It took thirteen months.
Thirteen months and $65,000 on my side alone.
I’m terrible at math but I think that means it took $120,000 to end an incredibly unhealthy relationship between two people.
The entire divorce is not my story to tell because part of my divorce and its story belongs to my ex. But for the both of us, it wasn’t an easy call on parenting time. I don’t like the word custody and I told myself we weren’t in a custody battle. I still stand by that. We were in a really hard spot; all trying to figure out collectively what was best for our daughter. And it required the court’s help.
We ended up in trial. Not because either of us are terrible people or terrible parents, but because life is hard.
Wrestling with the decision of if I was going to stay in my marriage or not my dad took me to lunch. At the end of the lunch, standing in the lobby of a downtown building where I worked, my dad reached to hug me:
Kaylee, God loves you either way. I love you either way, he said as my body fell into his embrace. In the very quiet of my heart I heard the words that’s mercy and grace whispered.
As the trial approached, shame kept creeping up. I was so aware of how I had personally failed within the marriage, and yet it didn’t change the honesty in my decision to end the marriage.
God!, my heart longingly asked, I know you gave me free will. I know your mercy says you’re with me. But I wasn’t perfect in the marriage. And so I feel bad I’m leaving it. But I don’t want to go back to it. It all feels gross and horrible and terribly confusing. So I guess what I’m trying to say is I get that in my free will I chose your mercy, but I guess my question is “Did I deserve it?”
And without skipping a beat I heard, That’s grace! I swear God whispered it with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. Then he added, Kaylee, my grace is sufficient for all the broken in the past and my grace will be sufficient moving forward. It oozes in and makes that which is broken, whole.
The week of trial was brutal. They say family law is a blood bath. They are correct.
Years ago I learned the really hard way that I have a huge sensitivity to alcohol. It involved a million dollar wedding and an ambulance ride in a really fancy dress.
Is it true you were hospitalized for alcohol? the lawyer asked while I sat on the stand.
What ran through my head: well, that’s tricky. Technically I was not hospitalized. I was technically laid on a stretcher in the hallway in the drunk row with all the homeless people while I sobered up. But I drink, on average, five times a year and that involves a half a glass of whatever I am drinking so no, my drinking does not affect my ability to parent a child.
What I actually answered: Yes.
I can’t remember if I added any sort of clarification. It all felt like a death-trap. Anything I said could absolutely be used in the court of law. And I was tempted - to pull out my own sword. But I remembered Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and he said, Peter, put down your sword.
And I heard the same spoken to me: Kaylee, PUT. DOWN. YOUR. SWORD. We don’t do it like that.
So I decided I would only bring into trial that which was solely applicable to parenting, nothing about the breakdown of the marriage unless asked.
I sat in a little corner booth of a café downtown Grand Rapids. My friend and I were pouring over the outline of a book proposal I’ve been working on.
I quick checked email on my phone and saw that the judge’s ruling had come through. I couldn’t read it so I had him, and as my friend scrolled through he muttered out phrases of the ruling here and there. I didn’t catch much. It was all sort of a blur as my world spun, but I remember he said something about fifty-fifty and my gut sunk.
We quickly parted ways. I was close to running to the bathroom to throw up but instead pitter-pattered my way to my office and poured over the judge’s ruling.
None of it made sense.
None of it added up.
I had walked the entire year and the entire week of trial just as I had felt convicted.
And in the end: I lost.
I’d find out days later that the ruling completely left my lawyers at a loss as they noted this was a perfect case for appeals court (another $20-$30K I didn’’t have).
It didn’t make sense. My whole body sat paralyzed in disbelief as I stared at my screen.
And then I heard Him, the God that had guided me through the hardest year of my life, and he whispered: Kaylee, all year I have taught you about mercy and grace. DO. YOU. STILL. BELIEVE? When nothing adds up, when it doesn’t make sense. This is it. This is scandalous grace.
The following week I sat eating my grilled chicken wrap and drinking a diet soda with my dad. Through tears in his eyes I saw how broken my dad was at the ruling. I realized how stunned everyone was. I knew we were all standing at the feet of God asking: Why?
So I looked my dad in the face and I said: Dad, it’s grace. I don’t get it. I don’t’ understand it either. But who am I to know how all this is working for good? I fought the good fight. I did what I was called to do with integrity and character to the best of my ability the entire year and week of trial. I did my part. Now we let grace do its work.
I’m not saying I get it. I’m not saying I understand it. I’m not saying I agree with it. I’m just saying grace is sufficient. Grace will ooze in and through all of our stories. Each of our broken parts. Truth is, my family shattered into a million pieces this year. We each felt the impact differently and it affected us in different ways. How we get glued back together, how healing happens, how redemption proves itself out, how God reconciles a marriage to himself that couldn’t be reconciled on earth — I don’t know.
I do know that a year of trial and suffering revealed more to me about God than anything else I’ve endured. This year broke me to make me whole. And I suppose that’s the very nature of grace itself:
Grace breaks, oozes, seeps, flows, shatters, draws together, fills in, pulls inwards and completely and fully fills in the essence of our humanity. We never find perfect – grace just says it’s all sufficient and good enough – beautifully broken, but wholly whole.
I realize now it was like God knew the two words I’d need to get through my own valley of death. They were indeed mercy and grace. He equipped me, at the very beginning of my own battle, with the perfect weapons. Not of power and might but of mercy and grace.
Grace + Peace.