I find it interesting the way God led us to pose June’s question. To me (Tracy) the question asks us to consider more than one angle. As I tilt my head to the right it looks one way, to the left another.
There’s “how,” as in a methodology. What process did God use to change our perspective about someone else?
There’s also “who,” as in what person did He use to help us see in a different light?
When I first looked at “my person,” I saw him under harsh, fluorescent-like illumination. My view of him wasn’t natural. It glared. It got to my eyes, making my vision fuzzy. Fury, pain, and too many tears have a way of blurring things.
“I see marriage as an operation that sews two people together, and divorce is a kind of amputation that can take a long time to heal. The longer you were married, or the rougher the amputation, the harder it is to recover.”¹
My person is my ex-husband, Mike. I’ve held off writing about him and our situation until now. Now feels right. Now feels wrapped in forgiveness, but it wasn’t always so. I think it’s important to visit a bit of what it was to see what God did.
We were married for well over ten years. There were good years. And then there weren’t. Neither one of us were believers. Neither one of us went to church—until things got desperate and we didn’t know what to do with one another anymore.
Our marriage was in a sad state. Without God in the center of marriage, how does anyone hold it together? We don’t have enough hands. Believe me. I tried. My pride and my performance-driven nature told me I could keep it together until one day my pride said, “Enough is enough!”
Pride is an ugly animal. It roars and ravages relationships with others and with God. Pride is probably the biggest inhibitor to a relationship with Christ. When we think we’ve got things under control (or can get them there), we don’t recognize our need for Jesus.
When our marriage was in a season of desperation, we were surrounded by a sea of non-believers. Warning! Be very careful whose counsel you listen to. I had plenty of people telling me to leave him. Because I wanted to, I did. Oh, I didn’t really want to; I just didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I was mad. And I was embarrassed. How did we end up here?
I felt stupid, and back then especially I didn’t like feeling stupid. I still don’t love it, but I’m learning not to expect myself to have all the answers. I don’t. Back then, I didn’t know I didn’t need to. The Sovereign One has all the solutions I’ll ever need! Thank You, Jesus!
How does someone live in the same household as another person and not see addiction?
I walked around with blinders on, because I was too afraid to peer into what was really taking place. Only in hindsight did I see what was sitting under my nose. I wanted to believe he was just tired. Each relapse I wanted to believe it would never happen again. I wanted to believe in my fairy tale. Tracy married her prince, and she lived happily ever after.
But it wasn’t true.
No princess ever watched her prince’s head swim in a bowl of French onion soup. Over and over he took a dip. That image still breaks my heart. Addiction is sad. So sad. His hair saturated by the oily onion soup stench as his face swam in the cobalt blue bowl, cheese baked down its side. Kitty often would sneak up and secretly lap at the liquid.
There’s a lot I’ll leave out. No need to dredge through it all. After several relapses and not knowing what else to do, I put my foot down one last time. Out! And it ended. Amputated, Mike was completely cut out of my life in the physical sense. He didn’t step foot in the house again, even though we remained separated for a long time before we actually got divorced.
I think subconsciously I was holding out, waiting to see if he’d fight for our marriage and leave the substances behind. He didn’t. I don’t think he could. Wounded, I ran to other relationships for comfort. And I didn’t stop running and hiding in what others offered. Later, God showed me my pride in all of this. But I didn’t see any of that at the time. I was busy grieving in the weirdest of ways.
The day of the divorce he was a no show. For some reason that was one of the things that stung the most back then. I felt like he viewed our marriage as insignificant, not worth investing any more time in—not even for a court appearance to end it. The marriage was over without much fanfare. Later, I realized he either couldn’t appear in court emotionally or couldn’t because of addiction. It didn’t mean everything was always horrible, nor did it mean the time we shared was insignificant. It meant he couldn’t.
Over a decade spent with another person is never insignificant. It shapes us.
God changed my perspective about my ex-husband. God showed me the person I once loved is someone He still deeply loves. And I’m called to love Mike in a different way now. It is love to forgive, to release a person.
God changed my perspective when He showed me Mike was broken, just like me. I could no longer hate him when I saw his hurt. I recognized what that felt like, and I wouldn’t want that for anyone. God taught me too much about what love really is to want that for anyone–even if that anyone had inadvertently hurt me.
God has used the pain of that time, the trauma, to help me never lose sight of the blessings I have in my current marriage to Sam. We can’t take people–our marriages–for granted. We can’t assume just because something is good today means it will be good tomorrow. We have to make investments in one another, because we make withdrawals (even if on accident).
What methodology did God use to help me change my perspective about my ex-husband?
- It took time. I needed to distance myself from the pain in a healthy way.
- It took a relationship with Jesus. He healed my soul in ways I didn’t know I needed.
- It took reading God’s Word and learning (and believing) He had plans and hope for my future. I needed hope. Desperately!
- I began to understand my contribution to the demise of my marriage. His addiction was substances. Mine was work. My addiction was just socially acceptable.
- I didn’t see my own sin. I had a great big plank of adultery sticking out of my eye. The failure of a marriage takes two. Sometimes the sin is obvious; sometimes it’s not. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We all have our blind spots. God revealed truth in love. And then I saw.
- As I became more aware of my own brokenness, I was able to see my ex-husband’s. His addiction wasn’t aimed at me. I was merely caught in the crossfire, just as he was caught in mine.
- The more I experienced God’s love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, the more I was able to extend it to others. I read R.T. Kendall’s book, Total Forgiveness, which helped too. I forgave Mike long ago.
Forgiveness is not easy, but it’s possible. Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we need to forgive others. More times than not, I’ve learned it’s a bit of both.
Through it all, I moved from sorrow, to anger, to shame, to healing and restoration. I went through boxes of tissue. And the bowl of tears God’s holding in heaven? If it were anyone other than God carrying it…it would be too much.
On the other side of divorce, God showed me “everyone needs forgiveness, the kindness of a Savior, the hope of nations.²” I do. Everyone does. My ex included.
“My God is mighty to save.²”
Join me as I pray for my ex. I’m not sure where he is with addiction or with Jesus. I pray he is in recovery and I pray he knows Jesus. And that he’s happy. I know all are possible. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing those to my life!
How has God changed your perspective about someone else? Join the conversation here or on our Facebook page.
¹Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. New York: Viking, 2006.
²Zschech, Darlene, writer. Mighty to Save. Hillsong/Columbia, 2006, CD.