I met my former husband at a Christian concert when I was a senior in high school. One night as we were praying, he looked at me and announced that the Lord wanted to know when we were going to talk about getting married!
We were married, but it was hardly the fairytale I’d dreamed of. There were problems literally from the wedding night. I was 19, and had never been on my own; he was 23 and had been on his own since he was 15; he thought he knew everything. Since he was the man, he was the head of the house, so what he said was how it was going to be. Period. When he ‘discovered’ that I had been deadly serious about never wanting to have children, he didn’t speak to me for a week.
I left him the first time within 6 months. He promptly called one of our pastors, who talked me into going back home. “You know, God hates divorce. Read Malachi!” We went to pastoral counseling, but it was no help. Over the years, I slipped into drug and alcohol use a couple of times to try to relieve the pain. I had an affair. I’d be pushed and hurt to the breaking point, I’d rebel some way, I’d leave him until the pain subsided, and then I’d repent, drag him to counseling and I’d try again.
The crazy part was that we were at church every time the doors were open. We served in various ministries. I was a dedicated Christian woman. He was the most disciplined person I’ve ever known; he actually read his Bible every morning and every night.
We attended two Christian marriage seminars; I dragged him to a professional Christian marriage counselor. He changed for a couple of months. I was treated for depression and discovered ‘happiness in a bottle’.
After 9 years of a rocky marriage, we’d had the first of two ‘happy accidents’. Four years later, we had our second child. The marriage continued to deteriorate. So did his relationship with the kids. As long as they were little and could not voice any opinion of their own, they were fine; the instant they had an original thought that didn’t conform to Daddy, there was a problem. You can easily see where this was headed.
We divorced after 20 years of marriage, but I survived. I remained active in worship and intercession ministries for a few years. My pastor said I was living a ‘divine romance’. Eventually, though, with a teenage and a pre-teen daughter, a combative ex, and more pain than I knew how to handle, I gave up on God and turned to my addictions. Was I in for an education.
The short story is that I can abuse any substance known to man; that sin can take on a life of its own, and leave you wondering who you are and how you got there; the legal system can take everything that matters to you and nobody can do a thing about it; and that even pastors may not know what to do with you or how to help you. In the midst of this sort of rebellion and ignoring God, He can let the legal system have you until the pain becomes great enough for you to repent. Some of us are incredibly strong with huge capacities for that sort of pain. But He’s patient. Then, once you’ve repented on the behavioral level, He can withdraw His felt presence to test you and see if you’re serious. My ‘backside of the spiritual desert’ experience lasted eight years. Today, I can see that time as mercy; a time of purification and rebuilding me from the ground up. During the process, it was excruciating. I never want to feel pain like that again. Ever.
Alcoholics Anonymous re-introduced me to Him and saved my life. The Baptist church got me re-oriented and re-grounded in the Scriptures and church attendance. The Charismatic church then re-established my emotions and spiritual gifts. And a very ecumenical retreat center introduced me to the Catholic faith. I’ll tell the story of the day ‘the lights came back on’ for me spiritually in another post.
If you’ve been living in that sort of pain, I encourage you to keep knocking on doors until you get the help you need. If you’re trapped in addictions, I promise He has to power to free you. Take your pain, your fear, your guilt and shame to Him. Find a pastor or a priest. No matter how bad it seems, I promise you there is life after divorce, there is life as a single parent, and there is life after addictions. Let God begin the healing process. It’s worth it.