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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Who Planned This?


“I can’t believe this is happening to me, I always knew divorce happens, but to OTHER people, not me!”  
“I can’t believe I ended up a statistic.”  
“I never imagined that at this point in my life, I’d be starting all over again.” 
“I never dreamed my marriage would end up like this…I feel like such a failure.”  
“Why me?” 

Have you ever heard words like that coming out of somebody’s mouth (perhaps your own)?  They are very common expressions among the divorcing.

Do you think on the wedding day that anybody ever says their vows with the plan that getting married is a good idea for something to do for ten years, maybe 15, and then they’d go get a divorce and risk almost everything they have worked for in life?  Okay, there are all kinds out there, so perhaps somebody actually does think like that…maybe those who marry for money, for example.  But I think the overwhelming majority expect that their marriage will last a lifetime, that divorce is something that impacts other people, but won’t impact them.  In my premarital counseling, I always raise with the couple that even though nobody gets married planning to get divorced, nevertheless a significant number of marriages end in divorce anyway (often the statistic of 50% is quoted, although there are variables).   I then encourage my couples to consider what things they are doing and could do for their relationship that would serve as a buffer against ending up in divorce court (which is a question well worth any married couple asking and seriously answering, I believe).

It’s kind of a funny thing, I think, that we so often are surprised, shocked and ask “why me” about the hard and tragic things that come in our lives, while anytime something good comes our way we often decide we deserve it or it is the result of our own efforts and character, or at least accept it without questioning.  Beyond the why, though, there is the feeling of disbelief.   Disbelief that, in spite of your best intentions, you ended up divorced.  Disbelief that, after years of marriage, you suddenly find yourself out in the “dating world” all over again when you thought you were done with that part of your life.  Disbelief that so much of your life’s work has now been unraveled, and so many things have to be started all over again.  There is much more, but it can all be summed up with the phrase, “I never thought it would happen to me.”

Let me offer for your consideration, though, a simple question. 

In the course of your life, how much of your life has actually worked out exactly the way you thought it would?  

I know people whose youthful hopes and dreams have proved to be far different from the realities that life brought their way.  Some people end up living in unexpected places.  Some end up working at unexpected jobs after lifelong careers have fallen by the wayside.  Some have lost loved ones such as children or spouses.  Others have ended up beaten and abused.  Others have ended up making far more money than they ever expected, or had opportunities surprise them left and right. 

It all reminds me of the fact that the world does not operate according to the plans that we create for ourselves.  Some things are simply out of our control, and some things that we do control, turn out to lead to unforeseen and unexpected consequences.  Life is full of twists and turns and surprise endings.  Somehow I think that if we knew all the details of what life would bring when we first start out, we would never take the first step down the road.  And besides, the unexpected could also be viewed as an adventure we are undertaking.  

There is a Bible verse that kind of sums it all up for me found in Proverbs 19:21, one of several verses that make plain that we humans make our plans as we will, but God sees beyond and knows which plans are actually going to stand.  In my life, it has clearly been best that some of my plans did not come to pass.   Though you never thought it would happen to you, perhaps there are better plans for you than the ones you had expected.  At least, it seems to me that’s the way God sees it.

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