Being a single parent is hard. Okay – maybe that’s the understatement of the year. And is hard exactly the right word? No… Maybe horrific is better. Scarring. Damaging. Heartbreaking. Painful.
Over the course of the last two weeks, both of my daughters have come to me in tears about the state of our home. I’m not talking about the physical condition of our apartment. I’m talking about the brokenness that exists because of my divorce last year. Our home is broken. Our family; broken. Our hearts; broken.
I don’t believe that being divorced condemns you to a life of adultery. I don’t believe that God is that unforgiving. He knows we make mistakes; he knows that not every marriage is God-sanctioned and that sometimes all we feel we can do is get out. He knows these things. But the pain that comes with divorce is so pervasive – it saturates every segment of your life. Special occasions become times of mourning. Holidays are for grieving rather than celebrating. Birthdays, anniversaries…dates that once brought pleasurable anticipation now bring anguish. Divorce is like a death - it leaves a hole in your heart where the other person used to live, no matter why you left the relationship.
Because of the divorce, I have a new life now. My kids go to a new school and they are trying to make new friends. I am also trying to make new friends. I recognize that it is easier for me than for my kids; I’m an adult, not a lonely girl trying to navigate the complicated world of Middle School. I am blessed by having a good job with good co-workers. I recognize that, too. Most of the time I’m on an even keel and I feel pretty good about my new life, even though last year was hell. After my marriage failed I entered into a relationship with a man who turned out to be an abuser; his fists actually caused me less damage than his hateful, hurtful words and the emotional warfare he waged on me. I know that I am blessed to have escaped that relationship when I did. I understand that God has been with me through this process. I know that he has supported me and loved me through it all.
The pain my daughters suffer breaks my heart. Maybe this is how God feels about my suffering. I am powerless to change things. If I could go back into my marriage, I would. If I could turn back time, I would. Even though my marriage was unhappy in many ways, I would stay and spare them this pain, knowing what I know now. Even though I felt unloved, it would be worth it to know that my children had the stability they need. I wonder if God looks at the mistakes we make and says, “I can’t change this for you, but I wish I could. I wish I could roll back time and let you do this over – and I could; I have that power. But I won’t, because I gifted you with free-will. I wanted you to be able to choose, and though I knew you would suffer, I also knew that you could only truly live your life for me if you were allowed to make those choices.”
Oh, but it hurts, knowing that I can’t fix things. I can’t repair the damage. I can’t rebuild the bridges that were burned. I have tried, but I can’t. And even if I could, maybe I shouldn't. After all, my reasons for divorcing remain -- my ex-husband is the same man he was, and I am the same woman. He is still an unbeliever and I am still a person of faith. He still doesn't love me, regardless of how I feel about him. He still wants the things he wants, and I still want what I want. Maybe it would be a mistake to revisit the past...maybe it is better to adopt God's view and say, "Even though I could, I won't."
For now, all I can do is hold my daughters as they cry, tell them that I love them, and assure them that their father loves them, too. I can tell them that we are still a family; we’re just a different shape than we used to be. I hope this helps them cope. I don’t know if it does. And I pray for our brokenness to be healed. God has the power to accomplish that, and I know that in time, he will.