The childhood dream of being arm-entwined with a life partner while kids do cartwheels on the lawn was not lost on me. And even though my divorce eventually brought good things, it also included some gut-wrenching moments.
As if mentally processing divorce isn't hard enough, there's also the actual paperwork, legal jargon and the realization of all the money you're spending on a piece of paper you didn't want in the first place. It's probably a good thing that, statistically, most of us don't step foot inside a courtroom while traversing through divorce because, if you're like me, your mind has already turned into a shrewd cross-examiner, and it's your life that's on the stand...
The cross-examiner delves into the validity of marriage. The cross-examiner pokes holes in your belief about the realistic nature of love and fidelity. The cross-examiner even asks how God could have let this happen to you, to your kids.
I've felt the fire of the "inner cross-examiner." I've felt the singe in the words. But I've also found a few ways to extinguish the cross-examiner's fire. Here are three ways that helped me find faith amid my divorce.
Look to Moses
Here we have a man who is regarded by many as one of the most beloved prophets, but Moses was not immune to hard stuff. Yes, he had a miraculous babyhood. Yes, he communed with God. But he was also the guy who was knocked around by trials. Moses, even as a chosen one, was not exempt from the hard things of life. Consider his speech impediment. Consider the plagues. Consider the manna complainers. Consider the fact that his people only listened to him half the time (does that sound like anyone else's kids?) even though they actually could "see it to believe it."
When we look at Moses (or any other prophet or person we admire) we see that human lives are not static or perfect. We see that all of us have "plate-tectonic action" in our lives. But we can all rest assured that God loves us. Look for the manna. It may not be what you're craving, but it's there. Think of the place where the sea divides. It probably won't be where you thought you'd end up, but follow where it leads. Look to the fiery serpents. They may look scary, but you can find healing by putting your painful experiences into God's cupped hands.
Nature is God's powerful metaphor. Nature shows us that life is constantly changing. Nature teaches us that we have different seasons in our lives. Nature doesn't look to find fault. Nature just is. Nature bends to the seasons, strengthens from the winds and, when needed, nature renews for a season to come out stronger.
Look for the favorable in each season. Leaves die in the fall, but look to the amazing colors that blaze at the end of their time. Winter may look desolate, but think of the regeneration that is happening just beneath the surface. Look to nature as a reminder to be gentle on yourself regardless of where you are in any given day.
When getting through each day is hard, nature reminds us of this: daily baby steps can result in beautiful things. The highest, most majestic mountain in the world became as big as it did, in part, by growing centimeters each year. As with nature, you may not see how much you've grown until time has elapsed and you can take a step back to really see. Nature reminds us that God is in the details. Nature reminds us that time can help heal the things that tear us apart. Nature tells us that some of the best regrowth is possible after cathartic things like volcanic eruptions or forest fires.
Look for the Good
Divorce can feel like you're in quicksand, and when you're neck-deep in mud, it's hard to look for the awesomeness in life. But it's there. Look for the everyday things that you can still do. You can breathe. You can smile. You can see. Choose to celebrate the little things.
As hard as it may be, look to examples of strong marriages. Don't put them on a pedestal (we've learned well that people are fallible) but see them for what they are: good people working hard at their relationships. Be happy for them.
Look to your kids. See through the amazing lens they bring to your everyday life.
Keep your heart open to those who want to help you: to the checker at the store who compliments your patience with the kids, to the clergy who has an "open door" philosophy, to the support groups for single parents. Make time to meet more of these people. Connecting with good people can renew our faith in the goodness of life. Look for these people. Be one of these people.
Look at all that is valuable in your life today. Trust that faith is renewed when you realize your common humanity (that other people are going through the same things you are) and trust that your experiences today won't last forever (and that something superior might even come out of this season of pain). Trust in the process. Trust that you are worthy of a first-rate life. Trust that these hard days may provide an exodus to your life's spring bloom.