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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Something Special in Your Future


Shortly after my divorce, I bumped into an old friend who had himself been recently divorced and remarried, and when we talked about our experiences, he shared with me that he learned in his second marriage that a marriage relationship can be far different from what he had experienced in his first marriage, and tried to encourage me that it really can be different.  In the throes of heartache at the time, I was highly skeptical, and he had to give me some specifics of how he felt his new marriage was so much better and different that his first.  He then proceeded to share some of his experiences about his apparently much more healthy, new marital relationship.

At about the same time, another friend’s words of encouragement to me were that there is a dream called marriage, the old “happily ever after”…or probably more realistically, “healthily ever after.”  As he knew my first marriage had been a difficult one, his comment was that my marriage had died, but the dream did not die, it was still real, and still something worth pursuing.  Again, I didn’t really feel that way, and it was way too early for me to be even interested in taking a chance at another relationship.  But with time, and some intentional efforts at working on my own issues to heal some of those deep hurts and struggles, there came a day when I did meet a woman and we started a relationship that grew into love and the start of a new marriage that has lasted 12 years so far...and that is what I want to encourage you about.

Some of you reading may be recently divorced and uncertain about your future.  Other readers may have friends who are struggling after divorce, and you want to express your concern and encouragement.  While those words from my friends may have been a bit premature for me to hear (although clearly they still stuck with me), the value they had was to open for me the idea of possibilities.  But it was only an idea.  I could hear people discuss the differences between a healthy marriage and one that is dysfunctional in one way or another, but it wasn’t until I experienced these years of a completely different marriage relationship that I came to understand on a personal level what that difference is.  And to believe that my friends were right, it really can be different.

Okay, some may be wondering what I mean about different.  Well, examples (not just from my own marriage) could be things like being treated with respect, have an assurance that you are valued and cherished, not having to always be on edge about whether or not you will say or do something that will cause your spouse to lash out at you in anger, feeling secure in your relationship and free from any fears or suspicions, or maybe just having more actively shared common values in such things as attending church together having times in prayer together.  

There are lots of materials out there that can help you learn to distinguish between health and dysfunctional marriages, and those can indeed be good resources to consult.  But this blog is not about that, this blog is about hope. It can be encouraging to know, when a marriage falls apart and you are in the throes of anguish and loss, that even though you have lost that relationship, it does not mean you don’t have the possibility of discovering something different, something special in your future.  Don’t rush it, or try to force it into happening, but know that in his perfect timing, God can bring to you a person with whom you can experience something special and precious, a fresh kind of loving marriage.  Don’t give up hope, if that is something you long to have.  Work on your own issues, let God heal the wounds, teach you better ways of responding and communicating yourself, and then when you have learned a more healthy way, you will recognize the possibility when that special someone comes along.  And let me tell you straight out, by the way:  my friends were right, it really can be different.  Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for my new wife, Nola, and the experience of learning first-hand how great it is to be in a more healthy and loving marriage.  We keep working on making it better, and have our own issues and need for growth, but I have found when you have a solid base of genuine love and respect, that growth can be pursued together.  The dream has still not died…take my word for it, marriage CAN INDEED be a wonderful experience!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Second Chances


Have you ever longed for a “do-over” in life?  

Maybe you wish you could have chosen differently when it came to selecting a spouse, thinking you might have avoided a divorce if you had.  

Maybe your do-over had to do with things you said or did (or you hadn’t said or done and wish you had), that you think might have made all the difference in saving your marriage.  

Maybe the choice had to do with a career, a college major, or where you chose to live.  

Maybe you just believe if you could just go back and have a do-over, your life would just be so different, and so many problems would not have the impact they have had.

While we often may think we would like a second chance at some of these things, it is a deceptive notion.  If we really had the chance for a “do-over,” we would probably still make the same choice, because it is only the 20-20 hindsight of looking back through the knowledge gained from experience that even causes us to realize we might have preferred the other option.  

The conundrum is, though, that if we hadn’t gone through the experiences we have, we wouldn’t be the persons we are now, and so what we think we would have preferred would apply to a person far different from the one we have turned out to be.  If we went back and made a different choice, it may well have turned out to lead us down an even more troubling path.  

And sometimes God is actually working through the experiences of our lives to help us learn to make better choices for our future.  Maybe the only way we could learn to make those better choices was by going through those experiences that taught us those lessons.  If God had desired us to learn lessons another way, he could easily have chosen to put obstacles in our path and kept us away from those regretted choices.  Actually, all of these things are mere pipe dreams anyway, second chances do not come to us through do-overs, but they can come to us.

I would suggest that, in the case of divorce as our example, lessons you have learned through the failures of your previous marriage, or through recognition of the mismatch you had accepted are the things that can inform you to make wise choices as you move toward your future.  Everyone certainly makes mistakes, but none of us needs to continue to make the same mistakes if we will take seriously the lessons we have learned.  

Do you want a do-over in life?  

Then take on that next challenge, the next opportunity, the next risk, and taking the challenge, apply the lessons you learned from previous hardship, disappointments or failures.  None of us is perfect, but all of us can grow and make progress.  Falling down or failing is not the problem, choosing to not get up to try again, that creates problems for our futures.  Instead of “doing over,” how about doing better next time…because all of us have more opportunities ahead just waiting for us to take them on to create a better future for our lives and our world. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Chance for a Fresh Start

Last night, all around the world, there were people staying up late, celebrating, rejoicing, partying and enjoying fireworks and concerts and fun times together, with parades and football games today to continue the celebration.  

What was it all about?  

We got to turn the page on a calendar!  

Now we put down a slightly different number whenever we write the date.  In case you can’t tell, I’m not a person who thinks turning the page on a calendar is nearly as big a thing as is so often made of it each year.  I often get together with friends for the evening and we play cards until midnight, kiss our spouses and then call it a night.  Woo woo, huh?  But we enjoy it.

Some people use the date as a reason to make a fresh start, to take a second chance, to attack problems afresh with resolutions and plans.  They are ready and longing for something new.   That decision, of course, could be made at any time in our lives, and in the cases of some of our concerns, the sooner we work on them the better!  Still, there are times in life that are just naturally points of change, newness and fresh starts, some of which we like and others which we do not:  a wedding, the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, a relocation or a new job.  Divorce is also one of those significant fresh start moments.

Someone who had just gone through a divorce finds themselves on the verge of a new phase in life, the design of which must they choose for themselves.  That can be challenging, exciting, troubling, frustrating, enraging, painful all of the above and even more, all at the same time.  I recently saw a television show in which some of the characters had been divorce, in this case about a year, and the ex-wife was frustrated because her ex would not “just move on,” a view which was also articulated by others in the show.  

“Just moving on” makes a nice idea, perhaps, but in many cases, that is simply very unrealistic.  The person longing to be out of the marriage may well be ready and pleased to be moving on and escaping to something new, such as a new partner, the freedom of singlehood, or safety from abuse.  But for the person who has felt shunned, abandoned or discarded, still in love with their spouse or finding their dreams for the future shattered, “just moving on” and “getting over it” is not such an easy nor quick task.

Nevertheless, no matter how you arrive at being divorced, and no matter how you feel about being there, you end up on the verge of a new phase of life and now must decide what to do with it.  Certainly some of that new phase will be consumed with working through the grief and emotional distress that accompanies the tearing of one’s heart in divorce.  Memories surface at inconvenient times, especially on holidays such as New Year’s Eve, and one must face the loss in order to effectively rebuild life.  But even in the face of such pain, the rebuilding process can be a very positive experience in life.

What do you desire to be the values by which you live?  What do you want your reputation to be?  What are the changes you long to make, the hopes and dreams you once had but have seemed to have gotten lost in the process of living?  Perhaps now is the time to revive those dreams and pursue a refined version for your future?  What are the challenges you have hesitated to embrace, but could choose to make priorities in the next chapter of your life?  What are the things you have longed to accomplish, the projects you want to complete, that have been on hold for too long?  Why not make some plans to do some of those now?  

Most of all, what might God be beckoning you to in this time of life?  What wounds does He desire to heal, what character traits does he seek to build or reinforce?  What might be the ministries God has planned for your future, and how might you use this time to prepare for them?  No matter where you are in life, as long as you are still living here on earth, God is not done yet, he still had plans for your life and ways that he longs to use you.  Whatever other plans you make, be sure to make these the central concern.   And then go, make 2017 a Happy New Year for real!