It’s been a year now since my husband told me that he didn’t want to remain in our marriage. The days after that were filled with shock and walking around in a state of disbelief. When the reality started sinking in, it hit me that my life would drastically change after almost forty-one years of marriage.
Finally, I was able to form a prayer that came out as a question: God, what am I going to do?
The day that prayer formed I remember working around my house, performing those muscle-memory tasks of washing clothes, mowing the lawn, and cooking dinner. As I did each job, the question kept coming up– God, what am I going to do?
Finally, the response came: “Strong Women”
It’s not like I heard a distinguishable voice–that’s not how God comes to me. But rather it’s in the form of a simple answer.
Talking aloud to God, I responded, “What do you mean by Strong Women?”
Then, three women I knew came to mind. All of them are trustworthy– both personally and professionally– all in careers bound by codes of confidentiality. At that time, only my husband and I knew of our situation–we had not yet told our sons, waiting to have time to grasp the reality ourselves. I needed help but couldn’t turn to my usual sources because they couldn’t know before my family.
The first woman who I thought of was my pastor. I knew that I was not only going through a personal crisis, but also a faith crisis. How could God allow this when I’d tried to follow Him throughout my marriage? I knew my pastor would be able to address both aspects of my crisis. I sent an email and asked her to meet with me.
That day when we met, we sat at my kitchen table. I’d made coffee and muffins to soften the bitter taste of what I had to tell her. She listened attentively and acknowledged that I was facing a significant change in my life. I appreciate that she was able to assure me of God’s care while not giving any easy answers or spiritual platitudes. Over the weeks that followed when I saw her at church, she would ask how I was doing, without giving any hint of what I’d shared with her. She checked in with me often and supported me through her prayers and her availability. Her counsel was like a lighthouse, blinking its guiding light to a ship caught in a storm.
The second woman who came to mind was a friend who is an attorney. I knew from other women that had been through separation and divorce, that it was important to have solid legal counsel. I’d heard horrible stories of women who weren’t proactive and had walked away with regrets that they’d not done all they could to be treated fairly. My friend was knowledgeable about family law attorneys in my area and was able to recommend several. While she didn’t give me counsel, she pointed out things that would be important. It was a relief to just be able to share with her what I was going through when no one else–besides my pastor and husband, knew.
If I had to go through rough waters, I would do whatever I could to have more control of the course.
The third Strong Woman was a friend who is a therapist. I knew that this would be a time in my life when I needed a psychotherapist. I wanted someone who was well-versed in marriage and family, even though it didn’t appear there was any way our marriage would be saved. I needed help with understanding and navigating the rough waters that I never thought I’d have to travel.
My therapist friend invited me to her house where I told her my news. She was able to provide support and to recommend several therapists. I knew she wouldn’t share with anyone what I told her, and that was a relief. She told me some of her experiences with helping others through the crisis of divorce, including her brother which had made it more personal. She saw the impact it had on his life and validated the huge impact it was having on mine.
This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day and I think of that as a day that is truly about Strong Women; My mother was one of those strong women. But I couldn’t go to her with this problem, not only because she had dementia, but she wouldn’t understand a marriage ending after so many years. And while there are men who have given me support through this time, friends and my brother-in-laws, when you’ve been betrayed by a man– you don’t think of turning to them for help.
No, the three Strong Women were the guiding lights leading me to safe harbor during my time of crisis. I’m grateful to them on this day when I look back at how far I’ve come.
The night I learned my marriage was ending, I prayed a rote prayer without even being able to think, “God help us to navigate these rough waters.” I didn’t see then that one of the ways God would answer was in providing those first beacons of light, those three Strong Women.
For them I am grateful.
What about You?
Have you had something to shock you and put you in a numb state where you could hardly call out for what you needed? How did you eventually move forward?
Who are the Strong Women in your life who’ve given you direction when you were lost?