When you get a divorce, you don’t just loose your husband.
Sometimes friendships are broken, careers are changed, and extended family severed. After my father cheated on my mother, she turned to her in-laws (whom she adored) looking for affection, love, and acceptance. What my Grandpa would tell my mother in that moment has haunted her the rest of her life.
“I’m not going to a loose a son over this.”
Now, logically does it make sense that my Grandpa would choose his cheating, wayward son over my mother? Yes, absolutely. After all, that’s HIS child. But when you have been deeply betrayed, any additional betrayal (no matter the size) feels like a knife to the chest. Immediately, Pandora’s box has been opened, and rational thought goes out the window.
Well, history has a nasty way of repeating itself.
My husband wasn’t close with his family. I think it had a lot to do with his military deployment. Casually under his breath, he would mention feeling abandoned by his family while he was overseas. But, being close to my own family, I would push for family get-togethers, BBQ’s and casual visits. For over twelve years, I encouraged having a relationship with his family. Although it was difficult at times, I connected the most to one of my husband’s sisters who lived down the street from us.
Out of all of my ex husband’s family, I felt like she knew the most about our relationship and knew me the best. So, you can imagine the betrayal I felt when three months after I discovered my husband’s second affair, I see his sister sitting in my husband’s new kitchen laughing with his mistress. I stood in the door and watched as the two of them laughed and giggled as if this woman didn’t help DESTROY my family. As if this woman didn’t proudly post pictures of her and my husband on social media DAYS after I found out about his affair. As if she didn’t “like” every single negative comment made about her by friends and family. Not only did she boast in her actions, but she proudly displayed her affair (and my embarrassment) to our friends and family.
Words cannot express the utter devastation I felt in that moment as I stood there watching them laugh. The humiliating rejection of having a family member pretend as if my husband’s affair meant nothing. That my pain…was meaningless. To be discarded so easily by supposed family members is devastating. I now understand the pain my mother felt at my Grandpa’s words.
So, this week I was presented with a choice.
I recently found out this same sister has cancer, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
So, here’s the choice.
- Acknowledge her illness, but continue living my life.
- Overcome my pain, and visit her in the hospital.
Although the “Christian” response may seem obvious, here’s the thought process.
- What if I visit her, and my ex tries to use it against me? (he definitely would)
- What if I invest more time into the relationship, and I get hurt again?
- What if she doesn’t want me to visit her?
- What would I even say to her when I saw her?
- She hasn’t been there for me, why should I be there for her?
Are these thoughts “Christian”. No, but they’re real.
I wasn’t sure what to do… and then I went to church. And good Lord, was God talking to me.
The sermon was all about showing God’s loving to the marginalized; the cast aside or “unlovable”. But also, showing God’s love to those who have wronged you.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.- Colossians 3:13
It’s so easy to hold onto our pain, ignore the suffering of others, and narrowly live our lives based on our own wants and desires. After all, our world constantly encourages a “do what makes YOU happy” lifestyle. But what I was reminded in church, was that God calls us to be different. To be a light in the dark. The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love the Lord our God, and to love one another. By showing God’s love to my former sister-in-law, I’m showing my love for God.
And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ -Matthew 25:40
So the next day, I reached out and visited her in the hospital. I sat there for an hour and talked about her life, her illness, and how she was feeling.
Although I am extremely glad I went, and was able to rise above my insecurities, the visit was not without consequence. Several times, tears came to eyes and my voice shook. Not from the topic of conversation, or the surroundings, but from my own unresolved emotions towards my former sister-in-law.
After I left the hospital, I called my AMAZING single mom friend from church and told her how hard it was to face my former sister-in-law. That while I was glad I had spent time with her, how raw I felt post-visit. She made me realize that my expectations of my former sister-in-law, were based on MY judgement of her actions. I feel pain, because she didn’t react how I WANTED her to. I feel pain, because of the unspoken injustice I feel she has yet to acknowledge at the hands of her brother. But my friend helped me realize something else.
My false expectations and unresolved emotions are holding me back from experiencing God’s plan for my life.
While I am validated in my feelings towards my former sister-in-law, if I let them consume me, I will become a PRISONER TO THEM. I will loose the freedom I have to grow. Worse, I will allow my emotions to prevent me from showing God’s love to a person who may need to find a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, I have a choice.
- I can embrace my faults, embrace my pain, and acknowledge my shortcoming so that I can grow, or
- I can hold onto to the anger and resentment, and never move forward.
I choose the first one.