The Way It Wasn't Supposed to Be
- Published Apr 23, 2001
Birds chirped outside the window in the branches of the flowering locust tree. Spring hung in the air but not in my heart. I sat in the second row of the classroom watching my oldest daughter, 5-year-old Ashley, file into the room with the other students dressed for their preschool graduation.
The ceremony began. I scarcely heard a word, however, as I watched my child and wondered how the events of the previous 18 months would affect her. Her dad had left our home when Ashley was 3, her sister, Courtney, was 1 and I was pregnant with her brother, Clint. My mind retraced the events. Afraid to face what lay ahead on my own, I had surrendered my life to Christ. I prayed, "I give You not just this situation, but I give You my whole life."
Ashley stood, head held high. She reached with enthusiasm to accept her certificate, then she walked toward me, smiling. She stopped and turned toward the rear of the room where her dad sat. She headed toward him. She stopped again and turned back toward me. Her eyes met mine, and in that moment I saw every question and hurt and uncertainty she felt over her home breaking apart. What do I do? Whom do I run to? Where do I belong? I smiled and nodded for her to take the diploma to her dad, her quandary fixed for the moment.
Ashley has just turned 18. Long ago she outgrew her yellow bows, and her little curls have turned to long brown tresses. She will soon graduate again, this time from high school. How have I managed to raise her and her siblings by myself for more than 14 years?
- I found help. I couldn't do it alone, so I found other people to fill in the blanks. I discovered that I had to make my needs known and ask for assistance.
- I sought mentors. I watched for older women who could listen, pass on godly wisdom and hold me accountable. I also kept my eye open for adults and older children to connect with each of my kids.
- I shook off the guilt. I did all I could do to keep my marriage from breaking apart. Sure, I'd made mistakes, but I could, without remorse, move forward after I'd taken sufficient time to heal. I also worked hard to remember I could only do so much and then let the rest go. I also had to remember that I could never become a dad to my kids, only the best mom I could ever be.
- I forgave. One day I sat at a table and named every rotten thing that my husband had ever done to me, and I laid down a slip of paper to represent each infraction. Then I picked each reminder up one by one and prayed to forgive. When I finished the last one, I threw the papers away. That freed me to move on.
- I spent time with my kids. My children weren't impressed with my college degrees or my publishing or my name in the community. Instead, their mom was great because she was there for them. She listened and loved and understood.
- I accepted the fact that I wouldn't do everything right. I have lost my patience, acted unwisely, made poor choices and given wrong guidance. All I could expect from myself was the best I could do.
- I nurtured my faith. Knowing that God would be with me all the time brought me comfort when I felt most alone. I have made sure to nurture that relationship in the years since, both through church and through new relationships I have found.
Ashley recently ran in her cross-country regionals and won first place. My heart swelled with pride But as I watched her cross the finish line, I felt another all-too-familiar emotion. Ashley stumbled toward her dad and leaned on his shoulder. She looked over at me and I saw that same look of uncertainty I had seen in her face at age 5. What do I do? Whom do I run to? Where do I belong?
If I could accomplish one thing with my life, it would be to stamp out divorce. I have seen the devastation it causes. I know why God says in Malachi 2:16, "I hate divorce." He knows and I know that divorce is not the way it was meant to be—not for the mother or the father or the children.