Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Don't Squander the Opportunities in Divorce
Divorce: Falling Apart, But Getting It All Together
Had an interesting comment posted on my blog a few days ago. The blog had talked about some of the things one can be thankful for in the midst of a divorce, knowing that during the dark days it can be very hard to find anything positive. The comment was posted by a man named Jason Ratner, and he wrote: “I am thankful that I am starting to see myself for who I am, not who my ex wife wanted me to be. I am thankful to not be put down all the time.” What he said struck a note as I was working on another blog, and so I decided to raise some issues around Jason’s comment, issues discussed more at length in the books.
I want to consider today, in these contexts, the issue that Jason raises in his post, the issue of who we are as people, and how who we are - impacts our behavior during the divorce process and recovery - and also in the shaping of the next chapter of our lives, including the way we step-parent. As Jason suggests, in a bad marriage, it is easy to lose one’s sense of self…especially when stifled or abused. Once a divorce enters the picture and separation occurs, there often can be a regaining of perspective, a rediscovery of the person God created you to be, a sort of rebirth of possibilities, if you will. Making wise choices is crucial (and is a frequent topic in both volumes of my books, Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce), specifically because divorce compels one to make a fresh start.
The truth is, our relationships bring out various parts of our personality and make differing demands upon us. The parts of our character that impact our relationship with business associates may not include the same features that are important to our spouses which may also not be the same as those with our children, church friends or our ex spouses. My business associates may be more interested in seeing my competence while a spouse may want to experience my kindness and trustworthiness. And in all of it, there is the core person God has designed uniquely in each one of us, and the unique calling to grow like Christ in the midst of life’s changes, responding in a honorable way to the challenges that come to us.
It is a powerfully freeing thing to experience what Jason describes, being free to be who we really are, rather than always feeling the need to adapt oneself to unrealistic expectations. I remember a friend once telling me that he had experienced in his second marriage being loved simply for who he was, he didn’t have to try to earn that love through changing who he was. That is a precious thing.
It is important, after the devastation of a bad marriage and divorce, to take time to regain some equilibrium, to discover afresh who it is God has created and called you to be, with all the characteristics that make you uniquely you, while being open to the possibilities of what God has yet to bring into being.
There may be old habits that you are ready to shake off. There may be forgotten enjoyments you want to cultivate. There may be new acts of service you had always wanted to pursue, and are only now able to do. Your own children may see changes, and perhaps realize they are seeing who you really are for the first time. Although, it is also true that the children may not realize that you had been under stifling constraints before, or that some behavioral changes result from the extreme stresses you are struggling to overcome.
At the same time, it is important for the sake of your children as well as yourself, that you do your best to be true to who God created you to be, and to be consistent in character so that your children have some degree of stability in YOU, even though their home is falling apart and being restructured.
So as Jason pointed out, the divorce process opens up the possibility for you to regain a good handle on the person God created in you. My challenge to you is that you don’t squander that opportunity, because it will shape your choices and your relationships for the rest of your life. Make a point to spend some quality time in God’s presence, inviting him to reveal to you things about yourself that are precious, and things about yourself that need to change or grow. As you do so, the kind of person you are in the new relationships that enter your life will be the kind of person God can use, even as you adapt to the needs and moods of those around you.
TL:dr While divorce creates great upheaval, it also creates opportunity to build a future of God-honoring integrity.