Friday, December 18, 2015

On my 40th Unniversary--wouldn't take nothing for my journey now

4o years ago on December 20, I was married in the chapel at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, surrounded by loving friends and family. It was a simple wedding. We didn’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen and no wedding cake. My sister-in-law, Judy, sewed my wedding dress. I’m guessing we did the whole thing for less than $300, and that includes the new suit my husband bought. I remember it as a wondrous day. I was so crazy in love with the man I was marrying that I couldn’t wait to begin our life together.

I looked forward to having children with him and growing old together. One of the things I used to imagine was one day having our grandchildren come to visit us at Christmas time. This Christmas, our grandson Nick will be spending Christmas with me. Last year he spent Christmas with his grandpa. That’s not the way either one of us had envisioned it. But that’s the way it is.

We had been through some bumpy times during our 20 year marriage, and I had vowed that come hell or high water, I was in it for the duration. And then I wasn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make it work. Trust was broken beyond repair and I knew it was over, so I asked him to leave. Then for about a decade I was in shock. It was difficult for me to even say the word, divorced.

It’s hard to believe that what started out so promising could end as it did. After 20 years, we have now been apart about as long as we were together. During those 20 years of marriage we collected some cherished memories and parented two extraordinary human beings. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. But we also brought devastating hurt to one another. Living through that hurt was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And yet, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade that tumultuous time of my life for anything, either. Yes, I can say that…now that I’ve emerged from the wilderness, healed and at peace with myself.

I don’t know who I would be today if I had remained married, but I am certain that I would not be the woman I’ve grown to become. Not perfect, by a long shot, I still have more than my share of shortcomings. But I’ve come to appreciate my flaws as a part of who I am, the person God created me to be. I’ve been able to follow my calling in ways that I never would have if I were also considering the needs of my spouse, and as a result, God has surprised me again and again with unexpected adventures and a life that is richer and fuller than any I ever could have imagined when I was 23 years old. After years of suffering from self-esteem issues, I’ve decided that I’m actually a pretty cool person. I can take care of myself, and yet I also have learned to ask for help when I need it. I’ve grown to realize that even as a single person, I’m not a solo act, and I’ve come to treasure the gift of community. I’ve discovered that I can face my greatest fears and fiercely love others at least as much as I love myself. I’ve learned that even when I royally mess up, I’m loved by God, and that makes it so much easier to love others who also royally mess up. I’m a better mother. I’m a better friend. I’m a better pastor. I’m a better person.

So, knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Would I marry him? Absolutely. Not for the reasons that I thought I was marrying him then. But for the reasons that have come to pass as a result. I think of the title to a book of essays Maya Angelou wrote: Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now. Those words speak for me, too. 

It’s not that it all went down the way I had hoped it would. I didn’t marry the man of my dreams and "we all lived happily ever after." I know that happens for some people, but that’s not the way it happened for me. And yet, it’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. I’ve survived, I’ve grown, and I’ve been transformed because God has been with me through it all. I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.

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