I have a friend who was divorced shortly before I was, under circumstances that were similar to mine. This friend is a wonderful Christian woman, except for one thing.
She doesn't like men.
She doesn't actively go out of her way to express this feeling. In fact, she is very good at hiding her attitude when circumstances force her to be around men. However, if you step back and observe her life over a period of time, you would notice that she chooses activities that will not involve men more often than not. In conversations about men, her attitude is decidedly negative.
I worry about my friend. I don't want her to become bitter and angry and lonely. But I fear that is where she will end up if she allows this attitude to persist.
I have seen this before, in my own family. My parents were divorced after about 15 years of marriage. My mom never remarried or even dated. I recently asked her why, and her response was that she would never trust another man enough to date one.
Wow. Because one man cheated on her and eventually divorced her, she will never trust ANY man? This unhappy event that happened 35 years ago is still controlling her life? That is scary.
I suspect that the cure for this situation is forgiveness. In fact, my friend and I have talked about this, and she is quick to admit that forgiving her ex is not something she has managed to do yet. I wish I knew how to help her forgive him, since a lack of forgiveness hurts the one holding onto the hurt far more than it does the one who committed the sin.
The thing is, forgiveness isn't accomplished in four easy steps. There is no Forgiveness for Dummies book, at least as far as I know. (Hey, maybe that could be my next book!) You can't hire someone to do it for you. There may be classes on forgiveness, but passing the class doesn't guarantee that you will be able to forgive.
I have forgiven my ex for the adultery he committed and for the divorce. I have to admit that I am struggling to forgive him for the way he treats his own children, and occasionally for leaving me with the entire burden of raising our four kids the rest of the way. I also have to work hard at forgiving him when the support check is late or other money he owes me isn't paid. But I feel sure that in time, I will learn to forgive these offenses, too. In fact, I see progress.
I have been asked how I have forgiven the ultimate betrayal of our marriage vows.
I won't say that it was simple. It wasn't. I also won't say that it was instantaneous. It wasn't. And I certainly won't say that once I did it, it was done. It wasn't.
Here is what I will say: It started with a prayer.
"Father in Heaven, I know that You love me, and I know that You want me to forgive my ex. I know that You have forgiven me of so much, that it would be wrong for me not to forgive him. But honestly, I don't WANT to let go of this anger. I WANT to hurt him like he hurt me. But I know that isn't my job. It's Yours. So please help me to turn that over to You and to forgive."
That opened the door for God to begin working in me. Over time, I stopped dwelling on revenge. And finally, one day I realized that I really didn't wish him harm. I only wanted God to deal with him, to convict him and either draw him back to Himself, or, dare I say it, to handle whatever discipline might need to be visited on him.
Do I always wish my ex well now? Nope. Like I said, it wasn't a one-time thing. When he has committed other offenses against me, it is very easy to try to drag up the offenses I have already let go. But as time goes on, and I continue to turn them over to God again and again, I drag them up less and less often.
Maybe someday my friend will be able to turn her anger and hurt over to God. For that matter, maybe someday my mom will be able to do the same.
In the meantime, I will continue to forgive my ex day after day, until someday, that work is finished!