This past year has been like no other I could ever have imagined or dreamed of during my worst nightmares. Almost a year ago, my wife of 8 years, having left me the month prior, told me that she would not return to the marriage. Upon recommendation, I immediately began attending a DivorceCare group at the Vineyard Church of Columbus. One of the first things I was taught during this Bible-based 3-month course was to take stock of what I had lost. It was a step that was required for healing. And while I’ve thought about it many times, I have yet to write down what this past year has wrought. This is my attempt.
First are foremost, the past year claimed my wife. Jen was like no other woman I had ever met. Beautiful and brilliant, silly but sexy, driven but compassionate, kind and thoughtful, she was everything I dreamed of in a wife. She was my best friend: the only person with whom I shared everything. And she was dedicated to the Lord, the single-highest qualification I had when I was seeking a wife. She bore me two amazing children, Elnora (5) and Emmitt (3), who have also been taken from me. While I am thankful that I do still see my children, they now live in a distant city, and I see them only 1/3 of the time that I formerly did.
When I married, I was adopted into an entirely new and wonderful family. When my marriage was taken from me, those relationships were thrown into disarray. God has been gracious in allowing me some continued contact with my former wife’s family, but I am not likely to ever feel the closeness that once was present, nor do I see any of them with any regularity. In addition, the divorce has strained relationships with my own family.
In 2009, I was forced to sell the house where my son was born and where my former wife and I had planned to raise our children. Located on the best street in one of the most quaint towns in central Ohio, it was a blessing from God. And when I sold the house, I lost the best neighbors I’ve ever had. More than just good neighbors, Brian and Karen were – and still are – good and faithful friends. As were Dane and David, who I rarely see anymore at this point.
Last winter I had to sell my car, a 1992 Mazda Miata. I had looked for a Miata for over 10 years before finally purchasing this one. I had raced it a few times the previous summer and I had planned to do so often, something that I had wanted to do since I first discovered autocrossing in the mid-90s. When the car sold, the confidence in owning a reliable vehicle was lost as well. I am still blessed to own my old truck, and I purchased a Honda Accord with the money from my Miata. But neither is as reliable as my Miata or the car which my former wife kept.
This past year I have lost countless personal possessions. Whether claimed by my ex-wife or sold to help make ends meet, I have but a fraction of the items that I formerly owned. Rifles, computer equipment, software, tools, furniture and electronics were all lost or sold. Even my dog was a casualty, as she now lives with my former wife. And 2009 spelled a notable loss in income. When child-support is taken into account, I now have the least amount of disposable income since I graduated from college almost 15 years ago.
But perhaps the hardest thing to lose this past year were my dreams. I had what I had always wanted: a family. And I had so many plans already in mind for the next 20 years. Most of my greatest memories as a child are of family vacations. And I had planned to take my wife and children on our first true family vacation this past spring. We were hoping to go to Gatlinburg, where Jen and I honeymooned, and we planned to take our respective parents with us as well. I was greatly looking forward to taking my family on road trips across the country. I expected to visit Washington D.C., Boston, Niagara Falls, Florida, amusement parks, campsites, and many other places. Jen and I had talked about spending our 10th wedding anniversary driving Route 66 across the country. And while that was still our plan, I had secretly been entertaining the notion of taking Jen on a several-day train ride – something she had always wanted – through the Rocky Mountains or along the east coast. I already had visions of Thanksgivings and Christmases spent with my family at our house. Jen loved to entertain, and I expected to spend many evenings with my family and friends around a campfire or the supper table. And every one of these dreams – and so many more – vanished in an instant.
Studies have shown that the pain felt in divorce is greater than that of anything except that of losing a child to death. And while I thankfully cannot verify that claim, if I were to be honest, I can say that, at times, 2009 tested my very desire to live. However, God has a way of using even the greatest crisis to his glory and for our good. He did not bring the events of 2009 upon me, nor did he desire them. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the ways in which he’s used them to bless me.
The last year has given me more friends than I’ve had at any one point in my life. And while I lost some friendships, those that remained have grown stronger in virtually every way. My church – and my small group in particular – have become my family. I have been given opportunities at work that I formerly did not have, both in my ability to share my faith and in my ability to learn new things. My financial needs have been miraculously met, I was healed from a serious health problem, and my desire to read God’s word has been reinvigorated.
This past year, the Lord has drawn me closer than he has in years, and he has taught me more about myself than I ever learned before. I’ve been given a greater sense of empathy towards those in need. My eyes have been opened to many spiritual truths, and I’ve been taught how to give up more of myself and how to love more deeply. I’ve been given opportunities to serve those in need and to share what I’ve learned with those who need to hear it. I’ve been able to speak more deeply with my family, and the time spent with my children has been more focused. And I’m learning how to trust God more and more.
I am not yet at a point where I can say these blessings were worth my losses. And while that is my hope and prayer, I realize that I may never reach that point. What I have lost is simply too great. While I know greater blessings remain for me, I cannot yet fathom how they could be greater than what I once had. I can truly say that I love my former wife more now than I did when I married her. And yet I can do nothing with it.
Despite all this, I am looking forward to 2010 with optimism. I see great opportunities before me in many areas of my life, some of which I scarcely imagined a year ago. I don’t yet know what God has in store for me, but I am excited about it. During the coming year, I will do my best to follow Christ wherever he leads me. And while I don’t expect to do everything right, I know that he will continue to bless me and my household. Clearer than ever, I can see God working. And that alone means that 2010 will be a good year."