During the earlier days of my divorce, something came to my attention that really upset me regarding my kids when not in my care. I immediately began writing an email in my head reprimanding and critiquing the situation. But then I talked to a friend – more level-headed than I tend to be – and I heard the words that he has said to me before, spoken gently, “You are not the messenger. Those words won’t be heard from you.”
Crud. I hate that. Not because it’s true and he’s right. But I hate it because of this: it’s not that I’m not his messenger anymore. It’s that I never should have been, and I so totally appointed myself that role.
I was the self-appointed mother.
I was the self-appointed Holy Spirit.
I was the self-appointed judge.
I was the self-appointed parole officer.
I was the self-appointed critic.
I was the self-appointed worst enemy.
(And I am ashamed. And I am sorry.)
So, sweet divorced ones, I hate to break it to you, but you are not your ex-husband’s anything. Yes, things might come up that you two will need to discuss, but I think you know that’s not what I’m talking about. If he parents in a way that you do not approve of, you reproaching him will not only not do any good, it could only serve to anger him and cause backlash.
And, sweet still-married ones, I hate to break it to you, but you are not your husband’s soul-changer or heart-changer or word-changer or behavior-changer or anything-changer. Yes, you are a couple. Yes, you’re supposed to be “in this together”. But if he does something – anything – that you disapprove of, you telling him left and right will not help the situation; in fact, it might serve to make your life more difficult. (AlAnon says you can say something once to someone, respectfully, but anything past ONCE is nagging and verging on controlling. Yikes, but true.)
(TO BE CLEAR: If you or your children are being physically or sexually hurt, that should be addressed, and you should get to a place of safety, and tell someone like a counselor or even the authorities if necessary.)
Instead, here’s what I suggest…..and you’re going to hate it…..ready?
Pray. Only the Holy Spirit can act as the Holy Spirit. And only the Holy Spirit can truly change someone’s heart and life. So, in those moments when you’re just beyond yourself with anger or fear or sadness over what your ex-husband or husband is choosing to do with his life, or how he parents, or how he treats you, ask the Holy Spirit to heal him, and ask the Holy Spirit to protect him and your children and you. Even if those prayers taste like vinegar in your mouth, pray.
Let it go. Ugh! I hate letting things go, you have no idea. But what I’m finding – I promise you this – the more you practice letting things go, the more quickly the next thing will drop from your hand. I have seen this begin to happen in me. Things that would have completely freaked me out or ticked me off a year ago, I’m now just shaking my head and handing it over to Jesus. Seriously. But until you get to that point, you will have to train your mind. You will need to, perhaps, literally envision handing the burden over to Jesus, maybe even lifting your hand to the sky and asking him to take it. (I do this; it helps.) And then you will need to tell your mind to stop thinking and rethinking and overthinking, and replace it with another thought. Not easy, but so worth it and so much more healthy.
Move on. And then, you keep going. You do the next thing in front of you. You check email. You walk the dog. You have a cup of tea. You write a note to a friend. You live your life, basically, and let your husband or ex-husband live his, knowing that he will one day have to account for his choices, that God will one day set all things right.
For some of us, this will be a brand-new concept. If you have to, for a little while, I would memorize these words and repeat them at the first sign of a desire to verbally whip your partner or ex-partner into shape: I AM NOT HIS MESSENGER. I give this to you, Jesus. God will honor your efforts and you will be one step closer to freedom.
You have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. –Proverbs 6:2
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here, or “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.