Photo attribution here.
My divorce was finalized November 27, 2012. In December I was living alone in a two bedroom apartment, trying desperately to figure out how I was going to make the ends meet, how to get my body out of bed every morning and how to get myself to stop crying in inappropriate locales (read: work, church, family gatherings, grocery stores etc.) I made the very conscious decision that I would go ahead and celebrate Christmas that year, all alone in my apartment with my cat. I bought a tree, some gifts, a little tinsel, found a Pandora Christmas station and felt so improved I decided to make what seemed at first to be a courageous decision to throw myself a little Christmas party.
The day of the party I was a mess. I spent my day dreading the looming evening. I was exhausted, chubby from all the comfort eating, my social skills were rustier than a VW Bug in Hawaii and I terribly, deeply, unmaskably sad.
Driving home from work that day I passed, as I always do, the apartment where The Mr. and I used to live together. That day there was a great deal of holiday traffic that unavoidably stuck me smack dab in front of that apartment for what must have been 20 minutes, but felt like forever. I sat there, sobbing, screaming, pounding my steering wheel, cursing like a sailor and hating every last thing I could think of about my life.
When I got home, family came and helped me pull myself together. Guests showed up one by one and were sweet and congenial. They even wore the Ugly Christmas Sweaters I'd requested, then personally reneged on. In retrospect I know they must all have been wondering why on earth I'd decided to throw a party less than four weeks after filing for divorce, but ultimately it's a memory I'm grateful for.
After that horrible night revisiting my painful past, trapped in my '73 VW Bug at one mile an hour in suburban hell, I decided something must be done. I pass that apartment every day on the way to work. It's not going away, and neither is the disaster my marriage became. It's a part of my life the way that apartment full of 1,000 dark memories is part of my commute. After that Christmas party day I implemented a new practice.
Every time I pass that apartment, I say a prayer of thanks that I am not married anymore.
The first time I did this, I felt like I was lying to God. On top of that, I thought it was a terrible thing to do. How can I be grateful that I broke a covenant? And express that to God? It just seemed wrong. But the fact that I would pass that apartment every day for the next foreseeable future, and the amount of pain it brought me every single time... I had to do something.
It's been almost three more months now. That equals 96 trips or so passing that apartment, once on the way there, once on the way home. Sometimes I feel a twinge. Sometimes my heart breaks just a little more. But sometimes, I don't even notice I'm passing it, and sometimes I actually feel grateful. I see just a little more clearly how horrible we were together, how unhealthy and unkind. I see how my life is improving every day we are apart, and I realize the truth that God does want us to be happy, both of us, and that this phase can be a blessing too.
Maybe this comes a lot more naturally to some of you. I've spent all my life trying very hard to live up to what I believe God expects of me. And yet here I am in this place I never wanted to be. It's a place that is ambiguously referred to as a "trial" in Sunday School. Not much else is said about it in doctrine I can find, other than the passing reference in conference talks. There's just this overarching, vague sense that it's wrong to get divorced. If it's wrong and bad... then shouldn't I feel... bad for doing it? Should I be perpetually miserable and destroyed for having failed so badly at it?
Today I say no. And here's what I've got to back it up:
And for those of us really stuck on the fact that we messed it up, Job 5:17
I know God, and He wants His kids to be at peace, to be healthy, to be loved and to be happy. He understands intimately the moments when we just can't be, and He aches with us. In the moments when we can, He feels joy.