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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Unfinished Business in your Divorce

Or at the least, Blindsided!

Many people who are divorced will see this words, and remember the day they were served with divorce papers unexpectedly.  Or ways they felt ambushed by their ex during the process of divorce with one filing or court order after another.  And the words can certainly apply to those experiences.  

However, I am thinking of a different kind of experience that occurs in the days post divorce, the kinds of experience that catch you off guard, and yet bring healing and forward motion in spite of how they feel.  Let me illustrate.

There are some times when the ambush or blindside IS directly related to actions by an ex spouse.  Times like when you attend parent/teacher conferences at the school, and discover that the teacher didn't prepare a second copy of a report and your ex took the only one without mentioning that another parent would be along.  

Or you can find yourself in an awkward situation when you are in a discussion…maybe making plans with the kids, or interacting with a friend…and then a comment is made that completely undermines your expected result.  Such as giving a child a Christmas present, only to find that your ex already gave them one.  Or talking about plans for a birthday party, only to find that the child has been promised they could go visit grandma on their birthday instead.  Or when you visit with a friend about an experience you had, only to find that the waters have been poisoned with the spin your ex put on the story previously. 

Episodes like the above are all events that directly result from actions and decisions by your ex.  These, of course, can be difficult, and foster anger, resentment and frustration.  If done intentionally, or even with flagrant disregard for your rights or feelings, they can bring a lot of pain, and stir up a lot of history.  These kinds of things happen almost inevitably in one fashion or another.  They become the opportunities to understand on a deeper level Jesus’ command for us to forgive “70 x 7.”  Much as we don’t like them, they do build character and cause you to decide whether you are going to be a forgiving person or a bitter person who harbors grudges!  I wanted to acknowledge these “ambushes,” but they are not the ones I want to focus upon.
There is an another context in which one is “ambushed” or “blind-sided” after a divorce.  The ambush is not one brought about by your ex, but one the stirs from your own emotions and memories.  There are moments that suddenly cause your heart to stop, perhaps in dread, perhaps with painful memories, perhaps with a sense of loss or even a sense of guilt. 

Have you ever had a song come on the radio, and then unexpectedly found yourself back in a time in life long since past, perhaps a difficult time of marriage or an ancient argument?  I remember once opening a box and discovering a long lost item I had looked for but been unable to find.  It stirred up feelings of anger as I remembered packing up all my things during the divorce.  Another time, an individual may run across a child’s toy, and find their eye stained with tears as they recall a happier time, now shattered by divorce.  It happens in all sorts of contexts, whether in hanging Christmas decorations, stumbling across an old Valentine, driving pasts an old favorite restaurant, opening an album of photos, seeing an old rerun on television…the list is endless.  But the items on the list all have one thing in common:  they open you up to unfinished business.

These episodes remind us of things from our past, and either help us to realize how far we have come, or reveal to us that we have yet to forgive and yet to move on.  They can become treasures of memories from that time causing us to celebrate the good, or plagues that force us to face that there are ways we are still living in our past and carrying harbors of anger or resentment.  The question, of course, is, “What do you do when an ambush forces you to see things about yourself you would rather not see?”  Some people build on the reserve of anger, blaming the ex for all that has been done.  And the truth is, sometimes the ex does deserve the blame for problems he/she created.  But how your respond to those things emotionally is NOT about your ex….it is about you. 

With each of these events, we have the opportunity to lay to rest a troubled area we may not have realized was still there, or to affirm the good that existed we may have forgotten as we wrestle with the pain and loss of divorce.  And making those choices wisely moves us toward healing and wholeness.

When one is divorced, it is tempting to think that life would have been so much different if only…  

...If only I hadn't married that person, 
........if only we had gone to counseling earlier,
.............. if only I had been a better spouse, 
......................if only he/she hadn't divorced me, 
................................................if only whatever…then life would not be as hard or I wouldn't have the pain or any number of other imaginings.  

While there may be some truth to those conclusions, the truth also  is that even if you never divorced, there would be memories that are difficult, disappointments that had come, heartaches you would have experienced and hopes that would have been dashed.  Life is just that way.  Not everything goes the way we think it should, and brokenness is rampant in this world.  Yet God is at work in it all, shaping us, teaching us, healing us, making us to be more compassionate beings, to be more like Christ.  You may have been blind sided, but God was not.  In fact, God may well orchestrate these little events for the very purpose of setting us free from the things that have held our hearts and minds hostage.  Think about that, next time you find yourself “ambushed” by life!

P.S.  Hey, I’m in the final stages of editing another book that I hope to publish soon.  I’m not sure the method I will use, and would appreciate prayers for the project.  It is a life based fiction…I’ll keep you posted.

TL:dr  The unexpected events that prick our memories are opportunities God can use to prick our growth as well.

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