Monday, November 15, 2010

If You Want to Know Why I Got Divorced....

"So what does your husband do?"

It is a question I should be used to. Along with all its varieties. Since I wear a wedding ring and have three kids that are usually with me, it's a reasonable query I can't fault anyone for asking.

But I haven't gotten used to it.

Or to the inevitable reactions. They are subtle. The questions in the eyes that most are too polite to ask. The slight shift in the way people relate to me. In some cases, a certain wariness.

It wouldn't happen as much if I was out in the general American population, but my circles of contacts consists pretty much of conservative Christians, usually intact families, in either a church or a homeschooling or a missionary setting. And that's by choice, because, in spite of my single/divorced demographic, that's still where I fit in the best.

But because that's where I am, the unspoken questions tend to pile up. People find out I am a missionary to Africa. And they find out I USED to be a missionary with my husband in Nepal and India. They hear me say my daughter went to India with her dad. They find out I homeschool, and the kids do part of their school work on their days with their dad. They find out he is still in mission work.

Nothing quite matches up.

Some people do assume the best. The wise ones. The ones that know life can get weird, even for Christians. And I sense that too, when it happens, and appreciate it.

Then there are the ones who are the way I used to be. Me at 16, 19, 20, 25, that had all the answers and was fairly narrow in my views. The me that knew if I just followed all the rules of moral Christian living that things would turn out right for me. And if someone's life didn't turn out right- specifically, if someone got a divorce, well, they had obviously messed up somewhere and not followed the rules. All divorced people were at fault somehow in my mind. And not fully trustworthy as a result. They must not have "been good" or they wouldn't have gotten a divorce, and so they probably still weren't "good" and should be avoided. Or at least, silently judged in my mind.

And now, I'm on the other end of that, and I see people looking at me with the same eyes that I used to have.

Doubt not that sowing and reaping are real.

I'm fortunate enough to have an awesome and impressive collection of life-friends who know me for who I am, and not by my demographic. It's when I meet new people, who don't have any history with me that I struggle. Or when I have to get up and give a talk about what I am currently doing in Liberia. Recently I was in the middle of a such a talk in front of a group of new people before I suddenly and awkwardly realized I really didn't know how to segue from "I was a midwife for four years, then I stopped practicing when I got married, had three kids, lived in Hong Kong and did full time missions in Nepal" to "Now that my kids are older I'm getting back into midwifery, and oh, yeah, did I mention I got divorced? and never mind that, I'm going off to Liberia to help build a clinic."

I mean, there were kids in the room. Not to mention MY kids. As they usually are. Which means I can't give any explanation other than, "Unfortunately, after almost 13 years of marriage I became a single mom." On the day of this particular talk, I felt so awkward and unprepared I even skipped that, which led to more awkward stuff later when we were sitting around talking.

I try to put a good face on it. And accept others' reservations when they show them, because I understand so well where they are coming from.

But sometimes I get tired of carrying this particular cross.

Would you like to make it easier for me?

Let me tell you how.

If you are one of those newer people in my life, (or even if you have been around a while) take the time to get to know me as a person. If you want to, ask me those awkward questions. As long as I don't feel any hostility, I really don't mind. And as long as my kids aren't around, I am happy to answer any questions you have about how I got where I am today. And then when I tell you, consider having me for a friend anyway.

I'm a pretty decent person under the big red D on my life. The best thing about me is, now that I have no righteousness of my own left (it was filthy rags anyway, not sure why I was so proud of it), being a recipient of God's grace, I know how to extend that grace to others, regardless of their circumstances and struggles.

It may not be divorce in your case, but there are other situations that are equally painful, not to mention the every day issues that everyone on the planet has, if they are honest. Whatever it is, I now make a point of sowing grace into it, instead of judgment. It's way more fun, not to mention Biblical.

So if you need some grace, look me up.

I'm sowing as much of it as I can.

15 comments:

  1. Roxanne as I'm reading this I'm thinking of His eyes for you. How He sees you and the grace that flows from His heart for you. Many times, people, and yes well meaning Christians don't have those same eyes. My prayer is that you will be surrounded by people who have graceful tender eyes and that as you show this type of grace to others, it will grow.

    Thank you for serving the Lord faithfully. You bring Him great joy!

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  2. Thanks Stacey! Appreciate your kind words, and the grace that flows from you.

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  3. Coming over from GypsyMama!
    I can only imagine how the "d" word can be such a difficult word to be associated with. Not being there myself, but learning through friends how it can be. I hope I live with a sense of awareness without setting them aside as different, but so much of what you said is such a good reminder! Thank you!
    I'm also a missionary (for 11 years) in various places through Europe, most recently Spain. Blessings to you and Merry Christmas!

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  4. I love your honesty. I can totally identify with your feelings of who you used to be versus who you are now and the awkwardness that sometimes causes when with people who knew that "old" you.

    I'm not divorced, but I know life can get weird. And I'm sorry for your pain, both of the divorce and now having to manage the fallout in your life and ministry.

    I love the pic in the bluebonnets, btw. That wasn't taken in Liberia...more like Texas! ;)

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  5. Thank you, April. I have realized that blogging about weirdness and honesty and grace has a much wider application than just my personal circumstances. Thanks for confirming that. And yes, the picture was taken in Texas, where I live when I'm not someplace else. :-)

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  6. Tina- thank you too!! (My replies got out of sequence somehow.) (I love the gypsy mama.) Wow- Spain- I think that would be harder than Liberia in some ways. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this! I can't imagine what it must be like to constantly deal with watching people's expressions as you know they are filing you away into their mental filing cabinet of a demographic. Thank you for sharing. Really.

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  8. Stopping by from Gypsy Mama. It was brave to post this and share it.

    I can't identify with divorce so much, but I know that awkward moment in conversation with strangers when you have to tell them something that always seems to make THEM uncomfortable. I face it a lot trying to know what to say about losing my parents. You never know exactly when it's going to come up, or how, ("My mom is so hard to shop for-What are you getting your mom?" Uh...nothing?) and for some reason you want to make it as easy for the stranger as possible.

    For a while I tried to ease through it with things like "no, my parents are gone" until someone asked me where they went on vacation. Now I just sort of grit my teeth and accept that life can be messy and painful and think that no matter how the conversation turns out, I'm the one that lived through it, so I can take it.

    Thanks for sharing, it makes me think I might have the courage to post on some of my own "ugly" topics.

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  9. I admire your commitment to serving Jesus, no matter what others think. Grace is so underused in the church and I pray that God blesses you with tangible examples of grace in practice since you were brave enough to share these words with us!

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  10. Thanks Seminary wife, va grown, and Melissa- you don't know how much it means to have your support and encouragement. It always makes me happy to think something I've experienced or written about may be able to encourage someone else.

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  11. "life can get weird, even for Christians." Yes, indeed! Sometimes we forget, don't we, that none of us is perfect and all have fallen short of the glory of the Lord. After my mom died, my dad remarried and then divorced in a very short, awkward time frame and it unraveled many relationships around us. Like you, we've learned that Christ is all about putting us back together. Even if it's not in the way we expected.

    Thank you for sharing your truth and reminding us that we all are walking testimonies to grace.

    ~Lisa-Jo

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  12. Thanks, Lisa Jo, for sharing your family stuff too. I love your blog, and I really appreciate the opportunity you gave us to share our "chocolate words" on your site today! I made some new friends because of it. *hug!*

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  13. Oh WOW! I have to give thanks, again, to Lisa-Jo for setting up this link with these amazing posts. I am blown away at how each one I have read has spoken to me.
    Sister, let me just say that I, too, have been divorced. I, too, was one of them--the other people. Non-divorced, questioning all those marriage break-ups. I shudder to think of her. I never imagined it would happen. But it happened. Was it solid, clear-cut adultery,Biblically based divorce? No. I've seen worse. Much worse. Was it bad? It was to me. In world where I can't deny that divorce has taken hold on so many families. Christian families. Where, YES, the enemy has attacked and dulled our senses and our views of marriage--I GOT DIVORCED. And like you, I struggled. I am remarried. Never one to be a closet anything. To hide anything. Sometimes to a fault.
    But I left. Several times. And then I went back. But that final time I was leaving Egypt heading for the Promised Land.
    It is what it is and this I know: God blessed me abundantly with the man I am married to.
    It took some time for me to resolve the whole thing. To sit through a sermon where divorce was mentioned and not cringe. But I let Him sort it out. I let Him show me heart. Where I was wrong. Things I could not see then. I grieved. I shared my brokenness with my ex-husband. I asked his forgiveness. I had only seen what he did and didn't do, the hurt I felt.
    I say all of that to say that God is so faithful. Always faithful. And we don't have to live under a cloud of condemnation. We can be at liberty to share our stories. The truth. The naked truth that many may not want to hear.
    But that's okay. Grace. It's so much better that way. That's why my blog is insert grace here. It's needed daily. Hourly.
    Thank you for sharing! Sorry to hog up so much space.
    Much love to you!

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  14. Oh Rena! You don't have to apologize for hogging space. I appreciate you taking the time to post, and share your experience. On this blog you can take all the space you want. Especially when the subjects are truth and grace.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly. I walked that road of divorce many years ago and was living in a part of the country that some jokingly call the little metal bar in the middle of the buckle of the Bible Belt. I used to get all kinds of accusatory glances when they discovered I was divorced. Fortunately, when I said "that the pastors of a Southern Baptist Convention member church moved me out of my old home" most folks tended to drop their judgment of me. It was the weirdest thing.

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