on grace

Happy Monday.  [horizontal smile]

I still owe a major recap (both of life and of training) of the Summer and I promise to get to that soon(ish).  I have a handful of half-finished posts that I've been working on for awhile, and I am really hoping to get back to a more regular schedule.

When I dusted off the cobwebs and logged back on to the blog this past weekend, I found this post that I had written awhile ago but not finished and had not published.  I thought hmm ... this is a good one I want to share.  

Quite some time ago, I read the blog of a friend of a friend (got it?) who divorced and then discovered he had a brain tumor.  Talk about an epic kick in the teeth, right?  I don't know him, but a lot of what he posted resonated.  In particular, I found myself nodding along with his comments that he relied, and relies, on his friends in this new stage of life, and that he is constantly amazed by how truly giving his true friends have been and continue to be.  I had (and continue to have) the same experience, especially in those early days.  Days when I didn't ask for help -- days when friends just showed up and did.  

It got me thinking about grace, and how so many people extended so much grace in those early days.  When you are in the throes of a separation and then a divorce, you can't really express your feelings in a coherent manner.  I look back at those days and it was really like triage: I survived because I had to, I put one foot in front of the other, I breathed in and out, I survived.  And I am so lucky that I had people who stood by my side and were there, were kind, were loving and showed me grace.  

I am fortunate that I didn't have any real naysayers in my life ... no people who wanted to criticize me for not working hard enough, for not caring enough about my children to "make it work", for "giving up", for disregarding my marriage vows.  I did not have to explain myself to those who loved me, and that was grace.  

Relatively recently (and long after my separation and divorce), an acquaintance on Facebook (an acquaintance who is not, and never has been, married or divorced) posted a link to an article that basically criticized the notion of divorce and essentially passed judgement on those who found themselves in an unhappy marriage and then divorced.  This Facebook friend said the following:  

Thoughts on this? What constitutes a "dead" marriage? I've never been married but my "map" has always been that divorce would only be an option for me if there was cheating, abuse, or addiction involved (which, chances are, I would see that behavior prior to marriage if I am in a relationship long enough with the person). Once I'm married, I feel I should know that person's core values and beliefs enough to gauge the likelihood of those things occurring. I guess my thought process is that "irreconcilable differences" or just "not being happy" in a marriage is not enough of a reason to divorce, especially if children are involved. Work on it - you fell in love with that person for a reason and if you're unhappy then that has more to do with work you need to do on yourself than anything else. The only way you would be modeling bad behavior is by allowing children to be in a continual unhealthy environment of cheating, abuse, or addiction. You're modeling good behavior if they see you are in a relationship free of those things and choose to work on your own "unhappiness" to grow as a person.

I sat there at my computer and read the post over and over.  My face was red, my hands were shaking, my heart was pounding.  And as much as I wanted to just ignore and move on, I did not.  I stood up for myself.  And I stood up for people in my shoes who went through the same thing that I did.  And I said this:

I have a lot of thoughts. As you know, I’ve been married once and am now divorced. So I can bring that perspective to the table. While you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, having never been in a marriage, or through the absolutely heart wrenchingly difficult process of divorce, your opinion is, quite frankly, overly simplistic. Marriage, even the best marriages with the most amazing and truest loves, is difficult. Marriage is a living, breathing thing independent of the people who comprise it. People grow, people change, time marches on. A marriage has to be strong enough to adapt to those changes. That’s so easy to say and acknowledge in concept, but in reality, it’s really just hard. I venture that most people are not the same people they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. Change is wonderful, but often very difficult. And sometimes permanent and divergent. No one enters a marriage thinking that divorce will happen; likewise, no one leaves a marriage without a hell of a lot of heartbreak. 

This comment of yours: “I guess my thought process is that ‘irreconcilable differences’ or just ‘not being happy’ in a marriage is not enough of a reason to divorce, especially if children are involved. Work on it - you fell in love with that person for a reason and if you're unhappy then that has more to do with work you need to do on yourself than anything else” is rife with judgment, and having been through a divorce (a divorce that was, by and large, amicable and a divorce in which children were involved), it made me bristle. To limit divorce as “only an option” where there is cheating, abuse or addiction involved is myopic in my view. Those are horrible things for sure. But irreconcilable differences are insidious. They don’t just happen overnight. They take time and they are destructive. By brushing them off as “not enough reason to divorce, especially if children are involved” invalidates, minimizes and undercuts the difficult decisions that many people make to leave their marriages. Without going into details here about my own situation, I will tell you that I did “work on it.” For years. But at the end of the day, ending my marriage was the healthiest thing for me, for my ex, and for my children who now have parents who are happy, well-adjusted and living a better life, which, in turn, makes my children happier, better adjusted and living a better life. They did not ask for divorced parents, and my ex and I work very hard to surround them with love and show them every single day that we are still a family, if not in a traditional sense. I am thankful that, by all accounts, we are succeeding. 

All this to say – before you make declarations like the ones above, give some thought to those who have actually had to go through it and who live it every single day. I am beyond grateful that I have friends and family who were, and continue to be, kind, supportive, caring, sympathetic, empathetic and just plain amazing and who understood that making the decision to divorce was done with a lot of thought and prayer. I was shown a lot of grace by the people in my life, and I encourage you extend that same grace to those facing the prospect of divorce.

She deleted her post.

I reproduce our exchange here not as a means to chastise her, but as a plea to anyone who is watching a friend or an acquaintance or a loved one go through a separation or divorce or troubles in a marriage to muster the strength to show grace.  The beauty of showing grace is that it is as active as it is passive ... by simply loving your loved one, without judgment, and being there and saying or simply implying that no matter what happens, "I love you, I am here, and I will love you," you are extending an incredible amount of grace at a time when everything is upside down, inside out and unrecognizable.  No one knows what to say.  Even now, when a friend is contemplating divorce and confides in me, I admit that don't know what to say (which is hard because I've been there). But everyone's journey and everyone's story is different.  So I listen.  And I let him or her know that there's no magic answer, but I am there.  

It's been more than three years, but I still cannot thank enough those in my life who showed (and continue to show) me that grace.  I am who I am today because of it.  I was able to move on, find myself again, and now, find a loving relationship in which I am truly in love and truly happy.  "I once was lost, but now I'm found ... was blind but now I see."  

There's a reason that the song calls grace "amazing".  It truly is.  

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