Saturday, 31 March 2012

About to burst

Sometimes, I feel like I’m about to burst. I suspect that the consequences of this feeling may be rubbing people the wrong way. I tend to feel like this in church, mainly. This need to speak my mind, to say what I really think, rather than just smile placidly, and nod, as if I have no critical thinking skills.

Yesterday, I think I was particularly eruptive as I tried to express myself during a church meeting. I’m now here trying to analyze why. I feel almost like I’m going through a ‘rebellious teenager’ phase late in life. And now that I think about it, I finally get why: I kept quiet for so long, in a bid to be the ‘perfect’ Christian wife, that now – now that I’m no longer married – I have this sub-conscious need to make up for lost time.

Today, I say most of what I say to make up for all the times I should’ve said something, all the times I could’ve said something … but chose to remain silent. I speak up now for all the times I suppressed my ‘true’ self, believing I would be rewarded for it with a glorious Christian marriage. In the process, I’m probably becoming increasingly unpopular with some. While I understand this, I’m not overly-concerned by it. I feel like the real me is being revived, dusted off, and brought out of the attic at last. This is what I used to be like before marriage: nice, but opinionated. If I had just stayed that way, maintained my authentic self, not doubted for a split second that I was ‘good enough’ just the way I was, not obscured my real self for ‘spiritual’ reasons, I would’ve warded off the wrong people from my life and attracted the right ones. A *big* lesson learned.

I’m finding it pretty liberating getting to know myself again, being pleasantly surprised to rememeber what I really used to be like, and to realize that that person never actually died. It’s also liberating not to care too much about what anyone thinks, not to have a spouse’s fragile reputation to continuously protect, not to censor myself …

Like I said, I’m like a rebellious teenager all over again!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Evil patterns

I’ve been out of Nigeria for so long that I haven’t heard or come across the phrase ‘evil patterns’ in a long, long time. I attended a prayer meeting recently, though, that brought back some ancient memories. One prayer point focused on the issue of ‘evil patterns’ that run in families, and divorce was specifically mentioned as one of these patterns. The instruction was for attendees to pray against evil patterns. As the fervency of this corporate prayer built up, my mind wandered and I found myself lost in thought. What evil patterns could I identify in my family?  I dug around in my mind but couldn’t come up with anything particularly unique to my family – i.e., anything that didn’t occur in other families I knew of somewhere along the family tree. Then I chided myself for embarking on a futile exercise. Nobody’s perfect – and if I could accept this reality, why would I assume that any family was (or even could be) perfect?

What about divorce, though? Could my divorce be an indication of the evil patterns besieging my family?

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

When my mother first heard about my appearance in court as part of the divorce proceedings, her first reaction was to cry, although I had been preparing her for this eventuality, and had been keeping her abreast of the developments. As she cried softly on the phone, I told her to wipe her tears. Because my divorce is not something that ‘happened to me,’ necessarily. The circumstances leading up to it were ‘visited upon me’ in the sense that I had little control over them, yes. But the divorce itself was a carefully-made choice on my part. It was a choice I made about how I no longer wanted to live.  

If I wanted to remain married, the ‘marriage’ was (and, I daresay, still is) mine for the having. I could have stayed married forever, actually. After all, to many of us, the content of the marriage doesn’t matter. All that matters to most people is that you stay married, even if you’re living divorced lives. And so, I very well could have chosen to remain in a dead marriage beyond redemption – and I’m sure this would have rubbed the overwhelming majority the right way, and would have successfully obscured the so-called evil pattern of divorce. But it wasn’t right for me, and I suddenly had the radical realization that I actually matter.

We were separated for 4 years before the divorce. I wonder if those years of separation (when, technically, I was still married) would qualify as an evil pattern, too. Or if the pattern is only in operation when there’s an actual, legal dissolution of the marriage.

Or maybe the evil pattern lies in the choice I made to officially end my marriage. Perhaps, in my family, there’s a propensity for women to make this sort of decision (and to have the financial and psychological means to do so) after years of stomaching things that shouldn’t be part of a marriage in the first place. In which case, the evil pattern would reside in the tendency for us to make ‘poor’ life partner choices … in which case, this can’t really be called ‘evil,’ but perhaps a lack of wisdom/discernment (or a mere lack of street smarts!) instead … in which case, even I can agree that we can find patterns anywhere we look for them, including in our families – but they’re not always associated with evil … in which case I feel better now about not spending those few minutes in fervent prayer, but rather, ‘unpacking’ evil patterns – and in so doing, realizing what I really needed to pray about. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How do you tell your church it’s over?

I used the medium of writing to convey the news of my divorce to my family and to my church. It was harder to convey the news to my church. While my siblings got the news the day after I learned of it (through a call from my lawyer), I waited another week before broaching the subject with key church members. I spend a substantial amount of time with my fellow church members and leaders at least once a week. With the advantage of proximity, they left no stone unturned in trying to piece my shattered marriage back together. It was therefore really hard to share the news with them. I would begin crafting an email, and then end up deleting it. I did this several times before I finally took a deep breath, and hit the ‘send’ button.

Here, I share my final email to select members of my church family.

Dear Friends and Beloved Brethren in the Lord,

I trust that 2012 is treating each of you well so far.

Pardon me for relaying this message via email. I would have preferred to call each of you individually to convey this sensitive message, but since I’ve kept postponing it for various reasons (including travel, etc.), I thought it best to send an email before the month ends.

Fourteen years ago, on February 15, I took a leap of faith and got married. We were two young Christians, full of dreams, and with the best of intentions toward one another. Unfortunately, the union did not last and each of you is aware of the details. Ironically (and uncannily), our divorce was finally granted on February 15, 2012, exactly 14 years to the day of the marriage.

I wanted to let each of you know how deeply I appreciate your enduring concern over this matter, which each of you expressed in word and deed in ways that I will never forget. Each of you really continued to fight for the relationship, even long after I had no more fight left in me. I have no doubt that God will richly reward your efforts. My prayer is that as you have watered me and my family, may God Himself water you and yours in return.  May everything that my marriage lacked be granted to each couple represented here in abundance. May every struggle that my marriage faced be a non-issue in your own unions. May God give each of you strength for your respective marriage journeys – strength to make it until the end. May your marriages be nothing but a source of pure joy – marriages in which you actually enjoy each other, rather than merely endure one another. And may your children have the privilege of witnessing what a true Christian marriage is supposed to be like. May that foundation lead them into their own stable marriages. In Jesus’ Name.

I am grateful to each of you for always pointing me toward reconciliation, and for your genuine concern that I do God’s will. The divorce was not a recommendation from any of you, or even from anyone else that I know. This was purely my decision. Thank you for pointing out the potential consequences of this decision, and for sharing your perspective on this decision, based on your understanding of scripture. Thank you also for respecting my decision, nonetheless.

Blessings to you all.

Why this blog is necessary

Because as a Christian woman going through a divorce, I need to talk in order to heal. You can only talk so much to your friends and loved ones without sounding like a broken record.

I read somewhere that it takes an average of 2 years to heal from an extra-marital affair. Which friend or loved one can bear a two-year conversation without being driven up the wall? After a while, you begin to sense that your ‘talking time,’ as a person desperate to heal, is up.

As Stacy Morrison (author of Falling apart in one piece: One optimist’s journey through the hell of divorce) put it: ‘My family and friends had gone with me on this journey as far as they could go. I would have to go the rest of the way on my own.” This blog represents ‘the rest of the way’ for me. Through this blog, I can have an endless conversation with myself, with others, until my healing is complete. I can say as much or as little as I want, when I want, when I need to.

This is a process that helps me make sense of the demise of my Christian marriage, and in so doing, create closure for myself.

I have to warn you, though: the blog is not written in chronological order by any means. I write about whatever comes to me, whenever it comes. This is a healing process, and I’ve learned that healing can often be haphazard.