The last several months I have been trying to help a family friend, a family member and a very close friend all who are going through a separation and I say "trying" as with my schedule.... I am not as helpful as I would like to be!! but I am trying! having been there done that, my advice and counsel pours out of personal experience!
There is a difference having advice from one who has gone through it and someone who has not!
Growing up in the church... divorce was not only frowned upon it was an unpardonable sin!!
The shame I knew that would be cast upon me ... kept me in silence and where I was, which was not a healthy safe place, for a very long time!
As Christians we know that God hates divorce... it's beaten into us at a very young age.... and growing up I equated God hating divorce with God hating the PEOPLE who got divorced... not just the act but the people involved!
Before I continue I just have to make a disclaimer here ... this post is in NO way a bash against the girls father... just laying out the facts as I see them and from my perspective .. it is important for me to clarify this as I know some people that read this know my ex and some even read to report to my ex and twist things ... so... if you KNOW me ... then you will KNOW my heart! and so I shall continue :)
Growing up in the church in the 70's and 80's we had our fair share of FEAR based teachings!! the list of Do Not's followed by the "fact" that if you DID .. you were a bad person and most likely going straight to Hell... that list ... that list was HUGE!! Then it continued into the 90's with the list of Do Not's growing and I remember having fear at every turn.. how many people were going to Hell??..praying over and over for my salvation so I wouldn't go to Hell... not allowed to go to movies, not allowed to play with playing cards, not allowed to listen to secular music... I know myself that my parents did the best they could for us with what they knew... and Fear was being taught and leading the church for many many years!
As a teen it was all about being in the ministry ... cuz if you were IN the ministry... ahhhhh then the angels would sing and the golden gates would be opened wide ... if you were NOT in the ministry... somehow you were less of a Christian and I daresay even less loved by God!!
All this to establish the strong roots of God Hates divorce background I received ... God hates sin equals God hates the sinner ....
until I was 30
At 30 I was finally introduced to the Father Heart of God ... and MAN did that ever lift some fear and burdens I had been carrying for a long long time!!
I was still in a marriage that was "unequally yoked" ... I knew it wasn't good ... I knew it wasn't probably normal... but I had made my bed and I had to lie in it .. I still didn't know even with the freedom I was finding in the Truth about who God really is, how to be a Christian and divorced!
I didn't want to get a divorce... that wasn't why I got married in the first place ... no one wants to be divorced!!
I went to sooooo many ladies prayer meetings ... so many retreats and we did go for a lot of counselling ... I was desperate for many years to fix my marriage ... I didn't know how to fix it though... and so again ... I stayed ... I stayed out of fear of judgement from others, I stayed thinking maybe that was best for the girls, I stayed telling myself that I didn't need to be really loved or happy, I stayed as a part of me still loved him although I didn't really like him anymore, I stayed because I thought it was the right thing to do for all the reasons I was taught as a child/young person....
In the end .. I stayed for all the wrong reasons!
A marriage, a successful marriage... it takes 2 people who are willing to put in the SAME amount of effort care and attention! I didn't have that.
Looking back... cuz hindsight is so much clearer... I didn't do my girls any favours by staying ... I didn't show them how a woman should be treated or how a woman should stand for herself... I didn't show them that peace should reign .... I didn't show them respect for themselves for me or their father. Staying as long as I did, did damage.
I couldn't see through the fog for a very long time ... it took a lot of work, prayer, prayer ministry (and I highly recommend Restoring the Foundations Prayer Ministry), counselling, love from others and love for myself and time ... to bring me into the clear again!
So what could I possibly offer another woman going through a separation?
Here are some basic facts that I have come to know as truths!
- worry about today... be in the present... if a separation is imminent don't stress about divorce and all that may or may not happen down the road .. take care of you and yours today!! TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF .. you don't have to know how it is all going to work out .. and it's NOT up to just you to figure that out... so take care of you... take care of you kids, if you have some, and get help for you!!!
- abuse is abuse .... there are still several bodies of Christians out there that believe that "cheating" with another person is the only reason God tolerates a divorce ... I call BS ... if you are being verbally, sexually, financially, physically and emotionally abused space is needed to help protect you and put an end to it ... I believe God is not ok with a woman just "taking it" cuz at least he hasn't cheated on me ... nope not ok ... being in an abusive relationship is not what God is saying when He told the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the Church .... the Bible defines what love is ... it is not abusive! There are NO reasons why it is ok a husband is abusive to his wife! NONE!!!
- honestly I don't know if true change in a person is possible.... I know that the Bible says nothing is impossible for God ... but a person has to be willing to be changed...and then it doesn't just happen like a flicking a light switch!! changing patterns of behaviour takes time, diligence, a great support system, keeping oneself accountable, and humility! I think it is possible to change some patterns of behaviour IF the work goes into it!! and like I said its not going to happen over night ... 3 days of not drinking doesn't make someone a recovered alcoholic as much as a verbally abusive person saying I am sorry I won't ever say that again a recovered abuser!! action goes way farther then words!! ask anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and they will tell you they don't want words... they want actions!
- give yourself time... there is no time limit on healing! don't listen to anyone who says "what? you're not over that yet?"
- give yourself grace! a range of layers of emotions have to be gone through and felt in order to truly heal and find yourself once again...
- treat yourself the way you want to be treated! be a little selfish!! find time for just you to rediscover what makes you tick ... be kind to yourself... it's amazing how much healing came for me when I started to treat myself the way I wanted others to treat me!
- most importantly ... God's LOVE for His creation goes beyond what we can even imagine .. God is LOVE .. therefore He loves me no matter what I have done or where I have been and even though I got a divorce!! He loves me... period! He loves my ex too!! knowing and understanding God's love and grace is freedom and being in freedom brings life!
these are just a few of the things that I have learned.... and today, today I am in a marriage that is equally yoked! My husband doesn't have unrealistic expectations on me .. he doesn't look at me to fill a hole missing in him or for me to MAKE him happy .. he is happy fulfilled and content all on his own and that ... that brings freedom to me and therefore to our marriage!!
I am sure I have a whole lot more to say about all this ...... :)