I grew up in a culture where divorce was a major stigma. A permanent scarlet letter, a tattoo, a brand on your heart that never would quite rub off, despite repeated effort. Despite ministry and outreach and remarriage and every attempt at redemption. It simply stained and lingered.
Because of that, I had no idea how to handle it when the engulfing shadow of Divorce encroached upon my own life. Unwanted, unwilling, yet without a single choice or say in the matter, I was getting divorced. I was getting my first tattoo, scarlet red, like it or not.
I had no idea what to do and most people around me didn’t either—because it was shameful and awkward and embarrassing and one of those Things of which we do not speak, one of those Things of which we do not preach. Divorce had touched my family before, but the circumstances for me were completely different, and we were all a little lost.
But God began moving people into my life who did know, who spoke life into me. Men and women who had been there, who told me important truths about my future and my worth and my value. Men and women who told me there was an “other side” to this bottomless cavern, that there was life on the other side of divorce and guess what—it was good. Men and women who reminded me of God’s heart for me, who hugged me and cried with me and said one day I would be able to help others heal as they were helping me heal. Men and women who fought for me and refused to let me fall prey to Satan’s tricks and ploys and rebounds, who weren’t afraid to get dirty in the trenches with me, who weren’t afraid of my blood and tears and permanent mascara-streaked face. Who weren’t afraid to listen to me vent the exact same tired plethora of fears and doubts and regrets. Men and women who prayed over me and with me and for me when I couldn’t find the will to do it for myself anymore. True heroes of the faith, armed with the Word of God, frosty cans of Coke, Starbucks cups, Chex Mix and gift cards, fighting a war on my behalf when I was too exhausted to even raise my face from the mud.
So many people told me so many helpful things.
But there’s one thing that no one told me, that I’m going to tell you now. A crucial key factor to surviving this journey that seemed so long, so endless and so dark. A fact you can embrace, regardless of how far you are in the process.
Are you ready? Here it is.
Not “it’s going to be okay” which you have already heard and don’t believe yet, but rather—“it’s okay”. Right now. Exactly where you are, exactly what you feel, in this moment, right this second – it’s okay.
It’s okay that you don’t believe a word of the encouragement people are sharing with you.
It’s okay that someone tells you “Jesus is enough” and you get frustrated, because right now, He just isn’t.
It’s okay that you want to kick the person who just said you were better off without your ex, because right now, even though you know in so many ways that might be true, it’s not true in your heart yet.
It’s okay that you miss your ex even though they treated you so badly and that person from earlier is right, that you are better off.
It’s okay that you miss your old life and your marriage, because even though so much of it was awful, it was what you knew—and familiar, even bad familiar, is more comforting and acceptable than the unknown leap of faith that you just got shoved into.
It’s okay that you want to hide away from the world and glue your sweatpants permanently to your body and never speak to anyone again. Ever.
It’s okay to change your mind the next day and want all of your friends around you, all day long.
It’s okay that you impulse-bought a musical instrument you might never learn to play.
It’s okay that you went on a date you weren’t ready for and cried the entire night after you got home.
It’s okay that you canceled the next one you were invited on because you recognize that feeling in your heart now as cautionary.
It’s okay that you didn’t eat for two days and then ate an entire candy bar and your weight in chips and salsa the next.
It’s okay that you thought you were completely healed and over it all, and then see a Hallmark commercial or Disney sitcom and cry hysterically over absolutely nothing for the next twenty minutes.
It’s okay that you feel super spiritually mature and pray for your ex to be made whole in Christ, and then five minutes later pray for someone to key his new truck.
It’s okay that you know God didn’t make you get divorced, that you know He gives men free will, and yet you feel angry anyway because He didn’t supernaturally stop it.
It’s okay that you bawled the first time your kids had to leave for shared custody, so you went on a retail therapy shopping spree.
It’s okay that you got your kids back from shared custody and were super irritable trying to adjust to life with children again. And then had to do it all again the next week.
It’s okay that you want to throat-punch people who have never been divorced and yet say they understand how you feel.
It’s okay that you hear a sermon on God working all things for good and wonder if a spitball could make it all the way to the pulpit from your pew.
It’s okay that you feel like you’re going to be alone forever and no one will ever want to marry you.
It’s okay that you wonder if you’re too broken to ever be healed.
It’s okay that you know God makes beauty from the broken but right now all these shards are just making you bleed.
It’s okay to put Band-Aids on your gaping emotional wounds before you’re ready to lie still and let God to do the needed major surgery on your heart.
Women who grew up like I did, who know the pain of the stigma of divorce, who recognize the helplessness in the gazes of the well-meaning people around her, who feel like they’re a burden to everyone they fall apart on, need to know that truth—it’s okay. It’s okay to feel exactly what you feel right now. You don’t have to spiritualize your way around the pain, mask your wounds, or hide beneath the Christian Good Girl cape. You can cry. You can express exactly what you want to express without fear or shame. You can be honest. You don’t have to have it all together this time. You don’t have to put on the show and the façade and pretend. You don’t have to sweep this mountain of dirt under the rug.
You have permission to bleed.
Because Jesus bled for you. He bled for your life and for your freedom and that means right now, not just in Heaven. He wants you to live passionately and intentionally and fully right now, even in your storm and trial and hurt. He’s there, He isn’t the least afraid of your raw emotions, and He will hold you nonstop if you ask Him to.
Remember—just because right now you don’t feel like any of the above listed heartaches will ever end, doesn’t mean they won’t. It will pass. I was there, and now I’m here, and some days I feel like I’m making my way back through that list all over again, but you know what? All those well-meaning people God put in your life are right.
God IS working all things for good—even your divorce.
There really IS an “other side” and you ARE going to get there one day.
You ARE most definitely valued and worthy of love.
You WILL enjoy your life again.
You might read that, not believe it, and want to throat-punch me. And that’s fine. Because you know what? I understand.
And it’s okay.
This article is part of our larger resource: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Starting Over after Divorce: 7 In-Depth Steps to Take Starting Today. If you’re going through a divorce or are already divorced and looking for more resources, be sure to visit our guide!
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com.