I divorced my wife yesterday.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it.
I hope my motivation for writing this is more for the sake of figuring that out than for the sake of obtaining the kind of attention typically associated with personal drama, though I’m willing to admit that may be part of it. Attention is my drug, and that’s aggravating because I’ve always had negative judgments about those who seemingly make poor choice after poor choice for the sake of satisfying what seems like a subconscious craving for attention, even if unfavorable. It just seems juvenile and destructive to light one’s own home on fire in hopes that the neighbors will notice.
But then there is something very humbling about finding common ground with those whom I have long thought poorly of.
“Do you believe your marriage to be irretrievably broken?”
I took a second to answer the judge. It seemed an important enough question not to answer too quickly. Seated before a figure of authority, this time alone, and this time without family and friends watching, but instead only a few strangers seated in the empty pews behind me, I wanted to question the judge’s definition of “irretrievable.”
After all, isn’t God capable of anything? Might it not be the will of God for this marriage to be redeemed? How then should I know what may or may not happen? Certainly it’s possible, maybe not by my efforts alone, but if God were to decree it, who am I to say that it cannot be? If I can learn to trust entirely in Him for my peace and satisfaction; if time goes by; if hearts soften; if wounds become less fresh; and if she not only permitted, but desired to come to table with me; would it be inconceivable? Impossible?
I should hope not.
After all, more broken than this marriage am I, wretched man that I am. But is God not capable of taking me, broken as I am, and redeeming me? Can he not retrieve me?
I should hope he can. And I should hope he has!
I wanted to say that I did not know. Maybe? So far as I can see? But that’s not why I came to court. That’s not why I took the day off, submitted the appropriate papers and got my ass out of bed on time. I went to court to be divorced, and I’m intelligent enough to realize that this question is not being asked of me so that I might make it into an elongated introspective moment. It’s being asked so that I can say what I need to say for us to proceed. So, with the same words with which I began my marriage, I ended it.
For now. Maybe forever. Probably forever. I’m certainly not holding my breath waiting for the phone to ring. But then, if I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know that it’d be a wise choice for her, or any woman, to seek me as I am right now.
The truth I don’t want you to know is that I’m not ready. I’m not ready for a new relationship. I’m not ready for her to come back, extremely unlikely as it is, and I’m not ready to lead anything or anyone in any meaningful direction. I’m talented, capable and well-versed in the truth, but I’m also broken as fuck.
Not because I’ve been broken, even though this shit is pretty heartbreaking. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m talking about the type of broken that I’ve been since birth. I’m talking about sinfully broken. I’m talking about the type of brokenness that tempts me to rely on attention for value and women for strength.
Truth: I will never be perfect. I will never be without sin or fault. I can however be better than I currently am, and if nothing good has or will come from this very trying period, may it be that my eyes have been opened to the ways in which I lack.
Ten years ago I would have told you that I was a Marine, and that was (is) true. At that time though, I did not have the perspective to know or admit that my Marine-hood was not everything. Today, I understand that while military service may be noble, it is not eternal, and thus it is not as important as I once thought.
Five years ago I would have told you that I was a married Christian man, and that too would have appeared, if not been true. She wore a ring. We went to church. We even volunteered occasionally. But today, I can see things that I did not then.
I’m not implying that we weren’t married. We were. Whether or not we, or I, was Christian is difficult to say. It’s much easier to follow Christ when you’re having sex with your spouse, the bills are paid and the people at church like you. What I am trying to say is that the rock upon which I built my home, my marriage and my family had not until recently been load-tested.
Now it has. And we didn’t fair so well.
Much of that is my responsibility. How much or how little as compared to her is irrelevant and unhelpful to measure. What is helpful is the truth, painful as it has been to see. And the truth is that I’m not as infallible as I thought. I don’t trust God as much as I thought I did, and that even if I could convince any and every pretty young thing to notice me, confide in me, and entrust herself fully to me, the truth is that I’m not sure she or they would be wise to. I’m not God, and much as I would like to be, I don’t give everlasting life to those who fully entrust themselves to me. I disappoint. I slip up. I forget, and I apparently waver on my promises.
Yes, that may be human, but I’m not admitting these things because I want your comfort or sympathy. I’m admitting them because they are true, and because it is when I forget these truths that I am tempted to lead a woman to think that I am worthy of placing her ultimate hope in, when in reality the best thing I can hope to be, whether for a friend, a coworker, my wife or my daughter, is a stable, steadfast, compassionate, faithful and resolved pointer toward God.
On my best day, the things you might appreciate most about me are at best only glimpses of who God is and what he has made available to us, and my momentary impersonation may be comforting, but it is not eternal.
I know people try to celebrate divorce. We paint it as freedom and chain-breaking and all sorts of other things. I think that’s called coping.
It sucks. Maybe it would be less crappy if I believed marriage only to be a temporary union of two people for the sake of making both parties more happy than they might be alone, in which case it would make perfect sense for the marriage to dissolve if either or both parties merely felt unhappy. But I believe marriage to be more than that.
I believe marriage to be a reflection of who God is and more specifically, an illustration of the relationship between Christ and his church. For this reason, I feel sad, not just because I am suffering through this thing, but because I have failed something bigger than myself. Something more important than myself.
I’ve failed marriage, and in so doing I feel like I’ve failed you. I had the opportunity to show you, oh family member, friend or stranger, that marriage can be a beautiful thing. I had the chance to show you how Christ loves his church and how the church can trust Christ as its leader, lover, provider, protector, etc. I had the chance to provide order to chaos, both at the micro level in my own home, and in a larger context, through my marriage in a very screwed up world.
I feel like God handed me a very useful tool, and in my complacency and immaturity, I dropped it. I dropped it and I broke it, and for as best as I can tell, it’s broken for good. If it can be fixed, I’ll be amazed. If God should ever hand me another tool, I might laugh, because as I sit here today, the simple truth is that I do not deserve to be entrusted with anything more. Certainly, I would like to convince you that I am a leader, a man of integrity and a great asset for your team, mission or whatever. But truthfully, my record shows me as one equally prone to success as to failure, and no amount of military service or church volunteering can undo the havoc I have wrecked in my family.
I don’t have much to say other than that I am sorry. I do not expect you to ever trust me again. I do not expect you to ever share a meal with me again. You’re right to be angry, and much as I hate to say it, maybe you were right to leave.
Thank you for taking care of our daughter. I’m sure it is not easy. I don’t know much about what you are doing or with whom you are spending your time lately. I just encourage you, as you have often encouraged others, to make wise choices. Wiser choices than I have made, at least.
Remember to change the oil. Park in legal parking spots. Continue to forgive your mother, and please remind our daughter that her father loves her, and that God loves her only more.
I will always be grateful for our better days. In your many moments of splendor, you were a wonderful, patient, and forgiving wife. I’m sorry I did not love you better.