Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My version of faith

Walking into a new church for the first time is daunting. I am not the most social person, so I usually go hoping to be unnoticed. I never want to be plagued with fake niceties. When I was married, and soon to be divorced, I found myself longing for that church connection again. I had been out of church for a long time. My husband was Catholic, and I had offered to convert. He said it wasn’t necessary—he never attended mass and didn’t think it was that big of a deal. So I didn’t, slightly relieved. When my husband announced he wasn’t sure he ever loved me, 1-1/2 years after our marriage, 2 ½ years after moving in together, and 4 years after we first met, I was in shock. I was hurt. I felt abandoned, even though we still lived in the same home.

I was raised nondenominational. I knew I wouldn’t find the same belief system, but I wanted something fairly similar. I also didn’t want to drive across the DFW metroplex. I found a church near me. So one Sunday, I told my husband, “I’m going to church. You can come with me if you want.” “No.” I knew the answer, but I was scared to go alone. My stomach was already in knots at the thought of going into a church alone.

I put on my dress and heels—Sunday garb—and headed to the massive church I had selected to attend. I arrived, and sat in the car. Scared. Stomach churning. I was here. Now all I had to do was get out of the car. I sat there, and finally forced myself to get out. I selected a seat in the back, and tried to look calm. I wanted to run home to safety. So many people were around me, and they all seemed to know each other. It compounded how alone I was. I was afraid for someone to talk to me; I didn’t want to cry, but I didn’t want to fake a smile either. A lady sat next to me and asked, “Are you new?” I nodded. “Are you married?” “I’m going through a divorce.” I choked back the tears. “I’m so sorry. Well, it’s good to have you.” Thank God she kept it simple!

As the worship began, I bawled. I knew God had never abandoned me, but I knew I had abandoned him. And yet, he was still by my side. Just waiting for me--sitting shiva--to ask for his help. And I did.

I wish I could say that God saved my marriage because of my pleas. But Todd’s heart had already been set—he wanted his freedom for his own reasons that I will never know. Maybe he was cheating. Maybe he was never as devoted to the idea of marriage as I was. Lots of maybes that no longer matter. What does matter is that I took that step. I walked into church, alone. I had already been crying out to God. But being a well-churched girl growing up, I longed for that connection that you find in church. To me, church is a reminder to keep God close. In my mind, I needed to make that step to show him I wanted him as much—actually more—than I wanted my husband.

I only attended twice. My marriage dissolved quickly. I went to my mom’s church in Tulsa, and they had a special song that they sang. It was a song I had heard many times growing up, but it suddenly had meaning to me for the first time. I bawled from the depths of my soul, because I had never imagined such a deep valley could exist. And people would say, “Oh, just have faith. Just pray. Just believe in God to heal your marriage.” Those are hollow words if you haven’t been through a divorce.

You may recognize the song:

Life Is Easy, When Your Up On The Mountain
and You've Got Peace Of Mind
like You've Never Known
but Then Things Change
And Your Down In The Valley
don't Lose Hope For Your Never Alone
for The God On The Mountain Is Still God In The Valley
when Things Go Wrong He'll Make Them Right
and The God Of The Good Times, Is Still God Of The Bad Times
and The God Of The Day Is Still God Of The Night
you Talk Of Faith When Your Up On The Mountain
oh, But The Talk Comes So Easy when Life's At Its Best
but Its Down In The Valley Of Trials And Temptations
that's Where Faith Is Really Put To The Test

Just because you go through crap in life, doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. He’s still there. Just because people trivialize your pain and say, “Just give it to God” as they smile and go back to their picture-perfect lives, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t understand your pain. Faith isn’t putting on a smile and pretending it’s all OK—that’s denial. Sometimes it’s just living life. It’s just praying. It’s just trusting that you will be OK in the next 10 years or so and sticking it out to see the end result. Faith is a minute by minute acknowledgement that I cannot control everything, and admitting I’m scared, and asking for God’s help, and trudging along with the resolve that no matter what happens, I’m gonna stick it out. Because I know that God has my best at heart.


Patricia Hubbard said...

Hi Kristi,
I was touched by your very first post when you spoke of getting divorced. I found you because of a google message about your site. I lead a support group for divorced and widowed folks and I write also. You may find some answers at http://ezinearticles,com/?expert=Patricia_Hubbard or http://tinyurl.com/cv3svy Maybe you will find some answers there. God bless you.

Kristi said...

Thank you for responding! It's been 7 years since my divorce, and I don't dwell on it. But I do find that I learned a lot about myself in the process of going through it. It took me 3 years to emotionally move on after that divorce. And I still find myself looking back and learning lessons about who I was vs. who I am now, and how God helped me through it all. I'm still single, but have forgiven my ex for leaving, and forgiven myself for ignoring all the signs. And I learned that God still had a plan for my life.

Jeff said...

This gives so much hope for people who are hurting. No matter what the hurt. Thank you for being so transparent.

Kristi said...

Thank you, Jeff, for having the guts to start Agora. I have learned that it's OK to be open and honest, and not worry about rejection from my church family. I want people to see that I'm not spouting off advice without some experience to back it up. I've chosen some paths that were both unique and difficult. And I'm stronger for it, but I wouldn't want to do it over again.

Naida Lee said...

you should write a book Kristi... i love all your posts.

Kristi said...

:-) I find that writing my experiences helps me to process them. Writing is very soothing to me.