Bella needs a healthy mom, people told me as I wrestled and struggled my way through the decision of what to do with my failing marriage.
No! She needs TWO married parents, I’d say in my head as I slammed my foot down in agreement to reinforce my belief.
After extensive counseling and extensive time in the quiet I decided to file for divorce. I exercised my free will and made a choice for my marriage.
Thing is, there was a little girl watching with eyes wide open and her little heart was breaking.
When I see Aunt Laura and Uncle Eric it makes me think of you and daddy? I don’t like divorce. Bella sobbed out to me with tears streaming down her face one night recently while we laid in bed.
I know. Me too, sweetie. I said. It’s okay to be sad.
Being the one to choose divorce is a heavy cross to carry.
Did I get it wrong?
Should I have had more courage, more faith, more hope?
I don’t know. Life is tricky like that. We can’t always know what the outcome would have been if we had made a different choice.
The thing I do know is that there is a mystery to free will in which EITHER WAY God works:
It’s like this….
Courage. Staying in a hard marriage takes great courage. Leaving a hard marriage takes great courage.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is needed in a marriage. Forgiveness is needed in the arms of divorce.
Faith. Believing that something greater could come of a terrible marriage is faith. Believing that something greater could come by ending a marriage is faith.
Hope. Trusting that there is something beyond what you can see in a marriage is hard. Trusting that there is something beyond what you can see when you lose it all through divorce is hard.
Love. Choosing to be patient and kind, offering support and care and desiring the best for someone to the best of your ability all the days of your life – whether you are married or divorced – is love.
I wonder if maybe that’s a little bit of what God meant when he said in the Bible that he doesn’t like luke warm faith. He likes hot or cold. Like maybe he wanted us to know that perfect love drives out all fear of messing it all up. I think he wanted us to know that we can go this way or that way and he’s there -- and that when he said he’d be with us always he didn’t mean “only if” but rather, “either way.”
At the top of my childhood stairs hung these words: children learn what they live.
Mom had cross-stitched those little words and placed them perfectly as such that every time I ran up and down the stairs my eyes would catch glimpse of the beautiful little truth.
Mom also always said this: with freedom comes responsibility.
Free will isn’t about making a perfect choice because perfect is impossible with all the crazy moving pieces of relationships. Free will is about making a decision that you own, are responsible for and that comes from a place committed to bringing beauty into the world. My free will is to be used to love myself BUT ALSO, to love everybody.
When I chose divorce I immediately declared this quote as the guiding words for my divorce: I can do no great things only small things with great love.
I made a choice, and in that choice I would be responsible to myself, my daughter and the man I vowed to love all the days of my life through better or worse. (I don’t have to be married to him to love him -- and honestly, I love him a little bit better not being married to him!)
My little girl’s heart breaks. And I hate it. But if ever I wonder if I made a wrong choice, may I always remember a God who works for our good. I’ll never be able to make a perfect world for my daughter.
I can only show her the exercising of my free will.
I can only show her what it looks like to be responsible for the person she is because she watched me do it first.
And I can only show her a deep trust in a God who moves for our good amidst our best shot at every fork in the road.
Bella is learning something with each step I take. Her big wide eyes on me.
My hope and prayer is that she learns to be free every day of her life - to live what she has learned.
To the beauty and mystery of free will.
To either way.
Grace + Peace.