The Firsts

As the daughter of a single parent, I saw first-hand how much my mom struggled. Not just emotional battles, but day-to-day life. As a child, I saw her balance the needs of four kids, on her own. I watched as she was forced to pick up extra jobs to pay for cheerleading outfits, soccer uniforms and camping trips. I watched as she threw newspapers at 4am in order to pay the electricity bill or purchase a used car. And as I dragged by 10 year-old body into my mother’s van at 4am to roll newspapers, I decided this wasn’t the life I wanted.

I didn’t want to struggle on my own. I didn’t want to carry the weight of that responsibility by myself. So, I was determined to get good grades, attend a good school, and marry a good man. And if I was a good wife, who kept a good house, I would keep my good husband. But in the end, it didn’t matter how hard I tried, or how “good” I thought I was. I couldn’t be in a relationship, by myself.

And the worst part is, I was so delusional. Looking back, I understand how unhappy I was. But at the time, it seemed great. In fact, the December before I found out about my ex’s first affair, I remember sitting in the living room of my mother’s house, changing my son’s diaper, telling her how much my husband loved me. I boasted in my confidence and proudly told her I suspected he loved me, more than I loved him.

Three short months later, he started having his first affair.

First affair.

Wow. That is something I never thought I would say.

On the day of my wedding, as I awkwardly walked down the rose-covered aisle, I would NEVER have imagined the man I was walking towards (who had tears shining in his eyes) would devastate me so completely. Not only would he break my heart, but he would be unapologetic in his destruction.

Believe it, or not, but I think I have excellent judgment.

I know, it’s ironic.

But in most situations, whether during meetings or conversations, I can easily read the feeling of a room based on body language, subtext, and eye movement. Talk about a hit to your pride. When the personal attributes you value most, like intelligence and judgement, are completely eradicated by the person you trusted most.

And as I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I was SO confident my soon-to-be husband would NEVER betray me because I trusted my judgement. I held him on such a high pedestal and believed, without a shadow of a doubt, he was a man worthy of respect. It wasn’t until counseling, that I discovered my faith in him blinded me from his humanity. I forgot he was a sinner, like me, and capable of anything; especially betrayal. After all, wasn’t it Jesus’s disciple Judas (one of twelve men he trusted most in the world) who betrayed him to the Romans?

Looking back, I blinded myself from other truths, too. I dismissed his flirty behavior, his self-victimization and his lack of empathy, for being “friendly” or “manly”. I rationalized emotional disconnection as “strong” and turned loneliness into “duty.”

The first time I felt like a single parent was at my son’s third birthday party.

It was also the first-time my ex’s absence was so palpable, guests seemed to make room for his essence. A space was left next to his best friend as he watched my son open presents. Another was made opposite me, as I sang “Happy Birthday” to my son.

The first time you feel the loss of your family, the pain is so overwhelming, it’s almost crippling. And it’s a pain that cannot be felt, or shared, by anyone. The closest person who understands the loss of my husband, is his best friend.

And I will call upon Your nameAnd keep my eyes above the wavesWhen oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embraceFor I am Yours and You are mine-Oceans

When I became a parent, I expected to experience a lot of “firsts”. The first word, the first steps, or the first hair cut. But what I never thought I’d feel is the pain of a first affair. The loneliness of being a single parent for the first time. Or, the first time I felt the loss of my family.

When your family breaks apart, your life becomes a series of new “firsts”. The first Christmas without my son, the first night alone, or the first time in court. It’s times like these where I am overwhelmed by my weakness. My feeble humanity is never more clear, than when I am at my lowest. When the to-do lists seem to get longer, and the problems seem to multiply.  I can’t think because all I can hear is NOISE. The voices of my doubts and fears overwhelm my mind, until I remember…no problem is too great for God.

“I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32: 27. 

When I am weak, I must turn to HIM who is my constant provider. I must remind myself that my weakness is an opportunity to demonstrate and rely on God’s unending love and strength. He did not make me to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders alone. God made me to have a relationship with Him, and to have faith. Going forward, my life will continue to have “firsts”. Some good, and some bad.  But even when the waves crash, and the waters rise, I must continue to have faith.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”- 2 Corinthians 12:9