Reconciling the Irreconcilable: Our Divorce
Today we received word that our marriage has officially ended.
This once-beautiful bond of ours was a shared, living thing, one that we had together brought into being with anticipation and gladness and powerful love: we were thoroughly consumed by our mutual adoration.
Often, anticipation and gladness and love and adoration continued to make themselves known throughout our marriage. Even in divorce, they make appearances.
I stumble over the words to use to describe the marriage’s end: “It just didn’t work out” is a convenient and accessible cliché.
But omelettes don’t work out.
The end of this marriage deserves more than the sort of sheepish apology that you might give to your family about their a.m. eggs.
So maybe “Our marriage failed.”
But when I try those words in my mouth, I am suddenly the kid who stayed up late studying for the exam with all heart and hope laser-focused on passing the final…but only the F gets recorded, not the sweat and the attention and the prayer and the dedication that went in to avoid it.
Here’s a thing about marriages: they officially begin in a very public way, a gathering where the couple stands before all sorts of people who came exactly to witness unabashed declarations of love announcing that one simply can’t do without the other now or ever.
But marriages, when they end (or are somewhere along the road to ending), tend to end in secrecy, in public silence, in a shroud of privacy where only a few people—therapists, maybe friends, maybe family—know the details.
But usually, inquiring minds want to know.
Although I want to say, “It’s not actually anyone’s business why we are divorcing,” I also realize that marriages are about more than just the spouses involved. Marriage simply is both public and private.
Suffice it, then, to say this:
My former spouse and I continue to love each other in deep and abiding ways. We respect powerfully each other’s gifts and passions and ways of making the world a better place. We smile when we think about the other’s quirks and stories and inside jokes, and we tear up when we hear certain songs or go to certain places or wait for certain back-and-forth banter that won’t actually take place, ever again.
It is no understatement to say that in many ways, he gave me breath again, post-accident. I will be forever grateful to and for him for that.
But sometimes, one has to reconcile oneself to the notion that irreconcilable differences are just that: irreconcilable.
Divorce isn’t God’s will. I believe that.
Neither is a marriage that is anguished.
In such a paradoxical moment, a person has to say: given what we’ve got, given all that has come before, and given what we know of God, and given what we believe God’s hope is for each of us in this moment and in all ensuing moments, how do we honor God and each other now? How do we love each other through this?
We decided that the best way to love each other through this is by loving each other out of this.
It’s somewhat fitting, in a poetic sort of way, that the divorce is final in the season of Lent: Lent, this season when we strive to find some balance on the pivot between what is and what ought to be.
As I’ve said and written about so many times before, Jesus came to bring to the world salvation, soteria: health, healing, and wholeness. He needn’t have bothered showing up if we already had that covered.
We and our marriage were broken.
We and our marriage needed healing,
Often, Jesus the healer came when called, although on occasion he sure seemed to tarry like he did for Lazarus.
People often call what Jesus did with Lazarus a “resurrection.” But in fact, it was a “resuscitation,” because Lazarus died again, and that time stayed that way.
Our marriage had been resuscitated too, and more than once. This time, though, when Jesus came around, we could finally recognize that resuscitation’s shot had come and gone.
Now, it was resurrection time, because the thing about resurrection is that it kicks in only when death is present. As Father Robert Farrar Capon more or less said, you can only be raised if you’re dead.
The marriage was dead. And our spirits were too.
So we looked at each other, and realized that we promised to be together until death parts us.
Divorce is often seen and heard as a couple’s public acknowledgement of profound failure.
But, in these last days, I’ve realized that it can be rather be a public pronouncement of profound faith in resurrection.
That was a shocker thought.
In other words, and I speak on behalf of both of us here: the two of us believe in resurrection, and we yearn for it for each other and for ourselves.
At the end of the day, at the end of our marriage, here’s the sum of it: Even though we are no longer sharing this beautiful thing the two of us created, we do still share this: a deep faith in grace, forgiveness, resurrections, and new beginnings.
And even if we can’t share a life together with each other, those things, those things we can. Those things we want for one another, we covet for each other, and, perhaps in this albeit broken way, we can give to each other with a new kind of anticipation and gladness and love.
And in that trust, in this ending, our irreconcilable differences are, finally, gratefully, reconciled.