Important note: This post is a bit longer than most and it deals with faith issues. However, as the name of this blog is Faith and Courage: The Joys of an Ordinary Life it seems only appropriate to address faith from time to time. It is also intensely personal and thus, not a quick read. So if you are in a rush and have to dash out the door, this is not the time to begin reading this post. I also need to state that although this writing is brutally honest about a difficult time in my life….. my post does end with joy.
As I wrote on my Home page, “in 2009 I found myself in a situation I never expected. After 35 years of marriage, I joined other women who now checked the “D” for “Divorced” box when filling out forms.” The process was intensely painful as I had spent the previous 6 years trying to save a marriage that I could not save.
I am a woman of faith and all those years I prayed regularly and passionately asking God to help me save my marriage. I did not believe and frankly still do not believe in divorce.
I also need to go on record and say that I was not the perfect wife. I made mistakes. By no means are my words to indicate otherwise. My comments are not about who was to blame or who was wrong… it is about the tension that occurred when I found myself on a path that I did not believe in and the questions I faced.
The biggest question of course was…… just where was God in all of this and was He listening and if so, why wasn’t He doing anything? I have finally found an answer to these questions and it may not be a good answer for you but it works for me.
I can honestly say in the 37 years that I spent with my ex-husband that God did speak to me 3 times about our relationship. He spoke to me loud and clearly and each time the statement was not one I expected.
The first time occurred when we had been dating for about a month—in May or June of 1972. We had gone to a park–Juniper Springs I think–had a picnic outing and were on our way back to Gainesville Florida. (Ah yes….I am a Florida Gator. Do not hold that against me.)
We were driving back and I can still picture the entire scene vividly in my mind. The sun was shining through the windshield…the road was lined with a forest of pine trees on each side…we were in his blue green big ol’ Chevy (called Moonbus) and I was looking at him and laughing and then the Inner Voice spoke loudly and said “This is the man you will marry.”
I remember being very stunned and thought to myself “What? Did I just hear that?” But I did hear those words and a year later we were married.
I will not pretend that we had a perfect marriage… as with most we had our ups and downs but I viewed most as ups and good times and loved him very much. So, when I realized that in May of 2003 our marriage was in big trouble, it never occurred to me that it would end in divorce as, after all, this was the man God had told me I would marry.
But by 2007, I had spent 4 years in relationship limbo. I kept trying to connect with my husband and kept praying and asking God for advice. Not one time…. not one single time…..had God given me any indication to do something differently.
And then God finally spoke to me in September of 2007 and it was not what I expected.
Very clearly I was told to say these things to my husband. The remarks were as such: “In 2008, we have to decide what to do. I love you and I want to stay married to you but we cannot continue as we are. We do not have a marriage. Either in 2008 we figure out how to make this work or we have to end this. It takes two people to make a marriage work but it only takes one person to end a marriage.”
When I said that, I thought that those words would lead my husband to realize we had to do something. I always let him know that I wanted us to work it out … that I would go to counseling with him or whatever it took.
I did not want nor would I file for a divorce. So, I viewed my remarks as a step towards finding our way back. But it did not end that way as my husband eventually told me he wanted a divorce.
And I then felt even more isolated from God. My prayers would be as such…. “I did what you said and this is how it ends? Are you really paying attention God? Where are you?”
3 months after the divorce, I heard from God again. I was pacing in my bedroom one night….. and just screamed out loud at the ceiling “God I am so tired of hurting. I am so tired of crying. When will I stop crying? WHEN WILL I STOP CRYING?”
And God answered very clearly and even said it twice to me “When you decide to. When …….. you …….. decide…….. to.”
If you are a logical person, then that statement is a no brainer and you may even be going “well duh Janet…didn’t you know that much? You needed God to tell you that?” But I am not a logical person. On my Meyers-Briggs Personality test, I was 32 points Feeling and 0 points Thinking.
Even Virgil, my boss at the time, when he heard the results, said “you did not have even 1 thinking point?” Nope–not one. So the thought that I could decide to will myself to decide stop crying and to stop letting these thoughts destroy me was pretty revolutionary to me.
But how do you do that? How do you prevent the tears from coming? How do you get rid of bitterness and pain? It took many months of reading and absorbing scripture and being committed to finding a way to stop crying and stop the pain.
Interestingly enough, one of the answers came from a “non-religious” book, Eat Love Pray. In the story, the main character (played by Julia Roberts in the movie) is struggling with anger and bitterness.
Another character basically says this to her… “you have to view your mind as a harbor. When those bad thoughts come, you have to tell them that the harbor of your mind is closed…..you will not let those thoughts come into the harbor.” You have to consciously think about something else.
I learned how to do so and in future posts, I will delve deeper into that and what it means …. it is much more than merely choosing to ignore my problems and sing happy songs. However, this post wants to address the “Why?” and “Where are you God?” questions….. and the answer I found and am able to live with.
As look back on those difficult 7 years—from the time I knew my marriage was in big trouble to 7 years later when I purchased my condo and sold my house, there were so many little “coincidences” along the way…my getting the part time job which led to the perfect full-time job just when I needed it….finding the perfect real estate agent ………finding the perfect condo… putting my house on the market and closing on it in 7.5 weeks during a horrible housing market….finding the perfect contractors for the renovations to my condo….. the list goes on and on.
Were these just coincidences or were they signs of God remaining in my life–protecting me and making sure that I would be safe?
I wanted to view them as signs He had been with me all along and was protecting and guiding me. But that put me back to the circular question…..was this part of His plan all along or just random or a mix of both?
Did I blow it somewhere along the way? Did I screw up His plan? And all these “coincidences”……Was He helping me or was I just the luckiest divorced woman alive?
After several years, I came to an answer that I can live with and that is “I do not know nor understand the whys behind what happened but I do know that God is with me in all of this and that the Joy of the Lord is my strength”.
In the process of finding His Joy, I have let go of the pain. I have let go of the questions I cannot answer.
For some, this answer will not work. It may seem wishy-washy or a cop-out. It may seem as if I have put my head in the sand and now have a new mantra to quote.
But there is a difference between blindly saying that God is with me versus actually knowing it.There is also strength in discovering the power of the “joy that passes all understanding”.
I will share later how I achieved this ….. but suffice to say I finally discovered developing this level of faith and joy requires more than just praying. Prayer is one tool for us to use but it is not the only one.
I never will know the answers to all the “why?” questions…but I know with certainty that God has been with me… has walked with me and remains in my life. And this simple answer to those very complicated questions is enough. There is more strength that you can imagine in living with that knowledge.
At the end of this post is a photograph taken of me by my son at this year’s Christmas gathering with family. I am getting ready to take the crystal and china out of the cabinet to put on the table and I asked Chris to take a couple of photos with his fancy camera. It is one of those cameras that takes 5+ photos with one click, increasing the odds of you getting one decent photo.
I laughingly told him that I would need a photo for Match.com or Seniors Meeting Seniors.com. I still harbor hopes of one day having a gentleman caller with smiling eyes and I have been told by friends that I may need to broaden my horizons and consider joining one of those sites.
(Note to my family and friends: please do not email me and tell me that I am wearing a turtleneck and ladies my age should not use a turtleneck photo in an on-line dating service. I have seen some photos of my potential competition. I will take my turtleneck photo over their cleavage photos any day!)
I love the photo–I am wearing blue (my mother loved me in blue); the photo is a bit sparkly and my son used some magic to give the picture a glow and my crow’s feet wrinkles are not too visible. (God Bless You, Chris.)
I look at that photo…….jingle bells around my neck and my hand in the air and my smile and I see joy. Pure joy.
Joy is different from happiness.
I have learned that happiness can be affected by your circumstances….. who is or is not in your life….. what you have or what you do not have.
But joy is different. Joy is internal and you can have it even when it does not make sense to have such.
Joy comes from the journey …. it comes from faith… and it comes from knowing that I am learning, as Pastor Charles Stanley has said, to “obey God and let Him Handle the consequences.”
That is the kind of faith I want to have. …the kind where I truly feel each day as I make my choices and live my life that I am obeying God and that I can and will leave all the messiness and pain of the consequences up to Him.
So with all that in mind……may 2013 be a year of Joy for each of you but even more importantly, may it be a year of continued growth in faith—not only mine but yours.
Best wishes for a Joyous Happy New Year…..