I’m a Christian. Yeah, shocker. I was saved and baptized when I was 14 – ten years before I met and married the ex-husband that destroyed me. He wasn’t my first ex-husband, but he sure was my last. My two previous ex-husbands, who I shared life with for a very short time each, agreed that when we split up, neither of us would try to take from the other. We went our ways peacefully. I had no idea that divorce was any other way. Ex #3 taught me a big lesson after 17 years of marriage to him: Not every human being who appears to have the capacity for morals and family values really has what it takes when the chips are down, and when that someone doesn’t have those things inside of them, it’s easy to see that individual as “not a human being”.
When I was married to my third husband, what I think of as my first “real” marriage, I searched deeper into my spirituality – something much more real to me than Christianity preached into my soul from childhood. I loved the relationship I came to have with God. Around my third year of marriage, I became a Sunday school teacher in the church we attended. It was a military church, far from home. My husband was stationed in Ft Bliss, Texas so we lived there at the time. Out in the desert it was easy to be comfortable in your own skin. No one seemed to judge you the way they did in the South (yes, it’s capitalized. If you’re from around there, you understand why). My husband wasn’t baptized, but he eventually came to accept my involvement in the church. He saw it as a good thing for his career. I didn’t care why he accepted it. I was happy to be able to attend. I loved my relationship with God. It evolved into me becoming a home school teacher for my children, and then later on for children in the church. Then I dove even deeper and taught Vacation Bible School for three years. I loved being a teacher. I started having pipe dreams about becoming a teacher.
When my husband was discharged due to a medical issue in 2004, we went home to Alabama and tried to continue life there. The children started public school, because his parents (who lived next door) were against me teaching their grandchildren. That left a scar. We found a a small country church nearby and started attending it. The feeling wasn’t the same, but the congregation was nice. The place and the people made you feel welcome. For the next few years, that was the new normal. My husband even gave me permission to go to college to become a teacher. He knew the school superintendent. He was going to get me a job at the school our children attended. Then, the divorce happened.
In 2011, I was told I had to leave. The house was in his name. Everything was just in his name. His parents had made sure of that from the day we married in 1995. My children all wanted to stay with him, even my oldest child from a previous relationship. I can only assume he bribed them all with money and freedoms that up until that moment, he never allowed anyone to have. And he had money. His whole family did. I left, assuming it would be temporary, that I would find a job and get a home and get my kids back. I had grown up with divorced parents and saw my mother struggle to feed and clothe me. I knew how hard it was, but I never complained about it. I naturally thought my children would love me just as much as I loved my mother and would want to be with me, no matter how hard we had to struggle. That didn’t happen. They saw how I was struggling, and wanted to stay where they were. They also stayed with our church. My kids asked me to stop going, because it made them feel awkward. So, not only did I lose my family, my home, my job future, and my dignity, I also lost my church home.
I was back to just having a private relationship with God. That was probably the best thing for me, because I spent a lot of time on my knees crying so much I couldn’t see. I guess I went through every stage of grieving, as if my family had died, in a sense. Except they weren’t dead. They just chose not to speak to me. My (now) ex-husband, being from an Islamic background, turned to his roots and became a tyrant, forcing my children to cut up my photographs, not speak to me on the phone or online, and any mail I sent them was opened, scanned and filed, and read through before being given to them. He sent an email under an anonymous name to every school district in the state. It was a defamation of character. If I could prove it was him, I would sue him for it, but like a coward, he did it anonymously.
Life has been Hell since the day he told me I had to leave. I’ve survived freezing cold weather in a friends car. I’ve lived in some trashy places, in a tiny RV. I’ve taken jobs I never imagined I would have to do in order to just eat. I’ve seen people with addictions that I never knew existed, suffering worse than myself. I’ve survived the flash flood of a river where I had to swim for my life in the middle of the night, when the RV was almost washed away. I’ve moved 250 miles from my family, thinking it was the best thing for me to do since my ex-husband ruined my career at home. I only get to see my children for 8 hours a month anyway.
It’s worth the drive to see their faces and hear their laughter, touch their hair, make them a meal at my father’s house, or just take them somewhere. I never expected to be a divorced mother who pays child support. I don’t know what God was thinking when He planned this. Where’s the good in it? In the big picture, not right now. I don’t see any right in it. Since the divorce, my kids tell me he got baptized. Ironic for an Islamic man. He probably did it to wash away the sin of being married to me.
Lately I’ve been reminded of the Book of Job. Job went through Hell on earth, losing everything. His family. His home. Eventually his health. He never lost his faith in God through it all. I’m a lot like Job. People think I’m crazy, because after everything, I’ve never lost faith that God loves me. It’s never even crossed my mind. On the contrary, I think God always protects me, provides for me, and guides me. But then, I don’t just read the Bible to find messages from God. I get them from nature, from music, from book passages. Those are some old habits from years ago, when I was first diving deeper into my spirituality – where I found that meaningful relationship that I couldn’t find as a child in church. It’s because God isn’t in a church building. God is with you, where ever you go. If you happen to gather and mingle in a building, then great. If you don’t, that doesn’t mean you’re abandoned.
Losing everything made me feel so afraid. Maybe you’ve lost everything too. Fear can make you feel abandoned, but you have to keep picking yourself up and look with better eyes than that. God’s bigger than all my fears. He’s even bigger than my ex-husbands pride. He’s bigger than my inability to find a job, or pay child support. I’m gladly giving all that to the One who knew me before I was even in the womb.