A friend of mine has encouraged me to write about divorce for a while. She wanted to understand the long-term effects of divorce and be able to share these effects with others. This is, I believe, a good project.
However, when I sat down to answer her questions, I became mentally tongue-tied. I couldn’t form cohesive sentences or think of logical ways to answer. This was not because I was struck with a sudden sense of my profound loss, but rather that it’s hard to disparage something that changed the course of my life so dramatically.
Divorce is a scourge, for sure. No-fault divorce has ruined a generation of parents and their children. One could argue, and some have, that divorce has helped to erode the moral fabric of the United States. I don’t doubt it at all. But when I sat down to answer these questions about what it was like as a child and what I perceive are the long-term impacts I was struck by a passage of Scripture that is often a seemingly pithy promise in terrible times:
We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I don’t recommend quoting this to someone amidst turmoil. It’s something that can be grasped when people have been able to absorb the shock of a traumatic event.
My parents divorced when I was six. I spent my childhood going back and forth between two households. They had an amicable divorce so there wasn’t much fighting that I remember. Of course there was trauma and sadness. I remember being at school events with both parents in attendance and feeling an overwhelming sense of hope that perhaps they would get back together. They could talk to each other and manage their children, so just maybe they would just set up one household again. For me, this dream deferred did fester like a sore for years to come.
And yet, when I look at where I am today it is all a result of that awful deterioration of my family of origin:
We moved to Arizona from Wisconsin, presumably so my mother could have distance between herself and her own mother who would not support a divorce.
At one point we moved across town to live with my mom’s boyfriend and I had to start life as a new kid in eighth grade, which was the worst thing in my life — second only to the actual divorce. As an adult, I can see how much confidence and self-reliance it instilled in me to spend eighth grade as the friendless, new, tall girl who brought lizards to school in her pocket and read V.C. Andrews novels in a breezeway all alone during lunch. At one point two of my three friends wanted me to smoke pot in the bathroom with them. I turned them down! To this day I don’t know where I had the intrinsic ability to say “no” to some of my only chums — I chalk it up to our extrinsic Lord.
Eventually, I met a friend in high school who took me to church for the first time since childhood. His premature death put me on a path toward contemplating this world, the next, and the person of Jesus Christ that my friend loved so enthusiastically.
All these things, and many others, led to friendship and marriage with my husband and motherhood to our six beautiful children.
My life is a good example of God working things out for the good. I could share reasons why divorce should be a last resort. Whenever I hear of someone wanting to divorce because they’ve “fallen out of love,” I have plenty of long-term experiences that I would like to share that they might not have considered. It truly is a death — but as with the death of a loved one, God’s work brings fruit from the mourning.