It was late, and I really needed to go to bed, but I just couldn’t break away from the shocking, scandalous words I was reading. I was in the process of packing my apartment on this late evening when I happened upon this book that I could not put down. It was snowing heavily outside, which meant I would need to be up extra early to shovel and scrape my way out of the snow heap my car would become overnight, but even the thought of that detestible exercise wasn’t enough to make me stop reading and go to sleep.
I was appalled, sick to my stomach, and utterly amazed all at the same time. The sentences practically reached out and slapped me across the face as I read them and the sting was quite painful. These were the words on the pages of the journal I began writing as a very angry and frightened, newly divorced woman, seven years prior .
It shocked me to look back and realize the depths of my rage, but despite that, it immediately brought a sense of gratitude and amazement that by this point, I had come so far… God’s grace had so powerfully changed and healed me and now, I was a completely different person. I had experienced a deep healing through the annulment process, gone through some excellent counseling and was now engaged to be married. The woman who wrote those words simply no longer existed.
If you’ve been through a divorce then you know quite well how the experience transforms you into a fountainhead of just anger; anger over broken promises, infidelity, the utter destruction of a family, emotional harm to children, and the list goes on. For a period of time, those emotions will be tough to get a handle on, which is why keeping a journal is a great idea. But ultimately, the peace and healing you seek cannot be found in a heated and unrelenting search for justice because you most likely will never get it. You cannot force your ex-spouse to return or apologize. You cannot make the judges rule in your favor. You will never be at peace if you are always on the war path.
In my experience, the most profound change occurred during the times I contemplated Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, even Judas, his betrayer:
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do (John 13: 14-15).
It is precisely in that gospel passage, where Christ says, “…as I have done for you, you should also do” that we are called to treat everyone – even those who have hurt and betrayed us – with dignity and charity.
This can be very difficult to accept and practice if you’ve been through a divorce, especially when the world’s response is always “an eye for an eye.” But during this Lenten season, as we reflect upon exactly what Christ did for His apostles at the Last Supper, and ultimately his sacrifice on the cross for us all, it is fitting to go beyond the biblical account and apply it to our own lives, ex-spouses and all.
Okay, I can hear your outrage, and I understand. Am I suggesting that Christ’s command to love means you must become a door mat? No. It means you stop participating in the fight. Stop living and responding only in the emotional moment and consider how all the collective moments will effect your future. Here are a few suggestions that may help you to do this:
1. Lay Down Your Arms
Divorce is often compared to the death of a spouse, and there are some similarities, but the experiences are actually quite different. In divorce, your spouse may be gone and your marriage, dead, but he or she is still around to make life miserable. But, if you are constantly at battle, you will never have peace. I learned this the hard way, so I encourage you to lay down your arms. If you want peace, start getting it by becoming an instrument of peace.
You can begin by resolving to use a calm tone of voice and refraining from using foul language, pointing fingers, and insults when you must be in contact with your ex-spouse. When you remember the ways you have been hurt, say a prayer for your ex-spouse. Have an open and honest disposition when talking through problems without being aggressive or blaming. Even if, God forbid, you were in an abusive marriage, you can still pray for your ex-spouse without having any interaction or exposing yourself to further danger. It’s a good thing to remember that often times, the people who are the most lost don’t have anyone praying for them. They need your prayers and sacrifices. These are some ways you can begin to find peace.
2. What Is The Take Away?
Another great way to start experiencing some peace amid the turmoil is to ask God to show you what the takeaway from all this is. What does he want you to learn? How does he want you to apply that to your life? This is very helpful in learning to detach from what is going on and really find your connection with Christ.
Friends, recovering from divorce is never easy, nor is it a brief process. It takes courage to face the pain and cope with it instead of allowing it to suck you into becoming a bitter, cynical person. I encourage you to make this Lent a meaningful one by focusing on Christ’s sacrifice for you and carry your cross alongside him so his example can comfort and strengthen you.