Beauty From Ashes: Divorce and the Healing Power of the Cross

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I will give thanks to God with all my heart; Tell of Thy wonders, and exult in Thee. I will be glad, sing praise unto Thy Name, O, Lord Most High, I sing and worship Thee.

“It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.”  -John Wesley

The Blow: Falling Apart

It was 2011 in the season of Lent and my pastor began teaching a weekly small-group series on death.  I couldn’t explain it, but I felt grief approaching like an oncoming train.  “When someone you love dies, you don’t just lose the person, you lose every role that you played to one another.” I heard him say.  The words pierced my heart.  Somehow, unexplainably, I knew they were meant to prepare me.

On May 13th, just a few months later, I received a text message from my husband of seven years while I was at work.  Just like that, he was gone.  There was no goodbye or explanation, just a matter of fact message telling me he had moved his belongings out of our apartment.

Numb and weak, I fell to the floor of an empty office at work, digging my fingers into the carpet, trying to grasp onto something that wouldn’t move. Gasping for air, trying to remember how to swallow, I wondered where the tears were coming from when I couldn’t feel myself crying.

The months to follow were horrific. Everything slowed, and blurred, and tilted and nothing made sense.   My life became a haze of counseling and doctors appointments, staring blankly at my computer screen at work, bursting into tears at inopportune moments, being force-fed by friends, and putting my brave face on while signing the divorce paperwork.  I swallowed medications to help me feel better, to help me sleep, to help me survive, and to help me cope with the side effects of other medicines.  All the while, I was still waking constantly to reach for him in the night and crying so hard that the sounds extending from my throat sounded more like screams than sobs.  Inward and outward health were at an all-time low and so I did as Wesley suggested, I gave myself over to the Great Physician.

Redemption: Moving Forward

Like a parent singularly focused in a desperate sweep towards their hurting child, the Lord swept in towards me.  I dropped the meds and started training for a 5k.  Each mile tread beneath my running shoes reminded me that I didn’t have to be a victim.  Each milestone I achieved gave me my voice and dignity back.  While I ran I prayed.  I called out to the Lord in my hurt with simple requests and he responded with simple answers, like “I am here.”  It was enough.

The Lord called me to turn to the cross, and it was there that I found him forever solving my broken state.  The cross was my healing.  The cross reminded me that this God who dealt so tenderly with me through the divorce was the same One who was familiar with my sufferings, involved with me in my pain, and victorious healer of my broken state.  He understood abandonment, abuse, and betrayal. In the wake of rejection from the person whose opinion I had most valued, I found my belovedness reflected back to me from the eyes of the one who hung on the cross for me and forever settled the measure of my worth.  In the cross, I remembered my identity in Christ – no longer a discarded wife, but the beloved of God, his bride, the one in whom his delight rested.

Restoration: Beauty from Ashes

The losses we may endure may be great, but the story isn’t over. He brings a freedom with, through, and from the destruction.  Lent is followed by Easter. Death is followed by life.  I lost my husband.  But I gained Christ on the cross.  I lost my role as wife.  But I gained my status as beloved of Christ.  I lost my hopes and dreams for myself.  But I gained His hopes and dreams for me. His wounds provided for my healing. His suffering provided for my comfort. His death provided for my life. I was not alone.  His great reconciling act had destroyed aloneness once and for all.

God’s Kingdom is one in which destruction itself becomes the foundation from which Christ builds His salvation. I never could have imagined that the destruction of my marriage would build God’s salvation in me, anchoring my trust in his love and affection for me.  In His hands, grief and loss become the opportunities for His presence to transform us. This God, the one who comes to us, stays with us, and suffers and dies for us – He is the Risen Lord.  Forever He makes all things new, restoring to us the double blessing of both inward and outward health.  Thanks be to God!

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Heidi is a student at Asbury Theological Seminary seeking her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, with particular interest in marginalized groups, reconciliation efforts, and sexuality. She is founder and director of LOVEboldly (www.loveboldly.net), an organization working at the intersection of the church and the gay community.

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