move to Moab, away from friends, family and their faith community. You would be praying that God would protect you there. Eventually the boys marry foreign women outside of the faith. How that must have burned and shamed Naomi, but it got worse. Her husband dies and then both boys die.  Naomi knows that God has abandoned her.  She hears that things are better in Judah and so plans to return home to survive. She sends the girls home. There would be no love for these foreign women back home.  One goes but one refuses to leave Naomi.  Naomi is a broken woman. She says she has nothing to offer, no future sons and she says she sees no future husband for herself. “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”  How could she think anything else?  She knew that that is how others would judge her life. She was not favoured by God and now she would be a burden to her family until the day she died.

Imagine being her, crying out to God as to why he hated her so much.  What was her sin?  What was her purpose?  In reality the answer is 42.  We know from reading the book of Ruth (and if you haven’t, take my word for it, and then check it out yourself) that the purpose of her life was to bring Ruth into the line of David and ultimately Jesus. Come again?

There is no way that Naomi would have ever understood the purpose of her life.  She had no ability to get that answer and if she got it to understand it.  The meaning of her life could not be puzzled out.

I believe we treat God like a glorious Rubik’s cube that if we line things up right, we can figure out. He is the Holy Wild and we do not have the capacity to understand his thoughts and workings.  Does it make it easier? Yes and no.  It reminds me that it isn’t always about causal connections.  I still have to deal with pain and confusion but I can step away from the thinking that says things like “pain is God megaphone” and trying to fit everything into my frame of reference. Sometimes the answers for what happens in our lives is 42. I am so sad that Naomi died thinking she wasn’t loved.  I am grateful to Mr. Adams for a great life lesson.  Reflection is good but endless navel gazing is a lousy view. Sometimes the answers are not where or what we would think.  The meaning of life is way beyond us and I’m O.K. with that.

Take care, D.

You’ll never guess the butler did it

Sue: ” Hey Megan.  I have a book you have just got to read.  You would never guess that the butler was actually the twins dad. He’d been disfigured in a car accident and blamed the family for stealing his children and was killing them off in vengance.  You will just love it. It is the most suspenseful book I’ve ever read.”

Megan: Cue sound of crickets chirping.

Knowing the ending of a book or a movie disrupts the story telling art.  It is the building up, the guessing and being on a shared voyage with the characters that creates the impact.

When presented with our bibles we are told that it is the living breathing word of God.  It is not like any other book. Most books you read from the beginning as opposed to New and Old divisions.  We read the histories but we have a big problem.  We know the endings.  We know that the ultimate battle will be won my God.  The suspense factor has been taken out.

I think we lose a lot of the meaning and impact of what we are reading because we see an overview of people’s lives and experiences.

Moving forward as someone who is divorced in the church it is easy to feel that we are alienated.  What if we stepped back and re-read some of the stories that we thought we knew from the perspective of the characters who had no idea what was next or what would happen to them?  What could we learn and take strength in?

I think of the story of Esther. We celebrate that she saved the Jews. We know the finished story. We don’t feel the true horror and sorrow that was her life.  To be a young girl without parents  must have been so isolating. To be sent to the palace meant to lose all her hopes and dreams. She would never have a nice Jewish husband and be able to raise their children in their faith. She was being taken out of her community to be put in a place of debauchery, violence and madness. She would be hated by the other women competing for favour and would be targeted for violence by them. She would undergo treatments and training that would be against her upbringing. She would have seen him drunk and out of control and pictured him touching her.  Her wedding night would be without mercy or love or committment. She would have no protection and nowhere to run. He could do anything he liked. She’d be tied to a man who killed his best friends son on a whim. His best friend had already lost one of his two sons in battle. He asked Xerxes if his second son could be spared. Xerxes called his friend to the courtyard and the friend witnessed his second son murdered as a penalty.  This was the man Esther faced.  Can you imagine her fear and hopelessness?  We know the rest of the story but she did not. We don’t know what happened to her afterwards but the dreams of her youth would never be given back to her and the rest of her days would be in this environment.  God put her in a place that was a nightmare and yet she trusted and served him.  It did work but she could not have known that.

Many times we will end up in places and situations that seem impossible for God to redeem.  We might see facets of our lives as nightmares. Re-read the stories as if you didn’t know the endings.  You will find that you are not such an alien after all.   D.

 

The War of Reconciliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was it. I was done.  I put down the phone and once again I was in tears. How was it that I used to negotiate with street kids, bikers and warring families as a career but couldn’t seem to navigate my way through a simple conversation with my ex without his sharpness?  It was almost two years since he’d left the house and I couldn’t believe he could still make me cry.

I’d really believed that God had placed a strong duty on me.  I was to maintain my responsibility to care for my ex, to have his back and to live at peace with him as much as possible.  At the end of our marriage we quarrelled a lot because I had a need to be understood and I thought if we talked long enough we’d find a way to come to a consensus. (Yes I know some of you are shaking your heads.) Unfortunately it often went sideways and the simplest things were met with hostility by him, hurt by me and frustration from both. When he left I finally stopped fighting. I realized he wasn’t coming back and I no longer had to wait for the day it would be my turn and we’d have a partnership.  I thought I was learning to let go.  I thought I was embracing gentleness and working really hard to give my son the best relationship possible with his dad.

I wanted my relationship with him to be independent of his actions.  I wanted to model what a Christian’s response should be to people. I wanted to make theology live. I honestly meant to try to be radically different.  I couldn’t teach my son about forgiveness, loving those that don’t love us and be a complete cow to his dad. I wanted to thoughtfully act rather than just react. I refused to have his choices dictate the sort of person I would become. I still felt the dragon’s tail twitching inside of me, wanting to rant and vent my hurt and my loss, my betrayal and sullenness, but I really felt God holding me back. It was a daily battle. “Hi my name is D. I’ve gone six months without sarcasm, pettiness or spite”,…Most of the time it even worked but there was a problem.

When I hung up the phone I realized I’d spent two years acting like a low level employee on probation. I was not letting go of seeking approval.  I saw that I was hoping that he would suddenly see the years of loyalty and support and caring and finally say that I was a good person.  I wanted him to take back his words and change his heart. I wanted to be liked.I hadn’t let go of needing him to validate me.  Suddenly it all crumbled.  I couldn’t take the rudeness and the clipped tones.  I gave up. I’d done my part and it was a bust.

Our son’s birthday was coming up on the weekend.  I was hosting a party for our son’s friends on the Saturday and my ex would be there. On Sunday he would host a party for his family but I wasn’t allowed to attend.  It had been that way last year as well. I accepted the double standard but I had had enough.  I e-mailed him and asked him not to come. I realized that I was done being the constant peace maker.  I just wanted him to go away and take his negativity and judgement with him. I felt miserable.

On Wednesday I prepared to go to one of the last Divorce Care sessions.  When I opened the book I froze. The title was reconciliation.  No way.  I sat at a table surrounded by similarly frozen people. Some with stories so painful that even the word reconciliation was a slap in the face.  We listened to the video and I felt the humiliation of being rejected all over again.

Really? You want me to call every six months and see if he’ll come home? I should stay single like the woman who waited 12 years in case he changes his mind? Shoot me please.

What none of us expected is that reconciliation didn’t mean having to get back in our marriage with the ex spouse.  We started to breath. Cautiously. We were told that there were different levels including civility, and friendship.  It was like God was telling me not to give up.  I knew I had to relook at some of my expectations, hopes and goals. I needed to carve out boundaries that were healthy and redefine my goal as being a peaceful and healthy relationship so that all three of us could move forward. I needed to let go of needing his approval.

Letting go, just like any grief is not linear. I realize that reconciliation, like an addiction, will be a daily struggle.  We are all potential weapons of mass destruction. We have to choose to harness it, and I know I will revisit old wounds and hurts a few times before I can really defeat them. I wish I could tell you I’m a saint. I wish I didn’t have to struggle with wanting validation but this is my war to fight and with God’s priorities maybe now I have a fighting chance.

Wishing you all a world of peace, D.

 

 

 

 

 

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