Back when my first marriage was hanging by a thread, had someone said to me, We need you to agree to the following: eight adults will know every detail of your life and marriage; you will have to meet with two counselors, two mentors and a mediator weekly, along with the elders from time to time; we will give you lists of things to do to become a better person, Christian and wife (that you really should try to follow); and we think it’ll last about six months but probably longer and we really can’t say yet but we will occasionally stretch deadlines to give the Holy Spirit ample time to do his work and it will end up being fifteen months of living hell. You on board?
I would have said, No way. I’ll stay in this marriage as is. I can’t possibly do what you’re asking me to do. Nope, not in a million years. I’m done. And I’ll just shut up about it and learn to live in this pain. THIS PAIN has got to be better than the pain you are asking me to willingly walk through.
(Sidenote: there are two kinds of pain…useless, harmful pain and productive, healing pain. I was being asked to trade one for the other for a season.)
You see, I thought I was at Point A and I just needed to get to Point B to be healed. (My sweet little naïve self.)
I was right about one thing. I was definitely at Point A. Point A being utterly and completely broken in an utterly and completely broken marriage.
But the destination of healed was not Point B. Oh no. It was Point Z.
In fact, at the end of my fifteen-month church-led reconciliation attempt that ended in me being released to legally separate, well, that wasn’t even Point Z. Nope. That was maybe, oh I don’t know, let’s say Point H or so.
And my divorce date all those months later wasn’t even Point Z. That was maybe Point L or M.
In fact, all these years later, I’m still not at Point Z. (Point Z is when I’m with Jesus face-to-face, in my opinion.)
But here’s my point in all of this:
I wanted the pain to stop. And I wanted the pain to stop NOW. I wanted to be healed. And I wanted to be healed NOW.
But, my sweet ones, here’s what I know now that I didn’t really know then, something I have lived through and learned the hardest, hardest ways:
There are no shortcuts in recovery. You can’t rush your way to healing.
Yes, there are miracle, instantaneous healings in the Bible. Yes, I was even healed from my allergies several years back.
But my experience – and most of the experiences I’ve been privy to of other people – is that healing, especially emotional or relational healing, is not a NOW thing.
It is a slow process, uphill, in one direction, with missteps and stumbles back into who we are trying to move away from being.
It’s one conversation at a time. One appointment at a time. One meeting at a time. One teeny tiny choice at a time. It’s saying big and little yeses to good things, life-giving things, and saying big and little no’s to not-good, life-taking things. And not to be all cliché-y, it’s one day at a time, one moment at a time. Truly.
It takes work. It takes self-discipline. It takes more energy – for a time – to learn to do the right things when you’ve been so used to doing the harmful things, especially because the harmful things not only felt normal to you, they maybe even felt good.
It’s seeing the big picture. It’s trusting that you are not who you were just yesterday, but that you’re not quite yet who you’re going to be. It’s learning to be okay with not really being able to tell that you’re changing and growing and healing from one day to the other, but trusting that when you look back after a time, you’ll be able to see it.
And that’s all okay.
It’s trusting that even the tiniest bit of forward movement is causing angels to celebrate.
It’s trusting that you are not alone.
It’s trusting that you are not who you think you’ve been all your life (fill-in-your-blank with whatever horrible words you’ve been telling yourself).
It’s choosing to learn to believe that you are loved, and precious, and gifted, and filled with purpose.
And it’s trusting that God will finish what he’s started in you because he promises to.
I don’t know how long your healing will take. I am pretty sure you won’t feel all better tomorrow. But I can tell you this:
If you keep doing what you’re doing that’s landed you in the messes you’re in, you and your life will only progressively become worse, and sadder, and more unhealthy.
BUT, if you start today, with even the tiniest different choice towards light and life, and then you take another tiny step tomorrow towards light and life, you and your life will absolutely become stronger and more whole and more beautiful.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. -Philippians 1:6