It was 6:00 pm and I was in a bit of a predicament. I was standing in a very crowded restaurant bar next to two gentlemen on bar stools and they had been there a while. I was trying to mind my own business but noticed one of them smiled and tipped his golf cap. Being a single woman at the time, I began feeling uncomfortable and tried to appear preoccupied with waiting for the rest of my party to arrive while the hostess arranged a table for 7. As this man turned to face me, I thought I knew what was coming and hoped I could get out of there without being rude. But I was about to be surprised.
"Would you like my seat?" he said. "Thank you for offering," I replied with a polite smile, "But I'm waiting for my friends... they're making a table for us." He introduced himself as Mike and then an unexpected and interesting conversation ensued. Surprisingly, this late-40- something gentleman was quite an open book. He talked about his contracting business, then a recent golf trip with his buddies, and then his 3rd wife and teenage son who "hated him." Since I had also been through a divorce 6 years earlier, I felt sad for him. He said he used to be Catholic, used to serve mass as an altar boy, referring to that time in his youth as "the good ole' days." Admittedly, he was dissatisfied with life, but reasoned that it was all good because he could come to the bar after work each day to get an "attitude adjustment" before he headed home.
I briefly mentioned my own divorce and that I, too, was Catholic, but added that my faith was what got me through it all (in hopes that I might send a positive message about practicing the faith). I mentioned the group of friends I was meeting - also Catholic and great to work with. And right about then, they showed up and our table was ready. I thanked Mike for the conversation and said goodbye, still feeling sad for him.
Unexpectedly, Mike approached our table after a few minutes. He was not drunk, but he was clearly under the influence of the "truth serum" he had been drinking. He said to us all, "I want you to know that I am jealous," and he laughed somewhat awkwardly. "I'm jealous because you have your faith." Everyone at the table was quiet and attentive. "I was supposed to be a priest," he said, pointing to his own chest. "I've known that since I was a kid." His eyes welled-up a bit. "But I got a girl pregnant and all bets were off. I haven't been back to church since and now I'm on my third wife. You don't know how lucky you all are. Sorry to interrupt." Then Mike turned and left.
That was 10 years ago and the memory of that encounter is still vivid. I related to Mike because, although my circumstances were very different, I too had allowed the world to pull me away from my faith in a very dangerous way. Six years before my chance meeting with Mike, I was struggling with my husband leaving me and not really understanding how I could reconcile the fact that I was "divorced and Catholic." That was so contrary to everything I had been taught my whole life. In my morally weakened and emotional state, I became highly susceptible to what I call, "the culture of divorce."
The culture of divorce poses itself as an oasis in the desert of pain and suffering, but in reality it is the ultimate mirage... actually, more like a huge pit of quicksand. There are well-meaning people who congratulate you on your divorce, thinking that type of encouragement helps you feel better and the issue of the pain is avoided altogether. That is the first mistake, thinking that avoiding the pain is the way to heal, when addressing the pain is the real place to start. They always know the "perfect person" to set you up with on a date. In the culture of divorce, the environment is laced with an "anything goes because you deserve to be happy" attitude that suggests all kinds of immoral behavior are completely appropriate and acceptable, based on the premise that indulging yourself is the path to healing. There are endless opportunities for finding new relationships to help you "heal"; casual dating and intimacy, weekend flings, new "loves", etc. Unfortunately, I found myself immersed in this culture for a time after my divorce and what I received in return was anything but healing. In return, I received confusion, bitterness, heartache, severe depression, total dissatisfaction with life, and a strained relationship with God.
After my marriage fell apart, I was so disillusioned that I allowed cynicism to take over. I started to believe that "til death do us part" was a myth and from that point, I began to settle for less. "My dream is life-long marriage, but since that's not possible, I'll have to find happiness some other way . . . I know I shouldn't be involved with this person, but he makes me feel good, attractive, appreciated. Where else will I find that? And then I reached the point of the ultimate form of settling for less - Even though I know it's wrong, it's all okay because God understands.
I finally realized that doing it my way was the wrong way and I was headed for disaster. My mistake was trusting in myself instead of in God, the One who knows best how to make me happy. Instead of clinging to my faith for support and healing, I gave in to the world and its lies. I wanted to be happy and I knew the only way to achieve that was to leave the life I was living - the lie I was living - completely behind, so that's precisely what I did. It was a difficult proposition of course, but one that had to be executed. I allowed my conviction to do what was right embolden me in my decision making.
Making those decisions was not easy, nor was it fun. I had to cut off bad relationships and build new (good) ones. I had to force myself to step out into uncomfortable and unknown territories, which was scary at times, but I let my conviction to be a better person and be closer to God be my motivation.
In the end, I realized there was a time and a place for everything, and the time for me to be with someone would come... but not before I had healed and done the work on myself that needed to be done. When the time for me to meet the man God had chosen for me came about, everything about it was right. I was truly free to fall in love with him because I had been through the necessary annulment process, worked hard on myself, and was as healed as I was going to get. And it was an incredible experience! We will be celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary on June 17th.
It's easy to get sucked into the culture of divorce because of the sadness, loneliness, and heartache. Even if you have the personal strength to not sucumb to the party lifestyle, get into inappropriate relationships, sink into depression, etc., you must still beware, because the main goal of this culture is to make you lose your faith in God. Many good people lose their faith altogether because they are so hurt and angry. If you are struggling with this "Culture of Divorce" here are a few suggestions to help you detach from it and find the real path to healing:
1. Focus on yourself.
Give yourself time to heal. Reflect on the things you want to change, and write those things down. Then, write down HOW you will make those changes and
2. Make prayer a simple conversation with God.
I found praying this way a great comfort... speaking to Him just as I would a trusted friend and asking for strength to do what needed to be done.
3. Be bold! Trust that God will take care of you.
Take the steps you need to take, without hesitation, to detach from what is holding you back. God will not let you down!
4. Keep your eyes on the goal.
When the temptation to do the things you know will divert you from your goal present themselves, say a quick prayer for strength (God, help me!) and remind yourself why you set this goal.
If you think about it, children trust us in everything! They trust we will feed them good food, protect them from harm, take them fun places, buy them good things. Why should we, children of our Loving Father, trust Him any less? He knows better than we do what will make us happy. Especially in this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as Christ beckons us to return to Him, come closer to Him, let us open our hearts to Him and resolve to take a step closer to Him each day. I will be praying for you all and I hope you will pray for me, too!