After my divorce from my children’s father (the minister), I felt unworthy to be in God’s Kingdom. I stopped going to church for several years. I left my children’s religious education up to their dad. (Which only made me feel worse, as if he was the “good” Christian and I was the “bad” one.) I certainly didn’t feel forgiven for all my sins.
But when things got tough, I still prayed to God for strength and comfort. I knew He was still there, waiting for me to…what? Return to church? Was that all it took to be a good Christian? Or was it enough that I believed in the Trinity? There were times when I felt like anything but a Christian. But I clung to that definition of myself, because what else could I be? I believed in Jesus and I still thought that he had died for my sins and brought me eternal life.
Even so, I had doubts. How could Jesus be both God and man? Was it really true that only people who believed that were going to Heaven? What about all the other people in the world who weren’t Christians? Were they condemned to Hell, no matter how much they loved God and tried to live according to His principles?
And then there were the Christians themselves. I knew plenty of Christians who were sincere and loving people. But I also knew just as many (if not more) who were narrow-minded and judgmental. If Christians were supposed to be transformed by their faith in Christ, where was the evidence?
Not that I thought I was a good example of a Christian. I made a lot of poor decisions during this period. Six months after my divorce was final, I remarried, and of all people, I married the man I’d gone with in high school. The one I’d gotten pregnant with. I think now that I was feeling guilty because I’d aborted his baby. I was also feeling very vulnerable: my first husband had rejected me, the Church had rejected me and most of my friends had rejected me. It felt good to have someone come along who really wanted to be with me. Plus I was feeling shaky about raising my children alone.
Turns out, I’d been right to break up with him the first time. He was verbally and sometimes physically abusive to my children. I tried to make excuses for him—he’d never been a dad before, he was frustrated that the children didn’t warm to him right away, he’d been physically abused by his own father. We all went into therapy and I thought it would get better.
And I felt trapped. I didn’t want to admit that I’d made such a huge mistake. And I was terrified at the prospect of being a single mother. How would I support myself and my children? I couldn’t go back and live with my parents. I had no education and no job prospects.
And then I got hired by the post office and suddenly I had the ability to get out of the marriage. Fortunately my husband agreed to a dissolution and moved out of the house. I had a chance to start over.