There are moments in life occasionally when you’re struck with an urgency to remember the situation you’re in. To memorize every detail, every subtle nuance of that moment. One of these came to me a few years ago. I was laying on the couch with my wife, my arms wrapped around her. Suddenly, the enormity of the situation struck me. I recall thinking, “Remember this. I don’t know why, but remember this for the rest of your life.” I looked around the room trying to soak in every possible minutiae of my surroundings. Every smell, every feeling. It was one of those rare moments when there’s an ineffable sense that something in the cosmos has aligned to create a snapshot of perfection. A single instance so utterly right in every way that you can settle into it like an old, comfortable chair and revel in its holy decadence.
Three years later, I don’t remember a bit of it. Not one detail. All I can recall is the abstract feeling that it was a crucial moment. That this was important. Time is cruel like that. It steals things of such monumental depth and leaves you with niggling trivialities. And now, time has robbed me of that memory, and circumstance has robbed me of my wife.
It’s been nearly a year now since my wife and I split up, and I understand it less now than when it happened. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the brutal horrorshow that is divorce. I don’t know if it will ever make sense to me. My divorce was not the result of a slow dissolution, but rather a sudden, head-spinning severance that left me shell-shocked.
I still talk to her on a fairly regular basis via the wonderfully impersonal technology of instant messaging. The conversation is always pleasant, always thoroughly enjoyable. But I’m struck with a terrifying reality each time we communicate. I realized a long time ago that she had become a very different person. What shocks and saddens me is that, through our conversations, I realize what a different person I am. I am fundamentally less kind-hearted, loving and tolerant. There’s an ugly callousness to me that I only recognize when I talk to the one person who would know it’s there. Even more alarming is this: I like it. There’s a bent part of me that enjoys being this person. That revels in the ability to shut people out emotionally and hurt others at will without an ounce of regret. I find myself wondering if these things were stripped away from me by the pain of divorce, or if I willingly gave them up.
Everyone knows that divorce is ugly, but I don’t think they grasp how gruesome it actually is. It takes from you more than you could possibly expect. Your identity, your family, people’s perceptions of you. Worst of all, it robs you of your history. Every memory involving your former spouse is now colored by the grim realization of how things ended up.
If anything, this experience has solidified my belief in the sanctity of the marriage covenant. It should be a holy, inviolable thing that is never encroached upon by even the most momentary thought of divorce. When that covenant is broken, it destroys far more than either party ever imagined. If I had one bit of advice for married couples, it is this: Don’t ever, ever, ever allow divorce as an option. But, don’t ever take for granted that it cannot happen to you.
God has shown me much through this experience. It’s easy to feel wronged, and to consider myself an innocent party who just got a raw deal. But the truth is God has used this season of my life to point out aspects of my character that need to change. Almost every preconceived notion I had of myself, God has turned topside-down to reveal to me how desperately I need to be conformed more into His image. The growth in the midst of this suffering has been incredible and unparalleled. Beyond any doubt, divorce was not God’s will for my life, or my wife’s. However, this is the situation I find myself in, and God uses it every day to show me my need for Him, and the areas of my life that fall pitifully short. Slowly but surely, He is breaking through the callousness that has overtaken my heart, and teaching me to truly, deeply care about people again. Each day is a new lesson in trust, sacrifice and love.
All in all, I’m beginning to like the places God is bringing me. I’m beginning to like the idea of developing character, of trusting people again and letting myself invest emotionally in those around me. I’ve forged a lot of new relationships with some amazing people who lift me up in prayer, encourage me and call me out on the garbage that creeps into my life. After a year of the most dizzying emotional roller-coaster conceivable, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I like the journey God is taking me on.
But, if I’m entirely honest, I’d trade every bit of it to fully remember that one perfect moment with my wife.