Reclaiming My Identity
I am a wife. For better or for worse, my identity is wrapped around it like a warm, comforting, patchwork quilt. I don’t even remember how to be single. I spent the majority of my adulthood either preparing to be someone’s wife or working hard at being the best wife I could be. But since my husband left me, who am I now? Where do I belong? I’ve always felt that a wife’s place is with her husband, no matter what. She supports him and helps him in any way she is able and never gives up on him.
My sister Jacqueline is a decorated athlete who recently learned of a debilitating hip and back injury. It made my heart swell with encouragement to hear her say, “My identity is in Jesus and not my athletic ability so this transition will be hard but not life-stopping.” I ought to fall in step with her as I transition from wifehood to singlehood. At the end of the day, my identity is “In Christ Alone.”
Enough is Enough
I’ve always loved this scene from “The Mexican” when Julia Robert’s character asks Brad Pitt’s character, “If two people love each other but they just can’t seem to get it together, when do you get to that point when enough is enough?”
What I never intended to discover is that sometimes, it’s okay to say “enough is enough.” Sometimes you just have to protect and preserve your innermost being. When an individual is not living out the biblical definition of love and has no intentions of ever fulfilling his or her marital responsibilities as instructed by God, then it’s okay to let that person go. It’s unhealthy to keep holding on and hoping he or she will change.
As a child I had always said, “No matter how bad things get, I’d NEVER divorce my husband and I’d never be so stupid to as to marry anyone who would ever divorce me.” I hate to admit this, but I even looked down a little upon the people I knew who had gotten divorced. I silently judged them for not trying hard enough. In a culture that likes to sell us slogans like “Never give up” that sound good on motivational posters and T-shirts, we have to step back and say, “That’s simply not feasible in reality.” I had the absolute best intentions to make my marriage work, but I think it’s not conducive to keep waiting around in marriage purgatory.
I have been doing much reflection on the past four years of my marriage and many memories I chose to suppress out of basic survival need have been resurfacing and haunting my thoughts during the day. (I’ve also had some bad nightmares recently.) I have been struggling with whether or not to share specifics with everyone. It can be cathartic to get things off your chest, but it’s also important to protect the ones you love from scorn and I’m trying to find that balance. By sharing my story with others, maybe someone in a similar situation can find encouragement. That is my hope as I continue here, without giving out too many unnecessary details.
What very few people know is that my marriage was, at times, very dangerous. I frequently found myself in situations where I feared for my physical safety. My marriage was dysfunctional almost from the very beginning. I think the first time I noticed a problem was when my husband told me right after our honeymoon that he didn’t feel like going to church. I told him I didn’t either and we stayed home and cuddled in bed. But the next Sunday he said the exact same thing and the Sundays that followed. I felt that I was dragging him to church against his will and that he was resenting me for it so eventually I stopped begging him to attend with me and just went by myself. It was awkward being a newlywed sitting alone in church having to explain to everyone who asked that my husband was just “exhausted from working” when, in reality, he no longer seemed interested in worshiping with fellow believers.
One day, not too soon after we tied the knot, my husband asked me, “If you were faced with the valid plausibility that everything you ever believed about the Bible were an outright lie, would you continue to ignorantly follow its teachings or would you look into it… even if the Truth deeply hurt?” I answered honestly that I’d rather believe the Truth, even if the Truth were painful and earth-shattering. Little did I know, that answer was to be the beginning of a journey into a very dark time for me spiritually. My husband asked me to listen to anti-Christian radio programs with him that caused me to begin questioning everything I believed in. The doubts threatened to strangle my sanity and I allowed myself to fall into a deep depression. I didn’t like listening to the radio shows and they were destroying my hope and joy. My husband kept telling me how much it meant to him that I listen with him, and I wanted to be submissive and respectful to my husband, so I continued to listen. I also wanted to be on the same page as my husband, and it’s no fun trying to “be one” when you’re on completely different wave lengths spiritually. I sought counsel from my pastor and his wife and they gave me the courage I needed to say, “no,” to my husband so that I could protect what little faith I had left. The more I tried to cling to my belief that the Bible was the absolute, infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God, the more my husband and I drifted apart.
The Death of a Dream
Growing up, I had this beautiful image in my head of how my life would play out. I dreamed about my wedding day since I was a barefoot, starry-eyed six-year-old. My whole life I’ve dreamed of “happily ever after.” I bought into the myth of the formulaic “perfect Christian marriage” and I thought that as long as I was being a good wife to a good man, we couldn’t possibly have a bad marriage. And I thought I had picked a very, very good, godly man!
When the dust settled, I was terrified to air my dirty laundry. I didn’t want anyone to know that the fairy tale I had longed for my entire life turned out to be a very grim nightmare. For years, I accepted this as my fate and learned to pretend that things weren’t really as bad as they seemed for the sake of keeping up a good façad for those I cared about. I didn’t want them to worry about me and I didn’t want them to think badly of the man I married. I took and still take my sacred marriage vows before God very seriously and so I chose to honor my vows by staying in what was, in hindsight, a very chronically frustrating and unfulfilling relationship. At the time I somehow convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad or that it would get better in time. It was the only way I could keep putting one foot in front of the other without losing my mind. I chose the lesser of two evils: a life of perpetual disappointment and heartbreak rather than separation without sound biblical support.
1 Corinthians 7:13 says that if a husband is not a believer but is willing to live with his wife, she must not divorce him. For years I co-existed with a man in whom I had nothing in common with. A man who said he loved me but wouldn’t provide for me, lied to me about doing drugs, physically, emotionally, and spiritually abused me, and stayed out all hours of the night without answering his phone making me worry about him. In the end, he went chasing after another woman.
Even after I found out about the other woman and the drugs I was still willing to make it work with him if he wanted to make it work with me. I know from friends who’ve gone through similar experiences that living with a recovering drug addict can be a miserable experience but my deep, unconditional love for Mathew could get me through anything.
My husband’s decision to leave me was a scary and confusing time. I grieved the loss of what I had and what could have someday been, but somewhere in the recesses of a dark, unvisited corner in my heart I felt the strange tingling pleasure of relief. I finally had a biblical reason to get out of a bad marriage. I felt absolutely awful about it though, and still feel ashamed that a small part of me was sort of glad that I had been able to break free from the bondage of being tethered to an unbeliever.
“For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
My friends don’t like it when I refer to myself as a “wreck of a woman.” I don’t feel as though I have anything to offer anyone but broken heart. When will I ever feel whole again? I’ve met so many divorced people lately. Many of them tell me that I will always be “in love” with my husband, I will never fully “get over” him, and I’m probably right now as healed as I’ll ever get. That thought troubles me.
It’s funny how important having a good job is. Never in my life have I worried about money because I never had to take care of myself financially before. As I am typing this I have a 102.3 degree fever and I’m unable to attend work. I get sick maybe about once every other month and it is frightening to have to stay home and worry about how the rent is going to get paid if I’m sick for a few days.
My husband recently called and said he would reconcile if I would give up the Bible. “You’re brainwashed by the church,” he told me. “If you burn your Bible, then I will know you really love me and want to see eye to eye with me.” I see absolutely no hope for a reunion unless he comes back to the Lord, if in fact he was ever the Lord’s to begin with. No matter how desperately I want to be back together with my husband I responded, “Mathew, I love you dearly, but I love God more, and I choose Him.”
I thought my husband was the strongest believer I knew when I first started dating him. Somehow along the way he lost his faith. The Bible says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” For those of you who don’t know what a yoke is, it’s a piece of wood that binds two draft animals together at the neck so that they can work together to till the ground or carry heavy loads. God gave the Israelites special instructions in Deuteronomy not to plow a donkey and ox together. The reason that a donkey shouldn’t be paired with an ox is because the ox will have all of the heavy load on him. The donkey will be dragged alongside in the dirt and continually trying to pull the ox in another direction. A donkey is not the equal partner of an ox.
A Confusing Verse
This verse haunted me ever since my husband left me:
Matthew 5:31-32 says, “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
This verse has always confused me. Why, it isn’t fair! Why should the woman be considered, through no fault of her own, an adulterate? It seems to me that the husband should be considered the adulterate as he violated the holiness of the union, adulterating what was once beautiful and making it unclean and impure.
My pastor offered redemptive solace by helping to explain to me that the Lord does indeed want me to be filled with joy and that I should see this divorce as a blessing because the Lord will bring much good from it. He doesn’t think that verse means my future husband would be an adulterer or that I’m an adulteress. This verse is similar to 1 John 5:10 that says, “Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.” Obviously God is not a liar; it is against His nature to be anything but truthful. It is as if you were calling God a liar… just as though divorcing a faithful wife is like making her out to be an adulteress.
Hope for the Future
We are now going in to the 11th month of marital separation. The only reason we haven’t officially divorced yet legally is because it’s $250 to get a quick, easy divorce and my husband hasn’t had a job in 3 and a half years and whatever money he had was spent on drugs. Given the choice between me or him, I really wanted him to divorce me as it is the principle of the thing… I wanted my hands clean of the business. However, it is currently looking like if I don’t divorce him we might be forever in a sort of permanent separation limbo. My pastor says I have biblical grounds for a divorce according to 1 Corinthians 7:15. I was abandoned by an unbeliever and now I am no longer bound. This has been the catalyst of my healing. To be a divorced Christian is to be an anomaly. No one wants that stigma. How do I navigate my way through this uncharted territory? It is incredibly scary. But I trust that God brought me to this so He can bring me through it.
I even have hope that one day I might find a God-fearing man with a passionate desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who has seen my pinterest lately knows that I have been thinking a lot about the possibility of falling in love again, especially with the recent event of my beloved sister’s engagement.
Aren’t Shane and Joanna the cutest couple? They both love Jesus and allowed Him to write their love story. I am excited to see where the Lord takes this couple and the amazing things they will do for Him as a team. Seeing these two happy love birds gives me great joy and I pray that the Lord may one day bless me as He has blessed them with each other.