Okay, so I’m new to this blogging world. I’ve only been on Twitter for about a year, and through that I have learned that I love the blogosphere and everything it has to offer to a person who wants her voice heard: A place to speak her mind, a place to bear her soul, and most of all, a place to potentially make a scratch of a mark in the Kingdom of God.
So, here I am.
I have written gobs of academic papers. I have a C.V. prepared for PhD work. I have mentors who write books – all the time. But I have never been a good journaler. I never kept up with one, not even in middle school, when that kind of girly, lock-and-key personal journal stuff mattered. Not in seminary, when I probably could have used it for a difficult spiritual journey. Not at any time in all that marriage counseling or marital emotional abuse (again, really could have used it then). But, I never did.
Now that I am re-learning how to be me, however, I am also learning the power writing has in my life. When I face tough times in my relationships, when I need to get a thought out and bring it to my counselor, when I have strong views on issues – these are the times I not only want to write; I need to. Desperately.
To become a better writer (and a more consistent one), and to generally better myself as a person/academic/minister, I have taken up reading a book a week for Lent.
This past week, I have been reading the book Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner. Her honesty moves me. For once, I feel like the academic, ordained minister that I am has a soul-friend: someone who gets me. It’s suddenly okay for me to have doubts and still influence people, to be divorced and still godly, and to give life even when my life feels so taken away by both the misdeeds of others and my own failings. She gives me words for my confusion, my pain in this “middle” of my faith.
So, this is where I start: a place of both review and reflection on a new favorite book. I’ll take each part section by section, as things have touched my soul.
For my first post, I’ll start with her thoughts (and mine) on being divorced and a woman in ministry.
Her words: “Some days my mantra was I will stay in this marriage because I am a Christian and Christians stay, but other days, I thought: if the choices are Christianity or divorce then I will just have to embrace my secular humanism because I am not sure I believe any of this anymore and it is one thing to devote twenty minutes every morning to praying when you are not sure you believe anything anymore and it is another thing to organize your whole life around a marriage you don’t want to be in because a God who may or may not exist says let no man put asunder.” (Still, p.7)
This is the struggle of holding on, of giving oneself to a relationship where there is no longer any emotion, no longer any love. For her, this journey seems more an issue of unhappiness (we are not told her reasons for divorcing). For me, it was pretty clear-cut emotional abuse. But whatever the underlying cause, holding on to a dead marriage because people tell you it is sinful to leave is no way to live. It makes faith buckle under the strain of deep, emotional burdens.
I realized through this process we cannot fully understand a marriage unless we are one of two people in a marriage: man or wife. And no one but they can decide when a marriage is over. God calls us all to love, and when a child of God’s isn’t loved or cannot love anymore, perhaps it is time to leave the pain, experience the grief, and start a new chapter.
Winner: “And also because of the few jagged mean things good Christian people said to me, things I shouldn’t hold on to, but I do, like a friend into whose lap I poured all my misery said, Well, you know Lauren, if you leave your husband, you are leaving Jesus…”
I expected the very same reactions from my friends. After months of being sure I couldn’t sustain my marriage alone anymore, I left abruptly one night, surprised my parents at home with two packed suitcases, and left everyone to wonder why. I wanted to explain to them that I had good reasons. That I wasn’t just “giving up.” That I had put hours, weeks, years into finding a solution that wasn’t to be found. But I knew that for some people it would never matter. That for some, the only reason to leave would have to be outlined in Matthew, from the lips of Jesus, for it to be “good enough.” And still they’d want me to try harder. Painful as divorce always is, there is no reason to continue in a tortured relationship just to appease someone else’s deeply-held theological beliefs.
I knew I had tried all I could. And the marriage was still over. When I left, I felt the rush of relief, knowing that so much bad had finally ended. I also felt the pang of loss as I gradually moved my things from my home, split up my five dogs, and made space for myself in a house with already too many generations under one roof (my grandmother also lives with my parents and myself).
“Something a friend said to me, long before I left my husband: I don’t know if you will get divorced. I hope you don’t; I don’t know if you will. I do know that, if you do, two years later you will know some things about God that you don’t know now.”
Like Dr. Winner, I too, hope these words continue to come true. I know that one year after I decided to leave, these words are already true in many ways. I know so many new things, about God, about myself, and about what God can do with me and through me. And I have found moments, glimpses of peace in the presence of the Divine.
I am sure that no there won’t be a time where I feel completely at peace with the loss of a nearly decade-long relationship, the loss of my early twenties, or the loss of my self-esteem for seven long years. But with every new day, I embrace my grief anew. Instead of making me ill at ease or depressing me until I’m unrecognizable, that embrace empowers my very being.
Grief and I are new to each other – I had avoided grief in favor of making peace in my former relationship, hoping to never have to face grief’s grip. But inevitably we will all face grief. Mine was a deep pit of loss that I have since reclaimed as part of who I am. As grief and I walk hand-in-hand, I appreciate the world and its wonders that much more. I learn one more thing about the nature and person of God. I become a better friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, minister, woman, person.