My mom will say that as her senior year of high school came to an end, while her friends planned colleges and careers, her only plan post-high school was to marry Bill (my dad) and raise children. Her father asked her to try a year of college just to avoid any “I wish I had” in the future. So, she pushed through a year of community college, finished with no intention of going back, and started planning her wedding.
Next month, my parents will fly to their hometown and celebrate their 50th high school reunion. While they’re there, they’ll celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary.
I never imagined I’d be divorced. I had a good life in a good home with loving, Christian parents who modeled a Biblical marriage for me in a beautiful way. Like my mom, in August of my 20th year, I married my high school sweetheart. As beautiful outwardly as the wedding ceremony seemed, the truth is that nothing was good about it. It began what the Bible calls an “unevenly yoked” marriage, and as days turned into months turned into years, our marriage crumbled around me and I grew weary trying to carry the weight of our family’s faith on my own shoulders.
Almost ten years after we swore before God and man that we would love, honor, and cherish each other until death do we part, he told me about his girlfriend. My first emotion was relief. Suddenly, I didn’t have to be married to him anymore. Callous sounding as that is, God created us to have emotions, and we’re not always in control of how those emotions manifest. Had our marriage been any different, my first emotion would likely have been sadness.
While I made plans to move into my own place, transfer the car into my own name, decorate my bathroom in yellow butterflies because I didn’t have my husband over my shoulder protesting the colors, my daughter, my little 4-year-old light of my life, was destroyed. It took me a few days to realize that we had given her a steady, loving home. We had never had a single fight (to this day, that is true — we could have written a book on the amicable divorce). She had no idea of the chasm of darkness that had separated us, nor of the hours and hours I had spent on my knees begging the Holy Spirit to intervene in his heart so that we could come together as a family focused on putting Christ first in our lives. She only knew of laughter, and parents who adored her, and of his big Italian family full of grandparents and cousins and love.
The first morning in our new home, as she lay on my bedroom floor and sobbed over her questions of “Why?”, I began to grieve with her. Not for me — but, for her. I knew then that no matter how free I suddenly felt, as the burden of my yoke fell off of me, it landed on her and bound her in pain and despair. This is where my sadness lived – in the broken heart of my child.
It occurred to me that my daughter had become a statistic. She was now added to the staggering number of children growing up in divorced homes. She would spend the rest of her life bouncing between parents and deciding what holidays to spend in which household. It made me angry. Angry at him for causing it, angry at myself for not realizing how much it would hurt her.
I went forward with a newly discovered purpose:
- to consider her in everything I said or implied about my life with her father and remember, always, that he is her “daddy”;
- to never be the stumbling block in her relationship with her father;
- to make sure that despite lifestyle differences and no small lack of faith on his side, respect for parents was a Biblical command that left no room for compromise;
- to make sure that her love of Christ superseded the pain caused by the ripping apart of her world.
Writing it all out in a bullet-point list makes it sound easy. It wasn’t easy. What it was, instead, was intentional. I intend to cover each of the bullet points in more depth and detail in the coming articles. For now, if you are facing this kind of challenge, I pray that God will comfort you and strengthen you and give you the wisdom you need to handle the challenges that will be unique to your circumstances. I pray that articles on this site will encourage and educate you in exactly the way you need them to. And I pray for your children — that they will stumble through the minefield that is divorce and emerge as unscathed as possible.