January 25, 2012: My first husband moves out, beginning the process of getting divorced.
January 25, 2017: My second husband and I welcome a baby girl into our blended family.
It cannot be a coincidence, these events book-ending the most difficult and life-giving five years of my life. I could not have imagined today from that date in 2012, but that is always the way with redemption. It never looks like you think or hope it will, yet it somehow satisfies the longing which almost broke you.
As I look back on those five years, especially through the lens of our current political climate, I see that my path was one of resistance. When my first marriage was suddenly revealed as beyond repair, I reacted with the same disbelief as so many felt the day after the presidential election this fall. “How could this have happened? Is this real life?”
Those questions were quickly followed by a swirl of lies that I couldn’t distinguish from truth. “This is my fault.” “It happened because I wasn’t kind/attractive/self-sacrificing enough.” “I’ll never get over this.” Thankfully, divorce is still considered a tragedy among my family and friends, so no one tried to tell me it wasn’t that bad, or I should just get over it and move forward with positivity. Well, not at first, anyway.
I grieved continuously for a year, wallowing in shit until I’d explored every nook and cranny of the hole left in my life. I needed to understand what had happened, to plumb the depths of the pain, to understand my part in the failing before I could do anything else. There was no hurrying through. This thorough grieving was in itself an act of resistance, in a culture that euphemizes death and is forever reminding us that our brave, smiling faces are the only ones others really want to see.
Finally, when I was done exploring the pain, I began to form a new community that would support me in my plans for recovery. I knew that I still had a long way to g0 and I wasn’t going to make it to where I needed to be without help. New friends and old, family members, a spiritual director, and divorce mentors cleared the path ahead of me and kept me moving forward when I had no energy of my own left.
My actions were small and daily: journaling and meditation, discipline in responding to provocation and well-thought out legal strategy. Self-care was paramount. Exercise was anger management and self-imposed strict limits on the use of social media and Google search kept me (mostly) sane. My progress was also small, and not always noticeable. Some days it was an accomplishment to get out of bed and show up where I was expected.
It took another full year before I began to see that redemption was coming. There are still days when the grief worms its way to the surface and the lies turn up looking a lot like truth. I am still practicing the same small acts of daily resistance because I’ve found it true what Desmond Tutu said: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.”
What I mean to say by all of this is simple: redemption does come, from even the worst tragedies, when we practice daily resistance in community. It may take years, and the process is painful, but what we learn a long the way is invaluable, and none of the energy spent is wasted.
Whatever you are called to resist, dear ones, keep at it. There is new life on the other side. Whatever longing is threatening to break you right now, beloved, it can become holy and productive if you embrace it. Draw a community close around you that will see you through the rough days and take care of yourselves. Most of all, never give up hope. Redemption is coming.