I am not supposed to talk about this, but I am going to anway, partly because I want to banish yet another taboo from my life and partly because there are many other people out there going through the same thing. I am not looking for you to feel sorry for me, infact I would really rather that you didn’t because it does not help. I am writing because I am fed up of living with overwhelming feelings of shame that I have to keep a secret, and because bringing them out into the open will show me and others that while I might be a bit battered and broken that shame does not have a place in my life.
Now I am not saying that I have never done anything that I might be ashamed of, in fact quite the opposite, but I am saying that through Christ I am able, and need to live in the wonder of his forgiveness, mercy and grace! I also need to live in the wonder of healing, and none of those are possible when I am in hiding.
So here is the truth, right now I am hurting and feeling vulnerable, last week should have been my 34th wedding anniversary, it wasn’t because I am now divorced and my ex-husband has remarried. The whole thing has been very difficult, and I have found that it is something that people quite simply don’t want to talk about. It is something that I am told I will get over, and more easily perhaps if I simply walk away from my former life.
Well that would be nice, or maybe not; but I can’t, I was married for 32 years of my 54 year long life, so walking away is hard. I have regrets, I have good memories, and I am the person I am because of those 32 years, and of course the 2 years since that divorce.
What I have learned is that being bitter is pointless and self-destructive, as is claiming the position/ stance of victim, 2 people went into the marriage and both of us contributed to the breakdown of it, the details of it, like old school grades are really of little consequence now, except to learn from, and to grow through. Actually perhaps the fact that we IMHO often tried to live up to Godly standards without God’s help so often made us more brittle than we might have been, had there been 3 more often than 2 there may have been a different outcome!
I have also learned that grief, and it is a bereavement comes in cycles, and dates like last weeks can have a very real effect on my sometimes, and at other times pass by without note, when I feel weak I find a certain strength, and when I think I am strong something can hit me out of nowhere.
As a Christian Minister I am finding this to be both a stumbling block and a gift, sometimes people are shocked that real life events like this happen to me, and it reveals me as a frail and vulnerable human being, prick me and I bleed! At other times people react very strangely, almost as if they are wondering how I have been allowed to continue in ministry, but never quite able to voice it! We don’t like frail role models it seems, and somehow that comes with the territory of being a minister.
One of my major frustrations is that it is hard to say to people, “I am sorry I am having a bad day”, because I am met with responses like ” there are plenty more fish in the sea”, or by people wanting me to pass blame on and be angry with my ex. Now don’t get me wrong, I have thrown a few stones into the sea, and had some hum-dinging “chats” with God late at night, but right now, through good and bad days I find I am rediscovering me, and I need to call things what they are.
I am broken and frail, I always was, even before I was married and through my marriage. I have made mistakes and coped with things unhelpfully at times, I have let people down and let myself down, but I am loved! I am loved by the creator and sustainer of the universe who is love itself, and because of that I don’t need to live with shame, when it creeps up on me I can acknowledge it and pray for the Spirit’s help to transform it from something dark to something glorious. The wonder is that it took this level of brokenness for me to begin to accept that I am accepted anyway.
Shame for things like divorce are still rife in the Christian Community, I have many members who feel that they are somehow second class members because of it, it effects others too, infact anyone who falls outside of the expected happily married 2.2 children norm is often plagued by feeling of being a misfit. I am more and more convinced these days that heaven is made up of misfits working their way home to freedom and wholeness.
Time and time again in the Gospel narrative Jesus meets the misfits and affirms them, sometimes with a challenge, but more often with an accepting embrace. So to those who would be happier of I went and found someone nice to take care of me, and to those who would like me to pull my socks up and get on with it or quietly fade into the background, I say no. Right now I am quite simply who and where I am, speaking that out does no damage to the Gospel of Grace, not to the Holiness of God, nor to the reputation of the Church, but the church can do damage to individuals when it requires them to stay silent, or subtley denies them full acceptance and healing possibilities.
There are no perfect relationships in this life, some people make a better go of it than others, some make a better go of a second or third chance, and all are whether they know it or not held in the loving grace of God, who when we dare to turn to look into his/her face, fixes us with a long, loving look that will leave us both completely undone and held together at the same time.
So I for one, in all of my woundedness ( and make no mistake some of that is self inflicted) am going to drop my mask of pretence, for today I am not OK, and am going to place myself into that flow of grace. I am going to stop beating myself up over small and large memories, and deny the “devil” prowling around within me (a.), the chance to devour me with negativity and despair. I am going to ask for help when I need it, and if you ask me how I am be aware that I will not always say “I am fine”, but nor will I regale you with a whole bunch of unnecessary details.
I am proud to say that out of those 32 years came five remarkably talented and sane adults, and two lovely grandchildren.
As for me I am choosing life and growth, I am allowing God to loosen the ground around my roots, to nurture and feed me as the gardener in Jesus parable did for the fig tree (b.), I am also choosing grace with myself, learning to give up false expectations and to simply be.
I finish by posting a song that has helped me enormously over the last year or so:
b. Luke 13: 1-9
One final word for those who might be quick to condemn, for I often speak to people who have been deeply wounded by attitudes from church leaders; ” Let those without sin cast the first stone”