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.