Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Yeah, I had to live in a friend’s basement with my children for a couple months. And yeah, I had to go to the food bank to eat. And yeah, I had to juggle the kids in vacation Bible school during the summer so I could work to support us. And yeah, I had to go to court because I was the one accused of “disturbing the peace” when I went to pick the kids up from their dad’s girlfriend’s house, and she wouldn’t let me take them all even though it was my custody. And yeah, the kids were even interviewed at school by social services because I was accused of neglect.
But God provided. I was never alone. I was never hungry. My misdemeanor charges were dropped.
Those weren’t the things that I had to overcome. Those were just areas where I had to trust God. And he’d provide with a check in the mail from my grandma for a lawyer, or a friend’s husband changing my brake pads, or my very first job in the publishing industry—a job I loved—right before Christmas so I could buy the kids gifts, or flowers on Valentine’s from my former in-laws, or an airline ticket from my aunt and uncle so I could fly down to California and spend time with them on my first holiday without the kids.
I was so blessed.
What I had to overcome was the judgment toward my ex for not being the one to provide the way he’d promised to. I had to overcome the judgment toward the woman who didn’t stop with my ex-husband but tried to take my kids away, as well.
I just wanted them to finally admit how wrong they were. So I’d point it out to them frequently. And I had some pretty good points. Lots of good Bible verses, too. Most of the Bible verses were things like how “the righteous will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Which would also work well on HBO, but never mind that.)
I was right. Right, right, right. And their relationship would never last. Because they were wrong, wrong, wrong.
So I waited. Bided my time until they broke up. Which they did. A few times. But then they got married.
Marriage didn’t make my ex’s sins any more holy. I still wanted him to face justice somehow. When did I get to bathe my feet in their blood as the Bible promised?
Well, there was another verse I was missing. One that hit me in the form of song lyrics at church.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment every time.”
What? I could offer them mercy? Find peace that way rather than waiting for them to wave the white flag?
Could it work? Could I extend an olive branch? Even if they threw it back in my face and consider me a weakling for it?
Yes, because the peace wasn’t about letting them off the hook. The peace was for me. Maybe I could actually want them to make their marriage work. For my ex to learn to be a good husband for his new wife.
I had made the choice to marry him. And if I’d known the consequences for my choice, I’d still do it all again just to have my beautiful children. Who was I to claim to deserve mercy when I wouldn’t even give it?
I’d forgiven over and over throughout the ordeal, but I’d never granted mercy. The kind of mercy that loved with no expectations. The kind of mercy that wanted the best for others even if they didn’t want the best for me. The kind of mercy that didn’t only focus on the past, but forgave all future mistakes, as well.
Five years later, I’m still battling for custody, but it’s because I believe that it’s the best thing for the kids not because I want anybody to lose. And by anybody, I’m talking about my ex alone. Because he’s alone again. And I was honestly able to say, “I’m sorry,” when he told me about his second divorce.
Overcoming judgment and granting mercy didn’t change my circumstances. It changed me. And I think that’s what overcoming is really supposed to be about.