Monday, December 17, 2007

Death of a Dream by Lynn Morgan

After my divorce, I had to find new hopes for the future. Lynn Morgan
Two days before my divorce was finalized, I came across a childhood picture of myself. In it I wore a bright, innocent smile, and my eyes sparkled with hope. As I traced that smile with my finger, I remembered my little-girl dreams of a lavish wedding shared with a handsome groom, a house surrounded with a picket fence, and a minivan filled with children to nurture and love. A happily-ever-after.

Losing the Dream

When that little girl in the picture grew up, she found her handsome groom and celebrated a wedding with all the trimmings. But our marriage was rocky from the start; my husband was unfaithful as well as verbally and physically abusive. As a believer who'd grown up in a strong Christian home layered with generations of enduring marriages, I simply didn't include divorce in my vocabulary. Instead, I worked hard to improve our troubled relationship, seeking both individual and marital counseling from church leaders and Christian counselors.

But after eight years of counseling, prayer, patience, and failed attempts at reconciliation, I realized I had biblical grounds to leave. So as an excruciating last resort, I separated from my husband and filed for divorce.

I wasn't prepared for how surreal divorce felt. While my life crumbled to pieces, the outside world continued unchanged. I taught students in my English classes about misplaced modifiers and comma splices. I chatted with coworkers about the weather and world events.

Memories—of my husband's hearty chuckle, his silly nickname for the dog, our week spent painting the house together—caught me unexpectedly as I drove to work, forcing me to fight back tears before my first class. Even a bad marriage has its good times.

A Comforting Presence

So much died with the end of my marriage—my relationship, my future dreams, even my hope for children—yet I didn't have the closure of a funeral. No condolences, flowers, or eulogies comforted me.

In the middle of all the pain, a jarring question arose within me: Who am I now?

I felt scared and alone, aching for a sign of God's presence. Then I remembered God doesn't promise freedom from trials and heartaches. But he does promise to be with us through them: "When [not if] you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2).

In addition to God's comfort, my family became my shelter in those cruel months of the divorce, supporting me with prayer, encouragement, and loving hugs. Still, I felt a new awkwardness with them. Only weeks after I signed the divorce papers, I attended my cousin's wedding ceremony where I sat on a long pew with my relatives, all married. As I watched the bride and groom exchange marriage vows, I remembered my own wedding day. The memory stung.

The Identity Question

In the middle of all the pain, a jarring question arose within me: Who am I now? I was no longer a wife, a Mrs., a daughter-in-law. Divorce had stripped away my identity, leaving a gaping hole. Where do I fit in?

I began my search to answer that question the day after my final divorce hearing when I accepted a new job teaching international students. That same semester, I returned to school for my master's degree, reigniting my passion for literature and writing. These fulfilling pursuits led me to greater understanding of my talents and interests, providing significant pieces in the puzzle of my identity.

For the first time in years, I had the opportunity to take a good, long look at my life. With no husband and no marital responsibilities to distract me, I could discover what I enjoy and what I want from life. And I realized I was stronger than I'd thought and braver than I'd imagined.

Rays of Hope

After the divorce, I moved in with my parents for financial reasons. Their yard was dotted with tall trees where birds performed tiny morning symphonies outside my window. Every evening I watched the sinking sun light up their lawn with a golden glow. Somehow, admiring the strength of their huge oak tree gave me incredible comfort. Life did go on—leaves fell, birds sang, squirrels rummaged. And as each day passed, I realized I could go on, too.

My pain made me poignantly aware of what I usually take for granted—the orange glow of a sunset, family members, friendships, each breath.

Slowly I healed. Work gave me purpose. Memories of the marriage faded. Soon I was able to go through an entire day with true and sustained joy. I started to feel whole again as God renewed me.

Undoubtedly what comforted me most during the heartache of my divorce was God's constancy. Though the world around me was virtually unrecognizable, he never changed. My divorce made this truth clear: People may disappoint, hurt, and betray me, but God won't ever let me down.

The Little Girl

So, what became of that little girl in the picture? She's stronger now. She doesn't take family members for granted, and she values her relationship with God above all others. Although her little-girl dreams have faded and changed, they've yielded to new, realistic ones that offer gifts of self-discovery and purpose—and lead to a happily-ever-after of a different kind.

Lynn Morgan is a pseudonym.

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