Towards the end of my difficult marriage, I had a committee. A literal committee of people were assembled and assigned (two counselors, a mediator, a mentor couple, a mentor woman, a campus pastor, and an elder couple) to come alongside us and try to keep us together.
I did everything they told me to do for fifteen months. (It was humbling, humiliating and one of the best things I ever did.) And at the end of the fifteen months, they released me to legally separate, which I did.
This was about twelve or so years ago now. And someone recently asked me, after reading my story, “It’s interesting that you just did what you were told. Knowing what you know now, would you still?”
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past dozen years. I wasn’t just living by committee and consensus during that fifteen months, I had been living by committee and consensus my entire life, asking anyone and everyone (along with God) how I should live my life, so this was not a new scenario I found myself in…by the time this group of people had been assigned to us, I already knew the drill (meaning: ask, ask, ask, and then do as I was told).
It’s one thing to do this – ask around for lots of advice and even instruction and approval – when you’re a child or even as a teenager or young adult trying to figure out life. But it’s quite another thing to do this when you’re a full-fledged grown-up.
There is no way for me to really know now if I were in the same exact situation with what I’ve learned about God and grace and divorce and myself if I would have quote-unquote allowed those nine people to, you know, tell me what to do for fifteen months, and then if I would have gone along with only filing for a legal separation (as opposed to divorce) because that’s what they felt I was biblically allowed to do.
I genuinely don’t know.
I don’t believe the same things about divorce that I used to believe. (This is what I believe now.)
And though I owe a world of gratitude to those nine people for truly looking out for me and my spiritual wholeness and my children through all of that, and though I absolutely believe that it is wise to consult wise, loving, trustworthy people in your life, I don’t think I believe the same things about the kind of God-given agency I hold over my own life. (As in, I actually have some God-given agency over my own life.)
But allow me to pivot for a moment, because I realize that I still live by committee. Just in a different way.
This committee lives in my head. It’s made up almost entirely of people who are not in my daily life, who do not know my heart or life, and who have at times said very cruel things to me.
I was talking with my counselor about one of these people and she said, “I have this image in my head of you and so-and-so playing tug of war.”
That resonated with me and so I tried picturing it myself. It’s a relational tugging back and forth of control, with, ironically 99% of it being only in my mind, I realized.
And she said, “What if you let go of the rope?”
It occurred to me that this person whom I allow to live rent-free in my head and whom I allow to continue to make me feel pretty crappy about myself…this person has no idea that I do this…this person spends (I’m guessing) zero time wondering if I do this…this person (I’m guessing) does not care that I deeply struggle with their old words, these old wounds.
This particular emotional tug of war, this make-believe committee in my head, isn’t serving me in any way.
So I am reminding myself of a few things:
I have been given the mind of Christ.
I have been given a sound mind.
I have the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.
In other words, I am not an incapable idiot.
And this committee member and I do not share the same values so why am I measuring my life against their yardstick? Only one opinion of me matters and that is God’s who loves me unconditionally and is not mad at me or disappointed in me.
Moving forward, with God’s help, the next time any of those voices start pointing out what I’m doing wrong with my life, I’m going to try saying out loud: Beth, let go of the rope. You’re not a disappointment, you’re not a failure, you are completely loved.
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Thank you Beth….
I truly needed this.
More then a conqueror in Christ Jesus
You’re welcome, sweet girl. And yes!
Thanks for this great reminder! My Pastor’s wife says “the crime happens in the mind.” We need to focus on listening to only the voice of our God. We don’t need consensus from a committee to decide our next move. Have a great weekend!
Another great article. Full of truth, and validating. If only I had this wisdom 15 years ago. I too, have learned the hard way. But at least I learned. And most importantly, my heart was/is toward God.