Monthly Archives: October 2014

Divorce on Earth, as it is in Heaven

I come from a family of “second chances”. My parents are divorced and are both remarried to people who have been divorced. 3 out of 4 of my grandparents are divorced from other people and remarried to each other. I’ve learned throughout the years spent at Christmases full of step-cousins, step-grandparents and step-nephews that the second go-around isn’t always so bad. Our melting pot family today is seemingly healthy and functional. Well, I’d say we aren’t any more dysfunctional than the “typical” family units I’ve come across. Things are working out A-OK. Nobody fights anymore, and nobody was all that awkward at my wedding rehearsal dinner when we sat all together for one of those rare life-occasion moments.

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I met and knew Eric first as a married man. I’ll never deny the truth that I knew his wife very well. In fact, we were friends. We went to the bar together, we had breakfasts at the diner on my campus once in a while, I came to their apartment and watched Friends with both of them. It’s not easy to explain the journey from Point A to Point B (that’s probably another post… or a memoir) but a few years later, I became Eric’s second wife.

I felt well-equipped to be a second wife, based on my lineage. Despite the statistics, I knew that second chances can actually work out pretty well. I think the growth and the pain and the feelings of intense failure and fear that stem from experiencing divorce can actually determine a person to make it work the next time, or else they’ll never risk it again. In my case, Eric was ready and eager to instate open-communication, honesty, and healthy habits into a new relationship right from the start. And after seeing many family members live through the pain of splits, I was too. We both felt, as we started dating, we had what it took to build a solid foundation that our marriage could stand upon.

Maybe I was well-equipped or knowledgeable, but not necessarily prepared for what was to come.

As much as I thought I knew about divorce, I don’t think I had the whole story. In my life before Eric, everyone I knew who had been divorced and/or remarried had gotten through the brunt of it without involving me. I was a child through most of it, and everyone protected me from the smack-talking and tension and awkwardness pretty effectively. I felt pretty sure that divorce just happens, and then life moves on.

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But this time I was in the center of all of it. Neither one of us had kids to have to counsel through the process (thank God, really, I don’t know how people do it), but we did have family and friends that were reeling from the brokenness of Eric’s divorce and we all lived in a world of tension. My friendship with Eric’s ex-wife obviously ended when we started dating, and it seemed like others began drawing their battle lines. This was bad in ways, good in others, and confusing and painful on all accounts, for everyone involved.

Friends and family who chose “my side” of the issue were rarely helpful. Nine times out of ten the person who would come to me and smacktalk “the ex” were a. misinformed, b. unsympathetic, and c. very awkward and confused when she and I and they would all end up at the same party.  Its an ugly part of me that has to admit I enjoyed when these people appeared to be “taking my side”, but I didn’t actually appreciate it. My ego tried to convince me it felt really good to have someone validate me and my relationship, but my heart couldn’t trust the opinion of someone who, somehow, so easily talked so badly about someone they were once really close to.

The most enriching and helpful experiences I had were with those around me who were the ones that went through the confusing process with us very honestly. Today I am still close friends with a woman who said, “You know what? I’m friends with her, I know her story. I’m friends with you, I know your story. I’m friends with Eric, too. And I’m not taking sides.” It made for a few uncomfortable barbeques, but ultimately, I appreciated and felt very loved by the way she chose to live in that awkwardness for all of us. I also had people say straightforwardly, “I’m really mad at you right now, and I’m really confused about all that’s happened.” The honesty behind that statement was, at the time, so hard to take, but it was the beginning of a (long) journey towards understanding and healing, and a deeper trust was born between myself and those who expressed themselves so transparently that way.

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For anyone who has been broken by this issue directly or indirectly, or whose family or community has been torn apart because of divorce, I’m deeply sorry. I understand your pain. I truly believe, though, that a heart bent toward reconciliation will help in the journey out of bitterness. One day, whether it is on Earth or in Heaven I don’t know, I pray the separate bits and pieces of my family will be One. I pray the friendship I had with Eric’s ex-wife will be restored. I pray we, our siblings, our parents, and our step-cousins can hang out and all watch Friends together.

This love and reconciliation is more than our human brains can comprehend, so we choose instead to take the “easy” way out and pledge “loyalty”. We talk badly about the ex, or about the new girlfriend, or about the step-kids and think that will help us along. We believe that if we could only chose a side, this will all be a lot less messy. But when you know divorce and remarriage, you know well that black is never just black and white is never just white. Our families and our pasts and our futures all bleed into one fascinating gray where our loyalty is muddled and our hearts are utterly torn. But in that gray, and in those open spaces, if we are just willing to sit there, we can really experience something beautiful. If we can open ourselves up enough to the awkward-ness and the yucky-ness and the I-wish-this-wasn’t-happening-ness that is divorce and/or remarriage, and just say, “I’m really mad,” or “I’m really sad,” or “I’m really confused,” instead of “Well, he/she was bad for him/her, and you are good!” I think we’ll find something really great in that. When we don’t draw battle lines so clearly, but address our hurt and confusion directly instead, we give ourselves up to the process of grieving and healing. We allow ourselves to experience great tension, which resolves in great relief, eventually.

Eventually, not just in Heaven, but here on Earth, you’ll be able to sit at your rehearsal dinner with your divorced fiancee, and see your dad commend your step-dad’s role in your life, see your mom holding your brand new step-daughter, and get a glimpse of the Kingdom Come.

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God is a Perfect October Morning

It’s one of those unbelievably perfect morning moments. The rain is tapping above our back porch where Eric sits and taps rhythmically between each chord he plays on the old Gibson that never stays in tune. The one whom my soul loves so sweetly, and the three kitties who sometimes decide to let us love them that way too, are enjoying what are the very final breaths of the passing summer air. It’s now late October, and smoke blows through the kitchen window that we keep open for the cats who miss the back porch they had in Eric’s old apartment. It lets in the smell of Nag Champa that’s hot and clammy on my face and hands. My phone buzzes up on the counter, but I look past and beyond it, through the window at the canvas of red brick, city neon, telephone wire, golden leaves and grey sky. Eric’s fingers and voice are finally committing to a tune they like outside, and we wait apprehensively for the alarm to declare we need to get a move on with the day. I finished another book that tore through me as quickly as I tore through its pages this morning, and before I come to write, I search each prologue and acknowledgement for more information, more joy, more of the same reliability in hearing some new words I need to keep hearing. I don’t want to be bothered with baby showers, birthday cards, quotes for car parts or traffic today. If I could stay here forever, surrounded by finished wood, Nag Champa, the breath of the Gibson, and fresh language, I’m positive I would. It’s moments like these that can evaporate everything with the rain. Because it’s these morning moments that show me how loved I am, despite my own decision-making, will-powered self. No level of assurance on any matter could replace the beautiful grey shawl that falls around our home as the rain picks up. No amount of money given to another new mother can gift her with a moment like this. I pray for our cousin and her new baby to know the peace and serenity of these mornings. How can you fight through traffic to all of your appointments, and still feel the calm of a wet fall day, tucked away at home sipping coffee? I hear the honking horns beyond Eric’s new song, the sniffing of his nose, the buzzing of the alarm, and I wonder how to carry these fleeting feelings into what will certainly become a busy day like all the others. I am in the Temple this morning, the Holy of Holies, and I remember Jesus tells us we can stay here through it all. Through the turmoil, through the harshness, through the busy buzzing, He is surely here inviting us into this peace every hour of our day. I wonder how it’s possible – that a God can be so loud – and yet quiet enough – to create serenity in the middle of the city, in the middle of a day filled with chores and obligation. I wonder how I can continue to reach out to a Father who sends rain to our roofs just to help us sleep, while boxes of cardboard sit on the street and crumble into wet mush. I wonder if there’s a way to summon a warm, rainy morning to live inside of my frustration and pain and disagreement and personal traffic jams. I wonder if that’s who God really is, if that’s what He is inviting us into, every morning, afternoon and evening of our lives.