This is the final reflection on this at this point in my journey.
7. The Place of Ritual and the Value of a Worshipping Community- I know that many people have had bad experiences in churches, synagogues and places of worship after a divorce, which is sad but a very real experience of many people-but not every place is like that. For myself, as a pastor I found myself in a new community, where I knew the pastor as one of my colleagues and I showed up with my kids each Sunday and as much as I could be I was anonymous. I did have a few people ask where their mother was in an inquiring and not an accusing way (to which I answered that she had chosen not to be there) and since I was still at the process of trying to save the marriage initially and later going through the divorce I didn’t want to close any doors, but I needed a place to just be. I knew that when I needed I could talk to the pastor as a friend and as a person who knew more of what was happening but mostly I just needed to be around the rituals and around a worshipping community. I needed someone else to sing when there were no songs coming out of my heavy heart. I needed something that was familiar and known in the midst of all the changes. I needed to be reminded that in the bigger picture that I mattered. I needed to hear about forgiveness, that I was valued, that I mattered. I needed to be in a place where I could begin my journey of healing.
8. The Gift of Limitations-For years in my life I would always find a way to dig a little deeper, to draw on some reserve of physical, spiritual or emotional strength and continue to do whatever needed done. In my relationship with my ex, in my work or school, in my life failure was never an option. The time leading up to the divorce pushed me for the first time in my life beyond the breaking point, where I reached a point where my spiritual and emotional strength were exhausted and depression began to sap even my physical strength. At the time, nothing about this seemed like a gift but it forced me to begin to pay attention to my own body and mind for the first time. To accept that my energy had limitations, that I needed to take breaks and pay attention, that there were times that I would need to say no to a commitment because I simply was not in a state of mind to deal with things. I began to listen more closely, to recapture some of the parts of myself that had been lost in pushing so hard for so many years. I began to recommit to listening and paying attention which eventually turned into poetry and writing, and I made space to listen to stories, to read, to listen to music and to make time for myself and not feel guilty about it. In accepting my own limitations I was able to find strengths that I had long forgotten about.
9. Seeing Myself as Worthy of Being Loved Again-I never imagined how deeply the rejection I felt from my ex-wife would reach into my sense of self-worth, but it challenged the core of my identity. I had always been pretty confident, in at least decent physical shape, considered myself fairly attractive and charismatic, emotionally resilient, intelligent and I had done a lot of things in my life that I was pretty proud of. The things that happened in this time caused me to question all of this, through both words and actions everything that I was felt rejected. I felt ugly, emotionally flat, I questioned whether anyone would find me interesting, I wondered whether everything I had done in the past was merely me managing to get through rather than really achieving anything. I wondered what type of future I might have in relationships, I was also wondering what I would do as far as work. Everything seemed in a period of months to have gone away and I really began to wonder who I was. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, and it probably didn’t happen all at once, but slowly I began to see that I really was pleased with the way I had lived my life, that I genuinely was happy with who I was. That I was worthy of being loved again, that I was still creative and intelligent (and in fact the experiences had opened up new avenues of creativity) and that I was OK with who I was. Not that every moment and every day I remembered this, there were occasional dark times and still are every once in a while, but the emotional resilience did return and that I was able to see myself as worthy of being loved again.
10. The Process of Forgiveness and Reconciliation– Until you’ve really been hurt you don’t understand how difficult forgiveness and reconciliation really are. Even when you have made the choice to forgive there will be times where past actions are reenacted in your mind and you need to let go of them to move forward. It was a journey from the point where I had made the initial decision to forgive my ex (while we were still married) and work towards reconciliation and the possibility of a new beginning, to realizing that the reconciliation which occurred (which involved the divorce which I didn’t want) was much different than what I hoped for, to continually having to commit to trying not to allow things that happened in the past to determine the relationship going forward. It was a journey and not a one-time decision, and yet it was a journey that ultimately led me towards healing.
In the midst of the many challenges and lessons I have changed and grown. It took time and I have been able to walk with several others through their own journeys through broken relationships and divorces. It was not a skill I was seeking or an experience I wanted but you can learn to find the gift in even the most challenging of times.