Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

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You Aren’t Disqualified: An Open Letter to Anyone Going through a Divorce, Part 3

I’m venturing onto tender soil here, possibly for you and most definitely for me. I wish I could say that it was just one of the hims that told me that if I got divorced, I’d be out: out of ministry, out of a voice, and well, just out. I wish I could say I instantly rejected this death sentence and that was that, but it just didn’t work like that for me.

To Anyone Going through a Divorce Part 3: You're Not DisqualifiedI bought it. Maybe not fully, but enough.

And enough is too much.

In my attempt to dislodge this un-truth, I’ve come to adore a certain woman. She’s an unlikely sort for my affection. In her earlier days and mine, we would have been close friends, for like attracts like, but based on that same principal, we would have drifted as I fought to battle my relational unhealth and she inadvertently chose to perpetuate it and even succumb to the cycle. She’s also unlikely because I know so little about her and it’s a definite that our paths will never cross. But the fact that she’s an unlikely candidate makes her story just that much more compelling. Let me explain.

The first thing you need to know about this person is she was a she. Pretty profound, right? I state the obvious only because in her era women ranked pretty low. Hmm, maybe that’s part of why I say we would have been friends early on as I, too, let myself believe I had little value.

The next thing you need to know is she was a Samaritan. Translation: she was from the country that Jews went to great lengths to avoid–and if they avoided the country, you can be sure they just as much avoided its people, especially females.

The rest of the story is so incredible that I’m going to step back and let you savor it for yourself:

Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’

Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’

He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’

 ‘I have no husband,’ she replied.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’

 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’

 ‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’

 The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’

 Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:4-26

There’s so very much we could look at in these passages, but for now we’re just going to focus on her relational history. You caught it, right? Five marriages and a sixth acting in that role who doesn’t have the legal papers to back that form of relationship. Talking to the Messiah.

A new saying developed in my house a few days ago. I have no idea how it came about, other than the fact that I have a 10 year-old boy (as if that needs further clarification). He simply said, “PMP” with a great giggle and explained his own acronym: Peed My Pants (which fortunately he had not done!).

It’d definitely be a PMP moment for me if the Messiah highlighted all of my shortcomings! But watch what happens next (I say watch because I love this scene so much that I can visualize it. See if you can, too):

 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” John 4:28-30, emphasis mine

How many of you broadcast that you were going through a divorce? Me, neither, especially on round two. It truly embarrasses me to no extent to have two of these badges plastered to me. But here’s our lady who is shunned by foreigners because of her nationality and undoubtedly shunned by locals because of her repeated failed marriages and she goes running into town saying, “Hey, there’s a guy who knows everything I ever did. You should come see him.”

And it worked! Okay, gross understatement:

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.” John 4:39, emphasis mine

In Jesus’ day, if someone was caught having sex with someone they weren’t married to, they could be stoned–literally put to death. Yet here was someone who had been married five times and was living with a sixth and she’s the very person Jesus chose to use. She ran into town, her testimony simply that Jesus told her about her list of hims.

Friend, please, grasp this. If Jesus had simply talked to any old Samaritan woman at the well, it would have been remarkable, but the fact that he talked to this woman is beyond incredible. It boils down to this:

Her past didn’t disqualify her.

In fact, some could argue it actually gave her a voice in this instance.

We need to repeat that, don’t we, you and me? Her past didn’t disqualify her.

Can you read that without tears, for I surely can’t write them without my “allergies” kicking in as my dad dubs his leaky eyes.

No, I’m not proud of the demise of the sacred. Twice over. I wish that weren’t the case for me. But it is. And through it, I’ve learned about grace in ways I never could have understood before. I’ve learned about love, even remarkably a love that I must embrace for myself.

You know why?

Because I’m not disqualified.

And neither are you.

Stacy Voss

To Anyone Getting Divorced Part 2: It’s Not All His Fault

I just lost half of you on the title, didn’t I? Trust me, I don’t like it either–the concept, that is. It was so much easier after the sacred ended the first time for me to say it was his fault. Maybe not 100%, but I gladly passed the majority. Everyone seemed to agree, especially since he was the one who made the over-the-top bad choices.

Let’s pretend like I’m kidding when I say I thought I’d been duped by this dude and was given a do-over. It was so much easier to simply file it away as his doing. After all, that meant could simply be a little more selective in the future.

Easy-peasy.

You’re still pretending with me that I didn’t truly believe this, right? After all, it sounds so one-sided and immature.

Divorce #2 demolished all thoughts of placing all blame on him. The second him was as different from the first as a frog is to a butterfly, yet I found myself in similar patterns. Sure, the details of each were unique, but overarching similiarities in the ways the hims treated me became apparent.

Translation: there were overarching similarities in the ways I let the hims treat me.

Did you hear the passivity in that sentence? It’s still hard for me to fully peel back to the truth and accept that it wasn’t just about how I let them treat me, but also about the ways in which I responded (or didn’t!) and the impact that created.

As the Sacred #2 neared its end, I realized I needed to do something for me. It wasn’t an effort to save the marriage (although that would have been a beautiful side effect). It was an effort to save me. 

People thought I was overly dramatic as I told them about Carrie O’Toole Ministries‘ Attachment Group. I shared with those closest to me how I took the lessons seriously and did the homework as if my very life depended on it–because it did! No, I wasn’t about to flatline if I didn’t learn what caused me to respond the ways I did, but life was on the line–those huge doses of abundant living that had been freely offered to me that somehow turned into mere scraps of hoping to survive one minute to the next.

I went through that class 4 years ago (which Carrie now offers on an individual basis). I learned tremendously and my battle for life paid off as I discovered things about myself and my tendencies that I hadn’t noticed before. Like markings on the wall, I can see my growth, but just like when I’m really tired and my old speech impediment surfaces, I find myself making unhealthy choices when I’m exhausted or stressed (If you’ve heard me talk, you’re probably thinking, “I didn’t know she had a speech impediment.” Yup. That’s the goal. Same with the unhealthy relationship stuff. I’m not decades into learning that like I am with the speech stuff, but it just shows us both that what we keep working at really can pay off).

It Isn’t All Your Fault, Either

Here’s the flip side of the equation: one that is equally important to state: it isn’t all your fault, either. Crazy to believe, but I bought into each side simultaneously, especially since I wanted to pass it all off on the hims, who of course reciprocated by letting me know each and every thing I’d done or hadn’t that made things crumble. Some made sense. Others were completely nonsensical, yet they all were supposed to make me believe I was the most horrible person who ever breathed.

Sometimes I bought it– and I’m not referring to mere passing seconds. If you’re in my shoes, you get that these periods are measured in much longer timeframes. If that’s you, here’s my challenge: stop feeding the beast. Today. Not tonight or in a few hours. Declare it now. It’s time to agree with God about who He says you are (This comes from the back cover of Tricia Lott Williford’s “You Can Do This.” It’s a fabulously compelling read!). I dare you to go before the Creator of all and tell Him how wonderful everything He made is–the stars that come out at just the right time each night and could be used as a means to cross oceans and find a Messiah back before Siri came along (can I get an amen that Jesus was born before the invention of smartphones? The image of wise dudes on camels with their phones directing them to a stable just isn’t nearly as lovely as a big, bright star). Tell Him how gorgeous the snow-capped mountains are in the winter, the flowers in every shade of purple, red, blue and every other color imaginable in the summer. Let Him know how amazing babies are, those little blotchy miracles that can make a heart momentarily stop in awe. Keep going on your own, letting Him know some of your favorite things that He made. And then–and not a moment before–I dare you to think AND SAY that the same Creator who did such an incredible job with all those things totally and royally screwed up with you. See, it takes a lot of faith to believe that everything else has God’s beautiful fingerprints on it, except for us.

I so want to jump into the next section about not being disqualified, but its such a tender area that needs to be explored thoroughly that I better stop here for now and give us plenty of time next week as we journey into this realm that stopped me in my tracks. I’ll introduce you to a woman I’ve come to adore–a most unlikely candidate, if ever there was one–who has given me the strength to reject the lie that divorce disqualified me. Her story gives me the courage to embrace the truth–and life! I just can’t wait to share it with you.

Until then, whether or not you’ve gone through a divorce, feel free to share ways in which you’ve come to recognize your role in unhealthy relationships and what you’ve done/are doing to help change that. This is a judgement free zone and the goal is to help encourage, support, and pray for each other.

Stacy Voss

 

 

An Open Letter to Anyone Going through Divorce

Whenever a friend knows someone going through a divorce, they usually send them to me. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been divorced a time or two. I’d prefer to not have this ugly badge, but since I do, I might as well share a bit.

First, let me say sorry. No sugar-coating this one. Getting divorced is horrible awful. Keep that in mind as we delve into a few practicalities:

Not Fair

If you haven’t yet, you’ll soon find yourself saying that it isn’t fair. Your reason might be different than mine. Maybe it’s because he’s getting the house and you didn’t, or the custody schedule didn’t align the way you’d hoped. The reasons for making you say it might be different, but here’s one truth: it isn’t fair. Period. You’re taking something holy and dividing it. There’s no way that what is relegated to paper could ever equal what once was when you were together.

The only ones who win are the lawyers. Best case scenario: you might get half of what you  accumulated together. That’s still half, as in a guarantee of losing 50% of your investment. It’s crappy math, especially once you factor in the emotions that go along with it.

I know the house seems to be the biggest thing that people feel jaded about. Some have worked diligently to keep it when it nearly cost them everything, others have kept it and managed it just fine, and others yet had to leave the place they once called home. I fall into this last category. Trust me, it cut in a big way, especially since it was the house that I took my baby home from the hospital to and figured we’d  live there long after the kids graduated.

But…

I’m not about to say there’s a good and a bad way, a you should keep the house or shouldn’t type thing. All I know is my experience and from that I can simply say that although I grieved leaving the place of bricks I once loved, it was only by leaving that I came to see so much more than I ever could have otherwise. For example, I had multiple sets of neighbors who told me that I could run to their house at a moment’s notice–anytime day or night.

I did. Strike that. We did. A crying mom, two kids and a big dog that followed them out, all on someone’s doorstep, welcomed inside to safety. Day One.

Day 2-16: Staying with family who welcomed us in without any questions and bent over backwards as we tried picking up fragmented pieces.

Day 17 – 425: Dear friends let us stay in their basement apartment, inviting us in for a year and then later asking us to stay even longer. They asked because they knew that things were still so shaky that stable housing wasn’t yet attainable. In the sweet way they’d done all along of treating us with grace and dignity–even while technically being homeless–they didn’t just say it’d be okay to stay longer. They asked us to as our families’ hearts and intertwined. We moved in as friends. A year and a half later, we moved out as family. Words fail to explain the full beauty of our stay there, something that could never be fully explained in a short blog post. Instead, I offer this: countless gratitude and appreciation. They knew that this very needy mama wouldn’t just stay in the beautiful basement, but would come upstairs whenever the storms brewed, which they did. All too often. They let me cry (more like cried with me) and offered me daily doses of love and grace.

In an ideal world, I never would have had to flee. Never would have known the pain of divorce. Yet through those less-than-ideals, I came to realize something I ironically couldn’t understand while married:

I am loved. More deeply than I can imagine, both by family, friends-turned-family, countless people who I thought were mere acquaintances who intervened in incredible ways, and from a God who refused to turn His back on this hot mess.

The Shift of Pronouns

This one was a doozy for me. It didn’t take me long to switch from “I” to “us” when I got married, perhaps because I started using the plural long before donning the fancy gown as we started planning our lives together. But then came the day when we walked our apartment (I mean my apartment) and wrote new pronouns for each of our possessions. His. Mine.

Ours no longer existed. Neither did us. It was the solitary land of “me.”

It took a while for my vocabulary to catch up after the gavel sounded. People would raise an eyebrow when they’d catch me saying “we” when I really should have said “I.” Looks of pity crossed their faces. Poor girl. Can’t remember she needs to refer to herself in the singular now.

The reality is, this pronoun thing messed me up long before papers were drawn. There were things fervently loved prior to dating either of my would-be hubs, things that each of those men claimed to love about me. But sometime after the ceremonies, I heard, “we don’t ______.” The things varied in each marriage. One example: “we  don’t like this song.”

We don’t? I thought. But I love it. 

As each we statement was uttered, my sense of faltered, so much so that words didn’t even have to be said. In order to save the marriage, I abandoned parts of my  that I had loved but quickly realized posed as threats to the we. Whad a hard time making decisions, meaning that needed to be more soft-spoken and not assert myself. Later, quit my business because the hubby’s self-esteem couldn’t handle the fact that I made more per hour than he did.

Some of you going through divorce will read this and shake your head, slowly admitting that you’ve been there. Others will think I’m droning on about my pain and neglecting yours, but listen closely, for there is a beautiful secret I need to share with you:

Years after the sacred cracked, I speak in the plural more than the singular. No, I didn’t get married again (make that an emphatic no) and I haven’t turned schizophrenic.

So why the we?

Simple.

I’m more surrounded by love than ever before.

Seriously. I’m not speaking cliches. I would never be able to list everyone by name, but there have been probably hundreds who have stood with me in prayer or have helped in countless practical ways. I’m blessed beyond measure and couldn’t dare say on most things since the majority of what I now do is truly a community effort. I’ll share more about that in part 2 of this post.

 

You’ll Think You’re in Hell

You don’t need me to tell you how painful divorce is. It is hands-down the most devastating thing I’ve ever experienced. I was lost. Confused. Bewildered. I usually have a clear sense of where I’m going, but each divorce made me feel like I was hiking a path I’d never been on in the middle of a dark night without a flash light. I never knew if the next step would be the one that would make me tumble–and oftentimes it was.

But it isn’t just hard and painful.

It feels like hell.

Here’s the weird irony. Hell is anywhere God is not. Through both of my divorces, I felt God’s presence stronger than any other time in my life. No, He doesn’t favor those of us whose “I do’s” disintegrate. Instead, the fluff of my world disappeared. Gone were the hopes that things were good. The busyness of the days slowed as the things that mattered most came into focus. And through that all, I clung to the only one I knew could truly carry me.

I wouldn’t wish a divorce on anyone. Ever. Yet what I learned of God during those times were so profound and personal that I wouldn’t unwish these black parts of my story.

I have more to say on living through divorce, maybe for you and definitely for me. I’ll post more next week on what I’m learning two years post-divorce. Until then, know this:

You are loved, more than you can imagine. (Don’t believe me? Read the Gospel of John).

Stacy Voss

 

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