Backpacks were set out and organized in preparation for another weekend at Dad’s. This routine was still new to all of us and the stabbing pain of leaving them at the doorstep and driving away never seemed to dissipate.
My boys seemed so little in their beds.
The anticipation of having to endure this event the next day flooded me with sadness. As I laid my hands on my sleeping children, I thought about the massive changes that had happened in our family’s world so abruptly and permanently.
Heartbroken and powerless to change this new reality, I fell to my knees and wept. I uttered these words to God, an admittedly naïve prayer in my deepening but immature relationship with him, but a sincere request all the same:
“God, I never want to go through another divorce, ever again”.
I’m not 100% certain these words were a prayer as much as a decision I needed to proclaim aloud. The subtext of this prayer was to ask God to bring me the right man, fall madly in love and have a fulfilling, safe marriage that insured we would all live happily ever after forever and ever (amen). When I envisioned my future, I saw a charming house, shiny white picket fence, smiling handsome face beaming into mine and contented children happily chasing a ball in the yard.
Even as I scanned the horizon for my knight in shining armor, I felt God’s gentle nudging: I had some hard work to do to clean up my own mess. I had helped create the monster that was my marriage and if I prayed for a new healthy one, I needed to get healthy myself.
This prayer has led me on a journey of self-examination, exposure and finally expectancy.
“Examine my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
No sooner were the words of my prayer uttered then I enrolled myself in Celebrate Recovery. God examined my anxious thoughts and I discovered a whole set of behaviors based on a desperate, misguided understanding that love was earned, not freely given. This untruth fed a terrible fear that I wasn’t good enough, and I never would be. I learned the definition of codependency and better understood the absolute destruction it caused in my marriage. I learned that fear pushed me into a massive trap of people pleasing and perfectionism.
Most importantly, I learned a mighty personal truth about fear: The area in which I experience fear, is the area in which I don’t trust God. God showed me over and over in the most tangible ways he loves me deeply, madly and passionately – and I don’t have to do a single thing to earn his love. He showed me all the ways he pursued me, protected me and even guided me, even when I was so far away from him and busy idolizing other things.
“Expose me to anything that offends you.” Psalm 139:24a
My season of self-examination was extraordinary.
I was on a beautiful mountain top high. I’d met a man I really liked, I was fit and healthy and I was active in my church. But the season of exposure soon fell upon me.
God brings people into our lives to speak truth, and the truth I needed to hear exposed a sin that was not only offending God, but sowing seeds of destruction in the area of relationships. I learned I was drawn toward unhealthy relationships because of this sin. It’s a temptation that returns from time to time, especially in moments of loneliness, when I’ve been rejected or even when I’m just bored. I chose this sinful path to make the hurt and rejection “feel” better. I’d found ways to justify it, allow it and even feed it.
This season of exposure has been a long one, filled with peaks and valleys, victory and defeat. But God has been so faithful to remind me of my keystone prayer, “I never want to go through another divorce,” and it puts me back on track when I stumble off the path.
“Guide my path” Psalm 139:24b
Only recently have I considered that God may be hardening hearts and turning the eyes of men away from me on purpose. This perspective has ushered me into a season of expectancy.
God has placed me in a job that utilizes my every talent and ability. I can see the real difference my work is making. I can see for the first time how God is developing me to do more than I could ever ask, dream or imagine. There has been nothing more pleasurable to me than to be doing my work and knowing I am exactly where I am created to be.
As I’ve been praying for areas to start taking leaps of faith, he is beginning to infuse undreamed of desires in my heart, and showing me the steps that could lead me there.
Every decision I make, every man I glance toward, every word I say is filtered through the decisive prayer I prayed five years ago. I never want to go through another divorce again. I believe with my whole heart God will answer this prayer – it’s his desire as much as mine. I have found peace and even joy in the understanding that he may not answer in the way I originally intended; I may be blessed with the gift of singleness. God has a plan for my life that may be more than I could ask or imagine, as a single woman. Instead of turning my gaze toward a potential knight in shining armor, I am looking ahead to face the brilliant path God has laid out before me, with a certainty that my prayer will be answered. One way or another.