So I finalized a divorce last year. It didn’t make the cover of any magazine and when the summary judgement arrived in the mail it was to no fanfare. In fact, I thought I would have to make an appearance in court but the county I live in doesn’t require it if all the facts are agreed upon between plaintiff and defendant. I couldn’t afford a lawyer so I did everything I could by myself which, by the way, is quite the learning curve. I should at least be a paralegal by now.
It’s been almost a year and a half since she gave me the news. In the beginning, my heart was ground zero. I would gather myself at the barricades to watch from out-of-body the wrecked remains of what once was. Daily and nightly I laid flowers at the feet of memories. I tried to piece them together to form some of type of narrative that might preserve happily-ever-after or a temporary sanity but to no avail. As hours turned to days which turned to weeks and months, it was time and not a story that assuaged my broken heart.
For me, the devastation of separation and divorce wasn’t in loss of property or even mutual relationships, although I mourn such things. It wasn’t even in the cultural stigma associated with being a pastor on staff at a church and having a failed marriage, although I fully explored the contours of such stigma. For me, the devastation of separation and divorce were incarnated in a funeral that couldn’t quite happen. There was no one or nothing to say with definitive finality, “good-bye”. Normalcy was like a teasing desert mirage and my thirst for catharsis, or at least answers, went unquenched.
A lot of blogs, books and people mean well. They say marriage is hard and you have to work at it and by God it is and by God you do.
Was I the drunk driver or was I in oncoming traffic? How did this mess occur…I’m trying to piece it together now but it’s fuzzy. Was I the victim or the perpetrator or was I…both? I’ve spent the last year and a half investigating myself, trying to separate fact from fiction.
Being left, separated from someone I’ve known for so long forced a despairing or rather, a flattening. My ideas of God, commitment, happiness, community, eternity, objectivity were no longer safe. In the subsequent months of separation I chose to pursue and know only that which I could touch, taste and feel. Despite making choices that my religious traditions had taught against, I still prayed that grace would find me somewhere in the margins and the sleepless nights.
Time has mercifully passed and what I’ve emerged into these days is far less a forced optimism based on [fill-in-the-blank] circumstances or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Rather and in contrast to optimism, I find myself in a decently sized hope. A hope that my value as a person is so intrinsic, so expected by the universe that negotiating my worth doesn’t depend on a full social schedule or esteemed vocation.
There is hope after because I look up and Orion’s belt still hangs in the midnight sky. There is hope after as I look around and name those encamped but imperfect guardian angels like Tracey, Rachel, Blake and Jonathan. I look down and there is my adoring black lab, Lacey who looks back up after 7 long, crazy years…a sneaky gray creeping down both our beards now.
I recently heard someone say “write to let people know they’re not alone”, so here is to that glorious merit. The answers to God, commitment, happiness, community, eternity, objectivity remain elusive but not impenetrable. Such things reveal themselves in the consistent, undeserved graces of others and the long drives to nowhere. You are not alone. If you are on the precipice of divorce, in the midst of separation or just even haunted by some deep anxiety, you are not alone.
There are so many subsequent facets of the human condition that I have discovered via my own anxieties but are nowhere near new to life or those around and before me. So here then I offer the words of Christian Wiman from ‘My Bright Abyss‘, musing his poetic theology from a cancer-stricken body to offer me solace and conclusion:
“What you must realize , what you must come to praise, is the fact that there is no right way that is going to become apparent to you once and for all. The most blinding illumination that strikes and perhaps radically changes your life will be so attenuated and obscured by doubts and dailiness that you may one day come to suspect the truth of that moment at all. The calling that seemed so clear will be lost in echoes of questionings and indecision; the church that seems to save you will fester with egos, complacencies, banalities; the deepest love of your life will work itself out like a thorn in your heart until all you can think of is plucking it out. Wisdom is accepting the truth of this. Courage is persisting with life in spite of it. And faith is finding yourself, in the deepest part of your soul, in the very heart of who you are, moved to praise it.”
In this I remind myself once again, that there is hope before, hope during and hope after.