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Posted by: Lisa
on Oct 17, 2010
It was 6:00 pm and I was in a bit of a predicament. I was standing in a very crowded restaurant bar next to two gentlemen on bar stools and they had been there a while. I was trying to mind my own business but noticed one of them smiled and tipped his golf cap. Being a single woman at the time, I began feeling uncomfortable and tried to appear preoccupied with waiting for the rest of my party to arrive while the hostess arranged a table for 7. As this man turned to face me, I thought I knew what was coming and hoped I could get out of there without being rude. But I was about to be surprised.
"Would you like my seat?" he said. "Thank you for offering," I replied with a polite smile, "But I'm waiting for my friends... they're making a table for us." He introduced himself as Mike and then an unexpected and interesting conversation ensued. Surprisingly, this late-40- something gentleman was quite an open book. He talked about his contracting business, then a recent golf trip with his buddies, and then his 3rd wife and teenage son who "hated him." Since I had also been through a divorce 6 years earlier, I felt sad for him. He said he used to be Catholic, used to serve mass as an altar boy, referring to that time in his youth as "the good ole' days." Admittedly, he was dissatisfied with life, but reasoned that it was all good because he could come to the bar after work each day to get an "attitude adjustment" before he headed home.
I briefly mentioned my own divorce and that I, too, was Catholic, but added that my faith was what got me through it all (in hopes that I might send a positive message about practicing the faith). I mentioned the group of friends I was meeting - also Catholic and great to work with. And right about then, they showed up and our table was ready. I thanked Mike for the conversation and said goodbye, still feeling sad for him.
Unexpectedly, Mike approached our table after a few minutes. He was not drunk, but he was clearly under the influence of the "truth serum" he had been drinking. He said to us all, "I want you to know that I am jealous," and he laughed somewhat awkwardly. "I'm jealous because you have your faith." Everyone at the table was quiet and attentive. "I was supposed to be a priest," he said, pointing to his own chest. "I've known that since I was a kid." His eyes welled-up a bit. "But I got a girl pregnant and all bets were off. I haven't been back to church since and now I'm on my third wife. You don't know how lucky you all are. Sorry to interrupt." Then Mike turned and left.
That was 10 years ago and the memory of that encounter is still vivid. I related to Mike because, although my circumstances were very different, I too had allowed the world to pull me away from my faith in a very dangerous way. Six years before my chance meeting with Mike, I was struggling with my husband leaving me and not really understanding how I could reconcile the fact that I was "divorced and Catholic." That was so contrary to everything I had been taught my whole life. In my morally weakened and emotional state, I became highly susceptible to what I call, "the culture of divorce."
The culture of divorce poses itself as an oasis in the desert of pain and suffering, but in reality it is the ultimate mirage... actually, more like a huge pit of quicksand. There are well-meaning people who congratulate you on your divorce, thinking that type of encouragement helps you feel better and the issue of the pain is avoided altogether. That is the first mistake, thinking that avoiding the pain is the way to heal, when addressing the pain is the real place to start. They always know the "perfect person" to set you up with on a date.
In the culture of divorce, the environment is laced with an "anything goes because you deserve to be happy" attitude that suggests all kinds of immoral behavior are completely appropriate and acceptable, based on the premise that indulging yourself is the path to healing. There are endless opportunities for finding new relationships to help you "heal"; casual dating and intimacy, weekend flings, new "loves", etc. Unfortunately, I found myself immersed in this culture for a time after my divorce and what I received in return was anything but healing. In return, I received confusion, bitterness, heartache, severe depression, total dissatisfaction with life, and a strained relationship with God.
After my marriage fell apart, I was so disillusioned that I allowed cynicism to take over. I started to believe that "til death do us part" was a myth and from that point, I began to settle for less. "My dream is life-long marriage, but since that's not possible, I'll have to find happiness some other way. I know I shouldn't be involved with this person, but he makes me feel good, attractive, appreciated. Where else will I find that? And then I reached the point of the ultimate form of settling for less - Even though I know it's wrong, it's all okay because God understands.
I finally realized that doing it my way was the wrong way and I was headed for disaster. My mistake was trusting in myself instead of in God, the One who knows best how to make me happy. Instead of clinging to my faith for support and healing, I gave in to the world and its lies. I wanted to be happy and I knew the only way to achieve that was to leave the life I was living - the lie I was living - completely behind, so that's precisely what I did. It was a difficult proposition of course, but one that had to be executed. I allowed my conviction to do what was right embolden me in my decision making.
Making those decisions was not easy, nor was it fun. I had to cut off bad relationships and build new (good) ones. I had to force myself to step out into uncomfortable and unknown territories, which was scary at times, but I let my conviction to be a better person and be closer to God be my motivation.
In the end, I realized there was a time and a place for everything, and the time for me to be with someone would come... but not before I had healed and done the work on myself that needed to be done. When the time for me to meet the man God had chosen for me came about, everything about it was right. I was truly free to fall in love with him because I had been through the annulment process, worked hard on myself, and was as healed as I was going to get. And it was an incredible experience! We will be celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary on June 17th.
It's easy to get sucked into the culture of divorce because of the sadness, loneliness, and heartache. Even if you have the personal strength to not sucumb to the party lifestyle, get into inappropriate relationships, sink into depression, etc., you must still beware, because the main goal of this culture is to make you lose your faith in God. Many good people lose their faith altogether because they are so hurt and angry. If you are struggling with this "Culture of Divorce" here are a few suggestions to help you detach from it and find the real path to healing:
1. Focus on yourself. Give yourself time to heal. Reflect on the things you want to change, and write those things down. Then, write down how you will make those changes and
2. Make prayer a simple conversation with God. I found praying this way a great comfort... speaking to Him just as I would a trusted friend and asking for strength to do what needed to be done.
3. Be bold! Trust that God will take care of you. Take the steps you need to take, without hesitation, to detach from what is holding you back. God will not let you down!
4. Keep your eyes on the goal. When the temptation to do the things you know will divert you from your goal present themselves, say a quick prayer for strength (God, help me!) and remind yourself why you set this goal.
If you think about it, children trust us in everything! They trust we will feed them good food, protect them from harm, take them fun places, buy them good things. Why should we, children of our Loving Father, trust Him any less? He knows better than we do what will make us happy. Especially in this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as Christ beckons us to return to Him, come closer to Him, let us open our hearts to Him and resolve to take a step closer to Him each day. I will be praying for you all and I hope you will pray for me, too!
Posted by: Lisa
on Sep 22, 2010
Mother Teresa reminded us while she was alive that if we have not suffered incredibly we haven't really loved, because to love is to suffer. If you are suffering now because of your divorce, you know these words to be true. And no doubt, you know only too well what having a "bad day" means.
Bad days characteristically just come out of nowhere and hit like a semi truck without warning. For some people, they are completely debilitating and make everyday life difficult, if not impossible to live through.
Losing a loved one is difficult to cope with and when that is compounded by betrayals, nastiness, and deceit, it is only natural that your heart will need a lot of TLC. We are not stone cold beings, but flesh and blood, with a heart created expressly for love... it's the human condition and Christ himself lived this, too, especially during His passion and death. You can count on the fact that He understands you and is very close to you as you suffer.
Posted by: Lisa
on Apr 09, 2009
Happy Good Friday to you all! As we commemorate the suffering and death of Christ today, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about my own divorce experience and how I found ways to see the positives about my situation.
When my ex-spouse left almost 16 years ago, I was devastated. I was suddenly overwhelmed with extreme emotions; anger, shock, sadness, disillusionment. For the first few weeks afterward I felt quite dazed and numb. Later, I began to ride the merry-go-round of revolving emotions as I tried to move forward in life. I was an emotional wreck for several years afterward and it was primarily due to the fact that I was angry with God. I was cold in my relationship with Him and although I still attended mass each Sunday, it was very difficult to do. I wanted to know WHY! Why did you let this happen, God?!
It wasn't until I set aside my anger and embraced my faith that I began to find some answers. And I realized something profound... my divorce was not part of God's plan for my life, but honestly, my marriage was not part of His plan, either. When I looked back at the relationship I had with my ex-spouse both before and after we were married, I realized how I never once asked God if marrying my ex was what He wanted for me. I made no spiritual discernment whatsoever. I simply got lost in the self-centeredness of my own plans. I regret that mistake like none other.
From that point on, when the pain of what had happened was difficult to bear (which was pretty much every day) I would visit Jesus on the Cross in some way; sometimes at Church, sometimes in silent prayer, but always placing myself at the foot of the Cross and laying my suffering at His feet. I was weak, sad, and lonely, and the only real consolation I found was there with Jesus as He suffered for me.
Doing this helped me see that there were good things happening as a result of my divorce, primarily, that I was now free to practice my faith without hesitation. My former spouse was a Catholic when we married, but I typically went to Mass alone on Sundays. He had a difficult time with my desire to practice my faith and told me at one point that if he knew I was "that Catholic" he never would have married me to begin with. But now, I was free to be as Catholic as I wanted! And believe me, after years of feeling at such odds with Christ, I welcomed every opportunity to practice my faith, and did so with joy.
There are many other "silver linings" to the black cloud of divorce that I found along my journey of healing and probably the most significant one is the gift of forgiveness. I have been able to forgive myself for the terrible mistakes I made, both during my marriage and after the divorce, and I have been able to completely forgive my ex-spouse, something that I used to believe was impossible. It's a great and freeing feeling to release that burden and I have prayed for his well-being and that of his wife and childen for years.
Today, which is also my ex-spouses birthday, I pray you will bring your sufferings to Christ, whatever they may be, and that He will grant you the consolation and peace you seek, as well as helping you to see the "silver linings" of your own situtation.