Star Wars Episode 7 is nearly upon us, and suffice it to say, I am excited. I thoroughly enjoyed the movies and the toys as a kid, and got a second wind in college when they did a Star Wars marathon night at Wheeler Hall at Cal. It was such a communal experience. I remember 700 of us all cringing when Leia leaned in to kiss Luke in the hospital wing in Empire Strikes Back, and one guy across the room yelling, “Eww, that’s your brother!” Good times, good times. Where was I going with this? Right, all this to say, I wanted to provide a word of encouragement to divorcees out there, in the most memorable, Star Wars way possible: May Divorce Be With You.
Before I begin to explain what I mean by this, let me preface by saying that this article is not targeted towards those of you currently going through a divorce, or who are recently divorced. For these friends, coping and healing are what I wish for you during a very difficult time. Rather, this article is more for 2 other groups of people: (1) Those of you who have been divorced for some time and (2) the churches of those who have been divorced for some time.
For those of you who have been divorced for some time, there may finally be a feeling of normalcy in being a divorcee. The shock and the sharp edge of divorce has worn off. You are now used to living on your own, or living as a single parent or visiting parent. You changed your cards back to your maiden name. You have downsized (or in some cases upgraded) your belongings. You may even be taking advantage of some of the free time you did not have when you were married. Many of these are signs that some level of healing has taken place. What often gets overlooked in a divorcee’s healing process, however, is their active interpretation of what it means to be a divorcee.
When one gets married, a shift occurs in one’s sense of self. Two become one. You willfully leave your family of origin to cleave to another. But what happens when one divorces? The “one” that you formed with another is now gone, so are you now “half?” For some, the divorce is such a source of shame and hurt, that all one wants to do is to forget the marriage ever existed. Though this sentiment is quite understandable, it is not congruent with the actual human experience. The marriage did in fact happen. The two did become one. And the one did split. Forgetting the marriage ever happened would be a grand, sophisticated act of denial which will, in most cases, lead to harmful results down the road. So how does one make sense of one’s divorce in a healthy way? My advice is, may divorce be with you.
Divorce is not something to flaunt or magnify, nor is it something to cover up completely with some cultural BB Cream. Divorce is a part of someone that one must accept, to learn from, and to grow on account of. All this is not done robotically. Accompanying emotions must be part of the equation, as one plumbs the depths of one’s soul, both alone and in the company of trusted others. Inviting Christ in this journey would be most highly recommended, as His forgiveness would probably counterbalance the lack of forgiveness one might extend towards one’s self.
Tough questions will need to be asked. What truly am I feeling, as opposed to what should I be feeling? How do I evaluate my losses? What is my attitude towards God? What were my contributions to the failed relationship? What boundaries did I allow to be crossed? These are but a few. Other questions will then emerge after these have sufficiently been addressed. What sort of shame am I merely projecting onto others? What would God have me learn through this crucible of an experience? What would I do differently if I were to be in relationship again? What are God’s feelings towards me as a divorcee? What would God have me do with the shame I feel? What might I contribute to my brothers and sisters through my experience? The more one tackles the questions like the aforementioned, the more the divorce becomes a part of you, but in healthy, non-shaming ways.
My encouragement is also for the church. We the church have many in our midst who are divorced, and I wonder how many of us feel awkward about asking them about this significant part of their story. Granted, some divorcees may feel mortified about even revealing they are divorced. But there may be many others who just assume they will be judged, and who may receive a powerful corrective emotional experience from those of us who simply want to know a person better. I wonder how relieved they may feel if they know how much we care about them, that we view their divorce as an opportunity for grace, understanding and growth. So church, may divorce be with you as well. And as you watch Episode 7, please turn off your phone so you don’t ruin my experience. In fact, just keep your Samsung Galaxy far far away.
Roy Kim is an ordained pastor turned licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Fullerton and Pasadena in California. His education includes a bachelor's in English at UC Berkeley, an M.Div at Talbot School of Theology, and a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Azusa Pacific. Inspired by the help and healing he received, he has a passion to provide help and healing for others, especially for Korean American Christians and leadership. Visit his website: www.roykimtherapy.com.