I promised myself as a little girl that I would never get divorced.  I promised myself as a teenager that I would never get divorced.  I promised myself on my wedding day — before God and my new husband and our families and friends — that I would never get divorced.

And then I spent over fifteen years begging God to both fix my difficult marriage and simultaneously to release me from it.

After those fifteen years, I finally begged for true help, and didn’t stop begging until I got it. A reconciliation attempt came and went, and we legally separated.  Even my church lent its blessing.  My then-husband responded by counter-filing with a divorce.

So, I’m divorced.

I’m learning to live with those words.  And I’m learning what it means to say them and not wince.  And I’m learning who to say them to — in passing to the judgmental ones,  and in lingering tones to the ones who flow grace.

Someone asked me how I felt about the possibility of becoming a poster child for the Christian divorcee. “That’s fine for now,” I said with a laugh, “but not for the rest of my life, hopefully.”

You see, I had written an online article where I answered the three most common questions I have been asked: “Why did you stay so long?”, “How did you stay so long?”, and “Why aren’t you staying forever?”  And in the weeks after telling my story so publicly, women came out of the woodwork to tell me that my story – a woman who loved God while in, and then after, a difficult Christian marriage – was their story and they didn’t know where to turn.

And something began to shift in me.  I began to see that my story of divorce was not just about me.  My story of divorce could turn into an opportunity – if I let it – to reach other hurting women in toxic marriages.  But I had to make a choice.

Would I let the harsher voices that also came out of the woodwork  shape my path and force me to hunker down until people hopefully forgot I was even divorced in the first place?  The ones that told me that I wasn’t a Christian anymore since divorcing, that I should have fought in court against the petition of divorce served against me, or that I clearly must hate men?

We all have a choice.  We can look at our hard thing and sigh and hang our heads in resignation and close up shop; or we can stand tall and let it transform us and ask it to help us become stronger.

I have a second chance to not only live out my relationships in a more healthy and whole way, but I have a second chance in that I can choose redemption. I chose to take my pain and work through it and with the empathy I have now gained, reach out a hand that is filled compassion and grace to those just like me.  With that in mind, I’ll gladly be the poster girl.

originally posted in 12/2014

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