Today I’m going to share with you a part of my story I don’t write often about. It has to do with my having been married before sharing my life with Kirk.
In 2004, I went through a divorce.
We had been married 6 years, the last year of which was spent with about six states separating us, and the marriage and divorce are among the most difficult parts of the journey I have lived.
I can look back now and see the whole of it through a lens of healing and forgiveness — both of which were quite hard-won — and I can also see that neither of us knew much about what we were doing in our life together but were doing the best we could with what we had.
Today, I want to talk about the impact the divorce had on me and how it affected my life with God and my understanding of Jesus.
I remember how precious that year of separation and the first six months of my divorce were in my life with God. I was living on my own for the first time and had rented a tiny guesthouse in the historic district near my hometown. Every day, I would go in and out of my little guesthouse, conscious that I was learning what it meant to be the bride of Christ instead of someone else’s bride.
I was learning through that time, too, what it meant to be feminine and lovely to God, and so I began to wear clothes that deepened my ongoing awareness of that reality: pants in pastel colors of pinks and greens and purples, with various textures like velvet and corduroy and appliques like satin sash belts. I wore layers of blouses and jackets, too, and enjoyed the detail of ruffles and pearl buttons and chiffon overlays of my clothing.
And almost every night before bed, I would settle into my little twin bed inside that tiny guesthouse and read the words of Psalm 139 over and over again.
In all of this, I knew that God was teaching me my value.
But even still, underneath all that tender engagement with God, there was a seed of shame.
No matter how much I had fought against divorce, still here I was: divorced. I was divorced without having chosen to be so, and I could do nothing to change it. Divorce seemed like the worst possible outcome for my marriage, and I couldn’t imagine the depth of God’s disappointment when he looked down upon me and saw that blight upon my life.
I felt at a loss for how to hold this, and so at some point, I sat down with a pastor from my church to talk about it.
We sat on a planter outside the church after one of the services, and I told him how ashamed I felt. I told him that it seemed like the whole of my life going forward from here was counterfeit, since I was walking a path God never would have chosen for me.
God was in Plan A, but the divorce had averted me to Plan B — so now what worth could my life have to God?
I’ll never forget what the pastor said to me that day.
He looked at me and said, “Christianne, when God looks down from heaven at you, he doesn’t say, ‘There’s Christianne, my divorced daughter.’ He says, ‘There’s Christianne, my daughter.’ He doesn’t see your divorce. That’s what Jesus died for.”
This was the first time what Jesus did on the cross really clicked for me.
So much of my life, as I’ve shared before, had to do with perfectionism and performing well. I had sinned, definitely, and had asked forgiveness for my sins. But since everything I did was driven by a motive to outshine every possible standard, my heart never really got in touch with the depth of my humanity or sinfulness.
What’s more, the especially difficult sins in my life were practically invisible to me — I couldn’t hold the truth of them because that truth was too painful to admit.
This is why I couldn’t understand grace. And that is why, in that single conversation with my pastor, I understood grace for the very first time.
The reality of Christ’s death on the cross removes every single mark of shame upon our lives. Because of Jesus, we can now live in pure, unadulterated, enjoyable communion with God.
This is something that makes me amazed and in awe of Jesus.