I am sort of at a crossroads right now. My Napoleonic delusion that people are more loyal and sympathetic to me than they really are is crumbling and I’m having a bit of an identity crisis. What if people see me as weak, proud, and worst of all, ruined, instead of a light shining in the darkness? A lot of this has to do with my divorce. I’ve been sympathetic to myself since then and I’ve noticed that a lot of my internet writing that started with Crosswalk.com has to do with trying to get sympathy and to justify my remarriage. George doesn’t seem to have this problem, but he’s not one to talk about conflicting feelings. He seems proud of me and doesn’t seem to worry if people question our family. He interprets the verses about remarriage being adultery differently some do. In Fr. Hopko’s “The Orthodox Faith”, which part on divorce I read early on, and which view my priest explained, the Orthodox Church recognizes human weakness and mistakes and allows that people can learn from their mistakes and remarry with the review and consent of the Bishop. This set my mind at ease, but then I hear Orthodox people I respect talk about the sin of remarriage and I can’t seem to blow that criticism off. I don’t know if I’m addicted to conflicting feelings or if it’s my conscience.
No matter which, divorce, and what leads to it, is a terribly devastating thing. I’m not sure how permanent that is. I can’t help but think that it ruins one’s reputation about worse than anything, except maybe murder or other crimes that can send one to jail for a significant length of time. I think most divorced people deal with it by not trying to gain public respect. They live their lives quietly and make the best of it. But I’ve always wanted to be a missionary. This is part of why I babysat, became a nurse, worked a few summers at camp, taught Sunday School, taught Awana on Wednesday nights, sing in the choir and homeschool. It was even a focus when I was a bus driver the year after he left. Much of this continued after my divorce and remarriage, with the knowledge of my pastor/Priest. They don’t seem to make a big deal about it disqualifying me, but I wonder if it’s because they’re desperate for teachers. Such wondering can make you crazy. It’s probably the logismoi that we’re supposed to ignore.
Above I say “he left” because I do believe there is a difference between being the one who leaves and the one who left. This is probably why I try to justify myself. Still I don’t let myself off the hook completely because I could list many things I blame myself for, and things he blames me for. But at the end of my inner argument, I still feel a victim. I know he says he is, but I wonder if at the end of his internal debates he deep down knows he done me wrong. I don’t know. If I’m wrong, I pray that I become convicted and repent. George is so opposite my ex that my acting the same way doesn’t result in the same cataclysmic fallout. I can argue both ways as to if George is co-dependent, or if I’m not as bad as my ex says I am.
When I met and married George, my whole circle of influence – family, friends, church friends – all were caught up in the momentum of my finding someone new. No one raised an objection until we got a new pastor after we’d already become engaged. I blew him off. I felt like George was an answer to prayer. I am still very thankful for his kindness, patience, love, and generosity. Continuous second guessing whether our marriage was God’s will or not seems counter-productive. However, the Scripture readings today yell at me that remarriage is wrong. 11 years later I can pragmatically say that it is less than ideal, if not across the board prohibited, mostly because of baggage from the first one, and how hard it is for children to adjust to their unnatural parent’s way of doing things. Biological and natural bonds are very strong despite rational arguments against generational sin. But it’s too late to reverse it. And from an unselfish view, I think my kids are very thankful for their step-dad and step siblings. Even if I was wrong, they are innocent and perhaps God’s grace to them compensates. After new children are born, second-guessing also has to stop before any action is considered. Well, once a person is remarried, it’s too late to undo it, right or wrong. Even talking about it here carries with it an unstable tone. I’m just relating that the Church needs a firm statement about divorce and especially remarriage on the part of the wronged party, if there is such a thing as a wronged party. Marrying a wrong person also carries a certain culpability.
Which brings up the problem of evil again. Let’s say it is beneficial for my children to have a step-dad instead of a working single parent. Not that God doesn’t give extra grace to a virtuous single parent. My opinion at the time was that they would be better off with a step-father, and me with a protecting, loving husband. But maybe I was like Israel demanding a king. To invent what could have been in my particular case is unproductive fantasy thinking, but I believe I have heard that there are children whose mothers stayed single turned out very well. I say this not out of regret, but so that situations can be considered from informed positions. It’s like wondering if someone should have been monastic instead of married. It’s sort of a slight to the spouse to talk about it, but if one is in a public conversation or talking to one’s kids and wants to promote monasticism, then it doesn’t seem convincing to say it wouldn’t or couldn’t work for you. In traditional Orthodox countries it has worked for much larger groups of people than here in the U.S. where the rate of unmarried, unmonastic people is reaching alarming proportions. In my case, I feel that I am emotionally and physically too weak to work full-time, to be the sole responsibility for my kids, or to leave my kids with someone else to raise. George is very nice to me about that. Whether God would have given me the strength, I don’t know.
Say remarriage is wrong, where does that put people who have done it? Perhaps I should gracefully retreat behind the shadows of public discourse as most remarried people do, and not try to talk publicly to traditionally minded, conservative people, but I am a traditionally minded, conservative person despite this situation, and my momentum of talking about things here is stronger than any pressure not to. If my credibility is blown and I am delivering a tainted message, which I fear, and am counter-productive, I guess I need to be more convinced of it. I don’t know what to do with it and I suspect others don’t know either. I thank everyone who has been kind enough to put me on their blog roll. I understand the ones who haven’t, for not only that reason. Not that it’s important to figure that part of it out. Napoleon must be stopped at some point.
If one were to argue that remarried people (not that that’s the only lens people see me through, but it’s the one I tend to see myself through) have discredited their own voice forever, then I keep wanting to justify myself by saying that anyone who has looked at someone lustfully is also an adulterer. But they don’t put people who hate their brother in jail, so there is a difference between thinking and doing. The thought that this distinction is also the one, though opposite, between believing-only, and Sacramental, pious-acting Christians just came to mind.
Speaking of many non-Orthodox, I don’t know if some of my blog posts have sounded too ecumenical to some people in considering God’s grace to them for putting a certain credence to thought-lives, but I think that’s because I tend to put more righteous-acting, ideally married people in the same boat with me, an actual sinner, because I suspect that they have entertained lustful or hating thoughts in their mind before, so who are they to flaunt themselves as more worthy than me. Let them cast the first stone. But double-minded me also feels inferior to them and will excuse them for doing it, but I also withdraw from them.
I didn’t really talk about evil and God’s will. If I believe that he uses evil because we have free will and we are sinners, then I can say that He may have used my first marriage to humble me. Or I can say that it unnecessarily devastated me. I can probably argue both sides regarding all the bad things that have happened in my life. I guess the best witness of how evil can be used for good is the martyrs and even Christ on the cross. There may have been an alternate universe where Adam didn’t fall and Christ didn’t have to die, though I’ve heard of Orthodox who say that He would have been incarnated anyway, but this is the one we have. And Christ’s cross saves us. Even He perfected our humanity through suffering in the flesh and being subjected to evil per Hebrews 2. But this addresses where I’ve been wronged, if that’s the case, and not my doing of wrong.
In the Gollum post I talked about evil happening to people who would not listen to good. I feel that way about some of the evil that’s happened to me, but I suppose when I was little and more innocent (contra Calvin) I didn’t need to be taught by evil. But I was for better or worse. Probably worse except that I may now be more vigilant to defend my kids against unnecessary evil. Can God cause good to come out of it? Most probably think so, to varying extents where various worths of outcomes are assigned. One can gain humility, and compassion for other victims. But one can also become bitter, resentful, suicidal, and seemingly intolerably devastated. It’s a gamble. You look at shell-shocked soldiers and I don’t think the experience was good for them. Whether it was for others or not is endlessly debatable.
I could also argue whether it is possible for adulterers’ and murderers’ lives to be redeemed. Do certain sins hamper how far one can go or how close one can get to God in the afterlife? I think we have to say yes or why not sin as much as possible and just confess on our death beds? Some say sinners are more humble because they know they are sinners than people who are not so afflicted, and I believe there are such people. All I can say is Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. And I hope my kids have a more ideal life with all my heart.