I had a very realistic dream last night.
I found myself standing in the middle of my beautiful, very empty home I owned during my marriage. The wood floors were glistening. All that remained were X’s belongings – mostly books.
I immediately wanted out. It was scary and frustrating to be back in that place.
“I should probably call my mother-in-law,” I said to myself, “and she can take care of X’s stuff. I have to get out of here.” But I didn’t know her phone number.
Cut to me at the AT&T store, discovering I had been charged for X’s phone bill all these years.
“I’m not paying for him anymore! I am ON MY OWN. That is the beauty of divorce,” I preached.
The dream flashes to me unwillingly driving to the in-laws’ house for dinner. When I arrived, the whole family was there. I said hello to a scarily tan version of my sister-in-law and gave her a hug. I noticed the spread on the table: fried chicken and beer margaritas.
“Hmm. They’ve grown,” I thought to myself, as the in-laws have always been teetotalers.
I reluctantly sat down as my mother-in-law asked me how I was.
I hesitated. I truly haven’t wanted those people to know anything about my new life. But I spoke.
“I’m dating a really wonderful man. And I’m happier than ever.”
And then I woke up, kind of wanting a beer margarita.
I haven’t been writing much lately. Even though the old cast of characters occasionally haunts my dreams, there isn’t angst over my divorce anymore. I also feel like I haven’t anything profound to say. The truth is, I am dating a really wonderful man. And I am happier than ever. The relationship is not without complications (which one is?), but it’s real and so good.
My therapist was right: “There are some things that can only be healed in relationship.”
Ironically, and with respect, I would have never chosen this for myself. It just happened. In fact, I tried to avoid it at all costs. But the more I allow myself to relax into it, the more I learn. And I am experiencing how relationship can and should be. There’s a beautiful, vast difference between dating in your early 20s and your late 30s. I kind of wish I could go back in time and have a do-over. But I wouldn’t be who – or where – I am today.
The greatest (and perhaps hardest) thing I have learned is marriage and family is not the pinnacle of relationship. I think I have accepted the fact I will probably not have children. Rather than panic about this (and believe me, I have had many nights over the years shedding mascara-laden tears on my pillowcase), I choose the opportunity to be in a healthy relationship over a checklist of things I want in my life.
I sometimes want to scream at single women who are holding out for these things. Especially Christians. Relationship is hard. You will get hurt. Stop the delusions. No one will ever fit your ultimate checklist. Fuck Jerry Maguire for saying, “You complete me.” Ain’t gonna happen. Be a whole person, yourself. And for crying out loud, Let Jesus be Jesus, instead of some guy.
Live your life! Don’t hold your breath! Jesus did not come to earth to wave his magic wand and grant us spouses and children. Having those things is wonderful, yes. But it isn’t the beginning, completion, purpose or meaning of life.
Funny: I used to think the only way to “get back” at my ex-husband for cheating and getting married before we were divorced (it will always be funny!) was to find a new, improved husband, push out some adorable babies and show them all off. I now know such thinking is wildly immature. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I wish the church would stop placing marriage and family on a pedestal. Just because I am unmarried and childless doesn’t mean I have failed.
In fact, there are a whole lot of amazing things I can accomplish without a husband and kids. I get to be “Auntie Leslie” or “Crazy Auntie Leslie” to so many beautiful children. I get to travel – sometimes spontaneously – and sing for a living. I am fortunate to live in New York City, with Central Park as my front yard. I get to experience and love people without being distracted by a screaming toddler or a hormonal teenager. I can empathize with the hardships of being married, divorced, single and dating later in life. I get to experience the world without certain responsibilities, and I’m okay with that. Because I’m not alone.
Some of the greatest people I know are those who have lost. A spouse. A child. A sibling. A job, or jobs. Money. Their marriage. Their home. Their entire identity.
It’s not the losing that makes them great, it’s how they’ve dealt with it. And when they choose to trust Jesus and move forward instead of spiral down the rabbit hole of feeling sorry for themselves for the rest of their lives, they become changed.
Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26a)
I am no theologian, but I see this verse with very different understanding than when I memorized it at AWANA in 1985, and robotically regurgitated it at Biola University in 1995.
Whoever loses his life for me will find it. To me – and maybe I’m completely wrong – this is about placing my complete identity in HIM, instead of my idea of what life should be because I followed the rules.
It’s taken a long time, but I’m pretty sure I have found a new self. She isn’t anything like I envisioned, but I really like her.
Friends, whatever you are facing, remember we have the opportunity to choose Jesus in our losses. In our suffering. In our waiting. In our disappointment. In our pain. We have the choice to trust Him, despite life circumstances not turning out how we want.
It’s not easy to trust, but I have a feeling it is totally, completely worth it.
Beer margarita, anyone?