August 22, 1994 – a day I will never forget. The worst and most surreal day of my 50 years on this earth. It started just like any other day. It would not end like any other day! He was home – it was his day off. He had worked all night the night before. It was mid-morning and he had gotten up after a few hours of sleep so that we could spend the day as a family.
It had been a very busy and important week for him. He was a K-9 police officer and had been in the middle of statewide trials with his police dog. I hadn’t attended any of those trials as it was the heat of the summer in Florida and it was just a very long day to be outside with two little ones. I did, however, attend the evening awards ceremony at the end – a formal event that afforded this stay-at-home mom the rare opportunity to get dressed up and go to dinner and be with other wives who lived in the unique world of law enforcement.
Shortly after getting up he received a message on his beeper and quickly left saying he needed to run to the office and would be back shortly. I didn’t think too much about it – that kind of thing happened often. He worked an average of 60-70 hours a week so that we could afford for me to stay home. Getting extra hours is one of the FEW perks of the law enforcement field. I will say that, for the high price our family had to pay with him working so much, I am VERY grateful that I was afforded the privilege of staying at home to raise my children in those early years. I should have expressed that appreciation a little more.
He stayed gone for about two hours – still I didn’t think too much about that. When he walked in I immediately knew something was wrong. He walked into the bedroom where I was making the bed. Then he just very matter of factly told me he was leaving. He didn’t love me anymore and was moving out. “Wait – what did you just say?” was the thought that raced through my mind. All of a sudden everything seemed to switch to some other gear – a gear that slurred his speech, blurred his face, made my heart race, all of the sounds around me seemed to be coming from some far away tunnel. I was STUNNED! And just like that our marriage was over. He left and never looked back – or if he did he never expressed it to me.
He left the house after he said what he wanted to say and never spent another night there. My mind was reeling. I just stood there dumbfounded and stupefied. As my mind was trying to grapple with what just happened my children were asking for lunch having no idea that life, as they knew it, was getting ready to radically change.
As the hours turned into days and the days into weeks, I walked around in a daze. I started taking an inventory of our marriage. How did I not know? How did this surprise me like it had? We had our share of problems in the past – even serious ones – but we had always managed to get past them or at least bury them but unfortunately burying them is not the same as resolving them. I had pleaded with him for us to go to counseling in years past. That option was never a consideration so we would both swallow the frustrations and keep pressing forward. However, as time went on and we began to mature, both as individuals and as a couple, I thought we were finally beginning to get past some of our difficulties. Our relationship seemed the closest, at least for us, that it had ever been. I assumed that ” til death do us part” meant the same thing to him that it did me.
I will never forget a day that is now burned into my memory as the second most prominent day of my life. It was a few weeks after the “big event” – I was still grappling with the magnitude of it all but reality was beginning to settle in. I was beginning to face the fact that I was now alone. I was beginning to face the fact that I would now be raising my children, for the most part, alone. I was now going to have to give up that wonderful privilege of being home with my children and somehow find employment. I was now beginning to face the fact that I was going to have to find some other place to live as I couldn’t afford a mortgage payment. I was now beginning to face the fact that I would have to find some way to go on. It was all so overwhelming. How was I going to feed my kids? The little bit of child support that he wanted to pay me was not even going to be enough to pay for all the groceries – what was going to happen to us? There was a knot in the pit of my stomach for months!!
Let me stop right here and ask: Did you know that the steps of grieving are the same for an unexpected divorce as they are for the death of a spouse? Only with a divorce you are forever bound to that person when there are children involved. You see them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. And for many, there’s not only the grief of the marriage ending but there’s the hurt of the rejection when one person chooses to end the union.) I lost 30 pounds in two months from the stress – I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep.
I was folding laundry on our bed as I was contemplating all this – just going through the motions of folding while my mind was a million miles away. I was crying and asking God why. The TV was on top of the armoire in our room and there was some soft Christian music playing on one of the channels. It was a channel that played the soft instrumental praise music while flashing pictures of beautiful scenery and scripture verses. I had been keeping that channel on in the past weeks to help me find some solace. I looked up at the TV through my tears and saw and felt the first indication in three weeks that everything was going to be okay. I looked up and saw this verse on the screen:
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” I Peter 5:10(KJV)
I don’t care what anyone else says – God had put that verse on that screen just for me!!! THAT verse was divinely appointed to appear on THAT screen at THAT moment. Noone can tell me differently!!! It was as if God sat down on that bed right next to me, wrapped His arms around me, and told me it was going to be all right. I had a gut-wrenching cry and then began to thank God for the promise He had just given me. I didn’t know how or when but SOMEDAY I would be settled again. I would be established again. It also promised me that I would suffer a while – I remember thinking “that’s okay – I can suffer for a little while so long as I know there’s going to be an end.” Of course I knew this from growing up in church and watching a great man of God, my father, walk and lead his life in faith. I knew that God was faithful and would get me through this. But seeing that verse appear on the screen was GOD speaking to ME and letting me know to rest in Him. I suddenly realized that the ever-present knot was not quite as prominent as it had been a few minutes earlier. For the first time in weeks I slept that night – like a baby!!!
I have been inundated with emails, since posting Part 1 of this series, from people asking me to pray for them as they’re walking through deep trials. I encourage you – if you are walking through a dark time in your life, get in the WORD!! Get a promise from God. Seek His face until you find Him!! He is soooo faithful and His promises are true!!! Find a verse that speaks to your situation and lay hold of that promise with fervency!!! In the promise that God gave me, He didn’t promise to take away the hurt or the struggle but He promised me that after a while he would strengthen me, establish me and settle me!! I can’t write about this without weeping, even now, nearly 20 years later because I KNOW THAT I KNOW that He is faithful!!!!!!! I was able to pick myself, after seeing that verse, and begin to deal with all that lay ahead of me. Seeing that verse on the TV screen gave me the confidence to get up, brush myself off, and begin to putting the pieces of my life back together and this promise sustained me for 12 years.
My father taught me this wonderful principle: When you are going through a dark time, envelope yourself in peaceful Christian music and Scripture. Set an atmosphere that ushers in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, He lives within those who are believers but that’s not the same as practicing His presence. Pray the Psalms back to God – did you know that He inhabits the praises of His people?? Pray Psalm 91 back to Him – they’re His words and they’re His promises. Lay hold of His promises as your own. He may not take the struggle away from you but He will be your sustenance as you go through it.
More coming soon…..