When you first announce your separation in tiny little pieces, you are terrified. What will people think, say, do? Will there be judgment? How badly will it hurt?
Divorce comes in two waves of pain. The first wave is the obvious: your marriage has fallen apart and you are a broken mess. The second wave is what other people outside of you and your spouse think, say and do to you.
The first wave, I was totally prepared for. You say divorce, and people think pain. But the second wave…Lord, was I naïve. I had no idea what I was in for.
But today, I just got off the phone with someone who emailed me saying she needed to talk to me. I have not spoken to this person in probably over two or three years. This wasn’t a divorce-related absence, it was simply a case of acquaintances moving in and out of your little life circle through seasons and changes for both of you.
But she needed to talk, so I prayed and then braced myself. Because these days, when someone tells me they want to talk to me, it almost always means only one thing: she’s in a secretly bad marriage and she figures I won’t judge her and may even be able to guide her a bit.
This was not the case today. Because today, this person from my past needed to talk to me to tell me she was sorry. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand what she was specifically apologizing for at first, but I knew it had to do something with the fact that I was now divorced, and when we were more in each other’s lives, I was her women’s ministry director, and to quote her, “really poured into” her and then my divorce happened and then…
It wasn’t until the end of the phone call that I zeroed in on specifically what she was sorry for.
She said, “I’d like to send you a friend request on Facebook now, if that’s okay?”
“Of course,” I said, “you could’ve done that this whole time!”
She responded, “But I was all mad about what was going on, so…” (Bingo.)
And we said our goodbyes and hung up.
She was calling to apologize to me because she had been judging me all this time regarding my divorce. And she was mad at me about it. And she distanced herself. And didn’t check in with me to see how I was.
“Thank you for calling,” I had told her. “This means so much to me.” And it did.
Of the, I’m just guessing here, one to two hundred people that I would consider acquaintances, no one, and I mean no one, checked in with me during the year surrounding the news of my separation and divorce. No one. (My best friends, of course, took super good care of me, but that’s not who I’m talking about here.)
So, needless to say, to have this woman call me to apologize absolutely blew me away, for two reasons. The first is I realized there are probably more acquaintance-type people out there still to this day judging the crud out of me. I had to take that thought captive for Christ and throw it aside pretty quickly or I’d be in bed right now. But the second thought was this: humans truly can be capable of such deep goodness and remorse and grace and kindness and thoughtfulness and changes of heart. Her call will linger with me. Her words of I’m sorry while fighting back tears will heal something in me. She didn’t know it, but I plan to assign her in my mind as the representative of all of those people who didn’t check in with me to see how I was. I am letting them all off the hook because of her. I am pretending that she was calling on all of their behalf. And I will carry that with me in deep gratitude for a very long time. People mess up. But sometimes, we do something really, really good that can heal someone else.