Finding Peace and ForgivenessBy: Guest
Today’s guest post is from bloggernacle favorite SilverRain.
Like all great disasters, divorce brought out both the best and the worst in me. For some, divorce is a rather cavalier affair, somewhere on the scale between losing one’s job and losing a loved one to death. But because of my particular set of weaknesses, it affected me far more deeply than it should have.
I have a hard time with failure. Even before my very first B+ in second grade, when I cried the whole way home, I was a three year old whose mother had to forbid me from writing my name for two weeks because I was so frustrated with the differences between my handwriting and hers. And as a career-oriented teenager who experienced a total paradigm shift into a woman who wanted more than anything to be that stay-at-home wife and mother, my marriage was the ultimate failure.
The odd part of all of it is that I didn’t have to work very hard to forgive my husband for stealing money from the family, for the vasectomy he didn’t tell me about until three months after we had been trying and failing to have another child, for the affairs and pornography I suspected, for trying to convince me to become inactive in the Church, for the book of my misdeeds he kept faithfully, or for any number of other things I don’t need to mention here. One thing that people don’t understand about a person in the midst of an abusive relationship is that forgiving the partner is easy. Forgiving oneself, however, is the rub.
Even now, I wonder how I, the strong-willed daughter of a social worker, could have been so foolish. Accepting that I had failed, had made mistakes of monumental and eternal consequence, was one of the biggest demons I had to face. I spent countless nights weeping into my pillow, days crying on the way to and from work, on my breaks, any time no one would notice, and plenty of times when they did. I leaned more on people than I ever had before. I became very well acquainted with embarrassment and shame.
I remember one night distinctly. I had cried so much, my mind weary from trying to figure out solutions to the myriad financial, emotional, scheduling, and health issues I had to face, that I didn’t have the strength to even think any more. I lay there, staring at a spot on the ceiling of my bedroom, sensing my daughter’s breathing in the space next to me where my husband once slept. Feeling nothing. Thinking nothing coherent.
After what seemed like hours, a small and emotionless voice coalesced from the chaos of my thoughts. “Father, I can’t forgive myself for what I have done. I hate myself. I hate what I have given my children. I hate my life. I hate my choices. There is nothing that can change them, now. Please. I can’t fix this. All that I could do is forgive, but I can’t forgive myself. Please. Please do what I can’t.”
Not much happened that night, except I finally collapsed into troubled sleep. At the time, I felt largely cut off from the presence and comfort of God. But slowly, over days and months, I began to feel a change. Some changes were remarkable, others almost indiscernible. I worked hard for them, but it was by grace that they slowly came. They came until one day, not many months ago, I realized that I was okay with myself again. Then, I realized that I actually liked myself, and that some of the things I liked most were the very things for which my ex-husband ridiculed and belittled me, the very things people disliked in me.
I began to sense the Lord’s voice again. I began to feel things besides shame and embarrassment. Slowly, I began to reclaim what I had been, the things I liked to do before I was married. I had some successes and some failures. Sometimes I felt angry at myself, at my ex-husband, at the world. Other times I basked in the pure pleasure of just being alive and free from the shadow I had lived under for years.
I don’t have a magic formula for “finding peace and forgiveness.” Even now, I have times when I feel troubled by my past, worried about how it will affect my children and me in the future. But now, there is an undercurrent of peace and forgiveness that runs underneath the troubled surface waters of my soul. I feel that this current is beyond anything the world can throw at me now. I hope that is true.
I can’t tell anyone what they “should” do to reach peace, or that they “should” forgive. But I can testify that failure, even failing to forgive, and trying again is part of the Atonement. And if you remain open to that, forgiveness will come. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not ten years from now, but it will come. And when forgiveness comes, true peace comes with it.
I wouldn’t now trade the things I went through. I paid a stiff price to learn a deeper understanding of God and His Son, but I consider it well paid. I have been blessed with an increase of compassion for myself and for all others who fall short of the ideal, with a deep gratitude for the Atonement that is built on true understanding.
That is beyond any price.