SOS: If you’re thinking of divorce…
I was reading to my girls at bedtime from my journal. I had turned to a page in that journal on which I had taken notes from my husband’s Aunt Lavina’s funeral. One of the speakers, a son, joked that their parents never considered divorce. But he said they considered murder many times!*
I laughed at his joke. From what her children reported, this was a very, very loving marriage. They had 9 children. There were times when the money could hardly stretch to the end of the month. I wrote in my notes that Lavina would gather her children together, when all that they had for dinner was bean soup, and tell her children that she’d rather have them then all the money in the world. Her son remembered how special that made him feel.
Another son shared, “These 8 hellions [speaking of the 8 sons] have grown up to be the rabble we are now.” I considered the two doctors and one real estate agent I knew who were all terrific people doing good things in their own spheres. Their one daughter has always been angelically kind whenever we’ve interacted. This son also said, “Mother wasn’t willing to leave any disaster behind her; she was willing to endure.”
What a legacy.
Let me change settings a moment. Come with me to my ward choir rehearsal. Last week we practiced a simplified arrangement of this song, “This is the Christ” by James E. Faust and Michael F. Moody. I LOVE this song!
This song means so much to me. It tells the story of those who were able to feel the resurrected Savior’s hands and feet and could testify that they had met the Savior. And it tells my story!
I haven’t met the Savior on earth, but I have felt his healing power many times in my life through the atonement of Christ. The line, “How many drops of blood were shed for me?” pierces my heart. I can’t help but sing with feeling, “I, too, can testify: This is the Christ.”
What has he healed me from?
The effects of being a child of divorce. The pain of depression. The fear of severe anxiety. Many minor illnesses and feelings of overwhelming stress.
Today I want to tell you the effects of divorce in my life before I tell you about being healed from it. Because if you are considering divorce, which I hope you will never do, then I want to ask you to consider what kind of legacy you will choose to leave your children.
When I was nearly 8 years old, my dad left our family and went to live in an apartment. After some returns and departures, he left permanently and filed for divorce. How can I even begin to describe how that felt? At 7 years old, at 17, at 27?
My dad’s leaving created many emotional, mental and physical challenges for me, including stomach problems, anxiety, depression, etc. I will mention just a few: I was terrified to marry even though I was determined to. I was even afraid to flirt with boys because I was worried about the consequences. I have dealt with lots of contention and ensuing sorrow between siblings, blended families–ill feelings that sometimes have carried on for decades. The effect of one divorce has been multiplied: there have been more broken homes among my siblings–immeasurable heartache over the years, now extended to the grandchildren. The stone dropped in our family pond has had rippling effects that have touched not only one generation, but two. They could affect more if all of the posterity involved doesn’t receive the healing they need. Is that the legacy you want to leave your children?
I loved my dad with all my heart. I could not understand why he had chosen to leave. I still remember the very moment when I asked my mom, “Why would dad want to break up an eternal family?”
I still love my dad! I am so grateful for our relationship! I don’t believe he understood back then the impact his choices would have on his family.
It took me thirty years to heal from my childhood experiences, and I gratefully admit that my experiences were not as bad as some children’s. My situation, in many ways, was so much easier than some: I was loved dearly by both parents and had a tremendous support system in my local church congregation. I was not physically or sexually abused. I had incredible examples of solid marriages in the families of my childhood friends. Substance abuse was not present in my family. My mom was as solid as a rock emotionally and spiritually. She was unbelievably cheerful, optimistic, full of faith, and committed to making her home a lovely place no matter what happened. I learned so much from her example! I was able to move to a new home, make new friends, and grow with the help of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who helped me through the challenges that came with a broken home and adapting to blended families. What a gift!
Still, I would not suggest that a person choose to do that to their children if there were any other options. The Savior offers us options. If we want to keep our covenant with Him, He will help us find a way to endure what life brings us, just like Aunt Lavina. Or my grandmother Pearl, who I so admire! (I know that in cases of abuse, divorce might be the best solution. And I never want to judge someone’s situation, regardless of the circumstances. I recognize that sometimes divorce is the best option.) But if you are considering a divorce and safety is not an issue, I wish I could help you see down the road 10, 20, 30, 40 years, to the pattern you will set for your children.
If you are thinking of divorce, please think again.
The consequences of divorce are real and hard. Put those together: REALLY HARD.
Consider one consequence alone: to break a child’s heart. Is it worth it?
Some people may say that being married is harder. I have read studies that say differently: that being divorced is harder. I remember a conversation with a woman who left her husband and regretted it terribly. Wonderfully, she remarried him! Her children rejoiced!
I obviously can’t say from experience how hard being divorced is. I never intend to. But I can say how hard marriage is. Hard! And I am married to an amazingly kind and patient husband! He makes it so much easier than it could be. We have a great relationship, but it has taken work, sacrifice, selflessness, and “bucket loads” of patience, kindness, and forgiveness. For years. I have learned that marriage is more about discovering and coming face to face with the flaws in ourselves and tackling them instead of trying to change our spouse.
Satan doesn’t want us to ever feel that a problem is our fault. That we are the ones who need to change, but in the plan of happiness, we find the opposite to be true: we all have to change. I have begun to learn that when things are hard, there is still help for me. The first question I need to ask the Lord is: what can I do to help make the situation better?
And then I have to be willing to act and do the answer.
It is hard to change and to love your spouse even when things aren’t the way you imagined they would or should be. But it’s easier than creating more problems by blaming all the problems on your spouse and leaving.
Not feeling love? That can change. I know, because I have had times when my heart has been really hard against my husband. I have felt anger and not love. I have had times, I will admit, when I have been so filled with anger. I felt justified! It took a long time for me to see, after I had gone to the Lord, that when I am angry, I am blinded to what the reality of the situation is. It’s only after I humble myself and ask Christ to help me see clearly, that I start getting answers of how I can change and show love.
I haven’t always wanted to see.
The consequences are FAR-REACHING. We have a whole American society to look at to see how the consequences don’t just touch a family. They affect all of society. And those effects can extend for generations if the child doesn’t heal. And healing isn’t something you can force, so you have no guarantees that your child will heal unless they choose to. Unless they go to God and get the complete healing they need.
We have so much more power than we know. Christ empowers us to change. He promises he will give us a new heart if we really want one. If we are willing to give up and let go of what irks us. If we will forgive the past. I have learned, like my mom taught, that love is a CHOICE. We can decide to love our husband. When I had a nervous breakdown, my husband had plenty of reasons to leave me. We had no idea what was happening or what our future held. But he had made a decision. A covenant with God. And he had integrity. He kept his covenant. And when things have been hard for me, I have held onto that same covenant. And gone to God for help. Christ has never failed to help us through a trial until we came out the other end to a place of peace. CHRIST NEVER FAILS. We won’t either, if we hold onto our covenants and to his promises, even when life is bleak.
When you come to know Christ, to really experience healing from him, you know your heart is changed. You don’t want to be who you once were. You understand a little bit better how Isaiah said that Christ can make beauty from ashes. How something that was once dead can be resurrected and be alive again, better than it ever was before. And your heart feels like singing about it.
I read a book this week called Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden. I thought it was another silly romance novel that my girls had checked out from the library. I wanted to see what they had gotten themselves into. I was happily and gratefully surprised. It is a wonderful romance novel with truth in it. The plot? An arranged marriage, a beauty-and-the-beast archetype, Jane Eyre style. I quote from the end (spoiler alert!):
“She was irrevocably and inexplicably in love with her husband. It was, perhaps, not the all-consuming passion of which most schoolgirls dream nor the earth-shattering emotion one often equates with love. It was a sensation of safety, contentment, and the feeling that she was, in an unexpected way, cherished” (p.259).
How did Perspehone get there? The same way Rebekah of the Bible, who had an arranged marriage, and how each of us get there: through faith, personal sacrifice, hard work, kindness, humility, and pure love. By nurturing the seeds of love which God can plant in us if we want them to grow in our hearts, day by day.
That is the legacy we can give our children, if we choose.
We want ideal marriages. But we don’t often want to pay the price. Or pay it long enough. Nobody marries a perfect spouse. (I sure wasn’t perfect when Lane married me, and I’m still not! We both have far to go.) But as we get to know each other better, we learn how to become the spouse that is perfect for each other. Working towards a loving marriage is worth it. It is possible! PEOPLE CAN CHANGE! YOU can change! Keep your covenants, and God will be able to keep his promises to you.
And He will prove you can do it.
*Just like the woman who is using her talents to share free choir music (legally), we each have at least one gift inside that will make our marriage happier, if we ask God how. Lavina’s son Craig said that her chief spiritual gifts seemed to be loving and caring. He said of his parents, “[They were] anchored to their temple covenants. A true love story!” “They never considered divorce, but murder, many times!” “Their marriage wasn’t made in heaven, but on earth, kind act after kind act, for Heaven.”