I am a single mother with four boys. My ex-husband left a couple of days after our fourth son was born. Why did this happen? There are many reasons. I have my theories, but in the end, only God knows. My job is to continue my work as a mother and to work on forgiving an ex-husband who is not available. I still love my ex-husband and pray for his conversion. He has great potential to be a saint someday, if only…
His leaving was a tragic moment in my spiritual journey as a Christian. I knew that living the Gospel would come with a price. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that my ex-husband would still be a part of the journey, and he is, just in a different way. It never occurred to me (at least the thought was too scary) that he would leave me and the boys…
I know that I am not the only one who has felt the corrupting forces of this destruction to marriage and the family–which I believe is due to the trivialization of sex and marriage that began in the 1960′s. This destruction is all around me.
I have greatly endeavored to learn how this can be seen in light of my own spiritual journey since I had a conversion several years ago. Since I was a beginner in the ways of spiritual travel after my conversion, I fell quickly into spiritual temptations and trials when I first converted.
Conversion is only the beginning. Learning how to walk is another thing.
A fall…this was due in part to the slack religious education that not only I but many in my generation received–we had no idea what it meant to be a Christian in the world. I had no knowledge how to overcome these spiritual obstacles or to even admit that they were real, for the matter.
The first such obstacle in my spiritual journey was the realization of sin’s destruction, my own in fact. I wanted to go along with the initial thrust of extraordinary joy from a conversion, just feeling as jolly as could be. I didn’t want to let in the reality of my need for repentance for past sins and my need for amending some of my ways. I was afraid to feel the harder part of conversion: repentance. I knew that other people’s sins hurt me, but I didn’t want to face how terrible I could be; thus, I fell so ungraciously. SPLAT!
I fell into a massive pit of despair. How you ask? I chose to stay home from a Sunday Mass after joyfully embracing a conversion that brought me back to the Church. I was more willing to deny God His glory and my own need for refreshment from Him by not going, but this happened because I refused to admit that I had a tendency to choose sin instead of Him. It built up to that moment. I couldn’t admit that my sin could move me away from Him. For the most part this happened because I did not want to see my sin. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t so bad. I also didn’t want to give up on how I thought people saw me. I did not want to be perceived as a “holier-than-thou.” A little exposition on my vanity, dear readers:)
From this pit I fell into, God had to drag me along like a frightened child, feet first, to get me back on the path of His grace. Because I felt the void of my sin and had the inability to overcome them alone (no-duh, some of you might say), I fell into tremendous spiritual fears and desolation. My primary fear was the fear of abandonment. I thought it was because of others, but in a little bit, I will tell you why I had so much fear of abandonment.
This time of slow advance, I believe, was entirely aggravating for God and me (He has far more patience), but now by the grace of God, I have been able to learn so much from that fall. He wanted me to resolve to follow Him, but I didn’t trust Him or have the guts to follow Him. I had spiritually stalled and was content in staying there because I didn’t have the courage that walking with Love requires.
God was not content to leave me there, however.
Enter the divorce. Being rejected by my most intimate partner, the person I had called my best friend, had a way of reaching to my core. I had never felt so much pain from another person in my life. Prayer and daily Mass helped me so much during this time. But, by the time it was over, I did not believe that I could be loved as a woman. I did not believe I was worth the title of “wife.” I did, however, retain my diligence in wanting to be a mother for my boys. I walked on as mother, but I carried a whole new wound that is rather indescribable–how to live on the same earth as the man who promised to love you for the rest of your life, but who then decides to hate you until death. The difference in this person from the day we married to today is disturbing to say the least. His heart was always more generous than mine. I still don’t understand what happened.
After the shock of my divorce, someone came into my life to challenge my faith, that is, my resolution to be faithful to God. I was shaken post-divorce, but I didn’t think it had shaken my faith in God, until….answering questions about the faith rekindled that joyous feeling I had when I came back to the Church several years ago. However, this other person’s questions began pulling me away because I was naive about spiritual battles still. I really just needed a good spiritual guide, but I went to a person who was full of flattery. Having been left by my husband, I was vulnerable to that kind of attention. Needless to say, I think I nearly lost my soul again because I stopped listening to God and listened to bad advice more because I was afraid to pick up the cross that Jesus had made just for me.
My sins multiplied because of my own weaknesses and sinful nature. I nearly gave up the ONE MAN who is entirely faithful to me: JESUS!
I blame myself for trying to sit on the sidelines for the rest of my life instead of actually resolving to be faithful by walking the faith and living the faith, no matter what. I blame myself for not trusting what I had already learned from the Saints and their eternally useful advice. I blame myself for avoiding the pain of loss caused by divorce rather than going to Jesus for healing and for His ability to forgive deeply. I blame myself for not accepting how awful divorce is on the human heart and how susceptible it becomes after it loses its spouse, usually finding band-aid fixes instead of going to the HEART PHYSICIAN for redemptive healing.
We are all susceptible to doing the exact same chaotic and desperate things to recover from this type of loss called divorce.
Now, I am thankful for this time of heartache because it helped me see more clearly my weaknesses–above all my lack of resolve to follow Christ, no matter what. But when it was happening, whoosh what a roller-coaster!
Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, Jesus, pulled me up by letting me drag myself down first. He showed me that band-aid fixes do NOT work for the pain of divorce. I trusted the way given by the world more than I trusted the way He was showing me.
During this time, GOD taught me again that HE would NEVER abandon me, but at the same time, HE showed me that I was perfectly capable of abandoning Him. I was abandoning HIM with my sins, and I was doing it of my own FREE-WILL. HE gave me the actual sensation of what it feels like to leave LOVE when I fell several years ago. It is a separation from any sense of good, warmth, and love. And here again when I tried the band-aid fix instead of Him, He refreshed my memory of what separation from Him Who is Love feels like. It does not FEEL pretty.
Abandonment! but my fear of abandonment was caused by me! I was willing to abandon LOVE for sin!
After much struggle and prayer with our Lady in the Rosary, I finally found the spiritual guide I needed to get out of my own pit. I also found the guide I needed to stay out of this pit, too–his name is St. Francis De Sales. I found him when I wasn’t really looking, thanks to Joseph Paul Kozlowski’s Spiritual Direction & Spiritual Directors. With St. Francis de Sales and others, such as St. John of the Cross, I have found the many answers that I need to live the life God is calling me to live.
REPENTANCE has taken on new depth of meaning since then. I don’t want to abandon LOVE, but I know that I make choices sometimes that do turn me away from HIM.
I do not deserve to see with the eyes of faith, having forfeited these eyes before. Jesus, in His absolute Mercy, keeps letting me enter into His love, convincing me that forfeiting Him, Love Incarnate, is the biggest sin.
I hated the sense of guilt that a converting heart feels, but now…I am glad to feel alive.
I now see the usefulness of spiritual exercises, sit-ups, push-ups, cardiovascular fitness for the soul. I need to resolve and to discipline myself to continue on the journey to the City of Peace.
JESUS is now asking me to walk with courage and dignity. He’s not going to drag me any longer.
He gives us free-will because love lived can only be done in freedom. He is a gentleman. He will not force anyone to love Him.
How can I turn HIM down?
This new sense of trust comes with the acknowledgement that there really are spiritual battles. I have to fight sin by going to Jesus. Temptations are real. Whether these temptations present themselves through other people (men are my weakness) or in my own body (I love chocolate and chips too much) or in my mind (escapism has its allure) or from the bad guy himself (who laughs at me when I fall), I know that I have the MAN on my team who will help me overcome them, shaping my heart into a new, overflowing vessel of love.
That’s all I want to do: LOVE. It is hard; it can be discouraging; it can be heart-breaking, but it is worth everything. He indeed is asking me to embrace the dignity of motherhood, authentic sisterhood, and trusting daughterhood. He has asked me to embrace my femininity for the sake of His Love and for the sake of those who long to be loved.
I pray heartily for post-divorced couples. They are so vulnerable. I also pray for authentically married couples that they will never go so far as to divorce. Marriage has become the unfortunate site of spiritual battles lost too many times in recent history.
Please say a prayer for the Single Mothers of Mary–a ministry whose aim is to help women embrace their motherhood for the sake of LOVE, their children, and their own personal dignity.