After a five and a half year period of separation, I received my divorce papers in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Some I’ve shared this with have said, “Wow, it’s been that long?” Others have said, “Seems like it has been so long.” In my opinion, it has been just the right amount of time.
Marriage should not be entered in to lightly, and the same holds true for divorce. It is not something you rush into. I did not rush in to it. I credit good, sound advice from trusted godly advisors and counselors for taking things slow. From the very beginning of my separation I sought out people who would walk this journey with me, keep me grounded in Christ, correct me, encourage me, and guide me. I found just that, and I am forever grateful for my circle of friends.
It was not an easy road. I had people left and right telling me what they thought I should do and not do. There were certainly moments of confusion, second guessing, worrying about what others would think of me, what I thought of myself and how my decisions would affect my family.
Growing up in the church, the concern about what others would think of me was a huge one. Would some think I didn’t try hard enough to make it work? Would I be considered unfit to continue ministry? If I did divorce would people judge me for my decision? Traditionally, I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me and think well of me. Part of this process over the last few years has been to focus less on what others thought of me and more on how God saw me. His Word says:
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
“For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:43
It took me a long time to overcome this hurdle and allow myself to make decisions based on just God and me, not God, me, and other people’s opinions. In the church we can be loving, caring, compassionate and encouraging. We can also be judgmental, critical, unforgiving and unkind. Sadly, I have been the latter more than I’d care to admit. When we operate out of a heart of legalistic thoughts and feelings we hurt people. I have been hurt and I have hurt as well.
I hope that my experience has taught me that there is no one right formula to walk through the break-up of a marriage. I cannot judge someone else’s process because it is not just like mine. I can encourage, lend a listening ear, a word of advice, correction if needed (iron sharpening iron,) and a whole lot of encouragement and compassion as we are …just living the thing.