No matter who left who, divorce feels like rejection. It is a fog that surrounds your very being with every step you take away from one life altering decision that was anything but easy.
Going to church is an activity you once did with your spouse, your child or maybe not. Maybe you always begged her to go, now if she ever does it won’t be with you. Or maybe your child always goes with his dad since he has her on the weekends. Maybe you spent too much time at church and that’s one reason why he finally left. Whatever led up to this point, you now sit alone feeling rejected inside your fog with a gaping hole in your heart.
As you look around all you see are happy fulfilled married people with shining eyes who seem to glow. As a woman, now that you are divorced the married men act differently towards you, the brave ones still speak to you but in a guarded way, they are afraid to get too close cause you may be lonely and cling to them. The rest won’t even make eye contact which leaves you feeling like you don’t exist at all. Surely they just don’t know what to say to you. The women are worse somehow because if they do speak, they hug you if they know and say things that make you feel so pitiful. If they don’t know then they ask “where is your husband, your child?” And this happens multiple times and you have to tell them and every time you repeat your little memorized story the knife cuts into your gut again as the fog thickens. When she looks at you with her sad eyes it isn’t her fault but you feel so ashamed.
You sit in the pew surrounded by fog, the pastor tells his joke. What is the joke about? Oh, of course, he is talking about a family again. A dad, a mom, children. He speaks of the roles of each family member. You peer out of the fog to watch a wife nudge her husband and smile as he puts his arm around her. No one touches you anymore. What did that feel like? Somehow it feels like they mock you.
And the adventure of discovering a small group that fits begins. Why do I feel like a leper? Like I have a dreaded disease no one wants to catch. And then it happens, you are in a room filled with happy married couples talking about someone getting divorced : “Why didn’t they try harder? The Bible says it is wrong. How could they just give up? Didn’t they make vows to one another? Didn’t that mean anything? How could they do that to their children?” And the wound deepens as the fog thickens. You stand there reliving all the pain of those moments while you doubt everything and your pain intensifies until it seems to take on a shape and color. Somehow you wander into the single parents’ class and sit through an hour of people commiserating while putting down their x. Wow, that was uplifting…
Alone in the pew then alone afterwards. Busy happy families dart off into their busy worlds and leave you behind stumbling along in your fog, planning to eat lunch alone and go home to nap alone.
My daddy died. The church sent a gift and I got a phone call. I got divorced and no one looks at me. More rejection.
Now, at home suddenly there are a million more things to do, everything needs repair, the toilet is leaking, the car is making a weird noise. Or maybe now you have to figure out laundry, cooking, bathing the baby. How in the world will you fix your daughter’s hair by yourself? Pay the bills? Feed your children? You feel so inadequate and overwhelmed and there is this enormous weight of making decisions all alone now. No one to lean on if I mess it all up.
But God. But God placed these people in my life, these angels, my true friends who did not attend my church. There was a place to stay when I had nowhere to go. There was food, clothes, a warm hug, someone to hold my hand. A friend says to me, let me help you think this through. Let’s get your child into counseling, right now. Like life after divorce is this car ride down the road and the friends are the rest areas, you get a safe break before you get back on your way again, slightly refreshed for the drive ahead.
As a woman I personally encountered a group of Christian men in one of the circles I belonged to. These were kind men who somehow were not afraid to speak to me, look me in the eye, or even touch me. They were bold, wise, intuitive. They gave hugs. Safe, warm hugs, believe it. I am not sure why but those interactions were very healing. And each time I got a hug, guess what? The big red D etched into my forehead got fainter, and the fog faded. And it is okay to smile again.
Please don’t be sad for us, the divorced church members. Read this and think, search your heart. How would you like to be treated? Is it fair to judge decisions if you haven’t walked in those shoes? Do you have any idea what they may have survived to arrive here appearing intact? Please consider your words and remember that love is the key. Look around, invite him to lunch. A smile, a real hug, a true gesture of kindness goes a lot farther than anything you will ever say to him. And those ladies you see sitting alone, hmmmmmmm wonder if they have something at home that needs to be fixed? What would it hurt to ask her how you can help? Maybe you should bring a friend along so that if something heavy needs to be moved you can handle it. Be the hero God intended you to be cause guess what? Right now she needs one. Be bold.