Five Things Not to Say When Someone is Getting Divorced

Yesterday I had an appointment with my divorce lawyer. Things weren’t supposed to turn out like this. When I had gotten married I had been a young fundamentalist woman that had thrown everything into my religion. I stayed for a long time because after all, divorce was a sin and I was financially dependent on my husband. It took years and a lot of counselling before I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the divorce that was sin, the sin had happened much earlier when the marriage vows were broken. The situation is still fresh and I don’t want to use this space as a hating on my soon to be ex-husband space, but I am striving to be honest about the journey. However I’m trying to do so with integrity and have anything that I say be edifying rather than a place where I complain about all of my problems.

Through this I have learned that there are many things you should not say to a woman (or a man) who is going through these kinds of issues. I have seen many of these kinds of lists about other issues, and while this is a short one, it is the main things that I have heard, particularly from the Christian community. I have also heard many positive things and had many try to help me navigate this path that I never thought I would be taking. I’m also sure that even the people who say the things on this list mean well, they want to support us and they are doing that in the only way that they know how. It is always admirable for people to want to be there for others. Here is the list:

“There are others who have been through much worse together who made the right choice and stayed married.” In my situation, it’s pretty hard to stay married when the other party has absolutely no interest in staying married. It takes two people working hard to keep a broken marriage together. When someone has made it clear that they no longer want to be married, and have made it clear in ways that are easily understood, there’s not a lot else you can do except that hope that the divorce goes as smoothly as a divorce can go.

“You can be separated without getting divorced, you know, because divorce is a sin.” Yes, I’m sure that some people, should they choose to do so, can be separated without getting a divorce. But some of us have to get on with our lives, and sometimes we can’t get the benefits we need to help us through this time while still being legally married. Apart from that, my state doesn’t offer legal separation as an option.

“You need to just trust God to heal your marriage.” I went to counselling for a long time, in an effort to heal the marriage, and so did he. I totally believe that God can heal things, but God doesn’t force us into doing things against our wills either.

“Hopefully you guys can sort your issues out and then get remarried.” I understand that the breakdown of my marriage probably feels like betrayal to those who supported it, those who invested in it, those who threw parties and showers and the like. I understand those feelings and I’m really torn up by the feeling that I have betrayed a lot of people, but please understand that I also feel hurt and betrayed. Using the word “issues” makes it seem like real hurts and trauma isn’t really that important. In a lot of cases marriages break down because of serious life changing things, heartbreaking things, and it just isn’t helpful to have our heartbreaks trivialized.

“Just pray for him.” Prayer is a conversation with a holy God, and it is powerful. It is not a magic trick or spell in order to get God to do what I want him to do.  

Divorce is a messy thing, and it involves screw ups on the sides of both parties normally. For me personally I am devastated that my marriage has ended in this way, it was something I thought of as a forever deal, and it’s really upsetting to know that isn’t the case. Life is messy, and most of us want to support others in their mess, and for that I am grateful.

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Not Feeling Beautiful

In October, the month before my 7th wedding anniversary (ironically the number of perfection), my husband left me. There were many reasons and this blog is not the place to go into those, and I only mention it because it’s a part of this story and a huge part of any growth that has taken place in my life since then. It’s a major life circumstance that came my way that I had to deal with. I was devastated and I felt like such a worthless piece of crap. I already struggled with self-image, but this made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything to anybody and that I was and never would be beautiful.

I began to wonder what the point of trying to look nice was, I stopped wearing makeup because I just didn’t care, there were days that I didn’t even brush my hair or get out of my pajamas. Then I got a job that required me to wear a polo shirt, which totally had never been something I considered wearing outside of a school uniform, and which didn’t mesh with my usually more trendy fashion choices at all. I started going out in public in sweatpants, something which I had sworn I would never do. I ended up being so hard up for cash that after I had put gas in my van and provided for the kids, there was absolutely nothing left over to spend on me in any way. I went months without shampoo, washing my hair just with water. I just thanked God that the kids were provided for and I didn’t really feel that someone as ugly and worthless as I really deserved to have the money to spend on helping me look nice, after all, it was impossible to look nice if I was ugly, and so what was the point?

This has definitely been a recurring theme for me and something that I have struggled with. It was during this time of feeling destitute (which I wasn’t really, because God was taking care of me) that I began to re-evaluate my choices regarding how I present myself, the choices which I wrote about last week. I had spent so much time and effort and money trying to look tough, trying to keep an identity that I felt like God was stripping me of, that I started to feel kind of silly about it all. I also started to feel embarrassed that I would worry so much about how my clothes looked when there were people in other countries who were glad just to own some clothes. Having God strip you of a false identity that you have created for yourself is a very scary thing. In fact I’m still a little bit bummed about it because I’m kind of uncertain right now about who I am and how to portray myself. I want what I wear to be an accurate representation of myself, however I also want to make sure that I am not spending unnecessary funds trying to create a certain look. I need to be grateful for what I have and make what I have work for me.

Obviously I’m still in the middle of thinking all of this through, and it might take a while. I haven’t yet come up with resolutions for everything I feel, especially about the why bother question, but I am getting dressed and brushing my hair and putting on my makeup again. 🙂

Image

It’s no secret that I struggle with my identity and whether I am actually worth anything or whether I can ever be beautiful. The Bible tells me that I was created in the very image of God, and yet I still have trouble actually believing it, which is where I left off last time. I also tend to feel that the things I do as not as worthwhile or as important as the things other people do. One thing that has helped me in the past with such issues is to declare the truth even when I don’t quite believe it yet. If I know deep down that is is truth and I am having trouble believing it, declaring it helps. I’m working on a declaration of sorts, and when I’m done with it I’ll share it here, but it might be a while. However, I find that using songs to declare these truths helps a lot too, and there are several good songs out there.

The last few days, I’ve been meditating on the fact that I was created in the very image of God. And not only that, but humanity was the one thing that God actually bent down and formed from earth, something he had already made, and handcrafted. The rest he just spoke into existence, but in creating people he deviated from that and personally crafted us. I guess that’s why it was so devastating when Adam and Eve sinned, because a huge part of the image of God died the day that they died spiritually. Which is why we have to go through a rebirth in order to enter God’s kingdom. Only in that rebirth can the full image we were created to be begin being restored.

Being created in the image of God is a concept that I haven’t even began to touch the surface of in my meditation on the subject, but it’s a huge deal and I know that it’s going to be revolutionary for me. I’ve struggled with these concepts for most of my life and its come down to what I am going to choose to believe. Being created in God’s image is a very awe inspiring thing to me.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Yesterday was another one of those days where I had a lot on my schedule and was supposed to be driving to several locations across the state, and while I usually listen to Christian radio (and get frustrated with the ads but otherwise love the music), yesterday I took a CD with me, the WOW Hits of 2014 album. Of course I recognized several of the songs from the radio or from church, including “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. Lately I’ve been having a hard time feeling like I am worthless to everyone. This is a common theme for me and to be honest I’m kind of tired of it. Hearing the words “Jesus, friend of sinners” was just so life-giving to me yesterday, as I realized that Jesus loves my separated, mean, selfish, hot-tempered self. He loves me so much he chose to come and live in me even though I am not perfect, and he’s chosen to the spring-cleaning himself.

While certain Christians (certainly not all or even most) seem to think I am a second class citizen in God’s kingdom because of my failed marriage, or when they tell me that my marriage only failed because I wasn’t submissive enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, feminine enough, sweet enough, etc, Jesus reaches out to me where I am at right now and says “I love you, you are worth something to me”. So now I can quit trying to clean myself up (or stuffing things far back into closets so that they will stay hidden for a while), and let God do the work. My job is to trust him.

I look at myself (or rather, try not to) and declare I am ugly, and it seems that way to me when I compare myself to others who I see as far more beautiful and put together than I. But when God looks at me he sees someone that he made as a direct reflection of him. When God says that he made me in his image and then also says in the same chapter that everything he made is good, that means that he thinks I’m valuable, beautiful, and worthwhile. Out of all of creation (however God did that), humanity is the part that he formed with his very own hands. My belief (and this is just an opinion) is that humans are the end result of millions of years of evolution and that humans will not eventually evolve into higher beings because humanity is the pinnacle, the end product, the finish line.

Maybe, instead of being stupid, worthless, ugly, etc, maybe, just maybe I’m just going through a rough time right now. Maybe if I took God at his word then he could do so much more in my life than the amazing things he has already done. Maybe if I trusted him I could see the value and worth that I have in his eyes. The question now is, how do I bring myself to just trust him, to just believe him? I mean, believe him on his promise for eternal life and the promise to come into my life and change me, so why not this? It seems that Christianity is a series of conversions, a series of situations in which you have to make a distinct choice to trust or not to trust, and each choice has consequences.

Edification

One of my current favorite Christian books starts with a curse word. It’s not the way I’ve chosen to start my book out, but the author gets her point across and she shows her true self in her writing. Lately however I’ve really been learning about being my true self while at the same time building up others. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I have a problem with cursing and crude language, and it’s one of those things that are hard to quit doing, especially if I am angry. It’s tempting for me to think that it’s no big deal, I’ve tried to excuse it by saying that people just made up those words and meanings anyway and that some people are just too sensitive.

Despite what some may think, it really does bother me that I use offensive words in my communication. Often I do it because I can’t think of any other word to use at the moment, despite the fact that I write and would like to think that I am pretty good at crafting words. One of my pastors told me he was going to buy me a thesaurus :p. I use those words because I am angry or upset and am not thinking straight to begin with. None of which I use as excuses for doing what I do. The point is that it’s easy to try and believe that it’s no big deal. I’m not knocking other Christians who have struggles with cussing or even those who do it who are comfortable with it. This is about me and my relationship with God and what I have been learning.

For me, a big theme in my life lately has been edification. Do my words and actions edify others? What is the point of words and actions that don’t edify others? What’s the point of even speaking or writing something if it’s not going to build someone up somehow? After all, we are the body of Christ and we are to be encouraging each other in our relationships with God. God has placed me in the particular church I am in to edify them, and their responsibility to me is also edification. My church family and I are an interesting dynamic. I tend to be on the progressive/liberal side of Christianity and they are very much on the conservative side, but instead of fights and arguments, we focus on our God and encouraging each other and building each other up.

God wants me to build up those in my local church family as well as the broader body of Christ in a global context. For me that means I can do this a lot better if I clean my language up some so as not to offend others. Me cursing is offensive to many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, however my not cursing is not going to offend anyone unless I am doing something else wrong. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I still struggle in this area, God has been showing me that it is important to consider and edify others when it comes to what I do and say, regardless of how I feel about it.

Presentation

When I left fundamentalism, I eventually threw out most of the modesty rules along with a lot of other stuff. While I was right in throwing off legalistic expectations, as is often the case I went way too far in the opposite direction. I ditched my super long skirts and shapeless tops for short shorts and low cut tops. I also started wearing other things I had always wanted to wear such as gothic styled things and lots of skull themed items. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I wanted to present myself as tough, as someone who didn’t want anyone coming too close and as someone who could defend herself. A few people had spoken to me about my choices but I wrote them off as too conservative in the matter of clothing choices or as people who didn’t have a clue, none of which was probably true.

In the last few weeks, I have finally realized that how I present myself is important, and that it is tied to how I view myself. In my self-hatred, I wanted others to hate me too. I wanted others to think that I was weird and that I wasn’t a person they wanted to be friends with. Having friends scared me because, although I was no longer lonely, I had to work at a relationship and that was scary to me. It was easier to try and turn people off and then complain and call them judgmental. Somehow though a few special people have gotten through my barriers and stayed beside me even when I was difficult.

I’m not giving up my fashion style, I’m just channeling it in different, more modest directions. The word “modest” has bad connotations for me as someone who grew up fundamentalist, but maybe it’s time I redeem the word by not drawing attention to myself that I don’t need. I’ve decided to tone down some things while still having my own style. I still wear purple lipstick and black eyeliner, I still wear black platform shoes sometimes. I have my nose pierced and have three tattoos. I’m still wanting to get an industrial bar in my left ear, and I like my super short haircut. But I’m deciding to do all that without the skull shirts, the leather spiked collars, the skull jewelry, and the black lipstick.

I don’t really want a clean cut church lady look as that isn’t me, but I do want to try to represent my God by showing off who I am in a respectful and acceptable manner. I want to be as non-offensive as possible while still being approachable to all kinds of people. I want to reflect who God created me to be, and I want people to see a reflection of him. I still haven’t figured out fully who I am, so it’s better to try to let people see who God is, although I am very imperfect at that. I said I was going to quit wearing my church t-shirt because I got mad at someone who was frustrating me last week while wearing a church t-shirt. Obviously I’m not the best example of a Christian but I am growing, and I have four little people watching that growth. I interact with others on a daily basis and I want to make sure that I am presenting myself appropriately.

Normal is Overrated

Like I told somebody today whom I had to make an apology to, “yes, I am a Christian, I’m just not a very good one”. I grew up in a church culture where it seemed like getting divorced was the unpardonable sin, and that there was absolutely no reason that was acceptable for getting a divorce because “God hates divorce”. Sometimes I feel, as a single mom seeking to be divorced, that I am a second class citizen in the kingdom of God because of the breakdown of my marriage. I feel like I try my best to be a good mom to my kids, and that I try my best to do right by others and to live in a way that would please God. I try to obey God and do the things that he tells me to do. Sometimes that isn’t easy, and sometimes the right thing looks totally different to what I’ve always been taught the right thing is.

Things aren’t always as black or white as they seem, if you look at the situation closely sometimes you can see that it is really a shade of gray. I’m slowly figuring out and trying to convince myself that I’m not less spiritual or have a rotten relationship with God even though my family is broken. I’m also learning that God takes broken things and he fixes them. When I got married I was so excited that I was going to have a “normal”, conservative, fundamentalist Christian family. Nothing about my family has ever been “normal” however since I gave up the dream of being “normal” God has been able to do a whole lot more work. I have also learned that God can answer your prayers regarding family in ways that seem horrific at the time but are really a blessing in disguise. When he promises to work all things out together for good to those that love him, he really means it. 
God’s plan for my family includes not being a “normal” family, but he does have amazing plans for us and our growth as a family. God has plans to prosper my family and I, and I just need to learn to trust him. Just like this shirt (which I really, really want by the way) says, “normal is overrated”. Things never turn out the way I think they will or expect that they should. Often with God involved, they turn out better than I expected. The last six months has blown my mind the ways God can work in my life and what seemed like the most devastating moments of my life, the moment I had lost everything that mattered to me, he showed up in the most amazing ways beyond my comprehension. 

Voices

Sometimes the voice of fear tells me to quit blogging and to quit writing altogether. But I can’t, and for much the same reason that I couldn’t ditch Jesus even when my faith shattered. Writing is a huge part of me, it’s a gift that God gave me and it’s part of who I am. When I choose not to write even when I want to, I am choosing to give up part of myself. I express myself much better in writing that I do with spoken communication, so much better in fact that if I get flustered or think I will get flustered, I will choose to email somebody instead of speak with them. Writing helps me gather all of my thoughts on a particular topic, therefore helping me to learn. I am one of those people who really did learn a lot by writing college essays. I’m pursuing further studies in writing now that I have graduated, and the semester starts at the end of the month.

Most of the time when I am silent on this blog it is because I feel that compared to others who write in a similar style and on similar topics to me that I just don’t measure up. Sometimes I am scared that nobody takes my writing seriously. Every day there is something inside of me that wants to write, that wants to indulge my passion, but the voices tell me not to bother. I want to share my thoughts and feelings with the world, but the voices tell me that nobody is interested, and that I have nothing of value to contribute anyway. For a long time, I have let this fear run my life, not just in the context of writing, but with everything else that I do. When I am silent on here, I am struggling with the voices. The voices are trying to deter me from pursing my dream of being a prolific blogger and author, even though God appears to be setting things up very specifically for me to work from home in this field, it is what I have felt him compel to pursue further studies in, and to specialize in.

In order to do that, I have to write. The voice of fear keeps interrupting me and telling me about all of the reasons why I shouldn’t write for every day that I don’t write. On that days that I do post on this blog, it means that I told the voices where to shove it and wrote anyway, days like today. But today I chose not only to write, but to expose those voices. I struggle with the voices in every aspect of my life, and many of my past failures have been because I have listened to the wrong voices. The voice of God is a still small voice, and yet I have chosen to heed the voices that are the most vocal and make the loudest noise. Sometimes they are the only ones that I can hear in the cacophony of things demanding my attention. The still small voice of God is far more powerful than any of those other voices can ever be, but often I am so focused on the deafening din going on around me that I forget to be still and know that he is God, and to relax and wait for the quiet voice of God to minister to me.

Tonight, instead of indulging the voices and sitting around feeling bad about myself, I burned some incense and relaxed and waited to hear from God. Even as I write this he’s empowering me to do so, letting me know that he gave me this gift as part of myself and that he wants me to share it and use it for him and his glory. When I write, I’m showing part of who he created me to be.

Best Reading 01/26/14 – 02/01/14

This is going to be the first of a series of weekly posts which feature the best things I have read during the previous week, whether it be online or a book. I have been blessed this past week to read some amazing things that really made me think, and I’ve even started studying a topic which I shall post on soon concerning the relationship between Christianity and Astrology. I’m really excited about this particular topic and the upcoming article because I have learned so much, and it has caused me to begin to research other things that stemmed from it for me such as contemplative Christianity. 

Best of Blogging

Bootstraps and Safety Nets: some thoughts on generational poverty in America by Amanda Opelt
There were two blog posts this past week that stood out among all of the others I read, the first was about generational poverty in the US and was written by Amanda Opelt and was a guest post on Rachel Held Evans‘ blog. I really resonated with this because I have experienced homelessness, and right now as a single mom and no income, I know it’s not easy. I feel like I am screwed and that nobody understands. People keep telling me to “just get a job” but the problem with that is by the time I “just get a (part time, minimum wage) job”, I will need childcare for my children, which for multiple children costs more than I get paid at a part time minimum wage job. I’m qualified for much more than part time minimum wage jobs, but those seem to be the only jobs that people think women in my position are worthy of holding. When I worked a seasonal job back in December, the school kept calling me to come pick up my son because he was “sick”, and then he really did get sick, having the swine flu and the seasonal flu at the same time. There were also a few days where I couldn’t get childcare because the sitter had the flu, and in the end my job couldn’t care less that I couldn’t come to work because I had to be with my sick child, or the fact that I called them hours in advance to let them know, it was easy enough for them to find someone else who would work for $8.25 an hour. 
This was the job that would make me work 12 hour shifts and not give me my lunch break until an hour before I got off, and then complained about the inconvenience of it. This would be after I had already worked a 6-8 hour shift at another job where I was lucky if I even got a lunch break at all. All I’m trying to point out is that sometimes others really don’t understand the situation and people that are struggling get judged very harshly as if we are lazy or selfish. Yesterday I was asked in an interview for state assistance how I had managed to provide for the children while I have no income. I told her that God was our provider, and I wasn’t quite sure how he had been doing it but he had. I am so glad that Amanda Opelt wrote this article and I’m hoping that it will be something that you enjoy too.
A Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo

Jessica Parks did an amazing job with her “Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo” which she tried to style like the Nicene Creed. She has done a lot of work to be able to write this and it’s amazing, so I will let it speak for itself.
Best of Books

Most weeks I will also have some great books to recommend, but seeing as I am running around a lot this week and last week, it may be on hold for a week or two but I am blessed by reading so many amazing books as well.