Exactly That Bad

Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…

Elizabeth Gilbert

During the implosion and eventual destruction of my marriage I had many conversations with God.

‘Kay, that’s not true.  Sorry, God.

I had ONE conversation with God, many, many times.  It went a little something like this: WHY, God?  Why?  If he wanted out, why could he not just say that?  If he wasn’t happy, why didn’t he suggest we get therapy?  Why does it have to be THIS BAD?  Why such humiliation? Why is he being so vicious?  Where did my husband go? I don’t understand. I don’t understand.  I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand….

At a certain point it became clear I was stuck.  In the absence of answers, I found myself paralyzed.  The life I had been living was no longer an option, but I couldn’t move forward.  My friends became really concerned for me.  Rightly so.  I was slipping into despair.  My best friend Angela decided that the kind of help I needed was above her pay grade, and went ahead and made me an appointment with the pastor at our church.  I did not want to go.  Angela didn’t so much care about that, because she is bossy.

She came to my house, put me in her minivan and brought me to church.  It was a hostage situation.  A very loving hostage situation, but still.

My poor pastor.  I met him at his office, and was crying before I even sat down on the sofa. He waited patiently.  It was a while before I could speak, but once I started I couldn’t stop. I told him EVERYTHING. All of the things. Things I’d not told my friends or even my sisters.  Things I’d not been able to say out loud.  He listened without interruption, and then said with such compassion and kindness, the words it never occurred to me would come out of my pastor’s mouth.

Laura, this marriage is not redeemable.

Say WHAT, now?

I don’t know what I’d expected, but it was not that. He went on with some words of encouragement, some very practical and wise advice.  At no point did he say anything to me about trying to work on my marriage.  About not giving up.  He quoted Romans 8:28, and he prayed with me. I did not know what to make of this.  I would love to say I took great comfort in his words and left feeling better, but I would be lying.  It did, however, plant a seed.

He was right, of course.  There was nothing I could do to save my marriage.  That’s what he was trying to say to me. He knew I could not want it enough for both of us. I couldn’t will my husband to show up. I couldn’t do the work for both of us.  He knew my husband was already done, and that I simply hadn’t accepted it.  And even though I didn’t leave his office that day convinced, it really was what I needed to hear.  I needed to hear it from someone who cared, but wasn’t in the trenches with me.  I needed to hear it from someone who knew the whole situation.  I needed to hear it from someone who revered marriage.

One night, after I’d filed for divorce, I sat in bed unable to sleep.  I had an epiphany.

I’d used that word before, but not in a serious way.  More like, I’ve had an epiphany!  High waisted jeans and bangs are not for me! This was different.

I had a moment of absolute clarity. Have you ever had a moment like that, where all of a sudden you know in your bones that something is TRUE?  That’s what this was.  I realized that things had to be exactly that bad.  Had they not, had they been any less painful, less shocking, less humiliating- I would never have asked him to leave.  I would never have filed for divorce,  I would never, ever have given up.  And I needed to give up.

I think about my conversations with God during that time.  I imagine Him, looking down at me struggling, in SO much pain, and SO confused.  I imagine it is not unlike when a parent has a seriously ill child and some awful procedure needs to be done.  Being devastated that your child needs to endure more pain, but knowing it is for her own good. Knowing it is necessary.  Knowing it is a life saving measure. I believe, to my very core, that the circumstances and pain of my divorce were a life saving measure, and a gift.

And so as I move forward and build this new life- happier and lighter, with a much clearer sense of who I am and what I want, I thank God.  I thank God every single day for the awfulness.  I thank God for making it exactly bad enough.

16 Comments on “Exactly That Bad

  1. Thought provoking piece, Laura. Makes me wonder where in my life, I have needed it to be exactly that bad in order for me to do what was necessary at that time. Interesting question to think about further. I am grateful for your writing.

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  2. Thought provoking post, Laura. It makes me think about, where in my life it had to be exactly that bad in order for me to do what was necessary at the time. I am grateful for the question and for your writing.

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  3. I sometimes look back and think, why didn’t I quit my ministry job sooner, while I still had some energy, while I still had some money in the bank? Why did I have to pour every ounce of everything I had into trying, until I was so broken, emotionally and physically, that literally couldn’t get out of bed for months? But then I am glad that I did because now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t have tried any harder. I have nothing to reproach myself with — I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t meant to do it. If I’d given up earlier I might always have wondered. Still, next time I hope I will know sooner when it’s time to leave.

    Thanks again for being so open and generous with your heart and your experiences, Laura.

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  4. Yes. I’ve had THE moment of clarity. I am getting ready to post about it again, because its anniversary is in November, although I can’t seem to do it justice when I write about that moment. I can’t tell you how it has shaped the way I deal with everything that comes up in my life; how it makes me remember that nothing is so bad when you are still breathing – breathing in the midst of pain makes me that much more thankful to be able to take a breath at all, and I seem better able to witness that phenomenon the longer I live. I think the good news is that our experiences of pain are directly proportional to our capacity for joy, so I’m just trying to take it all as it comes and ride it out, knowing that both sides of the coin are equally fleeting. xoxo
    http://mydailypresents.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/anniversary-of-an-ordinary-day/

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  5. This is hard for me. Lots of people told me basically the same thing when I left and was feeling ashamed of how far things went before I could leave. My friends told me that I would still be there if he hadn’t taken it as far as he did. Maybe they’re right. It hurts to think that it was all necessary to move forward. But I had never thought of it from this perspective of God watching a child need a painful procedure to save her life. You’ve given me something to think about, for sure!

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  6. You are a great writer Laura… I can’t remember if we talked about this specific Mary Oliver quote last week, but I am reminded of it now – “Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to realize that this, too, was a gift.”

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  7. I think that some of us who are older (and maybe some that are younger) grow up in a world where life is a cookie cutter calendar of life events that should happen at a certain age….that what you see on the outside is the truth, just like in the old weekly sitcoms. I find your blog to be very moving and certainly relates to many of us who have had our moment of clarity. When I had my moment, it wasn’t a happy one. Although my moment was very revealing, it was frightening, because that meant that I had to make the changes and I WOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR CHANGING EVERYONE’S LIFE. EEKS. Because the reason for the changes was well hidden and decorated with smiles and handsomeness and pretend love. But, somehow, you learn to move on…for me, I was moving on like a robot…but each step took me closer to knowing who I really am and to what this change could mean to my family. It could actually be a good thing. It could actually be teaching good lessons…so we move on and with each step we feel lighter. And those around us who think we are now suffering because of these steps don’t know how much better we actually feel when we get to the end of this decision making journey. We feel liberated and empowered. Change can be a challenging journey, but you know when it’s right, because you move full steam ahead and come out the other side the person you were meant to be. Thank you for your writings….they are wonderful and hit home for many of us.

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  8. Pingback: Things I’ve been wrong about for most of my life, part three « Ten Thousand Places

  9. Thank you for writing this! I have been sooo slow to let go, “for the sake of my kids” (my pride, really). I think now I should have found a way to leave years ago – but maybe the timing was exactly when it needed to be. I know I feel more ready now. That was awesome advise from your pastor. I felt so ashamed, in my Christian circle of friends, about how bad my marriage was, for years. (Our pastor had left, and I didn’t know where to turn for direction.) Now that it’s out in the open I feel so much freer and stronger than I could have imagined! I love the analogy of God as a loving parent with a sick child — that has been my reality for the last couple of years, too, and it’s exactly right. We need to courageously walk through the pain, instead of avoiding it. Baby steps!

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