TITLE: Divorce and Forgiveness
By Edwina Cowgill
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Divorce and Forgiveness
“The wife is the last to know.” I always wondered how that was possible. How could any woman not realize that her husband is cheating on her – or at least thinking about it? Is she blind or naïve? Surely there would be signs, right? I would certainly see the signs!
I never saw any signs, maybe because I was blind, naïve and didn’t want to see the signs. Granted, they weren’t obvious, but I should have known something was going on with my husband, Bill.* I realize that no woman who pledges to give her life to a man “till death do us part” deliberately looks for the signs. We don’t watch our husbands every day to see “if he’s up to something.” So I didn’t see the signs; however, in looking back, I realized they were there for about two months before he actually left.
When Bill did leave, I told the children he had gone on a business trip for that weekend and the following week. He travelled for his company and I felt this excuse for his absence would satisfy the children. Inside, I was heartbroken and didn’t know how or when I would tell the children the truth. I had never felt that kind of pain or grief in my life. But I put on a good face and tried to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
After he had been gone for a few days, he called me at work to say that he had temporarily moved in with a friend until he could find an apartment. I was stunned! Naively, I had hoped this was just a phase and that he would be home in a week or two. I had no idea he was planning on leasing an apartment. He asked what I had told the children and I told him that I had told the children he had gone on a business trip, but I angrily insisted that he would have to come home to tell the children the truth.
Bill came the next night to try and explain what was going on to the children and they were devastated. When he left, my daughter, Janet, came to me, almost inconsolable. We hugged and talked for several minutes when I realized I didn’t know where my son was. Janet, who was 13 at the time, and I began to call Jack and he didn’t answer. We went into his room, and there he was, in the bed with the covers pulled up over his face, crying as though he would never stop. We sat on his bed and I took both of them in my arms and we all cried together. It was then, and remains to be, the worst night of my life.
In the coming months, I went through cycles of pain, anger and grief. At times, the pain was almost unbearable. Then raging anger would hit me, followed by an almost depthless and agonizing grief. I remember many, many nights after the children were asleep, when I would cry out to God and ask “WHY?” I begged God for His help but it felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling.
Occasionally, the pain would lessen a minuscule amount and the grief would ease ever so slightly. Then without warning, the pain and grief would overwhelm me with a vengeance. There were times when I truly thought I would not survive because the pain and anguish was so great. Hours would go by when I could not draw a deep breath. I felt like I was surrounded by a dark, black fog with no way out. My stomach was constantly tied in knots. I could not make decisions, even simple decisions such as what to wear to work. Every day, I had to force myself to get out of bed and face the day, when all I really wanted to do was pull the covers up over my head and stay there. At work, I made mistakes, some so serious that had I worked anywhere else, I would have been fired. But my employer was also my pastor and he was aware of my family’s situation and showed infinite grace and mercy to me as his parishioner and his employee.
Although I asked Bill on several occasions to accompany me to marital counseling, he refused; however, he wasn’t eager to divorce either. It was over a year and a half before the divorce was final. As time passed, the pain and grief slowly receded. It took an inordinate amount of time, however, for the anger to leave. Every time I thought about what he had done, not just to me, but to our children, I would get furious. Finally, I realized that my anger was hurting no one except me.
I knew, of course, about Jesus’ teaching that we must forgive those who have offended us. But how do you forgive someone who has wounded you so deeply and has caused wounds in your children that will follow them throughout their life? You can’t, at least, not on your own. I had to ask God many, many times to give me His mercy, His grace and His forgiveness for Bill. It was impossible to forgive him willingly. After several months of praying “make me willing to be willing to forgive Bill,” I was able to progress to “help me forgive Bill” in my prayers. And then came the day when I was able to say “I forgive him.” There were no fireworks, no “bravos,” and no fanfare. Just a quiet “I forgive him,” spoken from my heart while praying. But there was release and a new-found peace.
If you ever find yourself facing a separation and/or divorce, my prayer for you is that your spouse will be willing to do whatever it takes to save your marriage. If not, and divorce does eventually occur, I pray that you will know the presence of God every moment and that you will know that He is walking with you every step of the way. I pray also that He will help you to be “willing to be willing to forgive,” and to move to “help me forgive_________” (fill in your spouse’s name) and finally to “I forgive _____________.”
*All names have been changed to protect the innocent.
©2008 Edwina Cowgill
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