I don’t think I’ll ever forget her eyes.
Or the way her face changed when she told me, matter-of-factly, that it was done. Her husband left her and he wasn’t coming back.
The last two—three?—weeks have been circled around this very decision. We’ve all been impacted—losing sleep and losing our minds. He was our close friend too. It was a complete betrayal that left us all shocked and hurt.
He came home one day, packed a bag, and said the “D” word that means all the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made out of. He walked past their wedding album, grabbed a shirt she had bought him on vacation a couple months before, and that was that.
And it was nearly midnight when I got the call and came to—not pick up the pieces—but sit with her in the mess of pieces he left behind. There was no explanation. Now, three weeks later, there still isn’t. But it doesn’t matter because he’s gone.
I watched her go from helpless to sad to angry to sad again to strong to weak all in the matter of hours and days. But there was no other choice. I helped her pack. I helped her cut up credit cards. I distracted her with Slurpees and potato chips and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I stayed up with her until she fell asleep and then I cried myself to sleep because I hadn’t had a chance to yet.
I watched her make the decision to get out of bed each day and the decision to quit her job and move out of state and the decision to start over. I watched her confront her mom and dad with eyes full of tears and I carried her hope chest into a waiting car, my arms carrying the weight of memories. I watched her wrestle with feelings of self doubt and grief and pain and anger with Heavenly Father. I watched her question whether she was pretty enough. Strong enough. Good enough. She never thought she’d be “that” girl.
But who does?
“Divorce isn’t an option,” she said to me a million times, once when I was half asleep one night. “Doesn’t he know that?”
And that’s when I realized: It is.
Of course divorce is an option. When we forget that, we judge incorrectly. We have a stigma within our churches and even within society that says, “Divorce isn’t an option” and instead of it being meant as, “Divorce shouldn’t ever be the first option and it shouldn’t be the convenient escape route” it casts a bad light on those who are left, who have to leave because of abuse or addiction, or for those who found themselves oppressed or abandoned in some other way.
We were sent to this earth with options. We have an option to get married—and we have the option to leave it, too. We have the option to abuse and hate and live for ourselves–and we have the option to choose God. Do we always choose the right options? No. Watching my friend curl up on the ground, watching her withdraw her paycheck and cancel her phone and leave her life behind for good to start all over—I know for a fact it wasn’t the right option he chose. Buthe made that decision. And she shouldn’t be left with the red letter A on her forehead. Because out of the terrible choices of others will always come remarkable blessings anyway.
The simple truth found in Isaiah 41:10 speaks plainly: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
No matter which choices we make–no matter what choices those around us make–we are in the palm of his hand. We are his children. Divorced, abused, heartbroken, lost, angry or abandoned–we’re his children. And we’ll make it.
I’m not writing this because I take marriage lightly or because I am an advocate for slipping the ring on and off without a second thought. I’m writing this because I watched someone I love break apart into a million pieces as soon as the door shut one Friday night—and I watched her keep breathing.
If divorce wasn’t an option—if we didn’t have the choice to move on from a terrible abuser or rise above the ashes of insecurity and self-hatred; if we didn’t have the agency to not only make a horrendous choice, but a choice to move forward with strength and choose well, then what kind of life would this be? And how would it ever lead to eternal life?
She is already branded. Stigmatized. Walking around with “young and divorced” as a banner isn’t a light load to lift. And especially within the church and Christianity and our own little social circles she will continue to be…all because “divorce isn’t an option”.
“He has his agency,” I remember telling her one night, staring toward an empty wall. “And he chose.”
And now she has to choose.
I’m inspired by her. Before we said our goodbyes she smiled and she said she knew she’d be okay. And I know she cried after she got in the car. Just like I did. But she moved her feet and kept going. She decided it wasn’t the end. That was her choice.
I learned a lot from her. Divorce is an option.
But so is love. So is strength. So is understanding.
And I’m grateful for that.