I attended a Divorce Support Group through Redeemer Presbyterian Church this week.
Honestly, I didn’t want to go. I imagined a bunch of weepy, jaded women sitting in a circle, holding hands and re-hashing their traumatic divorce experiences whilst chanting mantras of strength and hope. I didn’t want any more reasons to be angry with derelict, cheating or lazy husbands, and I certainly didn’t want to find myself crying over X.
I’m so over that guy.
I would rather shed tears over my most recent boyfriend, the bludgeoning of baby seals, or the fact that it takes me 45 minutes to commute to the gym.
Still, I hoped to learn something new, or perhaps help another attendee in her struggle. After all, I have a book coming out on the topic. I’m an expert on what it’s like to be messily divorced, and actually thrive in the aftermath. (Right?)
I added a teaspoon of sugar to my cup of strong, black tea, sat myself down on a cushiony chair in the plush, Upper West Side apartment, and began to listen.
Andi Brindley was our guest speaker for the evening. Though physically present, she opted to share a video testimony. In the film, she described her family background, early recognition of her parents’ marital struggle (they eventually split), and her own divorce after four children and 30 years of marriage.
All ten of us sat in a semi-circle, sipping harmless beverages and crunching on mini carrot sticks, and crackers dipped in hummus.
So far, so good, I thought to myself, as I glanced over the group. Nobody’s crying. I think we can handle this.
Andi calmly explained how the dissolution of her marriage came to fruition. Her husband was a workaholic who ended up hospitalized from the stress and exhaustion of planting a church. He eventually changed careers, which lead him to travel even more. One day, Andi’s husband left for Washington, D.C., and never returned.
“The day he was supposed to return home,” Andi nodded to the camera, “he faxed me a letter that said, ‘I’m going to stay in this area for a while to give you the separation it seems you want.’”
Not long after, divorce papers were served.
“I never thought this would be my life,” Andi lamented. “I was completely disoriented; devastated. I had devoted my life to not arriving at this point. At yet, here I was.”
“YES!” I heard myself almost shout, and heads turned. I flashed an apologetic grin and shoved a carrot in my mouth. Next door, a young child plunked lazy scales on the piano, then pounded out a lightning-fast version of When the Saints Go Marching In.
The video continued, with Andi’s court date.
“Truthfully, it was kind of a non-event at that point,” she said. “The judge…read through the papers…and we were done. It was strange. But that’s not the most memorable part of that day.”
Ooh, this is getting good! I thought, excitedly. I adjusted my sit bones on the chair, and leaned forward, allowing my imagination to run wild. I half-hoped Andi would share something deliciously evil that her ex-husband had done, or reveal that she, too, had a Sister Wife. Perhaps there was a lost love child in the mix?!
“The day was ending, and it was time to go to bed,” Andi’s televised voice competed with the neighboring pianist, who banged louder on the keys.
“…and I thought, ‘You cannot wake up with these rings on your fingers. They don’t belong there…I found myself dropping to my knees by the bed, and as I took the rings off, I found myself so moved – not by the sadness of the moment – but…overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness to me.”
I gasped. Andi continued.
“I said to [God], ‘I want to give You the devotion that I thought I would be giving to an earthly husband. I want You to have it for the rest of my life. You are the only One worthy of my whole heart and devotion, and it’s Yours forever.’”
Suddenly, without warning, my heart lurched forward in my chest, sending a wave of explosive tears up through my throat, sinuses and eyes. Hot, salty tears streamed down my face. I heard a few other women sniffle, but I felt I was the one crying the hardest. 72-year old Ellie quickly passed a box of tissues.
So much for the “expert” keeping it together in Divorce Group.
Andi’s testimony continued long after the video ended. I found myself crying even more as she expressed a real, continued, deep struggle with her faith. Although her divorce was final over ten years ago, Andi still wrestles with the familiar darkness and loneliness that accompanies dissolution of marriage. Her husband has since re-married.
Andi has not. Yet she is content.
As I left Divorce Group that evening, I wondered if I could ever be like Andi: calm, quiet, strong, faithful and trusting, knowing the God of the Universe is all we ever really need. I started to think about how far He’s brought me, how much I’ve changed over the past four years, and how my divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me — only in that it made me fall to my face and cry out in desperate need for Him. I have met and grown in relationship with God, who loves me more than any human being could ever be capable.
I truly hope to be married again someday, and I deeply hope to bear children. I long to be a mother. It’s not up to me, however. My job is to keep trusting; keep putting one foot in front of the other. I do so sometimes with strength, and sometimes stumbling, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, God is with me, holding my hand, ever so tightly.