If you read my post from yesterday, you should know by now that I have been married once before. I was actually married at 18 and in the midst of divorce proceedings by the time I was 19. Lovely, huh? It is one of my biggest regrets from my past. And, interestingly, it is the very thing that God has used to teach me my biggest lessons as I've moved forward from it. Romans 15:4 says "Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled." In other words, we learn from things that have happened in the past.
In order to take back the power that this particular sin had, I have done two things. First, my divorce is not a secret. My husband of fourteen years and counting has known all along. My children know. My friends and my church family know. Everyone knows. And now, if there was ever a person who didn't know, they know too. Haha- take that, Satan. Satan operates in the darkness and shadows. He whispers half truths and lies wrapped in fear. I would love to say that I came upon this one by choice but the fact is, my divorce was a public thing amongst my family and friends whether I wanted it to be or not. This one was forced upon me in some ways, and I am glad it was. Colossians 1:13 confirms this for me when it says, "God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating." In other words, Jesus marched down the dark alley I was sitting in, took me by the hand, and led me back out into the light.
I am not saying, "Jesus told me to get divorced." Please don't hear those words as you read. Divorce is divorce. I honestly never thought I would have it in my past but I do. And I am not going to be telling you the exact reasons it worked out that way. It's not vital to the story. Just know that Shaun and I sat down with a pastor and discussed the reasons; he agreed to perform our ceremony with full knowledge. The "dark alley" I'm referencing above is the one where I was sitting (in a proverbial way, not an actual alley of course) as my world fell apart and divorce became the inevitable path I was walking.
Moving on, the second thing I've done is the reason that we're all here- I've learned from my divorce. Because no matter what happened in that relationship, there are absolutely things that I can take blame for, places where my mistakes helped nothing. There are two sides in every single relationship. I cannot speak for my ex-husband's side and nor will I try. These are mine. I am claiming these up front.
1. Don't make decisions based on feelings. Feelings are nasty little liars. There are good ones and bad ones, but they all have the capacity to lie to you. And making the decision to enter into a marriage covenant- a promise that you are never ever supposed to break- based on my feelings of fear was a huge mistake. I didn't want to be alone. I was afraid to raise my son without his biological father around because, in my mind, he would never stick around unless I married him. I have no way of knowing if that was really true at this point as I acted on my fear. I acted on it despite the fact that I could almost hear Jesus whispering, "don't do it, take a step back and breath." I acted despite the fact that my mom offered sound counsel to wait until my son was born to make a decision like this because pregnancy hormones add an entire new level of crazy to your already wacky feelings when you are stressed out!
I find this verse is a helpful reminder about our lying little feelings, referred to as "the heart" in this one that I found in Jeremiah 17:9- "The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out."
2. I wanted to be right more than I wanted to be married. Have you heard that saying? They make memes about it, people quote it all the time. "Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?" I wanted to be both and, if I'm completely honest here, being right was way more important to me than being married. The Bible has this to say in Romans 12:6- "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." and also this in Proverbs 26:12- "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."
Ouch, right? I don't know if I realized fully that I had to be right at the time but I definitely liked (and still do) being right. And that brings us to number three quite beautifully.
3. I was willing to die on every tiny little mole hill and slope that came along. You know how that saying goes. It's a reference to wars and battles. The big things are the ones that you are absolutely willing to fight for as long as it takes. You'll die on the hill if it comes to it. Too bad I was like this weird marriage martyr. I don't even know if that's the right way to put it, but I was willing to die on the tiniest of hills. You see, I wanted to be right. I wanted everything done my way. I was an adult, you know! And that meant getting my way always. So, to the hill! What's that famous line from Braveheart? Does that fit here? "They may take our lives, but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM!" My freedom equaled me always getting my way. Fyi, that's not marriage- at least, not a good one.
4. Compromise is for punks. Compromise, shompromise. That was my inner motto. It was my way or the highway. You want the privilege of all of this *please imagine me gesturing wildly and confidently at myself here* you must go along with all of my crazy ideas. I will give up nothing. I will do everything exactly the way that I want to do it. You will be happy with this because I am the queen of this house.
Now, I have to tell you that I am still the queen of this house. Just ask Shaun. I am his queen and he is my king, but there is a huge difference now. We compromise. We work together. I don't always have to be right. In fact, don't tell him I said this, but I am often wrong. Haha. Don't believe me? Please go back and re-read all of my 19 year old stupidity. I'll wait right here.
The other thing that is different now from before is our number five.
5. Jesus was most definitely NOT a consulted part of that marriage. In fact, I can't tell you that he was IN it at all. I already told you- my way or the highway. Where was the space for God's way? Though we both professed to be believers, we weren't exactly going to church much. Yeah, we had great excuses. (But my baby alarm clock didn't go off until 11:30 this morning! I know, I told you he was AWESOME yesterday!) But the truth is, we weren't prioritizing church anymore than we were prioritizing God in our marriage. We were two broken people making broken choices and not even trying to ask the perfection that was available to us (God) to help.
This verse from James 1:5 would have been helpful, though I doubt I would have listened: " If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it."
6. You cannot ever fix a mistake with another mistake. I had already messed up in the sex department, obviously since I have walking, talking evidence sitting in my living room playing a video game right now. ;) Again, he is NOT a mistake or an accident or unwanted or anything of the sort. He is a gift from Jesus that I could never hope to earn. I am blessed to call him my child. However, we all know that God designed sex for inside marriage. And there's a lot of really good reasons (and who knows, maybe we'll talk about them someday, but not today in this post). Trying to cover up and fix my choice to have sex before I was married by getting married is like putting pants on a chicken. You can do it- trust me, you can; I just got a video from a friend confirming this- but you're not going to change the fact that it's just a chicken walking around foolishly in pants.
This one hurts, but it was me for sure: " As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil." (James 4:16-17)
7. We were not in love. At all. And this isn't the worldly "we weren't in love" excuse. No. We had rejected God in our relationship. We weren't consulting him. We hadn't invited him to take hold of our relationship and help it grow. I can't speak for my ex, but I can speak for me. I was a luke warm Christian at my very best of times then. We didn't allow God into our marriage and the Bible very clearly states that God IS love here in 1 John 4:8- "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." If we didn't allow God, who is love, into our marriage, we were already fighting a losing battle that we'd started for ourselves by not inviting him in.
And it wasn't only that. Not only did we not invite God- who is love- into our marriage, but I didn't love that man. I told you back in lesson number one why I got married. I got married out of fear. A wise man once told me (at church) that the opposite of love is not hate. It's fear. How could I possibly love a man that I had married in fear? I have to share this verse from 1 John 4:18. It relates too well here: "There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love."
I want to end with a few thoughts. I am so incredibly thankful that God forgives. I am so thankful that he is patient and always there, right by my side, waiting for me to turn back and face him. These were hard lessons for me to learn at the time but I am so grateful that God took the time to show them to me. Looking back, I know that I have grown up quite a lot. I am not this person anymore. My 19 year old self is rather embarrassing, honestly. But this is what I feel God telling me to share today. If this nonsensical ex-19 year old can help one marriage, soothe one guilty conscience, poke light into one dark room with a lonely soul inside- it was worth it.
God, thank you for always being solidly YOU. Thank you for your unending patience and GRACE in my life. I couldn't do life without you. I know because I've tried and I've failed. I need you by my side always. Thank you for being my rock, my shield, my protector, and the lover of my soul. Thank you for loving me through my nonsense. Give me courage today. I'll need it. I love you, Lord. Amen.