Divorce: Opportunity in Tragedy
“I will never get a divorce,” I said confidently, “because I will do whatever it takes to make it work.” I think about those words I said so boldly when I was in college often, as I am now the statistic that I said I would never be. It’s been a couple of years since my world was wrecked in the worst of ways.
“What’s wrong? Please just tell me.”
“I have been having an affair.”
Those weren’t her exact words but you can imagine the knot that would form in your stomach if you had received them. “You’re not the only one…” Those were the first of many words that changed the course of my life. We had just spent 2 months traveling in another country and had a great time. Then, in an instant, everything I thought I knew was in question. Those few words changed everything about my entire existence. We were going to be missionaries, I was a worship leader, we were happy, and our fifth anniversary was just a few months away.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the tragedy, so I’ll try to sum it up. I tried all I knew to make it work and in the end it didn’t. It’s supposed to work out, right? After all, I’m a Christian, I’m serving, I’m praying, I’m fasting, and I’m doing everything I can. But now, I got a big “D” on my chest and that’s not supposed to happen to a good Christian.
So here’s what I don’t want to happen: I don’t want you to read this and think I’m saying divorce is OK. I don’t want you to think I’m trying to justify anything I did, but I want you to know that God can create something beautiful out of our tragedy.
I also don’t want to talk badly about her. We are all capable of such things. There’s an addiction that can happen when we are talking about the wrongs that have been dealt to us. It fuels our ego, brings us a kind of sick comfort, and prevents us from addressing our own hurt and our own sin. It makes us blind to how God can work in and through us.
I noticed these addictions in me when I found out she had started dating someone. “That’s not right!” “How could she do that!” “She posted it on Facebook!” Those were the first thoughts that popped into my head. I wanted to tell the world. I was angry. I wanted to update my status. I wanted to say something that would somehow hurt her.
I don’t know why, but suddenly I was prompted with a question. “Does she need my permission to move on, to heal, or for God to work in her life?” I realized that the problem with my current disposition was me. I wanted her to suffer and never get better, at least not until I was. I mean that’s how justice works, right? I’m supposed to meet someone first. She’s supposed to be the jealous one. I’m supposed to be the one in love. Right?
No, I have no right to tell God how justice should be dealt. My view of justice was tainted by this desire for vengeance. I had removed mercy from the equation. We all need mercy, but in the midst of my own pain, I didn’t want her to receive it. I wanted to forgive her and I knew I needed to, but how can you forgive someone without mercy? Realizing this was ironically the most powerful healing I received since the disaster started.
Just a few weeks ago, I found out she got engaged. You know what’s crazy? I was actually happy for her. She met a great guy and God gave her a chance to start over. I began to wonder if she knew I’d forgiven her. If I was in her situation, I know the kind of guilt I’d feel. So I decided I’d write her a little short note, and just tell her. Sure it felt a little awkward, but here goes:
“Well, I was looking for the words to say…I feel like I should say something, but I just can’t find them. As weird as this may sound, I really am happy for you. Part of me thinks it would be best to not write you, but the other part of me wants to make sure you know that you are free and forgiven. I just want to make sure you know that.”
Here is what I want you to see. Our tragedy presents an opportunity for God to shine. His shining doesn’t guarantee the desired result, but it does guarantee that He shines. And when we are a part of it, we have a peace that we cannot understand. I genuinely meant what I wrote. It wasn’t me just trying to be a good Christian. It took some serious time and pain to get me to a place where I could mean it. Here is a sentence from her message back to me:
“Your willingness to forgive and your kindness to me through my sin was/is one of the greatest examples of Christ in my life and I wanted to thank you for that!!”
This shows how magnificent God is, how He does move in our tragedy, and how He uses us in ways we could never imagine. I didn’t do everything right or even most. I responded the way humans do far too often. But somehow God used me.
You see what’s beautiful is that God does redeem us and He does forgive us. Sometimes the story doesn’t end the way we expect or want, but we don’t get to choose how God will restore us and magnify Himself.
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