I ran into some of my “formers” last week (husband, sister-in-law and father-in-law) at my son’s football game. I was making the rounds in the stands and walked down the bleachers and there they were. We said hi, I offered them clappers, and then I walked down to the next row.
I woke up the next morning thinking about the peace I felt that night. It is peace that came at a great price of hard work, acceptance and forgiveness. My FH (former husband) and I will walk out on the football field tonight with my son (it’s senior night) and as much as this night is about Luke, it represents so much more to me. I will walk with a sincere joy and confidence that has been forged in a years-long fire where God has literally burned away the pain and insecurity that once plagued me.
Honestly, I’d like to be able to sit next to my FH and my former sister-in-law at my boys’ wedding someday. I’d like to sit in total comfort, joint excitement and ultimate peace. I’d like to lean over to my former sister-in-law and thank her for the part she played in raising my boys. I am not naïve to think that we will assemble as one big happy family, but I work hard every day to keep my heart in the right place…to poise myself for more of and everything that God has to offer me. I can literally visualize this day and in that picture, my heart is bursting with gratitude and abundant joy. I will continue to work toward that goal.
I do not take for granted the current condition of my heart. I am well aware that my friends and family, counselor and ultimately my Savior, Jesus Christ, have helped bring me to this place. I know, understand and fully grasp the idea that with even slightly different decisions and influence, I could be in a place of bitterness, anger and extreme pain.
Just like extra weight affects our bodies, the small decisions we make emotionally affect the heaviness of our minds and our hearts. Small resentments can build on each other to create a massive offense. I recently read an article at phys.org where a group of scientists analyzed 52 samples of venom that were collected all over Australia and dating back to as early as 1935. The results, published in the Journal of Proteomics, were a big surprise. Unless the stoppers of their vials had decayed and let fresh air in, venoms were almost unchanged even after more than half a century.
The venom we collect in our hearts remains as potent today as it was when we first stored it in our emotional vials. The only way to get rid of it is to literally let it go. Yet much of the time we add more, a little at a time, until our vials are full.
I have had some really special conversations with Jake over the past couple of weeks and I am so grateful they came at a time when my vial was on the emptier side. He has been asking me questions about my divorce and also sharing his perspective. One thing he mentioned in our first conversation was that he understood the root cause of our divorce was that my FH and I didn’t love each other anymore. In my venom-collecting years I would have lashed out in pain with a comment defending myself, but I was able to sit on it for a week before responding. We talked again a few days ago and my part of the conversation went something like this:
“Jake, I was thinking about what you said about dad and I not loving each other and I just wanted to say that I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. At the end of our marriage I found myself in a place where I behaved more like a care-giver than a wife to your dad. I’m sure that didn’t feel good to him. In marriage there are times when each person will not feel ‘in love’ with the other. This is when you have to dig in deep, seek help and fight for the relationship.”
We ONLY have a right to speak for ourselves. Whether it’s a marriage or a friendship or a family relationship, my counselor, Erin has taught me that interpreting someone else’s actions or motives is sheer speculation. It is not our right to represent someone’s heart with our own words unless we have been given permission to do so (I’m referring to adult-to-adult relationships here).
So when it comes to talking with our kids about other relationships in our lives (especially those that are strained), it’s important that we address our own stuff and in my opinion, ONLY what is ours. I can’t speak to my FH’s heart when we divorced. I know from what he’s told me he didn’t feel loved by me and I’m so grateful now that he shared that because I have spent years digging into it. Today I would like to tell him that I am so sorry for letting my heart get to a place where I treated him that way. It was not my intention and I apologize for the hurt I caused.
Did you notice I didn’t go into all the reasons my heart got to that place? Because at this point, now that I am not married to this person and no longer working together toward the goal of a healthy marriage, the thing that matters is the condition of MY heart. My FH and God can work out the other stuff…it’s not my job, obligation or even responsibility to bring it up. And that is where peace is found.
A few days ago I had an encounter with someone who, I can tell, has stored venom in her heart for years. My dad and I have been working with her on a project and she has really made life very challenging for us. The other day she lit into me about something that literally had nothing to do with me. My first response was a defensive comment but then when she dug deeper, I just said, “Okay,” and walked away. Because I realized in that moment there were going to be no winners in that arena. God’s mercy tells me that she has been miserable for years and I just happened to get in her path of venom-spewing that day. It wasn’t necessarily intended for me per se, but I was in her way. When I realized that, I simply stepped to the side.
Our role as parents is to be appropriately vulnerable with our children (if you don’t have children, think of your family members). As we model humility, ownership, repentance and course correction, our children/family will take note. As parents, the bottom line is that we are trying to raise selfless children in a selfish world. And God please bless us, because we need all the help we can get.
As we empty the venom in our vials and our kids/family see(s) a pure heart before the Lord, they are going to be drawn to that. So the questions we have to ask ourselves this week are, “What kind of venom have I been keeping in my vial? Is there anything I am holding on to that can or will be used as poison someday? Do people (sometimes or especially those we love) walk in my path and get sprayed?” It’s impossible to emit something if we don’t have it in our possession. And as we empty our vials, we make space to fill them with something different. May we always pick a beautiful fragrance over a poisonous substance intended to cause others pain.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.