Thursday, October 20, 2016

Divorce and Unrequited Love

photo credit: marchatot Divorce via photopin (license)

"You've Been Served."

And with those horrible, gut-wrenching words, one of the worst fears of my life occurred:  I was going to go through a divorce. I had been served divorce papers.

Now before any of you begin to think that I am going to trash my former wife or malign her family, you will be sorely disappointed. That would not be fair to her, to my sons, or to our family. You are free to speculate why the divorce happened. You are free to gossip about who was at fault, but you would miss the point of what happened:  two people parted ways and both sides are hurting.

"What happened? How could this happen to me? Why?" All of these questions ran through my head as I tried to make sense of my life.

I now rank as one of those millions of people who are now or have been divorced. I feel the societal stigma placed on me.


I felt the most excruciating pain in my life. It ripped at my soul. It knocked me physically down. On the day my children and former wife left, as I remember the tears of my oldest son dripping hot on my cheek as he refused to let me go, I went through almost intolerable pain. My mind tried to block out the pain. My body refused. I went through each room my children and wife had been in. I smelled the scents of their presence. I picked up Lego pieces that were strewn across the ground by my boys and hoarded them as precious treasures.

The pain came on me in waves inexorably like waves crashing on the beach.

I nearly succumbed to the pain. It would have been so easy.

photo credit: Freaktography Poison via photopin (license)


As the pain went away, I noticed something else creep into my life:  bitterness. It tasted like poison. I was resentful to so many people and organizations:  Resentful to my former wife; resentful to The Salvation Army, which made me homeless and took away the my livelihood, my insurance, my pension, and, perhaps most significantly, my identity. I was no longer an officer. I was no longer a respected person in the community. I was a disgraced ex-officer and a pariah. This was perhaps compounded by the fact that only 1 officer from my former division ever contacted me to find out how I was doing. No one else reached out to me to see how I was doing. No one reached out to me:  not my divisional commander, not my officer friends, no one on the divisional headquarters, none.

A pariah.

That's what I had become. Because of that, I felt bitter:  bitter towards my former wife, bitter towards The Salvation Army, bitter towards the people I felt had wronged me.

I quickly realized, however, that this bitterness was rapidly becoming poison in my life. It ate away at my soul. I had become a recluse. I didn't want that in my life.

In one of my appointments as a Salvation Army officer, I recalled a tragic tale of a couple who went through a terrible divorce. The former husband held his bitterness almost as a badge of honor. He kept it. He showed it to anyone and everyone who would listen to him. He used it to blame others for what had befallen him. He was unhappy and, in an ironic sense, did not want to let go of that unhappiness. He cherished it because it had become part of his identity. He was a bitter man.

I did not (and do not) want to become that bitter man.


I actually had become blind to people who had been helping me out. The day my former wife and children left me, my counselor called me up on the phone and just listened to me cry. I realize now what I didn't realize then. He saved my life. I poured out my broken heart to him and he took it in. I cannot imagine the burden that must be.

I had friends show up at the last minute to help me pack and clean the last of my belongings. My family came and stayed with me, while I picked up the pieces of my life. I had another friend call me nearly every day, just so that I could talk and cry.

They saved my life.

My sister and brother-in-law invited me down to Detroit. When they asked what I wanted to do, my response was that I wanted to go to Canada and eat poutine. So we went. I ate poutine. I found a new comfort food. (Thanks, Canada! Sorry about singing the song, "Blame Canada," the entire time I was there.)

Unrequited Love

Finally there came acceptance and a realization of another characteristic of God I had never seen before. When I received the paperwork from the courts, informing me that my divorce was final and I was no longer married, I mourned. I cried. I reached out to family and friends.

Then I thought about God. How often does God reach out to us in love? How often do we reject God? How often does God try to persuade us to love? How often do we refuse?

There is a beautiful passage in Hosea about God calling out to Israel and Israel refusing to listen. It is very much the story of an unrequited love:  a love that is not returned.

Although I realize that my marriage with my former wife will never be restored, I do realize that something special had happened. We shared 13 years of our lives together. We have three beautiful boys together and one child lost through a miscarriage. That can never be taken away.

Love is a wonderful and strange thing. Love is powerful.

One thing that I have realized now is that love goes beyond divorce. I had assumed that love was limited for me to being married. I was wrong. I believe that I would not be able to love again or find love outside of marriage. I was wrong.

Divorced Christians have had a stigma placed on them in large part by other Christians. I realize how wrong that is. No matter who we are:  Christian, non-Christian; gay or straight; black or white, divorced, married or single; we are all deserving of love.

I have found love again.

The love of my children never left me. The love of my family never left me. I discovered a new love through a new Church.

The love of God had never left me . . .

. . . and that is all that matters.