Saturday, January 26, 2013
Divorce: An Opportunity for Transformation
So Does Spirituality Make a Difference During Divorce?
At the core, what are the issues that make up the essence of the world’s great religions? Is it not the sorting out of the primary questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of MY life? Is there something bigger than me? Is there a way to be connected to that something greater than myself? What happens after we die? How should we live here? What is real love all about? Is there right and wrong, and if so, how do I know them? Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Why do I feel inadequate within, and what do I do with the guilt I feel over hurtful choices I have made? Perhaps you can think of others.
I would suggest, today, that this kind of searching and questioning creates an intersection between one’s spirituality and the similar searching and questioning that is part of the experience of divorce. That is to say, religious/spiritual meaning and values come to the forefront in a divorce, as often one is forced to evaluate one’s life, choices, priorities and future as one segment of life falls apart to give way to the next. This is the first of a two part series discussing that intersection, as well as the value and power of spirituality in the midst of divorce.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe divorce is one of life’s great tragedies, even when circumstances are such that might provide good grounds for divorce (for example, to protect the safety of children in a violent home). Divorce is a tragedy, because it always represents love betrayed, reneging on commitments, upheaval for family and usually a great deal of emotional trauma…..all of which nobody seeks when they promise “for better or for worse.”
Having said that, I would suggest that someone going through the experience of divorce automatically has an opportunity for significant spiritual growth and personal development. However, that same opportunity can be used to the opposite effect…it can be used to abandon faith, choosing to believe that God failed them or their faith was useless. The individual also can decide that, having tried to do things right and ending up divorced means there is no use in trying to live a decent life, so instead that person chooses to abandon everything once valued as important. I have seen both occur, haven’t you?
It is my contention that it is in the midst of life’s crisis moments that individuals can most honestly and most deeply reflect on their past without the blinders of a “charmed life” to color their perspective. As one sorts out the events that have come to them, there is a searching for purpose and meaning….the call to the primary questions of life. In fact, it is BECAUSE the “charmed life” has fallen apart that one is challenged to examine past life choices, character weaknesses, values and priorities with a recognition of one’s own contributions to the dissolution of a marriage. OR, one can refuse to face these issues, live in denial and blame, and experience no growth or change, except a hardening into bitterness and delusion.
For those who use this opportunity to grow, the recollection of poor choices can lead one to contrition. The recognition of character weaknesses can cause one to seek strength outside oneself, transformation through spiritual connections. The loneliness and rejection can move one to connect with a faith community in a meaningful way. And the brokenness cries out for healing and restoration. Most of all, it truly tests the reality of one’s spiritual commitment and perseverance….as well as whether one’s faith is truly in something that makes a difference or merely a collection of platitudes and rituals or habits.
Each of the changes above is tied to a backward glance or current struggles. But perhaps the most important part of working through this time of crisis is the process of making choices as one determines the future of one’s life. Of course one always carries their past experiences and shaping with them, but in many ways, the desolation of divorce leaves a barren plain upon which to stake a new claim and build a new kind of life. The questions of what to build, and what kind of life it will be can be powerful spiritual, transformational opportunity. If one chooses to let it be that kind of opportunity. Other life crises can create similar opportunities, but divorce has such an overwhelming impact, the need to evaluate, rebuild and grow are huge. How do you use the crises in YOUR life?
(In part two, I’ll move to some specific hints and examples, in hopes that they may give some ideas or paths to follow.)
TL:dr The tragic crisis of divorce raises significant spiritual and life changing questions.