Guilt, Surviving Adultery and Divorce, Uncategorized

My Scarlet Letter

My name is Dena, and I am divorced.

There. I said it.

I have worn the scarlet letter “D” around my neck for four years now. It was not a word that I ever wanted—or expected—to define who I am. As a matter of fact, it’s the last title I ever expected to be associated with my name. I prayed hard about whom to marry, and I know without a doubt that I followed God’s will for my life.

But, here I am.

My marriage of 16 years crumbled as a result of infidelity. I found myself a single mom of three young children. My ministry of pastor’s wife was stripped away. My identity of wife and minister vanished into my past. I became defined by the scarlet letter “D” hung around my neck.

Even though I could easily argue that I had biblical grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32), I still felt dirty and sinful. Even though all of my godly advisors were telling me it was time to walk away from the marriage, I couldn’t hear God’s voice condoning it (God hates divorce—see Malachi 2:16). Even though I knew the children were suffering in the environment, I couldn’t see how I could walk away from a commitment I made to God—and man.

But, I did.

As I struggled to find my identity—to find healing and restoration—I went to church. There, I heard the pastor make a comment about “divorced people.” The sin and guilt were piled higher. I tried to dig my way out of the humiliation heaped upon me. Just as I began to get my head above the rubble, someone reminded me that divorce is a sin, that it disqualified me from ministry, that I must repent. Again, I began to sink in the mire. Over and over, the cycle continued. I would begin to dig out of the horror and humiliation only to have well-meaning Christians pile on the accusations.

Dealing with guilt and shame is something that we must all do. We all have sinned (Romans 3:23), and we all deserve death (Romans 6:23). We all suffer with a certain amount of guilt and shame for our past. But God loves us so much that He showed His love toward us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We didn’t have to clean up our lives to earn His approval; He gave it to us in spite of ourselves.

I have been divorced for nearly four years now, and I still have occasional bouts of guilt. However, I have learned some valuable lessons over the years. Perhaps they will help you deal with your own guilt.

We must remember that guilt and shame are not from God; Satan—the accuser of the believers—is the source.

One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. Job 1:6

Satan wants us to suffer in guilt and shame, to be so paralyzed by our past mistakes and regrets that we can’t move forward. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy the abundant life God came to give us (John 10:10). God’s purpose is to give us an abundant, rich, and satisfying life. We cannot enjoy that life if we allow ourselves to wallow in guilt and shame, if we listen to the accuser whispering lies in our ears. When the Holy Spirit comes to convict you, His goal is to encourage you to change your ways—to repent of your sin and walk in obedience to God. When you repent, God remembers your sins no more—but Satan WILL continue to accuse you.

To combat Satan’s lies, we must come to know the truth.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

What is the truth? According to John 14:6, Jesus is the truth! As I grow closer to Christ in my daily walk by choosing to abide with Him, by allowing my mind to be bathed in His word, by walking in obedience to Him, I find that He sets me free from the burden of shame and guilt. What does the Truth say about me? He says that I am precious, redeemed, the apple of his eye, his chosen people, his treasured possession. He says that I am forgiven and free!

As I seek to walk in obedience, God calls me to release my past and look to Him to redeem it for His glory.

But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34:22)

My past happened. I can’t change what has happened to me. I can’t go back and make things different. We all have a past, and we all have sin (Romans 3:23). But, God remembers my sin no more! He has taken it and thrown it as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). When God looks at me, He doesn’t see my sin. He sees the righteousness of Christ. He sees a child washed by the blood of the Lamb, whole and purified. If He forgives my sin, I must forgive myself.

So many scriptures point to renewal, redemption, restoration. God delights in taking our failures, our losses, our hurts and pains and leveraging them for His glory. Think about Joseph, cast away in prison and slavery for years only to become the one God used to save the entire land. David committed horrible sins of adultery and murder, and yet he was known as a man after God’s own heart. Saul persecuted Christians before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus. His life was changed in an instant. However, his reputation was so bad that he had to change his name to escape the guilt of his past. There is no past so bad, no sin so horrible that God cannot leverage it for His glory.

I must realize that there are people who will continue to condemn me for my past, but I must choose to listen to God.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Romans 8:33-34

Unfortunately, I still meet people who believe it is their duty to point out my failures and mistakes. But, I live for an audience of One. I live for the approval of God, not man. I am secure in my standing with Christ, and I choose to walk with my head held high. I walk away and ask God to make my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6). I ask Him to be my defender, my protector. I ask Him to cover me from the accusing words of others.

The past happened to me, but I can choose the impact it has on my future. I can choose to be shackled, held back, locked in a cell of shame and guilt. Or, I can ask God to redeem my past and use it for His glory, use it to encourage others. I can choose to learn from my past so that I have a brighter future.

What have I chosen to do with my past? I have chosen to embrace it! God has given me a new compassion for people, a new opportunity to minister for Him. God has given me a story that allows me to relate to people I never could before. God has given me a deeper, stronger, sweeter faith through the trials of this life (Romans 5:3-5). God has given me the opportunity to comfort others with the comfort I have received from Him (2 Corinthians 1:4). I actually like “divorced” Dena much better than I liked “perfect” Dena!

My scarlet letter is “D,” but perhaps you have a different letter hanging around your neck. Maybe it’s an “A” for adultery or addiction. Maybe it’s a “P” for pornography. Maybe it’s an “I” for insecurity.  Maybe it’s a “J” for judgmental or a “G” for greedy. Regardless of the sin, regardless of the shame or guilt, God is the answer.

But [I] am not like that, for [I] am a chosen people. [I] am a royal priest, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, [I] can show others the goodness of God, for he called [me] out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

I am divorced, but I no longer bear the scarlet letter “D” around my neck. Instead, I choose to see myself as whole, healthy, forgiven, healed. I choose to wear the title of “Princess” because I am a daughter of the King of Kings!

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8 thoughts on “My Scarlet Letter”

  1. I am so sorry that life didn’t work out like it “should” have. I’ve been divorced three times, so I can relate to the feelings of embarrassment and shame, and the judgment that comes from others. I’m glad you’ve chosen to pick up your true identity and leave behind the scarlet letter! In case you want something fun to read on this topic, I’ve included one of my favorite posts, Dirty Undies: http://lessonsbyheart.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/dirty-undies/

    Have a blessed day in your beautiful white robe!

    \o/

    1. I will take a look at your post! I like myself so much better these days, that I’m OK with the way life has turned out. I have so much joy and hope for my future that I can’t even think about looking back! I love my beautiful royal robes!

  2. Wow Dena. I am beyond words. Thank you for confirming by belief about a loving God who doesnt see a “divorcee” but an apple of His eye. Even though am accused and looked funny for having filled for divorce, i know that i am at a stronger and better position in my walk with Christ than i ever had before.

    Thank you for this block…i look forward to many more. God bless

    1. Oh, Nikki! You have put a smile on my face! You are the reason I do this! There’s so much more to every divorce than most people understand. I, too, was the one who actually filed for divorce even though my husband left the covenant long before. It doesn’t matter, though. God promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us from our sins–and to redeem our past for His glory when we surrender to Him! Walk forward in the love of Christ, into the abundance Christ came to give. Know that you are clothed in the robes of the redeemed! God bless you!

  3. Thank you Dena for sharing. My husband left me 2yrs ago for someone else. I couldn’t even say the word divorce without bursting into tears. I still have not filed yet, I know he won’t. Some days are still such a struggle to move forward. There were no children involved and at times I feel so alone, so abandoned. I left my country to be with my husband, so I have no family around me either. I have been going to a new church for the last year and a half, and for the most part feel accepted, but how do you get over the feelings of failure, loss and loneliness? I just feel like I’m in a place that is stuck.

    1. Diane, my heart aches for you! I STILL refuse to select “Divorced” as the option when I completing papers. I HATE that word, and it’s no one’s business why I am single! It is a process to recover, and it is one you must embrace. You must believe that God has GREAT plans for you! 1 Peter 5:10 has been a huge blessing for me: The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

      God’s plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants to give you the abundant life (John 10:10). He wants to wipe away your shame and guilt. He has forgiven you–and you must forgive yourself.

      This journey is a long and difficult one, but it can be filled with the most amazing blessings. God will show you Himself. When you are lonely, He says, “I am your friend.” When you feel insecure, He says, “I am your security.” When you are in need, He says, “I am your provider.” When you need a healer, He says, “I am your Great Physician.” Whatever you need, He says, “I am…”

      How do you meet that Great I AM? You surrender! Every morning, you throw up your arms and cry out to Him, “I can’t do this!!” You daily read and repeat scriptures to yourself (Try Psalm 37:4-7, 1 Peter 5:10, Jeremiah 29:11 for starters). Day by day, moment by moment, He will meet you where you are, comfort your broken heart, and begin to put you back together. He will be faithful to meet your every need.

      Find someone who has been there to be your friend, someone you can pour your heart out to, someone who will truly understand. Surround yourself with people who are immersed in God, who have peace at every turn. Be transformed by renewing your mind–by immersing yourself in the word. Believe that God will do an amazing work in you so He can do an amazing work through you!

      You are in my prayers!

  4. I am disappointed to hear that someone would condemn you for divorce on biblical grounds. As someone who has lived through a spouse’s infidelity and subsequent divorce I know the pain and bewilderment that comes as a result.
    Yes God hates divorce but he made an exception for it when it comes to immorality because of the pain inflicted on the heart. I found it very interesting that those who were free to express their thoughts about someone else’s pain have never lived though it themselves. This is not to say that i feel no responsibility in regards to being divorced. Yes I do have many regrets and I accept the fact that I share the blame for the failure of my marriage. And yes sometimes I think of how I could have handled the situation differently or more maturely. ( Even 18 years later). All that being said I would add that we must remember that God knows our hearts (JER.17:10) , and how fragile the human heart is. He will use every situation in our life for His purpose if we yield ourselves to Him. It has been a long road for me as a single parent but I would add that for me I have learned lessons that I don’t think I could have learned any other way. It has also made me more compassionate towards others in pain.
    In closing I would say if you have been through a divorce on biblical grounds you have already experienced debilitating pain. But God is a healer and he doesn’t just treat our symptoms, He heals us in the depths of our heart and soul.

    1. I completely agree with you, Will. The people throwing their stones are mostly those who don’t know me well. The church(es) where we served over the years stand fully behind me, knowing the type of wife I was and how hard I fought to keep our marriage together. However, there will always be “Pharisees” who think they have the correct interpretation of scripture–and that their man-made rules are necessary for a relationship with God.

      As I have gone through the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that God truly hates divorce. But, I don’t think it’s the “sin” of divorce that He hates; He hates the widespread pain and devastation that it causes. Malachi 2:16 is actually in the context of the spouse who is unfaithful. The passage is talking about how much it hurts God to see the unfaithfulness. It is much more about the spouse who is unfaithful, the spouse who causes untold pain.

      God is a healer and a restorer, and that is the God that I have come to know through the pain that I have experienced. I actually have another post written (coming soon) about “Divorced–To God’s Glory.” It does not matter what you have been through–divorce, addiction, adultery–God can take the ugliness of our past and leverage it for His glory…if we let Him.

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