Leaving Church

I spent almost nineteen years in the same church, what I often referred to as my second home. But then I got divorced and I felt it was time to leave.

My situation is not uncommon. I’ve heard time and time again of one or both spouses leaving their married church during or after their divorce, for a variety of reasons. But divorce or not, sometimes, people just need to move on.  There is no verse in the Bible that says you must find one church and stay there for a lifetime, though that of course can be a gift.

So if you find yourself contemplating leaving your church home, here are some thoughts.

Make sure you’re leaving for the right reasons. Only you can know if your motives are pure, so do not make this decision lightly or without prayer.  If there is something in your church that is really bothering you, you can decide whether to stay or leave by asking yourself these questions that I heard author/pastor Nancy Ortberg suggest:

Can you respectfully live with whatever the situation is? If not, can you respectfully affect change? If not, then respectfully go.

It can be scary. I honestly believed I would be at that same church my entire life. I saw no reason that could possibly come sweeping into my life that would make my leaving a necessity or desire.  I had lived out my adulthood there, had thousands upon thousands of memories there, had a sweet support system there, grew up and broke down and did some major healing there.  It was my other home, my family. The thought of no longer calling that place my church unmoored me.  The thought of looking around, let alone on my own, was practically enough to keep me in bed on the weekends.  So if you’re scared, I get it. And it’s okay.

It can absolutely be sad. Oh my word. I deeply grieved walking away.  I cried in the contemplation of it all, I cried in the weeks when I was both attending mine and looking around, I cried on my final Sunday.  It was as if I were cutting off an appendage.  That community was a part of my DNA.  So if you’re sad, that’s completely normal. Allow yourself to grieve the loss.

Leave well. If you decide to leave your home church, schedule an exit interview, so to speak, with the pastor or someone on the leadership team to let them know.  This will give you a chance to tell them why you’re leaving. And, hopefully, they can pray you off and wish you well.  This shows honor to the leadership and to the time you’ve spent there.  Also, don’t gossip about why you’re leaving. Yes, tell your friends that you’re going, but do so in a respectful way so as not to burn bridges or cause divisiveness, even if you’re hurt.2014 11

Know this: Jesus is everywhere. Now, I don’t mean that all New-Agey, as in Jesus is a tree or something. I mean it as in Jesus is being worshipped and taught and followed in many, many, many churches. Your church is not the only church or the best church…it’s just a church. Seriously.  In fact, you may be hugely surprised to discover some really beautiful manifestations of the Body of Christ in your area that you didn’t even know existed.  I ended up going just across the street (I literally drive by my old church to get to my new church) and it is just about the polar opposite of what I had been used to for almost two decades, and yet, Jesus is so very present there too.  Who knew?? Not every church must look like your current church.

Leaving your church home is painful and jarring and usually unexpected. Take your time. Pray it through. Talk with someone outside your church community who can offer unbiased thoughts on your situation. Make a list of what you’re looking for in a new church. And be open…you never know where God might lead you next…but know that it will be just what you need.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. -Ephesians 1:22

 

If this post resonated with you, consider supporting me as I reach out to help hurting women by bringing them hope.

Hearing What You Want to Hear

I spoke with a woman recently who has fallen out of love with her husband. She wants the marriage to be over. They are living apart.  And she is “sort of” seeing someone.  (I know. Don’t even get me started.)

Her description of her marriage made it sound more annoying than abusive. And to be honest, it sounds to me like she’s bailing when she perhaps shouldn’t be.

Now, to be fair, we only had about ten minutes together, but I could tell she was looking for me to give her permission to divorce. (That is something I not only do not do as a rule but would not have done because of her circumstances anyway.)

But here’s the part that really got me.

She told me that she had met with a pastor who told her that he didn’t think she could possibly glorify God in her hard marriage.

Hard-marriage girls (and I used to be one of them) sometimes thrive on crap like that.

Let me broaden that statement a bit:

When you’re in pain, you want to hear what you want to hear.

And that woman wanted a professional spiritual person to basically give her a get-out-of-jail-free card and that pastor did just that with those slippery words.

Now, I don’t know if that’s what he really said or if she tweaked it to sound like what she wanted to hear. But either way, it’s malarkey and I told her so. (Gently, of course.)

I told her that I completely disagreed with that pastor. I told her that she could absolutely glorify God in her hard marriage, just like there would be grace enough that down the line if she got a divorce, she could glorify God then too.

I told her that right now, she had two difficult, yucky choices in front of her: stay or go.

I told her that both roads would take strength and courage.

I told her that I couldn’t tell her which way to go.

I told her that only she could decide that; that she could keep asking people but no one – even if they told her she could go – could really decide that for her, and that she’d be held accountable for this choice on her own at the end of her life, and she needed to be prepared for that.

I told her that Jesus would be on either road and that only he could tell her what to do.

I told her that on the other side of either choice, there’d be grace. But it would be hard either way.

I’ve met enough women to know that some are already gone well before the divorce (or even separation) takes place. That they may (or may not) be going through the motions of a reconciliation attempt but their hearts aren’t in it.  This gal is one of them.  She wants what she wants and I have a feeling that she’s going to make it happen to get the life she pictures for herself (read: happy).

(Reminder: life isn’t all about being happy for those of us who follow Christ.)

So if this sounds like you, sweet one: if you are in such pain and all you want is to be out, I know. I get it. I was you.

You can force into place the life that you think you want. Yep, you totally can. It’s called free will. But I guarantee that it will be messy and there will be regrets.

And though, yes, Jesus and grace will be on the other side of any door you walk through, your life will be infinitely better (including all that happiness stuff) IF YOU WALK THINGS OUT THE GOD WAY. Which means, the harder way…the longer way…the slower way…the not-what-you-necessarily-want-to-hear way.

But it will be so very worth it, you won’t even believe it.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:9

Broken

an excerpt from Holidays for the Hurting

No one wants to feel broken at Christmas. But you do. We want brokenness to stop for holidays and special events, but life just isn’t like that. So here you are. You are moving slowly. You are hurting. You feel listless, painfully aware of what’s not right in your life or in your heart.

And then there’s Christmas. With the lights and the gifts and the baking and the dreaded Christmas letter (how do you sum up where you are right now in that darn family Christmas letter?! Ahh, maybe this is the year you don’t write one).

How can you and your brokenness coalesce with the Christmas season?  You don’t want to do Christmas. You want to stay in bed until January 2nd-ish.

Here’s how.

You tell God – who sent Jesus as a baby and who holds your circumstances in his hands – how you feel.

You lay it all out before him. You tell him you feel broken.  You tell him you’re done.  You tell him you’ve had it up to here.  You tell him that Christmas, this year, will just have to go on without you.

You roll it all onto him. And then you wait. And you rest.  And you take a look at your holiday to-do list and maybe scratch out a thing or two (no one will miss that letter).

You just let yourself be broken.

Do not for one moment think that you need to be something that you’re not. That you need to muster up wholeness and fake-happy just because it’s December.

You do not.

And if you think you do, who told you that?

If it’s anyone other than Jesus, you do not have to listen.

You, sweet one, just walk your broken self to that Baby in the manger. You kneel down.  You tell him you love him and tell him you’re broken and you ask for his healing and love.  That’s all you have to do today.

That’s all.

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.Psalm 138:8- (NKJV)

God, I am hurting. I can’t see past my pain today. I do not want to celebrate Christmas. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I need you to heal me. I need you to carry me. I just need you.  Amen.

If you are struggling this holiday season, Holidays for the Hurting was written for you and is now available here.

Healing or Stuck?

I have the opportunity through my writing and speaking to both virtually and in-reality meet many, many women who are hurting and broken due to their hard marriages or their divorces. It’s bittersweet, of course, because I wish this kind of pain just didn’t exist and yet it reminds me that there’s still plenty of work to do, that there’s a reason I’m in the position I get to be in.

I was sharing with someone how I can look at a woman and tell after a few minutes of talking with her if she’s going to be just fine in a year or if she’s going to still be stuck. In other words, I can tell if a woman is broken and will heal or if she is bitter and will just become an uglier, sadder version of her current self.

One gal stopped at my book table recently and told me that she was no longer angry with her ex-husband for leaving her.

That’s great, I said.

And then she went on to tell me that she sometimes follows him as he goes to spend time with his new girlfriend.

Ummm, I’m thinking, not a great sign.

And how she has told God to just kill him off now while she’s still on his insurance policy.

Oh my lands, you are so not over your ex-husband or your anger, I thought.

(Quick tangent: we hurting ones have probably all thought something like this…it’s the living-in-it that is frightening and telling and prophetic.)

The scariest part, perhaps, is that she was saying this loudly, with no shame, while others were gathered around. And, she said all this just moments after telling me DivorceCare wasn’t for her because of all the sob stories.

This sweet, hurting woman has not allowed God to heal her and transform her pain. And now it is coming out in shards, and she is completely unaware of it. So very sad.

Or the man whose acquaintance described him as someone who more than likely goes to sleep trying to think of ways to make his ex-wife’s life a living hell. The train shot right through brokenness and healing and went straight on to bitter and resentment and just plain mean with that one.  Also, so very sad.

But then there’s the other side of the spectrum. I met with a friend who is getting used to living on her own. And it’s hard. And she has fifty/fifty custody of her children, so it’s heart-breaking. And she works a lot, so she’s tired. And it’s quiet in her new home, so it’s lonely. But she told me that she’s not going to date.  (BRAVO!!!) She’s rearranging her work schedule for more time with the kids and a bit more rest for her. And she said she’s not going to fill up the sadness and grieving work with other things. She is experiencing deep pain and it totally sucks but she is right on track, exactly where she needs to be.

The first two hurting ones will be worse off in a year, completely oblivious to their pain and how it’s affecting themselves and those around them; my friend on the other hand, doing the hard work of feeling her pain, will be more than fine.

So, sweet one, if you are in a hard marriage, and every day you feel yourself becoming more and more angry, or if you are divorced, and you just cannot let go, please take notice and be very careful.

In fact, I want to look you in the metaphorical eyes and take you by your shoulders and shake you just a tad. Gently and with great love, of course, and tell you this:

You’ve got an entire life to live.
You may have children who need you to be on your way back to whole.
A job that is waiting to be done.
Ministry that has your name written all over it.
Friends who need to be supported and prayed for.
A God who is willing and ready to heal you.

And you’ve got a heart that is hurting. Trust me, I know this all too well.  Your heart is fractured. Your heart may be currently being pummeled on a regular basis. I know.

But you are the keeper of your heart. And you have a decision to make.  Do you want to be the woman who is loud and brash and makes people walk away feeling sorry for her because of the pain she shoots out like arrows? Do you want to be like the man who plots his ex’s downfall? Do you want to be the one who is sad forever?

Or do you want to be the one who takes her heart, filled with pain, and brings it to Jesus, and asks him to heal her, and asks him to do something amazing and beautiful with the ashes, and asks him to fill her with such grace so that she is now known for her softness and gentleness and empathy, and asks him to help you move forward?

You get to decide which way you go with this. You may not have decided your current circumstance, and I get that.  (And if you can’t tell if this is you because of the amount of pain you’re in – if you don’t know if you are just broken or if you are heading into bitterness or stuckness, ask a dear friend who will tell you the gentle truth.)

But bottom line, you do get to decide how your heart will respond to the place you find yourself in.  It’s totally up to you.

Listen, my child, and be wise, and guide your heart on the right way. –Proverbs 23:19

 

 

If this post resonated with you, please consider partnering with me as I reach out to help hurting women by bringing them hope.

Seasonally Sad

It’s grey here in Illinois as I write this morning. In fact, it’s grey and chilly for about six months every year and we are at the beginning of the greyness again.

I love Spring. I love Summer.

I’m okay with Fall.

I really, really don’t like Winter.

I think there’s a small chance that I have a tiny dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I don’t know for sure and I’ve never been diagnosed, but the lack of sunshine and the need to be indoors so much more brings along with it a dip in my mood.  So as I look down the barrel of another half a year of inside-ness and clouds and darkness and cold, I am choosing to make a few choices to help combat that a bit.

  1. Sleep. I love sleep. I am way less irritable when I have gotten enough sleep. So, especially in the winter, I make sure that I’m getting enough, even if that means I take a daily nap. (By the way, my son heard of a study that said twenty-six minutes is the ideal nap length, and I’m not kidding…ever since he told me that, my naps, even without an alarm, last just about twenty-six minutes. And it’s true.)
  2. Music. Every morning when I’m making my tea and filling up the dog bowls, I hit play on a worship cd. But for the winter months, I listen to a more upbeat set of worship songs or even Christmas tunes once I’m ready to get those going (not til post-Thanksgiving, don’t worry). There’s just something about music running as background noise in my home every morning that lifts my spirits.
  3. Water. Several months ago I started drinking more water each day, but I just read that starting your morning by downing a glass of water kicks your metabolism in the rear after your body’s hard work through the night. So that’s my new commitment for these darker months.
  4. Supplements. I’m obviously not a doctor, but I have done my fair share of reading up on this topic. Even though I’m not clinically depressed, I add a teaspoon of St. John’s Wort to my tea every morning, and I take Vitamin D3 for mood, and for energy, Vitamin B12 gummies (gummies because of my freakishly small esophagus). Also, one of my best friends now partners with ItWorks! and I love their Greens powder added to my morning smoothie.
  5. Connecting. I am an introvert through and through. I am a homebody. If it were up to me in the winter, I’d probably never leave my house. So I have to be intentional about not isolating, about getting together with my girls.

So, if you find yourself in a bit of a slump during Fall and Winter, even if your circumstances haven’t changed dramatically, you might want to consider seeing your doctor or a counselor (don’t just listen to some random blogger), or making some simple changes to your routine and for your health.

Be well today, sweet ones!

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.  -III John 1:2

Life’s Scary Choices: An Open Letter to My Teenaged Children

Dear Sara & Jack,0404

So, we’re looking at colleges. And whether you say it or not, I know it’s scary. I know I’m old and such, but I seriously literally remember walking around all of the campuses that I’ve taken you to for my own college visits twenty-six+ years ago.  I remember the excitement but I remember the fear.

And my biggest fear was this:

What if I choose the wrong school?

Back then, my faith was a bit smaller. I liked everything I believed about God to be able to fit into my pocket, so I could pull it out and easily explain him to someone else. But God is so much bigger than I thought back then and he’s so much bigger than I even know now.

And so here is what I know now that I didn’t know then.

There isn’t just one school for you.

Just like there isn’t just one person in the entire universe that you can marry. Just like there isn’t just one major or just one career or just one life path, and if you choose “wrong”, you’re cosmically screwed (pardon my French, sweet children of mine) for the rest of your life.

If I’ve learned anything over the past few decades – and I have learned quite a lot – it’s that God is somehow mysteriously sovereign and in control and yet we are somehow mysteriously given free will.

So pray.

And think through.

And visit.

And talk to people.

And make pros and cons lists (Sara).

And then you know what? You get to just plain ol’ decide.

If you are walking with God, if your heart wants to be obedient, just pick which you think is best, which you like the most, where you think you’ll feel the most home, be able to best learn. There is no right or wrong with this one. There is no verse in the Bible that will tell you where to go.

You both are smart kids. You both love Jesus.  You both want to do the right thing.

You both have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you.

You both have been given a spirit of power and of a sound mind and not of timidity or fear.

You both have the mind of Christ.

DSC01915You both just get to make a choice.

And you won’t be wrong. And God already somehow knows, which is pretty cool and should make you sigh a big sigh of relief.

And the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t feel right (but even then, you’ll need to think and pray and push through those first few days and weeks and maybe even couple months of homesickness to try to determine if it’s more than that)…but the worst case scenario is that you come home and you pick again. No harm done.  This is not life or death.

And as Miss Charlotte says in all her wisdom, “God always plays the ball where it lands.” When you’re trying to walk with God, there are no real mistakes, sweet ones whom I love so much.

So pray. And then choose. And then walk in it. And be brave. And go live your precious gift of a life.

And no matter what happens, I will always be your home and God will always be with you, and he and I will always, always, always love you. No matter what.

Love,
Momma

#crying

 

Somebody, Please Tell Me What to Do!

When I was living through my fifteen-month church-led reconciliation attempt, we had a team of eight adults (campus pastor, mentor, counselor, mediator, mentor couple, and elder couple) surrounding us with support, prayer and constant wise counsel. It was an absolute gift.  I didn’t know what I was doing and I was battling overturning a couple decades of ongoing emotional abuse that left me completely unsure of myself, and had I been left to my own devices during that dark, confusing time, I’m not fully sure how that scenario would have played out (but if I had to guess, I may have cut and run sooner than would have been mature and I’d still be reeling from poor choices).

Scripture talks a lot about seeking out other’s advice.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. -Proverbs 19:20

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. -Proverbs 15:22

This is especially helpful when you are stumbling through the dark, or when you’re going through something that you’ve never gone through before. I totally believe that God gave us each other for a reason.

However, I am not who I was back then during that dark season. The role of victim or damsel in distress was temporary, situational. I have come out on the other side of that disaster.  There is very little rubble left of my marriage’s crumbling apart. I am physically, emotionally, spiritually, and (as) relationally (as I can be as far as it is up to me) healthy.  I am not sad all day every day. I no longer cry myself to sleep. I am sleeping well. I am eating well. I have good friends. I am mothering well. I am doing good work that I love. I am resting when I need to. I am having fun. I am in a relationship with a sweet, sweet man.  In other words, I am more than okay now.

I no longer need to ask twenty people a dozen times a day what I should do in any given situation, how I should live my life.

Now that I’m healthier and not in devastating emotional pain every day that is skewing my perceptions and my intellectual capabilities, I actually have the capacity to make all of my own decisions on my own. Yes, I would be foolish to eschew getting input, and yet, there comes a time when I must realize that I am responsible for my own life and choices.

And that time, for me, has come. But I am struggling with this.

I have been writing and teaching for a couple years now that only One opinion of me matters, but that lesson came out of all the backlash I had received from my writing.  But I am realizing it holds true in all the other areas of my life as well, good and bad.  I desperately want the permission – the blessing – of my closest circle (and, well, everyone else in the world apparently) on every life choice that I make.  My life would be easier and happier if they all agreed with my every choice, I tell myself.

But I think I need to revisit what I felt the Spirit say to me a few years back when I was so upset over two conflicts that were pounding down on me at the same time. I felt him say to me, as clear as day:

Only One opinion of you matters. You care too much what other people think of you. Only my opinion of you matters.

In fact, Paul says it super clearly:

As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you… -I Corinthians 4:3

To further cement this, I recently met with a woman I have respected from afar for several years now. She went through a painful divorce after her husband left her and has come out on the other side wiser and stronger and yet softer as well. She recently remarried and basically, I wanted to pick her brain and hear her story, and after an hour-and-a-half of us asking and answering questions about our relationships, she said to me something that I wasn’t expecting.

“I think God is weaning you from caring about other people’s opinions,” she said.  (Oh snap.)

“So, what you’re saying basically is that I’m a grown-up and I can and should be making all my own decisions?” I asked.

“Yep,” she said.  Huh.

So, yes, it is wise for us to seek out advice when we’re stumped or we’re up against a new thing. But then, we must remind ourselves that God gave us a sound mind, that we have the mind of Christ, and at the end of it all, when we stand before God, I do not believe we will be holding anyone’s hands – not a friend’s or a counselor’s or a mentor’s or a small group leader’s or a pastor’s or even a spouse’s. I believe that we alone will be held accountable for our own words and actions and choices.

And – and this is probably the most important part – no matter what we choose, there is grace. And the only opinion of us that matters is God’s, which is informed by love and love alone.

So, sweet ones, as you get healthier and your life falls back into place, keep praying, keep reading Scripture, yes, feel free to ask for help if you need it, but know that it’s okay to start making more and more of your own decisions. The Holy Spirit will guide you. And even if someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s all going to be alright.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.  -John 16:13

 

If this post encouraged you, consider supporting my work to help other hurting women find hope.

 

My Ex-Husband has Changed but Now It’s Too Late

I know a woman whose ex-husband has begun dating. This is yet just one more painful step in the grieving and healing and letting go process that we know as divorce.

And she is having a hard time.  You see, she prayed for her husband to change. For twenty years. And then she initiated a divorce. And they have been apart for some time now.

And, as sometimes happens after going through the fire, this man has apparently become a new man. And she is seeing it happen. Except she’s seeing it happen from the sidelines as he moves on with another woman.

I have not had this experience so I cannot claim to fully know what she feels, but as a woman who is wired up with empathy oozing out of me and as an ex-wife who prayed for her husband and her marriage for almost two decades and as a divorcee who has been through hell and back again, I have a pretty good idea what she might be experiencing right now if I were in her shoes.

In fact, she said, “He is the man I was praying for,” and she went on to say that this other woman is reaping the benefits of her prayers.

And yet, her ex-husband has closed the door.  He went through the pain of being rejected. He went through the trauma of combing through his failures. He did the hard work of grieving and healing and letting go. And he has moved on.

This is all just so hard.  There are no easy answers. I swear that if you look up divorce in the dictionary, it only needs a one-word definition: heartbreak.

In this world, post-fall, we are living in a constant state of things-just-should-not-be-like-this.

I am praying for this woman’s healing and her ability to let go and move on. And I am praying for the ex-husband to handle all of this with grace and respect and firm boundaries. And I am praying for the new woman’s heart to be protected.  Someone’s going to be hurt in this. It’s a shame that it has to be like this, but life is just plain hard.

So, sweet divorced one, if this is you…if you are seeing your now ex-husband doing well and moving on with someone else who gets to reap the rewards of your years of prayer, I am so very sorry.  If this happened to me, it would cut deep, I know.  But I want to encourage you to beg God to help you move forward, to help you trust that he is bigger, to help you have a longer view, to help you believe what Scripture says in Psalm 27:13:

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

God is not cruel. It may feel that way at times, and I understand. But ask God to remind you that he is a mystery, that the mystery is part of his beauty. And that someday you will reap different benefits, even if they look nothing like what you hoped or expected.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.-Psalm 147:3


If this post encouraged you, a good next resource for you would be Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage or Living Through Divorce as a Christian Woman.

I am a Wife in a Hard Marriage and that is the Most Important Thing about Me

When I was married, I worked on my marriage and obsessed about my marriage and prayed about my marriage more than I worked on or obsessed about or prayed about my job or my writing or my speaking or my children or my friends or my health or myself or my faith walk, probably combined.  My difficult marriage was at the forefront of my mind almost all of the time.

I’m not proud of that and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong; I’m just saying that was my reality.

In other words, when I was married, WIFE was my most important role, my most defining role. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it wasn’t just a role for me.

Beth =’d wife.

I wasn’t first a human being. I wasn’t first a child of God. I was wife.  (To be more specific, I was bad wife.) And in that encompassing, encapsulating, in that swallowing-whole-of-my-personhood, I lost so very much.

I lost me. I lost who God had created me to be.

And I melted into my partner in super unhealthy ways. It’s called codependency, in fact. And I’ve been doing the codependent dance for as long as I can remember.

Now, you can be codependent even if your marriage partner does not have a standard addiction. If your partner is abusive or you two argue all the time, without even realizing it, you may in actuality thrive on conflict or on drama or on being treated poorly.  (Perhaps it’s what you grew up with, it’s all you’ve ever known, it’s what feels like normal to you.)  You may, deep down, secretly love being obsessed with your difficult relationship.  You may fear having nothing else to think about if your marriage were to up and disappear or up and heal.  You may crave trying to untangle your marriage knots.  I get it.  This was me.

(And if you’re not sure if it’s you, try taking this little quiz…it’s okay, really! I took it myself.)

So, if this is you…if you are in a perpetually hurting marriage and you are – let’s call it what it is – obsessed with your husband and his behaviors and your marriage, there is hope.

  1. Pray. Ask Jesus to bring you healing, to open your eyes to your reality, and to start making you uncomfortable when you obsess and acquiesce.
  2. Get into counseling. If you’ve been living codependently for any length of time, it may take professional skill to undo. A third party can help you with this.
  3. Set some boundaries. If you are being treated on a regular basis, it’s okay to let your husband know that it’s no longer acceptable behavior. For instance, if he insists on yelling at you, you have the right to leave the room. You really, really do.
  4. Rediscover who you are in Christ. Ask God who you are to him. Look up Scripture that reminds you that you are his daughter, that you are his beloved, that you are gifted.
  5. Find yourself as a person. Ask God how he created you and what makes you unique. Start a list of what you love and what you can’t stand. Reflect on your childhood and adolescence…what used to bring you joy? Do you have a hobby that you’ve given up because you just don’t have the emotional energy these days to put towards it? It’s okay to pick it up again, or even – gasp! – try something new, something you’ve always wanted to try.

This will take time. You cannot expect a lifetime of thoughts and actions to be overturned overnight. But you can be free. You can become our own person. Even within the confines of a dysfunctional marriage. Jesus wants to set you free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1

 

Dating Too Soon

I was sitting in on a session about finances for divorced women led by a Christian divorce attorney and he said something that really struck me. He was talking about making big decisions and the importance of having wise counsel because in his experience, and he apologized ahead of time for what he was about to say, people going through a divorce suffer from slight temporary insanity (some more than others).

We all laughed a bit, but then I thought back to my separation and I absolutely have to agree. Yes, in some respects, I was rocking it, doing pretty darn well for a woman whose entire life was coming apart at the seams.  But then, there were plenty of other moments that were just…well, horrible.  Where I was a complete mess and I was completely messing up.  I just was not myself physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally or spiritually.

Which is why I am so freaking adamant about not dating too soon.

I’m not even going to touch on here how I feel about dating while merely separated, because I’ve made myself pretty clear on that one.  (Umm, here are the Cliff Notes: DO NOT DATE WHILE YOU ARE STILL MARRIED {i.e. WHILE SEPARATED}. Oh my lands.)

But I do want to touch on waiting to date post-divorce. Yes, this is just one girl’s opinion.  But it’s one girl who, a) waited almost two years post-divorce before dating, and b) who hears story after story after story about people jumping in too soon, thinking they’re ready.

One story in particular sums up my reasoning pretty well. I know of a woman who started up friendships with two men, one right after the other, before her divorce was final and into the first year post-divorce.

And here’s what happened when the second male relationship ended. It got very quiet. (Because she had filled up the original, normal, divorce-related silence with men.) Too quiet. And she was left with all that she hadn’t worked through yet. And she crashed and burned. And it triggered divorce trauma. And it left her feeling lonelier than before.  And she was confused and talked about regrets and she made some poor choices and her work even suffered.

And I believe this happened for one reason: because when she started seeing someone before she was ready, it was as if she pressed pause on her grieving process and she hi-jacked her own healing. And when the second relationship ended, it was as if she had just gotten divorced emotionally – like her heart was just now experiencing it for the first time – even though her divorce had been final for a year already.  In other words, she was basically starting over with her healing because she had filled her gaps and assuaged her pain with men.

Which brings me back to what that lawyer said. When you are separated or newly divorced, sweet one, you are just a tad temporarily insane – or at the very least: not quite yourself just yet – EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU ARE FINE.

And you may think that you’re all healed up on divorce day, but you’re not. I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but you’re just not.  I even had someone mention to me that she was feeling some things a few months post-divorce that she hadn’t expected to feel because her separation had lasted so long.

Yes.

Because something happens on divorce day. I don’t know what it is. I can’t fully explain it. But something changes and shifts and you could have been separated for years and gone through DivorceCare three times and done every kind of grieving and healing exercise you could get your hands on, but then you’re divorced and it’s like an emotional clock resets itself and in some aspects, you’re just starting your healing. I’m sorry to say this to you, but it’s true.

So if you begin dating just after getting divorced, no matter how long your separation lasted, you’re potentially putting a stop to your healing. Your healing – which should be paramount to you at this time – will simply freeze in its tracks while you begin to intertwine yourself with another man, while you take your not-yet-fully-healed heart and hand it over.

Listen, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, you’re going to do what you’re going to do. I’m just sharing from my experience, and you know, about a thousand other women’s experiences.  You may FEEL ready. But I care about you and I don’t want you to bring more pain onto yourself.

If you want to go into your next relationship ready – for yourself and for the man – give yourself plenty of time to heal beyond the divorce day. Too soon and odds are you will kick yourself later.  And I say all of this with love.