Guilt, Shame, and Divorce

Three years ago today, with knots in my stomach, I drove myself to the courthouse. I tried to keep my hands from shaking as I worked my way up to the courtroom I was assigned. My lawyer in the hallway coached me on what was about to happen and I flashed as confident of as smile as I could muster up and chimed out nonchalantly a sweet, little, “okay, great. Sounds good.” Then there I stood feeling as though a small child standing where a woman should stand reciting to the judge that there was no resolution to my marriage and it must be dissolved.

On more than one instance since then have I had to recite those same words over but not to another courthouse judge. The judges I was affirming my reasons for divorce were people around me and even more so often myself.

I determined when I filed for divorce I would not regret it. I would feel no guilt or shame. I did not go into that decision lightly. I weighed my options carefully; I even made a pros and cons sheet on the subject. I determined the course of action that I believed was best for both parties.

But still, I wondered and with my wondering came the guilt and shame I had sworn I’d never have. I began to wonder if I could have done more. If I should have been more perfect. If I could have dealt with a bad from the start relationship to save face. I wondered if I was an absolutely horrible person for choosing to dissolve my marriage.

But as I had said, I didn’t go into my decision lightly. So why was I wondering if I had chosen to do the right thing or not? You could blame it on the church that treats divorce as an unforgivable sin. You could blame it on the people that would smile to my face but used their words as double edged swords they used to stab me in the back. You could blame it on my severe lack of self love I had. Regardless, I felt that because of my divorce, I had failed to meet some sort of standard.

And to be honest, I did fail.

I fell short of the perfect marriage. I did things and said things I’m not proud of. Through much conviction and grace, I have been able to overcome quite a few of my shortcoming that are ever so apparent when in a relationship with another. But regardless, I did at one point fail to be perfect. And I through my wondering, I began to become overwhelmed by guilt and shame from my imperfections.

I then had a choice. I could set up camp in the miserable campground of guilt and shame or I could walk into the light and find a better, more freeing place to call home.

So I did what I thought was my only choice; I pitched a tent and started making camp in that dark, miserable place of guilt, shame, and regret. No matter how much I changed myself now and strived to be better, it didn’t erase my past. I was tired of proving myself to God, people, and myself. I wallowed in my guilt and shame so much that I thought it might have been better to stay married to my ex even though I knew it was best for us not to be together. I thought, “I was miserable then, but I am miserable now too and have a good dose shame on top of it!” And to add to my guilt, I felt so overwhelming awful that I was now with this incredible man that was what all girls dream of, but yet I felt shame over my past divorce! I didn’t deserve him and I definitely didn’t deserve his love. It just added another shade of darkness over my campsite that I had resigned myself to the idea that I was never going to be able to leave.

But just as I was getting my money out to buy a permanent lot in the campground of guilt and shame, I saw a light on the horizon. It called to me to walk out of the darkness. But it seems all to simple! All I had to do was embrace the grace being offered? No proving myself? No time portal to erase my past? Did this God that was offering me grace know what I’ve done, who I am?

He did know me so completely, and yet He still wanted me.

Finally, because He was so relentless in persuit of me, I left my tent and walked into the light. Instantly, I was overwhelmed by light and flooded by grace. My guilt, shame, and regret washed away. I was finally free.

I realized I wasn’t chosen and pursued by the God of the universe in spite of the fact I had been divorced and had done so much wrong in my life. It was BECAUSE of those facts I was deeply desired by Him.

You see, without my failures, I wouldn’t need a God. If I had had a perfect marriage the first go round, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to develop into the woman I am or have the strength of character that I have had I stayed in a place of stagnicity. I wouldn’t be investing so deeply in my relationship now had I not known what it’s like to have one fall apart. I wouldn’t be able to be give away the grace that has been given to me had I not fallen so far and needed it so deeply.

I have every reason to buy a camper and make my permanent home be the campground of guilt and shame. But I also have the best reason to never go back there again. I hope whoever reads this, divorced or not, doesn’t make camp like I did. I hope you join me in light, freedom, and grace.

Photos: Country Style Photography by Caci Fuller

One thought on “Guilt, Shame, and Divorce

  1. Aww!! Rachel that was extraordinary. Since I’ve known you since you were in your mother’s womb. I’ve seen you go through things even if it was from a distance. I’m so proud of you.

    Liked by 1 person

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