Since my divorce, the holidays seem to have become a reminder of my circumstances. As I traverse yet another holiday season, there are reminders everywhere that I am still alone. That pain—a pain of the hurts of the past, a pain of hopelessness for the future, a pain of the current loneliness—just seems to sneak up on me at the most unexpected moments.
One such moment happened last weekend.
My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary! I am so happy for them, so proud to be the product of a loving marriage. I was blessed with absolutely amazing parents (and siblings), and we have all been planning for a big celebration.
My siblings, kids, and I all arrived to decorate and put the finishing touches on the celebration. My precious sister-in-law had somehow been delegated the official party planner, and she had worked herself to death planning, preparing, purchasing. She had every detail carefully planned. She had worked at making decorations and preparing the menu. She had made the invitations and accepted the RSVPs. She was ready.
But, there always has to be something that just doesn’t go as planned.
Several little mishaps left us laughing hysterically. The meatballs weren’t warming up the way we wanted them to. The cheese sauce was a total and complete disaster. And then, just before the guests were to arrive… We blew a breaker and lost power to ALL of the warmers, the speaker, and the computer slideshow. Now the food would certainly not be warm!
As the guests began to arrive, we had to shake off the mishaps and pray that we could somehow restore power and have edible hors d’oeuvres. We began to mix and mingle with family and friends that we had not seen in years. My parents had friends from high school, college, young adult years, and current traveling companions who had all come to join in the celebration. There were cousins and other family members who we had not seen in many years. The entire wedding party was present. It was an amazing opportunity to honor my parents’ and their lasting marriage!
Finally, Dad stood to introduce the family. He began by introducing us four children. And then, suddenly, the sting of being alone took away my breath as he began to introduce the spouses. As I stood in front of the crowded room, I fought the tears that stung my eyes because—again—I was alone, incomplete. As we celebrated a marriage that had gone the distance, I stood in front of friends and families as a reminder of the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy Christian marriages.
Me—the one who had always enjoyed the favor of God’s blessings on my life. Me—the one who had been a success at everything I had tried. Me—the valedictorian of my high school class and summa cum laude graduate of a private college. Me—the one who had devoted my life to ministry and serving God. Me—the one who now stood alone. Me—the one who had failed at the one thing most important to me.
As we lined up to take pictures, my dear sister-in-law pulled me close, instinctively knowing that the situation was bringing me pain. There I stood, surrounded by people who loved me and yet completely alone. There I stood, in front of everyone with no spouse to hold me close. There I stood, knowing that I would probably never have the privilege of celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.
I was completely unprepared for this attack. And, yes, it is an attack! You see, even as I visited with people throughout the evening—most of whom know the story and many of whom follow my blog—there was NO ONE casting judgment on me except me. There was NO ONE reminding me of my situation except me. There was NO ONE blaming me for my divorce except me.
But isn’t that how the enemy traps us? He begins to accuse us by whispering lies. “You are a failure, a disappointment. There will never be anyone in your life. You are destined to die old and alone.”
It seems that I was bombarded by those accusing—and completely false—thoughts. Even as I had visited with people earlier in the evening, I had expressed my absolute amazement at how God had cared for me throughout these dark days. I expressed my complete faith that God has my future—including a man who will love me fully and completely. I expressed my peace and contentment that God will bring that man to me in His time. I can’t even start to express the many ways God has confirmed that to me! I am completely confident in Him!
But, in the moment, the doubts began to creep in. The impatience of wondering when it would happen engulfed me. The frustration of wondering why He has not allowed it to happen yet took me by surprise.
As I drove home—and as I write this blog—the tears flow freely. I can no longer hold them back as the pain and emotion take over. I am left wondering how to walk through yet another painful reminder of a failed marriage.
I keep running back to some of my staples—those scriptures that have carried me through the last four to five years.
You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3
I know that I cannot allow an attack from the enemy to derail me from what God has planned! My divorce is all to God’s glory. He will use it—is using it—to help others. I will say with Joseph, “What man meant for evil, God will use for His good” (Genesis 50:20).
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:11-13
God’s plans for me are good! There is an amazing future for me—complete with a man who will hold my hand and love me with the love of Christ Jesus. We will use our pasts—no matter how ugly they may be—to serve God together, to show others how God redeems our ugly and sinful pasts. We will lead others into the Promised Land of knowing and serving God with every ounce of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed! Joshua 23:14
How do I know that God has a man in my future? Because I have heard His voice—repeatedly. I could fill a book with the stories of how God has stepped forward and reassured me that He knows my heart’s desire and that He will fulfill it. He has told me that the day is getting closer, that I will one day enjoy the human companionship that He designed us to enjoy. He has given me promises, shown me glimpses of my future. I cling to those promises because I KNOW that His promises are always fulfilled.
Until God sees fit, I simply must run back to Him. I will let Him wrap His arms around me and remind me that I am precious and deeply loved. I must let the truth of His word penetrate my heart and mind. I must remember that God has allowed this into my life and He has a purpose in every hurt, every trial, and every delay. I must remember His tender mercies that are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
Lord Jesus, I beg you to pour out your love on me, to embrace me. Hug me as only you can.
Post-Script: Immediately after I wrote this article, I went to church with a heavy heart. As the worship service began, I found myself with tears streaming down my face again as the pain of aloneness weighed upon me. Rather than singing praises, I poured out my heart to God.
As the sermon began, I looked over the notes in my hand. I began to sense God telling me that this sermon was for me! The pastor spoke of the humiliation that Joseph and Mary both had to endure in their quest of obedience to God. He talked of the rumors and criticism that they faced from others. He talked about the self-talk that surely Mary and Joseph had to battle.
“We must live for an audience of One,” he said. “We must become so obsessed with what God says that we forget what others say about us.”
I know that is true! I pray regularly that God will allow me to live for an audience of One, but I know last night I experienced the sting of concern for what others had to say about me. I needed the gentle reminder.
“If you’re not ready to be criticized for your obedience to God, you’re not ready to be used by God,” he continued.
How many times in recent months have I faced criticism for my stand for purity? How many times have I had to deal with the sting of judgment from others? It has become more frequent, and I find myself remembering how the prophets were treated. I think about my Christian brothers and sisters around the world facing death for their faith. I remember that scripture teaches that we are blessed when we are persecuted. Surely I can endure a little criticism for what my Savior has done for me!
“Extraordinary acts of God,” he said, “often start with ordinary acts of obedience. You have no idea what God will do through you simply because you choose the path of obedience.”
Those words hit me HARD! You see, several months ago God specifically told me that I have no idea the scope of the ministry I am praying into existence.
“You have no idea,” the pastor said repeatedly.
The very same words God had given me months ago. Even though it seems as if He has forgotten me, today He reminded me that He has not. Today, He reminded me that He is working in the silence. Today, He reminded me of the bright future He has for me. Today, He reminded me to cling a little tighter to the hope and the promises from Him.
Today, He reached down and hugged me.