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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Leon

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

-Romans 5:3-5

I hate divorce. I adore my second husband. He is the love of my life and brings me incredible joy. I still hate being divorced. I don’t miss my ex-husband at all, but I miss being not-divorced. It has been almost ten years since the decree ending my first marriage. I rarely speak to my ex-husband even by text now that the children are teenagers and everyone has a cell phone. Most of the ugliness and toxicity of the early years has waned and there is a (relatively) predictable rhythm to the ebb and flow of who is with whom and when. Still, I am sure I am not the only parent counting how many more years of shared custody we have left to navigate.

But I still hate it. I hate that my children have two homes and often feel conflicting loyalties. I hate that they are not home with me all the time and hate that they worry about when they will be here or there or “whose time it is". I know I have not been perfect in any way in navigating the tumultuous, agonizing waters of a broken family – especially when it was my heart’s desire to do anything and everything possible to keep it from breaking.

Divorce is the “gift” that keeps on giving, in all the worst ways. Being a child of divorce, I know this first hand. My parents’ divorce was thirty-eight years ago and it was still sad that both my parents wanted to go to the beach with us this summer but, for several reasons, could not be there at the same time. Despite spending many years intentionally processing and healing from that divorce and my own, it is still a chronic illness. When you have children, divorce is not “one and done”. It is day in and day out.

A new single-mom (2010)

Yes, there is forgiveness. That, too, is an ongoing process. Yes, there is surrender and acceptance and marveling at a forest of blessings that grew from the furrows of earth that were ripped into the landscape of my life in divorce. God is always faithful and so there is great goodness in the place I find myself years after my divorce.

And yet… some days, the hard parts still take my breath away and I let myself feel the ache and mourn the loss of the wholeness I wanted for my children and my family. I rage inside for a bit and reach out to wise friends who remind me of who I am and how I want to love with courage and sacrifice and truth.

It is another chance to hold space for two conflicting realities: The mystery of both/and.

  • I can be desperately in love with my second husband AND still hate divorce.

  • I can be grateful for growth in humility and trust AND still mourn when my children happily leave to go to their dad’s.

  • I can have faith that this cross has made me more the woman I am meant to be AND still stumble under its weight some days.

  • I can surrender to God with my whole heart AND still feel disappointment and loss.

It’s grief at the death of a family. Part of learning to let myself be loved is giving myself the permission to feel what I feel, even after ten years. I am intentional about not shaming myself for my feelings, and instead, I am learning to soothe myself with curiosity, kindness, and self-compassion. Our stories are hard enough without self-condemnation.

It feels like calming my own hurting inner child. If I brush her off and tell her to stop crying and pull herself together, she will likely just hurt more. Instead, I fold her into my arms and stroke her hair and whisper, “I am so sorry. I am right here.”

I deeply believe that my suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope. But, some days, I just can't make divorce be that shiny.

So this is what divorce feels like today. It sucks.

I pray you can let yourself be loved in your own sucky place today.

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