Grieving divorce, part 4 of 8

The photo on the wall and the choice

Welcome back, Peaceful Readers. Let’s continue our walk through our grieving to-do list for this season of divorce. In part 3, we focused on items 1 through 4.

To-Do List for The Season of Grieving
1. Cry.
2. Journal.
3. Pray.
4. Attend a quality support group.
5. Read books that will help you.
6. Remember happy times (and/or God’s faithfulness).
7. Look for humor and joy.
8. Spend time with people who are good to you.
9. Attend church weekly.

The focus of today’s post will be on number 5 and number 6, with a little bit of 7, 8 and 9. Wait a minute. That sounds like one of the cheers at my son’s school.

Our team is what? Red Hot.
Our team is what? Red Hot.
Our team is R-E-D, with a little bit of H-O-T
Oh, baby, R-E-D, Red Hot, Red Hot, Red Hot.

Wasn’t that fun? I digress.

Okay. It’s time for item number 5.

5. Read books that will help you.
In Time for Grieving, part 6, I recommended that you start reading through the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, reading one Psalm per day. What next? Esther and Nehemiah are two of my Old Testament favorites. In the New Testament, start with the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John, and then move on to the book of Acts.

This item—number 5 in our To-Do List for The Season of Grieving—isn’t only about books. It’s about all of the media you drink into your mind and your heart.

Test it all
Also from that previous post:

…test what you read and hear against the truths of the Bible. Ask yourself this question: Is this voice, is this message consistent with what I know about God? If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows and walks closely with God.

Draw a line
Take very intentional control over the media in your life—what you read, hear and focus on. Why is this so important? Because you need to be deeply nourished and kept emotionally and spiritually safe during this very trying time—not distracted, lied to or upset. On a very basic level, do not watch, read or listen to anything related to crime, violence or sex. That kind of material is damaging to you. It affects your thinking, your feelings and your living—negatively.

We can do so much better than that.

Wholesome, healing music
Fill your ears and your mind with peace, truth and healing. How? Listen to peaceful instrumental music or Christian music.

Here are some beautiful instrumental pieces.

“Ivory Hymn” by Thad Fiscella
“In Reverence” by David Tolk
“Sacred Nature” by Paul Cardall
“Be Still My Soul” by David Tolk
“Beauty of Grace” by Thad Fiscella
“Redeemer” by Paul Cardall
“Homeward Bound” by Steven Sharp Nelson

I found all of these pieces on the New Age Instrumental station on Pandora. Don’t let the words New and Age scare you. I hear many hymn tunes and beautiful pieces on this station and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for peaceful instrumental music. Give it a try.

The box of chaos
Are you seeking peace and joy? Are you ready for emotional and spiritual healing?

In addition to adding wholesome, peaceful music
to your life, make sure you put extreme limits
on The Box of Chaos (i.e., the television).

Why do I call the television The Box of Chaos? Violence, sex, crime, foul language, trashy attire and attitudes, anger, sarcasm and inappropriate commercials abound. The vast majority of what’s pumped out from The Box of Chaos will not improve your life or help you make better decisions. To the contrary. It will show you—pervasively—how not to live, what not to say, what not to do and how not to think. Unfortunately, the characters in the TV shows and movies will celebrate and decorate their cruelty and lies.

In real life, there are consequences, eventually, for that kind of living. The Box of Chaos wants to convince you that the stuff, the money, the power, the control, the sex outside of marriage, the cruelty and the lies are fun, when—in reality—that kind of living will steal your peace and your joy. It will catch up with you and it will eventually bury you.

News
If you watch any news programs or read the newspaper, read this post, from Knowing What’s Going On: Informed vs. Distracted through this section: Perception and Reality.

The ads
And the ads? Don’t get me started. Their job is to convince you that your life isn’t worth living unless you open up your bank account and buy This, That and The Other. “If you buy this—right away—it will fix everything that’s wrong with you and your life.” Right.

We are way too smart for that.

I don’t need the soda. I don’t need the clothes. I don’t need the jewelry. I don’t need the vacation. I don’t need the car. I don’t need the technology upgrade. What I have suits me just fine.

For more on the issues of happiness and contentment, read the five-part Thanksgiving post from the last series.

Peace vs. noise
Yes, there are some exceptions to the typical trash pumped out on The Box of Chaos. “Nature” programs on PBS are excellent, although some of them contain Animal A chasing down and eating Animal B. For many reasons, I strongly encourage you to eliminate television watching from your life for at least one year, like I did.

Remember the things I learned from my divorce, from Time for Grieving, part 5.

Being intentional: peace on, noise off
After my divorce many years ago, I asked God to show me what I needed to change so I’d be deserving of the kind of husband I was seeking. I intentionally controlled the media I allowed into my mind and my life. My ex-husband took the big TV when he moved out and I didn’t buy a replacement TV. I spent more than a year with no television watching. I listened to instrumental or Christian music. I prayed a lot. I read quality books that helped me reflect on who I was, the choices I’d made, and who I desired to be moving forward. And it was an incredibly fruitful time, spiritually-speaking. Very, very fruitful.

Consider the things you can do to turn off the noise and turn on the peace.

Quality books: On            Facebook: Off
Prayer time: On                TV time: Off
Peaceful music: On           Loud/angry/pop/rock & roll music: Off

When I wrote “Facebook: Off” above, I was referencing all social media. Peaceful Readers, ask yourself these two questions. Does your use of social media make you a more peaceful and content person? Does it bring you closer to God? If the answer to one or both of those questions is No, eliminate it.

6. Remember happy times (and/or God’s faithfulness).
In the case of divorce, I encourage you to focus on God’s faithfulness—not on remembering happy times with your ex-spouse. Let me explain why, using Aunt Greta as an example.

Aunt Greta
While I was growing up, my parents, siblings and I visited my maternal grandparents in Mississippi for a week during summertime. Aunt Greta, Grandma’s sister, lived with them. I liked her. She let us try on her big, fat, gaudy jewelry, she taught me how to cross-stitch, and she sat on the porch swing with us. Aunt Greta was always happy to see me. I appreciated that. She also had a big blue car. Grandma and Grandpa walked everywhere. Aunt Greta could drive. That was cool.

The photo on the wall
Aunt Greta also had an 8-by-10 framed photo of her ex-husband on the wall in her bedroom. Here’s the low-down. Her ex-husband—I’ll call him Edgar, The Preacher—had an affair with a much younger woman in their church. He divorced Aunt Greta and married Little Miss Cute Thing.

Aunt Greta talked about how she and Edgar, The Preacher couldn’t have children. She thought that was why he dumped her. I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, why would Aunt Greta keep scum-bag’s photo on her wall after their divorce? She still loved him. To me, this was a serious problem. It was terribly inappropriate. Why?

Betrayal
Here’s why. Edgar, The Preacher was unfaithful. He dishonored his marriage vows by having sex with someone else. And not just any someone else—a young woman who was under his spiritual leadership in their church family. This is a betrayal of epic proportions—a betrayal of his spiritual calling to be a Godly leader in his church family as well as in his own home. He did not feel remorse over his affair. He divorced his wife and married Little Miss Cute Thing, who was half his age.

The evil
The appropriate response of Aunt Greta should have been outrage, anger, deep pain, humiliation, etc. Edgar, The Preacher did evil things—in general and directly to her. He was a liar. He was a cheater. He was a scum-bag. Even as a child, I thought it was strange for Aunt Greta to have his picture on her wall. It didn’t feel right.

The lies
For Aunt Greta to spend the rest of her life looking at Edgar, The Preacher’s photo, waxing nostalgic about how much she enjoyed being married to him was to live a lie, to love a lie, to celebrate a lie. The truth was painful, so Aunt Greta loved the lies. She loved the liar. She loved the past. She loved the pretense.

When she looked at his photo, what did Aunt Greta think?

Her lies:
“He loved me.”
“He was a great preacher.”
“We were happy together.”

The truth:
He betrayed his wife, his profession and his church family.
He traded in his wife for a younger model.
He left Aunt Greta and never looked back.

The choice
Did Aunt Greta have a choice in continuing to love Edgar, The Preacher after their divorce? Many people would say No. I say—loud and clear—Yes. Love is a choice. It is far more than a feeling. Our feelings come out of our thoughts. And here’s where the problem was fueled. Yes, I consider Aunt Greta’s continued love and longing for her ex-husband to be a problem in light of its futility and the sickness it embodied in her life. (For more on the subject of love—what it is and isn’t—read Scott Peck’s masterpiece, The Road Less Traveled.)

The photo on the wall fueled Aunt Greta’s wistful thoughts about Edgar, The Preacher. Her ongoing thoughts about him fueled her loving feelings for someone who didn’t love her—someone she would never see again. The love that she willfully kept alive kept her lost in a vicious cycle where she longed for what she could not have or experience. What she needed was truth and closure. She needed the longing to end. She needed the love for the wrong person to end. She needed to begin loving herself—in a healing and humble way. She needed to ask God, “What now?” And she needed to follow him.

Aunt Greta never experienced closure and peace because she wouldn’t take the photo off the wall. She wouldn’t stop thinking about him. She wouldn’t stop fueling her feelings for him. She refused to do the work of grieving so she could move forward with her life and come to a place of healing and peace.

Honoring the dishonorable
Keeping Edgar, The Preacher’s big, handsome, professional photo on her wall in a place of honor kept the lies alive. It kept the sickness alive. To show honor to the dishonorable is to live a lie—every day. It is sick to surround yourself with lies, wrongly thinking that the lies will somehow rewrite the story and turn the lies into the truth. And they don’t. Lies, when stared at long enough, do not morph into the truth.

A better way
Emotionally-speaking, Aunt Greta lived in the past. Don’t do that.

Look the truth straight in the face,
grieve your losses proactively,
and move forward with your life.

Don’t live in the past. Learn from it and move forward. Living in the past will steal your present—your today—and your future.

Don’t sit around intentionally reminiscing about the happy, fun times you had with your ex-spouse. He or she is no longer available to play that role in your life.

Looking at the truth
Yes, you had some good times together. But what is today’s truth? What is the reality of your ex’s character, behavior and current role in your life? Get out your journal and write down 10 truths—today’s truths—about your ex-spouse. What do these truths teach you?

All of us change. Some people change for the better. Some don’t.

Do divorced couples ever remarry each other? Not very often, according to the findings of Nancy Kalish, professor emeritus at California State University at Sacramento. Only about 6 percent of the reunited couples in her study were married, divorced and remarried each other.

Focusing on God’s faithfulness
When it’s time to reminisce, remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness to you. Journal about the times when God has vividly shown his love for you, when he’s provided for you, when he’s blessed you, when he’s shown you truth, when he’s shown you the right path to take, when he’s given you a Kiss On The Head….

Here’s a Kiss On The Head story. One day many years ago, I went through a fast food drive-thru. After I ordered, I realized that I didn’t order what I really wanted. After I paid and drove off, I looked inside my bag, and guess what was in there? What I really wanted but didn’t order.

That, Peaceful Readers, is a Kiss On The Head from God. It isn’t something fancy. It’s something sweet. It reminds you of how much God loves you, knows you and cares for you.

Let’s move on with our list, the To-Do List for The Season of Grieving.

7. Look for humor and joy.
This is a vital step in moving forward with your life. It’s easy to focus on the pain and the negative aspects of your divorce and the things you’ve lost. Keep your eyes and your heart open to the blessings of humor and joy. Be intentional in looking for these things. When you encounter them, pray to God and thank him. And journal about these things. Then, as you read back in your journal, you’ll celebrate these blessings, you’ll thank God again and you’ll embrace the mighty and the tender work of God in your life.

8. Spend time with people who are good to you.
Here’s some more from Time for Grieving, part 5.

Friends
The people you spend time with during this season will have a profound impact on you. Choose your friends wisely.

Stress-inducing choices
If certain relatives, friends or acquaintances tend to add stress to your life, this would be a good time to limit your contact with them. Do not spend time with complainers or with people who love drama and chaos. You don’t need that—generally-speaking—and certainly not during The Season of Grieving.

Good choices
Choose friends who are strong in their faith, and display the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. If that doesn’t sound like any of your friends, ask yourself why. Why have you chosen friends who don’t possess those qualities? Why have they chosen you? Are there things in your life that need to change? Pray to God and ask him to show you what you need to change. Ask him to bring you a friend who is strong in faith, and displays the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Choose friends who speak the truth in love—people you would describe as wise. Choose friends who are strong in the qualities you’d like to possess—qualities that will make you a better person.

9. Attend church weekly
From Time for Grieving, part 6:

If you don’t have a church family, it’s time to find one. Ask people where they go to church. Start visiting churches this Sunday. Find a church where the Bible is preached faithfully and join a Life Group or Sunday school class. It will change your life. The singing, hearing truths from God’s word, being with people who love God—all these things will minister to you deeply. Attending a wonderful church is a healing thing.

Let me add a little something to the paragraph above. Don’t ask just anyone about where he or she goes to church. Think before you ask. Do you know someone who cultivates a meaningful relationship with God? Who do you respect and admire—both spiritually and personally? Do you know someone who is wise, peaceful and seeks God earnestly? This is the kind of person you should ask: “Where do you go to church? What can you tell me about your church?” Guess who invited us to our church? My dear friend Summer—someone I respect and admire, someone who is wise, peaceful and seeks God earnestly. Praise the Lord for good friends.

If you already have a quality church home, but you’ve been on the fringes—either attending sporadically or not really connected with the people there—it’s time to dive in. Join a Life Group or Sunday school class. Make weekly attendance a top priority.

Keep your eyes on God—not just on Sunday—but every day.

Your thoughts
I look forward to hearing from you. What did you think about Aunt Greta’s story?

Coming next: You’ll read about the boundaries I established with my ex-husband and I think you’ll especially enjoy Frankie Ann’s Philosophy on the Word “Friend.”

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Let’s read and celebrate the miracles in the birth of Jesus Christ, from Matthew 1:18-25 and from Luke 2:1-20.

Song for Healing: This is my new favorite Christmas song. It’s beautiful. Enjoy “Noel” by Chris Tomlin, featuring Lauren Daigle.

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