Dear Church Walls,
I quit you last spring. Partially because when I filed I felt my ex had a better relationship with you and so I wanted him to feel safe and comfortable going to a place that offered him a sense of security and support. But mostly, I needed to find God somewhere else than the familiar place I had found him for thirty two years. If I was going to fall apart I wanted to do it by myself staring God in the face in his creation. I did NOT want to do it on a wooden pew with folks staring at me or offering a two minute prayer over me (don’t get mad at me, I like prayer too, I just needed something different this time.)
After I quit, you did a pretty stellar job at loving me. You showed up at my doorstep with smoothies when I couldn’t eat. You drove me to my first court date to walk me through the motions. You drove me to the bank to set up my single-mom bank account. You called. You texted. You sent me pictures of the clouds because you knew that’s where I found God. You hugged me (the most amazing hug - the way you held me the first time you saw me after you heard about my divorce was sacred and deeply moving.) Oh church, you were beautiful. You sat with my on my couch as I wept. You drove over to help me with my daughter when I couldn’t’ stand. You drove across state just to let me ugly cry before you for an entire weekend. You took care of dandelion overgrowth in my yard. You fixed my garbage disposal. You taught me how to turn my sprinklers on. You brought chocolate chip cookies and a well-balanced meal after my first day of trial. You mailed me things: like little craft kits to do with my daughter, like gift cards for coffee I was convinced wasn’t going to be part of my budget moving forward, like a journal and fancy pens so I could write my heart out onto pages. You endlessly hosted me and my daughter - and it was during play dates and dinners that we had glimpses of the family we were craving.
Bravo church. And thank you. There has been sufficient grace and it has been through your hands and feet.
Church, you loved me well. BUT.
I’m not sure you know me very well. I’m not sure you quite yet understand divorce. I think you’re trying. And for that I thank you. But there are some things I think no one maybe has told you about divorce. They go like this:
Divorce can be chosen out of love. I stood before my Creator. I wrestled. I sobbed. I spent many lonely nights weeping, bargaining and thinking through everything. And then I made a very conscious choice to break that which in theory was whole but in reality was so extraordinarily broken. I do believe in miracles. I believe in a God capable of anything. But I also believe in a God who gave us free will. And in my free will: I chose mercy.
I wear my broken on the outside. But we’re all pretty busted. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus drew in the sand, when folks were about to stone the woman who had messed up a little, just as a way to say “are you done yet?” I mean there’s probably a legit thing he wrote and it probably holds big deep significance. But also, what if he was just waiting for folks to slow down enough to see the absurdity of it all. You get to see my broken. It’s out there for you all to see. You can throw stones. Or maybe it might be more beautiful if we all sat down and drew pictures in the sand together instead of stoning each other. I don’t know. Tough to say.
The pew is the loneliest place for me. I grew up in the church. I dreamt of family. And for some reason when I sit in a pew half of me is missing. I may have chosen divorce but for several years of my life I was one with someone. And that oneness was torn into two. And so half of me is gone. When I sit in a pew I feel a ghost next to me. And so I’m not yet okay. I’m not yet healed enough to sit in a pew. I hope you’ll understand.
I’m a new kind of single. I’m not single. I mean I am. But I’m not. This new place I find myself feels nothing like when I was single before marriage. It’s very different. I had it, then I lost it. That’s a different feeling than never having had. A blind date, a new hobby and match.com feel like icky solutions to my pain. I’m still learning this whole thing called the “new normal.” Treating me like a young twenty-something who just needs to find more singles to hang out with over a box of pizza is about the farthest idea of fun in my mind. In fact, being around your families is right where my daughter and I feel most at home.
Divorce is forever. People think you just need to get through the signing of the paperwork. And I mean, some of that is legit. But divorce is a forever thing. While lots of families got up and got ready to go to a family breakfast at my daughter’s daycare, I got up alone, got ready alone and pulled up to the parking lot and extended my hands over the building praying for peace for the twenty minutes my ex and I would sit in a room together. Divorce is going to show up in my life in all sorts of ways for decades to come.
You are the hardest to let love me. Because you have answers and Bible versus. And you have a really hard time letting me just be broken. You want me fixed. You want Jesus to be my answer. You want to rush me through the hard work of pain and grief and you don’t like seeing me unhappy because somehow you forgot the Gospel wasn’t about perfect. It was just good news. Please don’t rush me. Please just sit next to me. When I have energy and can play and laugh and be happy, join me. When I can barely scrape myself off the floor and paying a water bill is too hard, help me click my way through bill payer, yes?
I’m sorry for the uncomfortable. I had a friend invite me over and she wanted to pray Satan off my marriage. And while I respected her desire to love me, the reality of my marriage was it wasn’t changing and I could only control so much. It took divorce to set me free. But my divorce doesn’t mean your marriage can’t maybe survive the exact same struggles. I don’t know. I don’t get it either. I just know God is with us through it. Can we not all have the same answers to the same problems? But can we still be friends and do life together?
The word STILL hurts. Mercy means a lot of things but one definition says “kindness and help in our most desperate need.” God gave me free will, his mercy, and sufficient grace. But I didn’t get much free will in your eyes. I heard it most through the tiny word still. You’re still welcome. And that was the point. Still. Like “in spite of.” Like I was “more broken” than you. Like I had sinned. Like if God hates divorce then surely he hated my choice. But I don’t believe in a God who would get angry at me if I told him I really just couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t believe I have a God who would make me stay trapped. At one point I finally googled divorce and why God hated it so much and found out that some people believe God was referring to hating a certain type of divorce in which the man back in Bible times wouldn’t give the woman a signed divorce. Which means, she wasn’t free. Gawd, I hate that too. I hate when people aren’t free.
By the way, I hate divorce too. Divorce is terrible, you don’t’ have to convince me of it. I’m living it. But I also hated being a prisoner in my marriage. It’s all a little tricky and the answers can be even trickier. So whatever you do, don’t’ use the word still. Maybe say this: I love you. I support you. I am here for you and I will walk this story of redemption with you. No matter what, I love you.
Finally - oh church walls - I love you. You have been the foundation of my faith. You have been the rock in which my spiritual life was formed. I am forever indebted to you. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back. But don’t worry about me until then. I haven’t forgotten you. And I surely have not forgotten God. I am closer to him more now than ever. It’s just outside your walls.
The Christian Girl Who Chose Divorce