I don’t think there is any pain that can compare to loving someone so deeply that you would die for him or her, and yet he or she has decided that the feeling is not mutual. This person has made the decision to up and leave you.
We hear of this pain from others, over, and over, and over again. The spouse that is left behind is absolutely devastated. Many times he or she questions what in the world happened to bring this! How could their soaring love empty out into such a horrible descent of nothing?
I can’t even start to express how much we grieve for those who are experiencing this deep, deep grief and the confusion of rejection. We’re so very sad for those of you who are going through this nightmare.
Sadly, I can say that I understand a part of what you are going through … at least to some degree. I can’t completely understand someone else’s pain, because no one experiences exactly the same thing. But sadly, so very, very horribly, I know a huge part of that pain. How I wish I didn’t! No one should suffer that type of cutting, searing hurt.
I have to say here that my husband Steve has not left me. We are doing fine in our relationship. Thank you Jesus for this mercy!
But a period of time ago, we received the horrible news that one of our adult “children” has decided not to be a part of our lives anymore. There were no fights beforehand, no obvious problems that we saw. Our last phone call less than a week before was loving and nice. And then BAM! We receive an email that stated that our “child” and spouse essentially were divorcing us from their lives. We have NO idea what happened, and have not been given an explanation as to why.
I won’t tell you this “child’s” name. Even if you guessed it, I wouldn’t do so. That’s not what this blog is about. But after such a long, painful journey of grieving silently, I feel that God is telling me I need to share the pain and some things that I have learned since that horrible day when we received the email that has changed our lives forever.
This is Not My Agenda
I’m doing this, not for my purpose. Lord knows I don’t want to share this. I’m hoping though, that by writing this, it will help others. I’m talking about those who are wondering how to go on. I’ve been there and sadly, I am (my husband and I are) still walking this painful journey.
A while ago (on my mom’s birthday —a day that is hard for me anyway because still I miss her), we were sent an email that said both of them, whom we love with all our hearts:
“feel we don’t have anything that really holds us together with you other than blood or familial status. And to pretend otherwise feels dishonest and doesn’t meet anyone’s needs. … We have decided not to interact indefinitely (phone calls, emails, visits, etc).”
I can tell you honestly, that we would not have been more hurt, if we would have been stabbed by a knife. We both were stunned, in shock, and disbelief. It’s so horrible to think that the deep, deep love we have for them is not mutually shared.
Threads Hold People
I’m reminded of something that someone once wrote that applies to the marital relationship. What holds people together “is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”
I/we honestly thought that even though they are no longer living for Christ, and even though our political views, and other lifestyle choices are different, we have tried to respectfully find other “threads.” We’ve tried to find other little commonalities and unconditional acts of love to “sew” us together in whatever way it’s possible. I’m not talking about being too involved in their lives, or “in their faces” where we preach, or teach, or spend too much time with them. We never thought they could say we were invasive. We tried to do little things …little reminders that we are here for them and we love them.
Obviously, this wasn’t enough. It wasn’t perceived or received in the way we thought it was. We’re SO sad that they don’t feel the love for us that we feel for them, even a little.
Deepest of Grief
So, what did we do when we received the email, which cut off our relationship? We sank to our knees and cried. And for over two years, we have been grieving and crying. There are many layers of complications that come with this cut in our relationship that I can’t explain here. But I CAN say that it has been a difficult time —beyond description. And our hearts are still heavy. We’ve sent a few notes affirming our love to them, asking if we can get together to hear their side of things because we’re absolutely in the dark about this, but nothing. We’re totally cut off, and are completely confused.
Even so, God has shown us, through many different ways, that we need to get up and do what we can to get back into living, as we were created to do.
Recently, we heard of a young husband who was killed in a biking accident. He left behind his wife, Mary Katherine (who was 6 months pregnant with their second child when the accident happened). She is suffering from different circumstances, but still, the pain is horrific. In a television interview this newly married widow said something that’s good to keep in mind.
“‘It is an impossibly, irreparably sad thing that has happened to us. But I am not an impossibly, irreparably sad person. My children will not be either, and our family will not be,’ Mary Katharine said. ‘He would want us to live bravely. And he would want us to have fun. I will probably always think that the world is a little less fun and beautiful because he’s not here. But he would say it’s my job to get off my butt and make it fun and beautiful.'”
What an inspiration this is to me (and I hope to you). I know that Jesus would want that for us. We are to still be prayerful, and we know that it’s okay to grieve at times. God understands our heart’s human frailty. But we need to be intentional in looking around us to minister to the hurting (as we do, especially through Marriage Missions).
We also know that we are to find splashes of joy — and to rest in His unending love. God knows all too well what it’s like to love those who reject His love, and reject Him. These are people who live their lives out of fellowship with Him, and want nothing to do with Him. He knows our pain, and as we lean into Him, He ministers to us.
Run the Race Set Before Us
So, that’s what we have been and are doing. We’ve started to stand again and “run the race set out before us.” It’s not a life we would have chosen, but it is the life we have been given. And that’s the same for any of you that experience rejection from a loved one. You and we aren’t able to control all the variables in life. We are handed many things that we don’t want. But it’s what we do with it that makes the difference. Some of these painful experiences take us down, way down.
When a loved one rejects us, it’s difficult to get up afterward. It’s difficult to think there can be any reason to ever laugh again, and enjoy life again. It’s difficult to believe that we can survive such devastation. But please don’t allow yourself to stay down. I understand the temptation, but please fight it. Work along with God, to pull yourself up. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13-14, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth into those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” So in other words, Press on… don’t allow yourself to stay down.
Example from Eric Liddell
In thinking about this, I’m reminded of Eric Liddell (the man who won an Olympic race and was featured in the movie, “Chariots of Fire”). In an earlier race, Eric was a strong favorite to win the 440-yard dash at the 1923 Triangular International. However, 15 yards after the start, he laid sprawled across the track infield. He was the victim of an intentional tripping incident.
At that point he had a decision to make, to give up or to finish the race. Eric decided to pick himself up and resume his race. With the finish line drawing near, Eric Liddell drew upon his upmost reserves. In the end, he crossed the tape 3 yards ahead of his nearest competitor… the man who tripped him.
Now of course, not all endings are as glorious as this one. But the biggest point isn’t whether Eric won or not. The point is what he did when he was faced with defeat, and the loss of a dream. He could have laid there and cried and screamed “foul” —which he would have been justified in doing. But instead, he grabbed onto the courage to “finish the race” … and thankfully, he did it well.
That’s what I’m suggesting. Ask God to show you how to proceed from “this day forward” “reaching forth” so you are able to “press on” in life… looking for what God wants to do in your life now and in the future. You and God can build a future together —a “new normal.” It may not be one that you would have chosen, but it will be one that can best for all concerned, including you.
I want to share with you something that has helped us recently. I came across an interview where Arlene Pellicane was interviewing one of my favorite women speakers, Carol Kent. There is a Podcast of this interview that I highly recommend you listen to (because Carol gives additional details that I can’t give here). You can find it at: http://arlenepellicane.com/2014/01/carol-kent-on-becoming-a-happy-wife/
Below is the portion of the interview that I CAN share. These are comments Carol made that have helped us “get back up” to live our lives, as we should. Life may never be the same, but life can still be good, because God is good.
Let me say first that Carol’s experience is different than ours. And ours may be different from yours. Ours is with a “child” and their spouse; yours may be with a spouse. But woven through all of our experiences is a commonality. We are handed something in life, which we didn’t expect and never wanted. And there is great grief in that —ESPECIALLY if rejection is mixed in with it all.
Two Choices Given
But it comes down to the fact that we are given two choices when we face those points of crisis. We either shrink back for the rest of our lives as emotional cripples… doing us and everyone else around us no good, or we find a way to once again stand up. We put one foot in front of the other, take one breath in and one breath out at a time. And then we look for ways to re-engage in life, especially in ministry. Steve and I choose the latter because that is what we believe God would have us do. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
Our hearts have always been and will always be open for our adult children, but we have to release them. We also have to release the pain as best we can, looking for ways to live as we should, given the circumstances.
With that said, the following is transcribed from this podcast with Arlene Pellicane, who is interviewing Carol Kent on “Becoming a Happy Wife.” Please glean through it (and then listen to the podcast to see if there is more you can learn) and adapt the advice you can use. Even if it is a spouse who has rejected you… and if that is the case, please let me express my deep sorrow… but even so, the principle here is that it’s okay to grieve. But don’t let it paralyze you permanently. See what else God can show you through the following advice that you can adapt to your situation.
Partway into the podcast, Carol Kent was asked:
Q: “Why do you think it was important for you to get through hardships for [your husband] Gene’s sake —not just your sake, but in terms of being in a marriage?”
In Carol’s response, she talked about the trials they went through when their only son was arrested for first-degree murder. Then she said, in response to the question posed:
A: …”What this did to our marriage, and to Gene, is that instantly when you face a trial of gigantic magnitude little things become big things…
“We found ourselves overwhelmed” by all that was going on…
“Gene and I found that sometimes over the little tiny things we would be nit-picking at each other…”
I want to pause here to say that for you, it may be that little things become big things. It may even be that big things piled upon this bigger thing makes the mountain of life look too over-whelming to continue. It may appear that it will be impossible to get to any type of “brighter” end on the other side. But just like with Carol and Gene and with Steve and me, and with others who have had to face horrible mountains of pain, we need to look at the bigger picture. It’s important to look at the bigger perspective on it all.
Carol goes on to say:
Then one time we paused and we would both say, ‘you know this isn’t the real issue, is it?’ It occurred to us both that we had choices to make.
Gene and I could allow this big thing —our child’s arrest for 1st degree murder —to destroy us so we wouldn’t be able to function. On the other hand, we could choose to instantly recognize that everything that goes wrong seems to be exaggerated. This BIG thing in our lives is what we need to come together for, or we just wouldn’t be able to make it.
And so we started to recognize that more quickly. And then somebody would just say, ‘Hey, that’s not the big issue, is it?’ And we’d realize the little thing we were facing was so tiny compared to the HUGE thing we were dealing with. So we’d get over it faster. But we did need to pause long enough to recognize that it was the big thing that made everything little so exaggerated.
I think many times people just start fighting and then they simply just can’t make it. They say, ‘our marriage is falling apart.’ Often when you have a gigantic crisis in a family you will see a marriage falling apart because it becomes so hard to just go on communicating without letting your emotions come into it.”
So how did you start fighting that in terms of finding that joy, being able to smile as a wife, and I know that was a long process, but for someone looking in to say, ‘Wow! How did you get that way?'”
I think we both give each other permission to have sad days, because we both DO have them…”
She said that sometimes she will “have that overwhelming sense that, that life is never going to be ours again. We sensed that life for our son, living with his family, and raising his stepdaughters is not going to be again. And so we give each other permission to grieve…”
Gene experienced a unique pain because he and his son used to do a lot of things together. Sadly, they can’t do them together ever again, and he knows it.
“I see that loss in Gene’s eyes. We both have acknowledged that we have joy and happiness in our hearts. This can only be explained in a supernatural dimension, in the light of our circumstances. Even so, it’s okay to give ourselves permission to have grieving days, as well. Otherwise it just becomes a Pollyanna, plastic smile that you slap on. You then say, ‘hey, God is good, heaven is tomorrow and everything’s going to be okay…’ We sometimes forget that we live in a fallen world where bad things happen even to Christian people.”
“How does someone access that supernatural joy? They’re hearing that as a wife and they they’re thinking, I don’t get that. I don’t know how to get that. I don’t know how to get that supernatural joy.”
“I think that joy is a process. You begin by having a communication with God on a daily basis. Sometimes that splash of joy comes in the form of a scripture verse that pops off the page when you read it in the morning. And one of those splashes of joy for me has been, Isaiah 43:19. It says, ‘See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.‘
“I realize that we don’t have the life we wanted. We do, however, have a life that is filled with purpose, meaning, and joy because of what God has allowed us to do with this horrible thing. We have the choice of using it as a platform upon which we can give hope to others. That brings us a LOT of joy.
“So, start communicating with God’s Word. Then every day be intentional about looking for those splashes of joy. You know, it might come from comment from a child or a grandchild’s comment that is off the wall. For some reason it makes you laugh out loud …Write it down and rejoice with it. Have fun with it. Just remembering those little comments from children brings you joy.
“And then I tell people, another way to keep the joy, to find the happiness is to be sure to stay involved with people. When you go through a difficult place, often you want to quit answering the door, the telephone; responding to text messages, or emails. You just sort of want to cocoon, and not be available to people. And that really is the time that you most need to be with at least one other person. This is someone who understands what’s happening in your life. It’s someone you can talk to, and someone you don’t have to fear will tell what’s going on in your personal life to other people. It’s someone you can trust.
“There’s a lot of joy that comes. You don’t have to have a huge network right away. You need one person, and that will give you joy.”
“Sometimes we don’t give ourselves permission to be happy. We think, ‘How can I be happy when my child is going through such a hard time, or something else? So talk a little bit about how important this is for each person. We’ll always have someone in our life that’s hurting. So how do we make that decision of saying, ‘hey this happiness, this joy, this is a choice and a skill I shouldn’t feel guilty about? People need joyful people around them. They don’t need more sad people around them.”
“One of the things that Gene and I try to do every day is to be very aware of someone within our circle of friends, or influence, or just people we’re with on a somewhat day-to-day basis, even though we’re in a traveling ministry, who needs help from something we can do. I’m talking about somebody who is going through a hard time. We are very intentional about doing one tangible act of kindness for that person. It is a way that we can touch their lives with just a sparkle of joy, a sparkle of encouragement in the middle of their difficult time. I think when we share what we have with others, whether it’s a sack of groceries for a single mom who’s struggling —you just leave it on the doorstep with a note saying, ‘We’re praying for you’ or so, it brings joy…”
“…When we actively engage in doing something tangible for others, I think it takes away the guilt that the enemy wants to put on us. We can be almost embarrassed because we’re feeling happy even though someone else is going through great difficulties. I try to use that as a trigger to shoot up arrow prayers for people…”
What I personally want to say to you is what I’ve been and am saying to myself. It’s in times like these that we have to lean upon the Lord to “make our paths straight.” As we’re told in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
And in doing that, God shows me what I am to do next.
Example from Elisabeth Elliot
Sometimes when I am sad, I remember Elisabeth Elliot’s example of how to “do the next thing. Elisabeth was married to Jim Elliot, a missionary killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador, along with 4 other missionaries. I heard her speak a number of times. Elisabeth said that after Jim’s death, she was overwhelmed with grief. And yet, she had an infant baby to care for, along with other duties. She asked the Lord how she could do what needed to be done. How could she care for her baby and herself and so many things on the mission field? She just didn’t feel like she had the strength.
She said that God reminded her of scriptures she had memorized before and strengthened her with them. And then He brought the thoughts to her mind, “I was in your past, and I am here in your present. I will be here in your future, and I will take care of you. Do not be dismayed, God will take care of you.”
Elisabeth said those thoughts that God gave her, strengthened her to do what she needed to do in that present moment. “You can imagine how tempted I was to just plunk myself down at times and say, ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ I wanted to sink into despair and helplessness!”
Do the Next Thing
But then she said the Lord kept reminding her of an old Saxon legend that said, “Do the next thing.” She also continually remembered a verse that God gave to her before she went to Ecuador with her husband. It is found in Isaiah 50:7 where we are told, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint and I know I will not be put to shame.”
She said that when she was tempted to give up, she “set” her “face like flint.” It’s then that Elisabeth determined to do what needed to be done, knowing the Lord would help her. She would not worry about tomorrow; but would just do that thing. Afterward, she would look and work to do the next thing. It helped her not to look at everything that needed to be done at once. She took one small bite at a time. Before she knew it, all that needed to be bitten off and done, was.
When I’m overwhelmed and I remember what Elisabeth said, I am inspired to do the same. If Elisabeth could do what she needed to do, I can do what I need to do.
We’re told in Hebrews 12, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Wish to Comfort
I wish I could comfort you in your grief and lighten the load you are carrying. If I could, I would. But what I can do is pray for you, and tell you that I have a shred of understanding. I cry with you, and encourage you to look and keep looking to God and to lean upon His strength and guidance.
I want to share something that Carol Kent wrote in her book, When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances. But first I want to share the titles of a few books she has written since she has started the struggle to find a “new normal.” They are ones I will be picking up to read, as well, Between a Rock and a Grace Place: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life. There is also, A New Kind of Normal: Hope-Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down. Her newest book is, Unquenchable: Grow a Wildfire Faith that Will Endure Anything. You might consider getting them, if you can.
But here’s something to consider that Carol wrote, concerning the difficult journey she and Gene have been traveling, sometimes crawling through.
Along the way:
“We have been surprised to discover that in the midst of this ‘adjusted life plan’ we are slowly experiencing an unexpected sense of purpose. Our ‘new normal’ certainly isn’t want we would have chosen. But it’s what we have to work with, so we embrace it.”
That is my prayer for you, as it is for us, as we walk this journey. Run TO God —not away from God. Put every effort into embracing the day, embracing God, and embracing faith. Faith is simply, [the acronym] “Forsaking All I Trust Him.” Trust in God’s love for you, even during the dark times, when it makes no sense. Please keep in mind (as Carol Kent wrote):
“The faith that gets us through unthinkable circumstances begins with being flat-out needy and allowing God’s love to wrap us up, hold us close, and dry our tears. We discover that our cries are being transformed into life-giving, healthy tears. They are rebirthing faith, hope, and joy. And life doesn’t get better than that!”
At least on this side of heaven, it doesn’t.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.