Today, I share with you one of my sister’s writing from an upcoming book to be published. It will contain real-life stories, just like this one, to help encourage, uplift and bring hope when life situations break you. I have walked in the shoes of Diane; not just once, but twice. I pray this shared story uplifts the heart of someone today.
This vacation would be like no other. I had no inkling of the devastating news I would receive. As we packed and prepared for our summer family vacation, I felt a nudge from the Lord to talk to my husband Steve about an incident that had happened years ago earlier in our marriage. Brushing it aside, I thought, “this happened 20 years ago. Why would I bring that up now while we are getting ready for vacation? “This can’t be God”, and proceeded to talk myself out of such a revealing moment.
Our vacation was going along well, until the last evening. After dinner, I had decided to take a walk along the lake behind our campsite. Steve followed me after I had been gone for a few minutes. It was at this time my husband of 21 years asked me for a divorce. My mind reeled, thinking “Divorce?” I was plainly in shock, not suspecting this scenario at all. It’s amazing I could even think of saying, “you’re involved with someone aren’t you?” His response was “yes.”
After this confirmation, I recalled the nudging I had experienced prior to leaving on vacation and began to relay to Steve the incident of 20 years ago.
We had been married for a few years and living in California. We were at a very low point in our marriage. Steve had been discharged out of the army and doing drugs. I was working and feeling very alone taking care of our son Steve, who was between two and three years old. During this time of loneliness, I had an affair. As I relayed this to my husband, his face expressed shock but still dead-set on wanting to end our marriage.
It felt like a tsunami had hit me with violent force. I felt physically ill.
In that moment, he expressed to me that I was a great person, and even a great mom, but we were just too different. I was a Christian, and he was not. “You should meet someone more like you.” Already feeling emotionally stunned, he expressed he wasn’t happy.
How do you recuperate from that, having to pretend none of this happened, since my youngest son and his friend were with us? We had the packing up and the drive home yet.
Upon returning home, he wanted to stay living in our house together for at least another week. After what seemed like eternity, he moved out. Before he did, we sat down with our two boys, Steven and Karl, and told them the uncomfortable news, “mom and dad are getting a divorce.” I left the room crying forced to face the fact that our marriage was over. Thankfully, my boys were very comforting to me.
Seven years went by before he filed for divorce. Divorce is a painful experience. You really do become one. I experienced pain from crying but also an actual physical tearing from deep within my soul. Thoughts would swirl around in my head wondering “what am I going to do now? I can’t believe this has happened to me?”
I needed help in getting through this, so I began going to divorce care and read a book on divorce from the perspective of the one who asked for the divorce. It was a real eye opener. I started to grasp his emotional disconnect when he broke the news. He had already separated himself from me and made the decision to leave. Now I had to start the process as well.
Divorcing is a lot like death, except the person is still alive. I went through the stages of grief. In order to get through my stage of anger, I began working out, lifting weights, because I didn’t know what to do with myself. Some of my angriest moments were watching my children trying to handle our divorce. I eventually came to the place where I would allow myself the space to feel it emotionally. I knew I needed to.
Something remarkable happened to me in 2013 as I sat in church. Our pastor was preaching about husbands and wives, something that was still uncomfortable for me to hear. As he preached, I felt my emotions stir again, feeling the pain. In that moment, I brought this pain to the Lord, giving it to Him, not knowing what else to do.
That Sunday evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized the emotion I was feeling was unforgiveness. “After all this time, unforgiveness?” The Holy Spirit was telling me that I needed to forgive Steve. Forgive him for taking away my dream of growing old with someone. I recalled thinking that thought when he told me he wanted a divorce. Praise God for that extraordinary evening when God’s presence burst into my life and I relinquished my unforgiving heart.
Through all this, I have learned I cannot control anybody else or their choices, only my own. I’m responsible for me……Diane. I had to deal with regretful thoughts like “how come I couldn’t win over my husband like the Proverbs 31 woman? I did pray for him, fasted for him?” I had to come to terms that I was not responsible for the choices he made.
I’ve learned to embrace today and realize that once today is gone, it’s gone.
I have found a strength I never knew existed in me – living alone, doing things on my own. My circle of friends has become larger. I am totally surrounded.
Today, when I look at myself, I see someone completely different. There are things I will not settle for again, when I do meet someone else. It has made me know the Lord as my husband and deeply enriched my faith family.
Interviewed and written by Sharon Garner