My Journey Through Divorce to Forgiveness and Love.
“You better develop some thick skin”
After my last blog post, I received a very intense and thought-provoking letter. In this letter, an old friend explained how she felt sorry for me because I was “embarrassing myself” and how she just wanted me to be a real woman. She went on to say a lot much more with venom and fury. Whew! I can assure you it was a DOOZY! This woman is incredibly witty and intelligent and an amazing activist for her beliefs. I have never been so verbally chastised or “put in my place” in my life. Apparently, I am coming across as a “bitter, emasculating, angry and vengeful man-hating feminist”.
I am grateful she spoke up, because I know if she is thinking those thoughts, many others are as well. We are so polarized. We love to take sides and if something offends us, then we are instantly justified to shed our light and wisdom on the subject because “we know best”, we have the authority of God’s word on the subject. And that’s all we need…to be RIGHT. And to make sure that everyone knows and follows the rules. Otherwise, “get what we deserve” because of the choices we make…DUH.
I have been around “good” Christian people my whole life. I am a Christian…but here is the thing…being a Christian doesn’t make me right about everything. It doesn’t make me justified to judge other people It does not give me a license to judge what is right and what is wrong. Only God sees our hearts.
I am not here to write about who is right and who is wrong. I am not asking you to take sides…I am writing my story.
In every great story, there is a good guy and a bad guy. In real life, the good guys are sometimes the bad guys and the bad guys are sometimes good guys and it is very confusing and upsetting. Watch the movie “CRASH” This movie is brilliant at challenging our beliefs and responses to situations and people out of fear and beliefs etc. It really blurs the lines between right and wrong, good and bad, and whose side we should be on.
It is necessary to break through these harsh lines of right and wrong. These lines create battlefields of war in which we all take a side and fight each other until somebody wins and somebody loses.
To this end, regret is the only real winner.
I have been told that as a writer who is shamelessly putting it all “out there” you really need to develop some thick skin…and I instantly thought “You got that right!” When I received that letter in my private messenger box on Facebook…I was blown away by the pain and anger directed at me over my life. I had better develop some thick skin Indeed!
I realized something life-changing in that moment…
I do not need to develop “thick skin”.
What I need to develop, what we ALL need to develop as writers and as human beings is BIGGER hearts. Thick skin doesn’t protect us at all. A bigger heart will. Somehow it does. That may seem counter-intuitive, but it is absolutely true. Remember the movie “how the Grinch stole Christmas?”
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. “how the Grinch stole Christmas” (original cartoon version) is simply and completely heartwarming. My son Josh went through a "grinch" phase when he was little. He watched this movie EVERY SINGLE DAY for over 6 months. This movie is a wonderful depiction of what happens to us when we let our hearts grow bigger.
I want everyone to know, that my first husband and myself, have a very cordial relationship today. We share parenting responsibilities, we share major holidays together with our kids, and he was in fact invited to my wedding. We are friends…not that we hang out on a daily basis…but I would most definitely call him my friend.
My intention in speaking about these incredibly embarrassing and shameful topics of domestic violence, divorce, and painful human inadequacies, is to share the pain in order to heal the hurt. I am willing to bet that you all have your own shameful guilty secrets. Many of you have experienced and felt the pain of divorce, and much more than will ever admit to it have experienced domestic violence. I am telling my stories to spread awareness and bring hope by talking about it. I am not here to paint scapegoat pictures of blame and shame…me “the whore”…him “the abusive husband”
These words do not define us…what they do is put us into our boxing corners.
“For the love of GOD…stop embarrassing everyone with your shameful behavior…please STOP coming off as a “bitter, emasculating, angry and vengeful man-hating feminist!”
How does everyone feel now?
My mother once said something to me that I have never forgotten. She said, “It isn’t what we say to people that matters…it is how we make people feel that matters”.
In my case, the “good” Christians out there who know and love my first husband struggle with my choices and they ask themselves…”How does she get away with it?” She can’t just spill the beans on everyone, embarrass everyone, air her dirty laundry, play the victim, have everybody love her for it and meanwhile just destroy peoples’ reputations. She has “no right” to do that!” It is an absolute BETRAYAL.
Never before in history has our “image” meant more. Our emoji, label, logo, signature, brand and instagram/facebook is who we are. It is our identity.
This image of ourselves represents what we believe, who we are, and what is important to us. We LOVE our image. It feels good to us. It validates us. We stick to the same brands. When suddenly something changes with our brand or label or image it creates emotional chaos in our lives…it rocks our boat. We feel betrayed. VULNERABLE. Hence fight or flight. We HATE how insecure it makes us feel inside.
For some true brand lovers…It is unforgivable! They have to stop buying the brand or buying the music, or reading the books, or watching movies with Kevin Costner in them because they “HATE” Kevin Costner…or whatever…people do that stuff all the time! Remember the Amy Grant scandal? “Good” Christians stopped buying her records…SHEESH! Come on people! OWN IT. We even un-friend people.
To many of you that know my first husband and his side of the family…I am perpetuating the agony and the pain, by embarrassing and shaming us all…
Where is my PRIDE? Where is my COMPASSION?
It is exquisitely painful to watch someone we have identified with making a complete fool out of themselves…When they “Jerry Springer” their lives. When we witness the blathering drunken fools…the homeless…the addicts, and all the other stupid people who are victims of their own “bad” choices. It is super embarrassing for some of us to admit “my daughter is a lesbian” or My son is a heroin addict” or “I am addicted to porn” or whatever it might be that isn’t a socially acceptable image within our select group…we don’t want those images in our lives.
When I think about all this…STUFF. I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son. In the story, the prodigal son just takes off with his inheritance, leaves his family and his values behind to run into the world where he makes HUGE mistakes and squanders all his money...ends up living in a pig pen with no money, no food, and no future. He totally gets what he deserves…TRUE JUSTICE is served.
What a great story…aren’t we all happy now? YEAH! JUSTICE! WOOHOO!!! Happy dance!
That isn’t the end of the story.
It is only the beginning.
When the son finally comes to the end of himself, no money, no friends, no food, living with the pigs. He is completely stripped to the degree that even his PRIDE is gone (that is always the hardest to let go of) and he is completely humbled. COMPLETELY.
He has 2 choices left…it is either enjoy life living with the pigs or run home to Daddy.
What a complete LOSER.
My GOD! Imagine the burning humiliation of being a complete and total fuck-up. OUCH! Everybody knows what a loser you are…you have reached the complete and absolute bottom. What do you have to lose at that point except for PRIDE?
In those moments before you hit the floor and crash to the bottom of your miserable existence PRIDE feels like a lifeline, but it is really just a rope that you hang yourself with.
Once you let go of pride, you can start moving forward past all the hang-ups you have and your perspective really changes. You realize that you have nothing left to lose and everything to gain and you find yourself humbled and filled with hope because letting go of pride and judgment changes our hearts. We all carry within us a spark of hope for a small gift of mercy…we long for it…we need it. We all need it.
Back to the story…The son comes crawling back with his tail tucked beneath his legs (completely ashamed, knowing he does not deserve to be called son anymore) He is just hoping maybe he can at least be a servant in his fathers’ house. When the father sees him coming...he literally FREAKS OUT with joy and excitement and GRATITUDE…He is just so completely grateful that he has his son back. He MUST celebrate. Right or wrong, the response is pure thankfulness and joy and celebration. Not exactly a picture of justice.
Rather, an incredible picture .
AMAZING LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND JOY ABOUND IN THAT MOMENT.
The father is beyond excited that his son is back and he is thrilled and wants to CELEBRATE! He is so grateful and happy that his son is HOME. He is killing the fatted calf and celebrating with a feast! His joy is expressed to the fullest and He LAVISHES his son with undeserved LOVE and joy and forgiveness and welcomes him back with hugs and kisses and restores back to his son everything he had in the beginning and MORE besides. It is OVERWHELMING and it BREAKS me with the beauty of it.
In Isaiah 61:3 it says…He gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that we might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified…
Not everyone responds to this story the same way.
It is still not the end of the story.
The prodigal son has a brother. A brother who has always been the “good” brother and this is the twist in the tale. The brother in this story is very angry. He is completely OUTRAGED and INCENSED by his fathers’ response to his brother’s return.
That is for you to figure out.
No-one is equal to the sum of their mistakes.
What really matters is how we respond to and fix these mistakes and the festering wounds of pain and shame within our hearts. These are secret wounds we all share that are too embarrassing and difficult to talk about and for anyone to know about. We are both “good” Christian people. We don’t do these kinds of “bad” things.
CORRECTION…we don’t admit that we do these kinds of “bad ” things. We don’t talk about any of it openly. It is totally embarrassing to “have problems”.
Christians don’t have problems. We have an image. We portray that image. What is your image? We all have one. It is important. It identifies us. That way it is easy to categorize and put everyone into our boxes. That keeps us safe. That is how we develop and grow our thick skin. We avoid the boxes labeled…Whore. Abuser. Loser. Heroin addict. Homeless person. Alcoholic. Homosexual. Christian. Atheist. Republican. Democrat. Black. White. Divorced. Obese. Feminist. These are dirty words to many people. Please don’t identify me with “those people”. But what happens when you are the whore, and your daughter is the heroin addict? What then?
We have both done some tremendous work in the area of forgiveness and transformational healing in our family relationships. I believe it is better now than before. We have civility. We have respect. We have shared parenting. We have 4 amazing kids together and we share the joys and concerns and financial responsibilities post-divorce in a remarkable way. Our relationship has moved beyond marriage and divorce and has transformed into something different, but no less important relationally. It is still love. Impossible for many to understand, but isn’t that the very nature of love? It is not to be understood…it is to be given and received as a gift. Not something we deserve or earn. The power of it is what heals our broken hearts and sets us free. Perfect love has no room for judgment, fear, and condemnation. Perfect love makes everyone happy and no one gets left with bad feelings…only forgiveness, acceptance and a heart that grows bigger and more full of love.
My advice with every relationship in your life is not to develop thicker skin, but to grow a bigger heart.
Empower yourself to take the journey to forgiveness and love.
Grow a bigger heart.