It’s natural to look for silver linings. To search out the tiniest good in what seems an ocean of hopelessness is evidence of God’s handiwork in our very humanity. That is a wonderful thing; without it would make for a miserable existence.
This tendency often crescendos as the holidays near, approaching the end of another year we are tempted to reflect on life, the previous twelve months, and the hurdles leaped, the valleys walked, and the mountains climbed, reexamining our decisions in light of time and perspective, and just perhaps finding diamonds where we first thought lay only coal.
I was recently asked by The Huffington Post to write a few lines responding to, ‘Why I’m Thankful For My Divorce’.
I’m not thankful for my divorce. Anything causing so much pain shouldn’t be celebrated. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. My gratitude is what I pulled from that wreckage, gathering up pieces of my broken dreams and with them creating something new and better. Divorce was merely the flash paper igniting the change.
If divorce affords us anything it’s the chance to rewind, reflect, and renew, then taking what we learn and choosing to do life differently. Through that I came to see my divorce as a remarkable gift. Outside the shadow of their mother, I now had the freedom to build a unique and lasting bond with my children, one of my own making. A decade later shows it’s the best gift I’ve ever received.
No, during this season of Thanksgiving I’m not thankful for my divorce. I’m thankful for the opportunity it gave me – and not wasting it.
It’s an easy mistake to consider divorce a blessing; this perhaps is the epitome of our fondness to see the brighter side. But there’s a danger in this way of thinking. Doing so may leave us confused about the realities of divorce.
Regardless of how toxic a marriage or incompatible a spouse, it’s no less a travesty when something that began with such hope and enthusiasm comes to an end. Divorce should never, ever, be applauded. So much pain concentrated into one decision must never be considered a blessing for which we are grateful. In truth, divorce is death. It’s the death of love, death of dreams, death of futures. As with anything that dies, especially before its time, we are right to mourn and weep for the loss.
But while divorce takes away it also gives in return. Divorce affords a unique opportunity to rewind, reflect, and renew. Rewind the past, reflect on our decisions, and renew ourselves by taking what we learned and doing things differently in the future.
If we are ever thankful for divorce it ought not be on account of our decision to do so. Instead our gratefulness, if indeed we have arrived as such a place to feel grateful, is in how we nurture and grow out of the decay, how we gather up the pieces of our broken dreams and form something new and better. It becomes right to celebrate and applaud the good that happens in us beyond and through a divorce, never the divorce itself.
I can say with absolute certainty my divorce gave me the opportunity to be a better father. Yet in reality, the more appropriate word is it ‘forced’ me to be a better father. That is none too small of an admission and took nearly five years to accept. Motherhood casts a long, wide, beautiful shadow and it is often difficult for dads to find their place in the sun. Fatherhood routinely gets lost in a mother’s shade.
Divorce changed all that. For nearly a decade, I have had the opportunity to shine into my children’s lives in a way never imaginable as a married man. This didn’t occur naturally. Becoming a divorced dad to a three year and eighteen month old, I initially focused more time on my reemerging social life than any fatherhood responsibilities. I believed my opportunity lied in a newfound freedom not in nurturing a special relationship with my children. Yet time, and especially circumstance, taught me to see my divorce in a brighter light. The moment I did that the mounds of frozen bitterness, anger, and resentment that had piled up in my heart began melting away.
Considering all the good that’s happened in the past ten years, including a relationship that will soon lead to marriage and a deep bond with my children, I’m no more thankful for my divorce today than I was the day it happened. Such pain, sorrow, and heartache are something I would never want for myself or anyone else.
Yet I am grateful for finally recognizing the opportunities that my divorce provided. How it motivated me to rewind, reflect, and renew which led me on the journey through an Emotional Winter that gave me new wisdom of, among other things, ‘to find the right one, I must be the right one’. None of that could have happened if not for a divorce.
As the holiday season approaches and I’m inclined to look over the last year and my life, I will not be thankful for a divorce. I will give thanks for the opportunities it offered and that I hopefully didn’t waste them.