A Chalkboard Promise

It was time. This weekend I dug up my pink impatiens and begonias and replaced them with burgundy and golden mums. Amidst faculty meetings and Homecoming and writing remediation, they were the only lingering reminder of my sandaled beach summer of online dating. When colors darkened in autumn’s descent, summer’s remaining blossoms trespassed in the garden beds, out of place. You can’t fall in love if you’re holding onto the past. It was time to let go.

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Fall is inspiring after all. The cool breeze brings wisps of hair in to tickle my cheek as I write, crickets chirp, and the moonlight hidden by clouds struggles to break through. By my porch light, I relish in the company of my evening glories and a decorative scarecrow. As I tug my sleeves down, I imagine hayrides, candied apples, bonfires, pumpkin patches, and divorce.

Each season has its own set of memories. My divorce was final two years ago on a Tuesday in October. Nearly a decade of my life signed away on a notarized piece of printer paper. It was colder that day, and it should have been. There’s nothing warm about divorce.   Fully falling in love with fall means embracing that memory, one that is neither warm nor inspiring.

Why did I choose to divorce my husband? Just penning those words puts a lump in my throat.   I feel the blood rise. Shame? Embarrassment? Guilt? I don’t particularly want to write about this, but this telling physical reaction obligates me. When asked about my divorce, I brace myself before answering, assessing the grace meter of the one asking, and after two years, still fearing the potential judgment.

I didn’t rip out my impatiens on a whim. I’m new to gardening. Because of the shaded yard, I planted shaded plants, and now that the magnolias are shedding their leaves, the impatiens were sundrenched and dying. Death was inevitable, by nature’s hands or my own. I could not bear to witness these once thriving plants withering away and becoming an eyesore.

And when I did rip them out, I did so with care and completeness. I was nostalgic for the day my friend and I built the garden bed and gave them a home. I remembered how the sight of them when I came home drew my lips up into a smile every day. I mentally calculated the hours I spent watering them and pulling up weeds around them. Though I cherished them, I knew it was the right decision, and I could not regret what I was doing.

When I left my marriage, there was very little “me” left. My world was dark, and ultimately the only way out was out. I had barely the will to get out of bed. I searched for answers in the Bible, in radio shows like Ravi Zacharias, in books, and even Google. God eventually intervened in a way nothing natural could do and gave me the confirmation that I needed to end my marriage.

God hates divorce. So do I. So do many people, I am sure, that have experienced it. Divorce rips out the roots of a plant once thriving. It’s an entrée of pain and ugliness with a side of broken promises.   My marriage was blooming at one time, but neither of us had been thriving for years before I made the choice. The death of our marriage was inevitable because we were dying together.

Though it would have been possible to anticipate the change in the climate of my front yard, it never crossed my mind. I had a shaded front yard. I needed shade-loving plants. It made sense. Summer ended. Trees shed leaves. Now, the shade-loving plants die. I didn’t notice the change last year absent plants to tend.

But it’s easier to chalk up the plant error to novice gardener status than it is to chalk up the marriage error to novice life status. It would have been possible to anticipate its demise. I ignored sage counsel from family and friends. I ignored my own journal entries cataloguing a myriad of prophetic problems. I ignored signs of a lifestyle in my future mate that would not be beneficial in my future.

My mother told me once after I left that she believed God was writing a wrong that I made a long time before, on my wedding day, where joy eluded her because she lacked peace about that choice. During the first few months, I stayed with my parents, and on a decorative chalkboard, Mom had written a scripture, “Behold, I make all things new.” Regardless of the reasons that led to my decision, the reality of my divorce was a new life.

I’ve now spent as many hours writing for therapy as I did in my sessions with Dr. Bogin in New York. The emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth that has transpired since my divorce find me a much more self-aware and resilient woman than the broken, spiritless girl who made that choice. So when someone asks me why I got a divorce, I hope they have the grace to see that, too.

I can’t regret my decision. I was a shell of a person, having given up parts of myself until I could no longer survive without drastic intervention. God intervened. And though I have failed to feel God’s presence in the years since my divorce, I cannot fall in love with fall without accepting the memory of my divorce, and I cannot accept that memory without acknowledging God’s hand in it. Absent feeling, God still works.

Though my mind needed to process other matters tonight, Charming does get a footnote. He recommended that I read The Dark Night of the Soul. In it, Gerald May writes, “Thought we don’t realize it at the time, when habitual senses of God do disappear in the process of the dark night, it is surely because it is time for us to relinquish our attachment to them. We have made an idol our images and feelings of God, giving them more importance than the true God they represent.”

I prayed fervently, but I dare say I stopped trusting God on that Tuesday in October. I no longer felt anything when I read the scriptures or sat in Bible studies. There was no comfort or joy in songs of worship. I sang without emotion. I went through the motions of faith. What do we do when someone breaks our trust? We build protective walls. I built a wall with God. Is it any wonder I stopped feeling?

To fully fall in love with fall, I need to embrace this memory. It’s not just an ugly divorce. It’s a warm and inspiring reminder that God intervened in my life when I was searching for an answer. He offered grace and chance for a new life. It’s time to let go of feelings… shame, embarrassment, guilt… and replace them with the chalkboard promise.

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