In this installment of “Single-Parent Impact.” We’ re taking time to discuss the aftermath of divorce and possibly one of the most difficult aspects concerning divorce, which is the calm that takes place after the storm. All of us who have experienced divorce encounter this in one form or another although the timing of its presentation as well as the length and nature of its occurrence differs for everyone.
Anyone experiencing divorce can relate to the fact there is a relationship between the contentious nature of what transpires and whether we live in the moment, or live more broadly. Have the wounds from our experience overwhelmed us to the point to where were impulsively are driven by pain or crushed under the weight of regret? When I refer to the terms of “living more broadly” I’m really referring to the possibility we can still live a “balanced” life that keeps us attached to the past, the present, and the future. Why is that important? Well it’s so important it may be one of the most critical questions you reflect on whether or not you are fresh out of a relationship or your circumstances occurred several years prior.
Significant pain or loss always carries with it the possibility of freezing our emotional and spiritual resources to the point where we see no horizon but live in what feels like an “existence ditch.” Because emotional pain depletes our resources we often have only sufficient energy to meet the pragmatic demands of life. This is why so many of us who have experienced divorce or we feel like our relationship is heading in that direction emotionally shut down. While we can talk about it cognitively, many of us are well aware this time is marked with anxiety, depression, anger and disappointment. Even most seasoned church member can wind up questioning the wisdom, justice, and fairness of God. The most balanced of us who don’t attend church often question the legitimacy of life, it’s purpose and if we haven’t contemplated God or some form of ultimate reality, it’s not uncommon for us to do so at this time.
The “calm after the storm” is that moment or series of moments when it’s just us and our conscience attempt to grab our attention. I believe it’s an innate God-given gift that rises to the occasion and tells us “I need help,” “I’m hurting,” “I don’t want this to continue,” “and I certainly want something better.”
And what we do with these moments will most likely define life and its quality for years to come.
So now it’s time for a little transparency. In my own experience, I had multiple times when this quietness descended, sometimes after an emotional upheaval but at other times it just presented itself when the “distraction of busyness” was put on hold. I noticed a couple things about these times. One, was I tended to link what was happening in the present with the pain of the past which may not have had anything directly to do with my present circumstance but had the ill effect of cumulatively adding up numerous life failures to come to the conclusion that “my divorce” was only the natural result of a sequence of events. It was like I said stamped “bad karma” on my forehead without even knowing it and as a result perpetuated the feeling of worthlessness which of course always perpetuates the feeling of little intrinsic value.
This type of thinking was about as far from the love of God and his perception of me as I could’ve possibly been.
Humans have a way when defeated, of spiritually of counterattacking the circumstance with busyness, with diversions with rationalizations, with logic arguments, you name it, we can bring all of our intellectual capabilities and spiritual education to bear on a problem and still miss learning anything from the experience.
I have to freely admit “the been there done that” didn’t work. My career was a diversion, my new health craze (to prepare myself to be physically attractive for my next relationship) was a diversion, and even my attempts to be super dad for my kids who were caught in the middle of their parents struggles proved to be just another diversion. I avoided the quiet time like the plague.
The calm after the storm has significant spiritual implications. We are meant to pay attention to our hurting, frustrated, overwhelmed self. The purpose of which is to foster spiritual and emotional healing in lieu of emotional callousness. Have you ever notice that hurting, frustrated, disillusioned people often generate a whirlwind of activity and accomplishments that sweep up and run over those closest to them?
The second thing I noticed and this is looking back, was I took little time to reflect upon the spiritual state of who I was. Nor did I make any reasonable attempt at self- examination to identify potential character defects or personality quirks that contributed to my inability to be the best possible spouse I could have been in my relationship. I’ve noticed after being involved in the mental health profession for close to three decades now it takes two to the cause divorce. And while we may jump to conclusions about particular behaviors we rationalize as a “moral tipping point” that justified one spouse’s actions towards the other, the reality is dysfunctional broken people offend, react to, withhold forgiveness, betray as a method of revenge and manipulate each other regularly as part and partial of being a broken, insecure human being.
Perhaps you see yourself or part of yourself in this description. Ask yourself if you have kids are you really going to be an effective parent by trying to shortcut the process of learning from your mistakes and spiritually healing?
Jesus was received so enthusiastically and thankfully by the broken members of the culture of his day. You see one thing Jesus never did was withhold forgiveness. In fact, he regularly distributed it in abundance. It’s amazing, how many times Jesus found himself up to his neck in parsing out truth and distributing forgiveness in the midst of broken human relationships. Relationships by the way, which were meant to be occurring in the context of God’s plan of sexuality, of marriage, of intimacy and repeatedly, Jesus was consulted about divorce.
Another experience I noticed and just as important was this. To the same degree I chose not to use opportunities to heal I established new, deeper characteristics, habits and perceptions that I would have to deal with later. All of these fell upon those closest around me and fell, full force on my subsequent marriage. My hope is that you avoid this and will not make an already difficult situation worse!
I am convinced as a Christian now almost 40 years of the goodness of God, and of his resolute intent for our well-being in spite of ourselves. It would take me years and the discipline to face the quiet moments to understand and realize the difference between God’s part and my part in making healing and understanding an actual reality in my life.
I’m going to pose a suggestion I hope you’ll consider. It’s one I wish someone would have invested in me. Whether or not you attend church or your adverse to church I would like you to see how the master distributor of forgiveness, Jesus, responded to broken relationships and human intimacy. So I’m going to suggest a few passages to read. Even if you don’t have a Bible or you are not accustomed to reading it (it’s possible it could be extremely foreign to you) I have bookmarked some links here for you to read. I usually don’t do this in the Sentinel blog but this is an exception.
Read about an individual who had been married multiple times, whose life reputation was a catastrophic mess, and ran into Jesus one day unexpectedly and how we changed her life. You’ll find this in John chapter 4, from the beginning Intel about the 42nd verse.
Read about a very comfortable group individuals who were much like the “wise” in our society today who found divorce commonplace and the only solution for “irreconcilable differences.” You’ll find this in Matthew chapter 19 from the beginning through about verse 10.
Read about an individual dragged out publicly in front of Jesus who had been caught in an immoral relationship and notice how Jesus responds. You’ll find the story in John chapter 8 from the beginning until about verse 11.
Your take away is something between you and God but the one thing that resonates between all three passages is the abundance of forgiveness, kindness and tenderness of Jesus on the subject of human intimacy. My prayer is truly that during the calm times you will listen deeply to what God may be trying to tell you.
J.P Grier is a writer and developer at SentinelforChrist com – Sentinel-For-Christ is a network of Christian men helping each other to press deeper in Christ.