Single and Whole?

Journey loves Legos. Yup, my nearly 12 year-old, still thoroughly enjoys building with Legos. As his mom, who has to constantly remind him to clean up his mess of Legos, I look forward to the day when he outgrows them. But I also enjoy watching him express his creativity through them.

Because I know he loves them so much, I recently gave him a Lego-themed trinket. It was a pair of keychains. One for him and one for me. The concept was pretty simple. When the keychains are separated, they are two distinct Lego bricks (that’s what they’re called, in case you didn’t know). On their own, they are perfectly complete, missing nothing. But once joined together, they create something completely new and beautiful–a heart.

I liked the idea of giving my son something that will remind him of his connection to me. But I also hope it reminds him that on his own, he is unique and valuable.

As I reflected on this idea, I thought about the contrast of singleness and married life. As a single person, it can sometimes be easy to believe that without being married or having a significant other, I’m somehow incomplete. It can feel like I’m one half of a whole, waiting for someone to come along and complete me. This feeling is especially poignant as a divorced woman. When divorce happens, there is a tearing that takes place. After all, when we were married, two became one.

Marriage is an incredible blessing that has been sanctioned and ordained by God. But it was not designed to make us whole. Wholeness can only be found in God.

I’m learning that there is beauty in singleness. It’s not some form of torture or punishment. Paul saw the value of being single when he said, “I wish that all were as I am myself. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8 ESV). He goes on to say, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ESV, emphasis added).

God’s intention for singleness is undivided devotion to Him. I can’t imagine a better picture of wholeness than pursuing God’s singular purpose for my life, without distraction. Just like those Lego brick keychains, we should be whole and complete on our own. If we are given the blessing of marriage, it should create a new thing that is beautiful and God-honoring, not something that tries to fill a hole only God can fill. If we submit ourselves to God, in our singleness, He can do amazing things in and through us. We can live in wholeness, lacking nothing.

It’s Worth It

I’m not an athletic person. I don’t really like sports or physical activities as a form of recreation. But I do love to hike. Growing up, hiking wasn’t something my family did. But I discovered as an adult that I really enjoy being among nature in this way–as long as I don’t encounter any wildlife. I’ll take the flora, but none of the fauna.

Recently, the kids and I took a getaway to Santa Barbara, Calif. It’s not too far from our home, but it’s just far enough to feel like a new place. We live more inland and Santa Barbara is a beautiful combination of coastland and mountains. It was an ideal place to go hiking.

Our first day there, we took on a pretty easy hike. It didn’t require too much climbing or rough terrain. It ended at a beautiful little stream. The kids loved every moment of it. I remember taking it all in and thanking God for His beautiful creation and the joy of seeing my kids happy.

The next day, we took on a much more difficult hike. But that wasn’t the plan on the outset. We woke up and had the sack breakfast provided by the motel where we were staying. I hadn’t really made plans for that day–just to bump around the room until check out and maybe a quick stop by the beach on our way out of town. But the kids quickly grew bored of the motel room. (There’s only so much “exploring” you can do in a one-room motel room and the appeal of cable TV soon wears off when you can’t find anything to watch on hundreds of channels.) So we decided to check out early and go on another hike. I chose one that was listed as “moderate.” It was supposed to be a hike to waterfalls. It sounded so refreshing and beautiful–right up our alley.

When we arrived, we quickly realized how popular this spot was. We could not find parking. We ended up parking at the bottom of a decent sized hill. Filled with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, we hopped out of the car to make our way to the trail. Once we arrived at what we thought was the beginning of the trail, we realized we had to hike another .8 miles, uphill, just to get to where our chosen trail began. Along the way, I kept asking people, “Is this the way to 7 Falls?” They all assured me we were on the right path. But I was so confused why it was taking so long just to get to the start of the trail. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

Eventually, we found our way to the right trail. We followed it and found ourselves at a barely-flowing stream. Once again, I asked fellow travelers if we were on the right path. They assured me that we had indeed found the 7 Falls, but due to a dry winter, there wasn’t much more than a trickle of water. As you can imagine, we were quite disappointed. But they encouraged us to head up another nearby trail to get to Inspiration Point.

After some debate among ourselves, we decided to take on the hike to Inspiration Point. After all, it promised panoramic views of Santa Barbara, all the way to the coast. As we started off, I could already tell this was going to be harder than I had planned or even wanted. Don’t forget, we had already hiked nearly a mile, mostly uphill, at this point. But we journeyed on. At one point, I decided I had had enough. This wasn’t fun anymore, it was painful and I wanted to turn back. But the kids wanted to continue. So I went a little farther.

Soon we encountered fellow hikers who were heading back down. So I asked them, “Is it much farther?” I’m sure they could see my exhaustion and readiness to give up. So they kindly encouraged me, “Well, it is a bit farther. But it’s totally worth it!” Spurred by their encouragement, we continued on, stopping every few yards to catch my breath and rest my weary legs. It seemed like every time I was ready to throw in the towel, we would encounter hikers on the return down the mountain. Each time I asked, “Is it much farther?” And each time they assured me it would be worth it. And every now and then, we would catch a glimpse of the ocean, a tease of the grander view that awaited us.

Eventually we made it to the top. And just like the hikers who came before us said, it was totally worth it. The view was breathtaking. I stood at Inspiration Point, in awe of what we had just accomplished. Once again, I took a moment to worship the God who was on display in the beauty of His creation.

As we headed back down, we encountered people on their way up. They stopped us to ask the same thing I had wondered on my way up, “How much farther?” I was able to tell them, just as I had been told, “Don’t give up. It’s a bit farther. But it’s totally worth it.”

By the time we made it back to the car, our bodies were sore. But I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t given up. I hadn’t given in to the voice in my head that said this was too hard or that it wouldn’t be worth it. For the next few days, I walked around with sore muscles, but each wince of pain was eased by a sense of pride that I hadn’t given up.

On our hike, Journey was a constant motivator. He not only encouraged us to persevere (one of our family mottos). But he was seeing how God was using this hike as an object lesson for us. “Life,” as explained by my 11 year-old, “is like this hike. There are obstacles and challenges. But you can’t give up. And God gives us people along the way to help us.”

As he shared what God was showing him through this hike, I could see the parallels to my journey through healing from divorce. From the confusion and disappointments on the onset that things aren’t as easy or straightforward as expected. To the way God not only provides people to help as I climb my mountain, but also gives glimpses of where He’s taking me.

It’s been an uphill climb to healing for me. There have been moments I’ve wanted to give up because the pain just seemed too much and I couldn’t see why it was worth it. But along the way, there have been people who have encouraged me and told me the work is worth it. And every now and then I turn a corner and catch a glimpse of the view that awaits. Just like we caught sight of the ocean from time-to-time, there are moments in the healing journey where I get a peek at how the restoration in my life is coming together.

I feel like I’m still on my path to healing. But I know that once I’ve reached the pinnacle, God will be able to use me to encourage the next weary traveler. I will know the struggle and the pain. But I will also know the triumph of not giving up. So I will be able to tell the next person to journey on because it’s worth it in the end.

A Lesson in Humility

I consider myself to be a pretty smart person. I’m no genius. But I like to think I have pretty good common sense and the ability to apply it properly. I also like to consider myself to be pretty wise. I don’t make decisions haphazardly. You can pretty much be assured that when I make a decision about something, I’ve considered all sides and thoroughly thought through my options. That’s why, when someone disagrees with me, I have a hard time accepting it. Enter co-parenting.

As their mother, I am used to having the loudest and most influential opinion about the welfare of my children. When I was married, my husband often deferred to my judgement when it came to things about the kids. It’s not that he didn’t care, he just knew I was down in the trenches with them more than he was and therefore had a better vantage point. But in the process of divorce and shared custody, he too has had to crawl down into the trenches with the kids.

And while I say I respect his opinion, I’m learning that I actually esteem his ideas as long as they are the same as mine. It’s hard, when I’ve considered all sides of a situation and come up with what I think is the best solution, to be challenged with a different viewpoint.

I find myself becoming indignant and judgmental, thinking that somehow I must love my kids more. After all, any one who would advocate for that idea must not love their kids as much as I do, obviously! Then that still, small voice rises up and asks, “Are you really upset that his suggestion is not what’s best for the kids or is it because he doesn’t agree with you?” Ouch!

As I think about my prideful attitude, I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (ESV, emphasis added). What does it mean to be “arrogant in heart”? Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I can often display humility outwardly, but inwardly I am full of pride. I’ll say out loud, “Okay, if you don’t think that’s best, we can find another solution.” While inside I’m seething with anger at the opposition. But we must remember, “…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV).

The word “abomination” means, “something regarded with disgust or hatred” (merriam-webster.com). I grew up hearing that word associated with sexual sin. I don’t remember anyone telling me my pride was an abomination to the Lord. That puts it in a whole other category of sin. To be clear, all sin separates us from God and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But somehow knowing that my pride, no matter what it’s based on, is considered disgusting to God, is upsetting. It’s no wonder James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble'” (ESV, emphasis added).

There is no shortage of verses on pride in the Bible. Here are just a few:

  • “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 ESV).
  • “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).
  • “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 ESV).

Did you notice the negative consequences associated with pride: disgrace, destruction, being brought low, punished (Prov. 16:5)? But with humility comes wisdom, honor, and, according to James 4:6, grace.

So what does it mean to be humble in my efforts to co-parent? It means not always assuming my way is the right way. It means being able to consider someone else’s opinion as valid. It also means not getting my knickers in a bunch when I don’t get my way.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6 ESV

It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. I have to ask the Lord to forgive my prideful attitude a lot. And I have to fight against negative assumptions when there’s a difference of opinion on how to address an issue with the kids. But I’m learning it’s a much easier path when I choose to humble myself. Just as 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you” (ESV).

If you would have told me that co-parenting and shared custody was going to be part of my refining process, I would have scoffed at the idea. But God, in His infinite wisdom and love uses everything, even the unpleasant stuff, for our good and His glory.

My two cents: walking through divorce

I recently saw a post on Instagram asking for advice from women who have gone through a divorce. The tips given were varied, anywhere from don’t become bitter to make his pockets hurt. As I read through the comments, I began thinking about what advice or encouragement I would offer another woman going through a divorce. While my hope and prayer are that no one else would ever have to walk through a divorce, I know the realities of this broken world. So with that in mind, here’s my advice:

Don’t let go of God’s hand

During the dissolution of a marriage, it can be easy to feel like God has somehow abandoned you. As things were falling apart, I begged God, on countless occasions, to save my marriage. But when the divorce papers were served and it was clear things weren’t turning around the way I had hoped, I had to fight the urge to blame God. Like Martha and Mary, I wanted to say, “Lord, if only you had been there…” (John 11:21, 32). But the reality is, He was there, the entire time and continues to be.

God didn’t abandon me or let me down. He fought for me and continues to do so.

I experienced my greatest growth during this time because I didn’t let go of God’s hand—even when tempted. See, God didn’t abandon me or let me down. He fought for me and continues to do so. When He says, “He will never leave you; he will never forsake you…” (Deuteronomy 31:8), those aren’t empty words, said in bad faith. It is a promise from an everlasting God who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19).

But often, because we don’t experience God through our senses, hearing, seeing, touching, etc., we can sometimes transfer the characteristics of our spouse on to God: “My husband left me and made me feel like I was hard to love. God must feel the same way!” But that’s not how God sees you or me. Our spouses loved us imperfectly, because they are imperfect, just like us. But God’s love is perfect. This is what God says about you:

“I love you so much that I sent my only Son to die on the cross for you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself. I rejoice over you with joy. I quiet you in my love. And I rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry along and save you.

“Even if your father and mother leave you, I will hold you close. Don’t be afraid, for you are very precious to me. Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go. I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who says to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’

“Even before I made the world, I loved you and chose you in Christ to be holy and without fault in my eyes. You’re so beautiful! I love you!”

(John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3; Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 46:4; Psalm 27:10; Daniel 10:19; Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:13; Ephesians 1:4; Song of Solomon 1:15)

Stay in the Word

This one goes hand-in-hand with my previous point. The enemy will throw every lie known to man at you during a time like this. One of the lies of the enemy I had to fight against was that the failure of my marriage was completely and totally my fault. But I have found, the only way to combat a lie is with the truth. And there is no better truth than the Word of God.

It may be hard to believe what God says about you, at first. But the more time you spend reading, listening, reciting and memorizing Scripture, the more convinced of the truth you will become. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV).

When everything began to fall apart in my marriage, I bathed myself in the Word. I read it and when I couldn’t read it, I listened to it. I would often listen to podcasts from trusted pastors or watch them on YouTube. I even sometimes had Scripture playing in my room as I drifted off to sleep.

It’s not going to be positive thinking or “good thoughts” that silence the lies of the adversary. It’s God’s Word and His Word alone.

There is a reason God’s Word is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is the only thing that can cut the enemy down to size. It’s not going to be positive thinking or “good thoughts” that silence the lies of the adversary. It’s God’s Word and His Word alone.

Don’t weaponize your kids

Don’t try to use your kids against your former husband. Your children are innocent in all of this. Any time you use them to “hurt” your former spouse, you are just hurting the kids. He may not parent the way you would. He may be more permissive or more restrictive than you would like. He may be less attentive or too much of a “hoverer.” But unless he is a danger to your children, don’t try to limit his access to them.

One of the promises I made myself (and my children, though they don’t know it), was that I would never be the one who hinders their relationship with their dad. If that means I have to give up extra time with them so that he can invest in their lives, then that’s what I have to do. It’s not always an easy promise to keep, but I know in the end, I’m doing what’s best for my kids.

And as hard as it may be, don’t speak ill of your former husband in front of your kids. You may not be able to extol his virtues as a husband, but if you can, speak well of him as a parent. Chances are, he loves them as much as you do. And if that’s too hard, do what your mother always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Don’t try to make him suffer financially

If you’re still in the process of settling the details of the divorce, don’t seek an opportunity to make him “pay.” It’s easy to want to exact revenge through his wallet. But before you ask for a certain amount for child support or spousal support, check your heart.

When I was starting the divorce proceedings, I wasn’t working. So not seeking spousal support wasn’t a realistic option for me. However, I had to stop and check my heart to make sure I wasn’t trying it to punish him, financially.

I remember the first time I realized money was a hot-button issue for my former husband. He had always been so cool and collected when it came to ending our marriage. But where finances were concerned, I found I could finally elicit a response from him. It felt empowering. That night, I wrote in my journal, “I want to make him pay!” But thank God for the Spirit! The Holy Spirit helped me to see clearly that using money to harm him would only make me feel better temporarily. It would not help me heal or give me back the broken years.

It’s important that you can take care of yourself and your children. So if spousal support is needed, please seek it (child support is non-negotiable). Just make sure your heart is free from reprisal when seeking it. Romans 12:17-19 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord’” (ESV).

Don’t ignore your feelings

Whether you’re angry, sad, or lonely, don’t sweep your emotions under a rug. I’ve had to learn how to acknowledge what I’m feeling, take the time to sit with my emotions, then lay them at the feet of Jesus. So sometimes that looks like screaming out, “Lord, I’m so ANGRY!” Or it could be a headache-inducing crying fest. But through the whole process, I’m holding on to God—even if my anger happens to be directed toward Him (trust me, He can handle it).

The book of Psalms is a beautiful template for how we can have all the feels without letting go of our ultimate trust in God:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foe rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13 ESV).

Forgive

This one may seem like a “no-brainer.” But it bears mentioning. Don’t wait for that heartfelt apology for all the trauma and pain your former husband caused before you forgive. Truth is, you may never get it. Do you deserve one? Probably! But don’t let that be a condition for you to forgive him.

When you’re tempted by unforgiveness, just remember how much your Heavenly Father has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV). I know it can be easier said than done. But for the sake of your own heart, forgiveness is necessary.

I’ve shared a bit of my journey with forgiveness previously. You can check it out here.

I know there are a lot more nuggets of truth from people far wiser than me. And I’m still learning and walking through the healing process. But I hope that some of what I’ve shared is encouraging to anyone who is facing one of the most difficult circumstances you’ll ever encounter. I’m praying that your heart will be healed, and you will experience all that God has for you.

If you’ve been through a divorce and have encouraging words or bits of advice, please share them in the comments.

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