I’m getting married…. like the whole church, cake, ring, dress, ‘before God’ thing. I know this isn’t ‘breaking news’. Over 2 million people get married just in the United States each year. Plus, anyone who knows me well, has been waiting for this announcement for some time now. My permasmile and living on cloud nine facebook posts are hard to miss. Not to mention the white dog fur constantly coating my black pants – a sure indicator I’ve been around my fiancé’s dog.
But, it is still unbelievable to me.
See, I was married once before and I promised myself (and repeatedly accounted to my therapist during those tumultuous times) that I would never ever get married again. And here I am… getting married.
I’m a pastor. I regularly sit with people who have decided to get married. Many pastors I know lament how God often seems an afterthought when it comes to weddings. The hoopla of the wedding planning tends to overshadow the marriage piece. I will admit that in my cursory preview of wedding apps available for my Iphone and the plethora of bridal magazines in newsstands, that there is little to no mention of God as the foundation in a marriage.
However, when couples meet with me for pre-marital counseling and share their love story, their hopes and dreams, their worries and struggles, all that wedding planning ‘drama’ is pushed aside for the moment. What sits before me is promise.
Maybe I was young and naïve, but I thought ‘forever’ truly was until I took my very last breath. So, even though my soul howled all the way through my separation and divorce, I never was able to dissuade myself from believing in the sanctity of marriage – – that in the joining of two people something of God lives, something holy and right.
But, still I got divorced. It was the right thing to do. Believe me – there are plenty of people who question me on this, especially as a pastor.
We live in a paparazzi society where divorce is almost a right of passage as much as marriage. It’s accepted, even expected in many cases.
However, in my case (I’m not alone in this either), trying harder, sticking with it for the sake of others or the church or God doesn’t actually help. It makes you resent love. Love doesn’t cause you to be ashamed of who you are, nor does love cause you to question your existence. The essence of God’s love is that we are loved just because…. No conditions.
Vows aren’t conditional. Vows are promises.
When I promised, “For better or for worse,” I thought it meant arguing about late nights at the office or too little money. I had no idea ‘worse’ meant that one day, the man I’d known since I was 19 years old, would tell me he’s gay.
I don’t advocate divorce, nor wish it on anyone. I’ve witnessed in other divorcing couples how anger and retaliation can become all consuming, marring friendships and families, turning hearts stone cold. I’ve also experienced the sorrow and ripple affects it has on children. Still, for me (and my ex-husband) divorce was one of the most loving and most faithful actions of our marriage. It was the epitome of upholding my vows.
I always thought I’d write a book for people like me, because there were no books to help me. At least, there were no books I could find that seemed to echo what swirled around in the middle of the night. There are plenty of books on surviving divorce, how to tell your children, and wading through the legalities of it all (believe me, it’s much harder to take a marriage apart than putting one together).
But, there aren’t books to tell you how to reconcile a life you thought you were living with the one that was actually being lived. There are no books that tell you that it’s actually ‘okay’ to be a woman when being a woman is the exact wrong thing to be. There are no books that tell you how to explain sexuality to your children without vilifying it for desecrating your life.
That is a story that nobody wants to write, but it needs to be told.
As a means of protection, and most especially to bar my scarred heart from any further beatings, I told myself that marital love was for other people. Not for me. That lie was born out of a slew of other lies: I was unredeemable because of broken vows; I was unlovable because I wasn’t enough; I was a terrible mother because my children now came from a ‘broken’ home.
God had a lot of truth-telling to do with me. During that time I cursed and cried; was angry and alone; lashed out at him and silently hated myself, but there is one thing I learned about marriage while taking one apart, and it has taught me how to continue writing the story of my life.
Being faithful to another person means letting them be who they are, who God created them to be, because in doing so you are also faithful to yourself and faithful to God. My ex-husband wasn’t the only one who discovered himself. Once, in jest, he said he felt he had hurt me so much that he drove me to God. There lies a bit of truth in that statement; however what he unknowingly drove me to was love.
I learned more during those few years about love and sacrifice and myself than if all the prior years of learnings in my life were lumped into one. The lie which under-girded all the other distortions I told myself was that in learning to accept myself, love God, and be vulnerable to other people I would NOT end up loving another person.
I did mention that I am getting married again, right? There are many reasons I know it’s ‘right’, but mostly because my fiancé’s ability to love me unconditionally, take a chance on me, and place his life in my hands is nothing short of how Jesus loved. At the risk of inflating his ego, much of the time I see God in him. No, he’s not God – trust me. But it is something holy.
So, yes. I’m getting married again. And I can’t wait!