“Those whom God has joined together let no one separate.”
Book of Common Worship, Christian Marriage: Rite 1
© 1993 Westminster/John Knox Press
A week before Thanksgiving my husband of 16 years moved out. This was by no means abandonment on his part. It was a decision that we reached mutually and as amicably as possible, and the impetus for separating came from me. This blog isn’t an attempt to explain how and why we got to this point. Suffice it to say that we got here. While it is certainly true that there are two sides to the story of our marriage, and we both could probably do our share of pointing fingers and blaming, what I’m ultimately left with is sadness.
It is overwhelmingly sad when a marriage comes to an end. When I first set out in my marriage, I had nothing but high hopes for our long life together. Perhaps I was even somewhat smug about couples who created their own demise. Never would it happen to me, to us. But it has. Certainly our years together were not a waste. We have had some wonderfully happy moments, and most importantly, we have two amazing children. They are the best of both of us. So we work together to care and love them through this.
However the dark moments that come with this can also be overwhelming. I think about the phrase from the marriage service quoted above. Will I, as a pastor, ever again be able to say those words on behalf of two people and be taken seriously? Will I be seen as more empathetic or not to be trusted when it comes to offering guidance to couples setting out in a life together? I don’t know. A few days ago I sat in an ecumenical meeting of ministers and listened to one minister making the case that the ills of the world can be traced back to the breakdown of the family. He used the D word repeatedly. I sat listening to his rant – for that’s what it was – with my heart threatening to beat out of my chest, believing that the reality of my separation must be emblazoned like a brand across my forehead.
As horrible as that was, I expected moments like that. I expected judgment. I expected to grieve. I expected that navigating this new and narrow road would bring challenges and difficulties I couldn’t foresee. What I didn’t expect was how hard the reality of failure would hit me. I thought that being separated, ultimately divorced, would make me feel tainted somehow. But the underlying stink is that of failure. My marriage failed. I failed.
Yes, I know the failure is not mine alone. I collect pithy quotes from Pinterest about the necessity of failure. The fact that I’ve failed means that I’ve tried. Without failure there would be no wisdom, no growth. To live is to fail. Intellectually, logically, I know all of this is true. I know I have to work through this failure and that when I come out on the other side, I’ll be stronger and better and wiser, etc. to the infinite power. But the insidious nature of failure – at least for me – is that it restarts those tapes that I’ve worked so hard to shut off and shut down; the tapes of self-doubt and self-criticism. They are the voices that have played in my head for years telling me I’m not enough. Not smart enough. Not competent enough. Not brave enough. Not pretty enough. Not good enough. Just not enough. And they’re sneaky. They start playing at a low pitch, so you don’t notice them right away, but they get louder. They get a lot louder.
A friend who has gone through his own break up told me that I would walk through the fire a while. But one day I’d look back and realize I was through it. I find this an apt analogy, but the image that’s been playing in my head is that of being underwater.
I love to swim. One of the great triumphs of my childhood was when I could finally dive into the deep end of the pool, swim all the way to the bottom, touch the drain on the pool floor and swim back to the surface. There was always a moment when I wasn’t sure I would make it. I could see the top. I would be kicking with all my might, my lungs begging for air, and my mind becoming more convinced I wouldn’t survive the ascent. But then I would reach it, my head would break the surface, and I’d take a deep gulping breath, feeling brave for having done it.
Right now I’m underwater. I know the surface waits above me. I get glimpses of light and blue sky at that line where air and water meet. I’m kicking as hard as I can. Those voices, those tapes that tell me I can’t make it tempt me sometimes to just give in, to still my legs and arms, close my eyes and sink. But then I hear another voice, my voice, saying just two words. I repeat those words over and over, and I start kicking once more.
A while back I found a quote from Joseph Campbell that I cling to at the most difficult moments. It says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
I didn’t plan on this. Who would? Then again, some of the most wonderful facets of my life have not been planned. So I keep kicking. I keep swimming. I trust – and when I can’t, I rely on others to trust for me – that somewhere above me is the life that is waiting for me. It’s a life that contains joy and love and hope. So I keep swimming. And those two words I repeat over and over again? I’m enough.
|The life that is waiting for me is up there somewhere|