|This photo was taken on the day my divorce became final in 2010.|
As I forced myself through the daily routines, all I could see was the gash that ruined the life I had planned. The crevice between was was supposed to be and what actually was. Even as I began to accept the infidelity, I was still writing my own outcome and so the aftershocks of additional betrayals and divorce rocked my security and wrenched away all that I thought would be mine.
More than a dozen years have passed since those first cracks began to emerge and I can now see that what was lost was a necessary removal. The dreams I dreamed were not wrong, I just didn't trust the way God would choose to fulfill them. I hadn't yet fully surrendered to whatever He would ask of me.
Here is what I would tell myself while still standing on swaying ground, freshly absorbing the shock of a life in crumbles.
Grieve, but don't become consumed with "what if..."
This was a big one for me. Even as I experienced that my current state of life had been far from healthy or even normal, I longed to return to what was familiar. I had to work to live in the truth of my reality versus what I wanted things to be like. Acceptance isn't a one time event when a person has been living in denial for a very long time.
Release the future you designed (God doesn't owe me...)
Of course I would have never told you that God owed me anything, but I lived with that mindset in my expectations of a life with certain benefits. Even when accepting loss, I felt like God "owed" me an explanation - a reason for my pain. Being stripped of identity as wife and minister forced me to consider whether I would serve God regardless of the outcome. Too often we serve Him to get what we want. It's humbling to admit and this thought pattern needs to change.
Look for the gifts you didn't know you needed.
It's easier to be the answer to someone's prayer than to be they needy one, isn't it? However, being truly needy revealed unknown sources of help and the true gift of community. Rather than judgement, I was met with love, acceptance and support. For a solid month, women of my church helped with childcare as I transitioned into working more hours. They brought casseroles and salads and fun games to love on my children. I was loaned a vehicle, had my utility bill paid and so many more ways God provided when I truly couldn't have know my need would be so great. I spent so much of my life in control and this was the only way I learned to let go and really allow God to supply.
Allow the new story to take root in your heart.
This is the good part...but it takes wandering through a great deal of loss to get to this point. As you begin to accept that the life you had been living isn't going to be the life you have moving forward, you can suddenly be open to a whole new world of possibility. For years my stability was based on my position, my possessions and my partner but now I began to allow Christ to define me. I learned to be satisfied with very little and to imagine a new future, unknown but with great hope. Let your blank slate become a launching pad for a new adventure.
There is so much more to say about each of these steps and we often circle back through from one to another. Once you've endured the kind of life change that forever shifts your trajectory, you can choose to get stuck in regret or to acknowledge and learn from your experience. I encourage you to do the hard work of letting go of your past dreams and allowing God to unfold your story in His way.