Redemption Through Divorce

This past week I was asked to write a post for Justin and Trisha Davis’ blog Refine Us. They asked me to write on redemption and how that fits into my story. I decided to post it on my blog today just in case some of you missed it. There’s a great discussion going on over on their blog. You can join in there.. or here. I hope it’s encouraging to you…

Not everyone who goes through a divorce has the exact same experience. Mine… well… it wasn’t easy at all. As you can imagine, it pretty much sucks and can suck the life right out of you. But what I didn’t expect was the blessings that came out of my divorce through the redeeming moments I’ve been able to experience over the past 5 years of being a once-again-single-guy.

Redemption takes on many forms. For me, I needed some sort of task to get me through the transition of married guy to divorced single guy. It’s not a place I ever planned to be in life, but here I was anyway. I was one unhealthy human being, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. I knew this about myself and it was time to get healthy, own my mistakes and learn to live my life again.

What I have learned about myself and what I really believe about God has been more eye opening than I could ever imagine. One thing is for sure… Break-ups, no matter if you are dating or married, are tough and all come with memories of good times and bad times. It’s what you choose to do with those memories that will help you move forward in life in a healthy or unhealthy way. I choose healthy.

Sometimes memories are like scars. They each have a story and you might see some of them everyday even though you may not pay attention to them like you once did when they were forming. Even though I sometimes I forget about the tattoo on my back, every once in while I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror and remember why it is there and that it will always be with me.

So what do you do to avoid the emotional roller coaster of memories when you walk into a room where there was an argument, a tough conversation… or a memory that left you feeling helpless and lost? And what about those times when you remember the happy moments and get upset because you know… this isn’t the way it was supposed to work out.

Well for me… ending 8 years of marriage and finding redemption took on many forms. What I’m about to tell you is ONE way I dealt with my past so that I could live in the present. Again… this is just ONE way of many things I did to grieve and bring redemption into my life.

Since I travel a lot, there were quite a few times where the struggles of our marriage were dealt with on the phone while I was on the road… or sometimes when we traveled together. Depending on what we were dealing with at the time magnified the memory of that place. As in… “I was standing in this spot or in this building or looking out over this view when ‘XYZ’ happened. It was a hard memory that I’d rather not revisit.”

For someone who travels to the some of the same places year after year, you have to imagine there are a lot of memories wrapped up in even an airport, an arena or looking out over the mountains… or… places in town you would go for a date.

Over the past 5 years of being single, I was able to travel back to EVERY place in the world where we had had some hard moments and arguments… and even some places where we had happy moments together.

What I decided to do was to redeem those places and times so that when I visited there again, I knew in my heart there was healing and closure. Now when I go back to any of these places or times. The emotional impact of those moments has changed and been replaced with something that allows me to celebrate a new memory. However… Remember you never forget what happened… you just know that you dealt with it… and now that part of life has new meaning.

For instance, I was able to go back to the city where we had our honeymoon. I was with a group of friends and I decided one morning to go for a run alone. As I was running I found myself crossing this major bridge that led to the resort ahead. As I ran to the middle of the bridge, I stopped… looked out over the city and the water below and thought about that honeymoon week… and in a short moment I was in complete tears… great, big, alligator, sobbing tears. Grieving for the loss of a marriage that I played a part in losing. It wasn’t supposed to be this way… but here I am single, no kids and starting life over. So as I cried it all out, I looked out over the view, took a few deep breaths and did as I had been doing all along the way of the healing process and decided to make this moment one I can celebrate. It’s almost like burying the old life and starting a new one. My cousin told me this was going to be the biggest ‘do-over’ ever and he was right.

I knew I was there to enjoy this particular moment now and not run from it… So… I ran into it. I continued my run… literally, took in the sites along the way and created some new memories that day. By nightfall I looked at one friend and told him what a tough but great day it had been. I got to re-live a few moments of my marriage, grieve over them and appreciate the place they held in my life because this is where the honeymoon was…not to be forgotten… but to be recognized as a significant part of my life that is now gone.

Other redeeming moments I’ve experienced haven’t always been as emotion filled. But they are still redeeming moments.

Let me tell you… this journey has been really tough at times but has been refreshing, healthy, and a huge blessing. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing this in Nashville, Franklin, Rome, Monterey, Australia, the UK or a little town in Texas… I’ve found redeeming moments everywhere and I always told myself I would deal with them when they came up no matter how tough it might be. There’s no use in letting the past get you down when you have your own chance of making new memories.

I still believe in marriage and I still believe in love. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I hadn’t gone through the divorce. I learned a lot from my marriage and I learned a lot from my former spouse. We experienced some great memories I will always have with me. Including the happiest memory I have with her…

August 30, 1997.

It was our wedding day.

I was so excited and, at the time, seeing her walk down the aisle was the happiest moment of my life. The smile on her face and grin in her eyes is a picture I will always remember… I was smiling so much my cheek muscles hurt! Everything… and I mean everything was right in the world for that moment and we were both beaming.

With such a great day as that, how could I possibly redeem the anniversary and memory of our wedding day?

It wasn’t easy at all.

The first few years, those anniversary days were really dark and quiet. I grieved them as they were very tough days to get through. Now I cherish the memories from that day, but I still wanted to redeem the day by doing what I thought was the impossible.

Now when I see that day… I know this.

Yes… it was my wedding day, but on August 30, 2009, what would have been our 12th wedding anniversary… was the day I became an Ironman.

That day was a proving ground for me. Not just physically… but emotionally. I did what I thought was the impossible. I finished the greatest physical challenge of my life and got through it with a physical and mental strength I never new I had. Just like going through a divorce, I never thought I would ever go through one and come out of it alive. But that day gave me closure for a significant moment in my past and quietly replaced it with another significant moment filled with happiness, tears and a whole lot of sweat!

Now I can inspire others to go on their own journey of redemption and create their own redeeming Ironman moments… literally or figuratively.

I can honestly say… If I can do it, you can too.

UPDATE ON JANUARY 18, 2012:  As I look back and re-read this post, I though I would tell you the most redeeming part of this story today is that my former spouse and I are friends again and have had some significant healing through redemption. I’m proud of her and what she is doing in life and know that we are both much better people for walking through a really tough part of lives.

So here’s the question for you… Are you redeeming parts of your life that you need to take back for yourself? Are you owning your part so that you can move forward and live life to the fullest?

If you aren’t, now is just as good of a time as any to start.

If I can do it, you can do it.

Time to redeem those moments…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DerekDRobertson DerekDRobertson

    A true testament to life after devorce and like a phoenix rising from the ashes. WOW. Stories like this are what I use as fuel to push myself when I let life start to get to me. Way to go Spence.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      thanks derek!

  • http://www.primarilyrye.com Courtenay Rogers

    Great post. Ironically my wedding day was August 30, 2003. And my divorce will be final in a few months. Though I didn't see myself divorced at 32 with a 2 1/2 year old, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. God brought me back to Franklin, and helped me to see so many of my faults that I blamed on my husband for so many years. Divorce can be a good thing. I am very thankful for it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      it's strange to say it isn't it… Divorce can be a good thing…. some people looking at me funny when i tell them there can be real blessing in divorce…

  • Jill

    Spence what a great story. It has been 6 year since my divorce…so I can also relate. And, yes, the memories….are hard sometimes. But like you, some of them are great and others, whew…total grieving. Like my cousin says though, "you have to drain the swamp before you can find the alligator." And that's exactly what you did! That time in your life always is with you – I like to think of it as 12 years that made me who I am today. And, the best part? It released me to be great friend with my ex and taught me how to live a life on my own…so that I may find a wonderful man…(and I did!).

    To our Redemption!

    PS Happy Easter my friend!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

    thanks Jill… and i can tell. every time i'm around you, you seem completely happy! go team karrick!

  • http://twitter.com/spartalacrosse @spartalacrosse

    Spence – a great GREAT post. Been there a couple of times, also no kids, but always until recently felt I was running away (literally and figuratively) from these "failures" on my part instead of running through them and dealing with them. And the best day for me was the IM also, although it played a huge part in the actual divorce but now that I look back it probably just sped up the process, which may have been a blessing in itself. Keep living! :-) And have a treat tri season.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      hey! long time no hear! thanks for sharing that. amazing the freedom you get when you look back isn't it. today was a great long ride by the way!

  • http://twitter.com/angelajosephine @angelajosephine

    This is great advice for any kind of relationship loss. I love the idea of revisiting and redeeming places/memories, which I believe is God working out salvation in us. I have a friend who just got 'divorced' from her best friend of many years. I think this will encourage her. Thanks.

    PS – I was married and divorced at a young age and it had a profound positive affect (though it was very painful) on the person I am today.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      thanks for your comment!

  • http://ramblingpsychoses.blogspot.com/ Jeff Henig

    Outstanding post, my friend. Been there, felt the hurt, revisited the pain, came out on the other side determined to use the experience for God's Kingdom and grew through it.

    Your post has also helped me to see the experience in a different light in some ways along with reinforcing some of my other beliefs.

    Thanks so much for sharing it, Spence!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      i'm glad to hear that. i guess it never hurts to try things from a different angle. have a great day!

  • http://themusicgardener.com Keith Stancil

    Incredible post! I too have been through divorce. Learned how to play guitar through my experience. God taught me so much as I processed the bad memories. He showed me what a Godly marriage should be like as I reflected on a bad marriage that didn't have him at the center. So glad to see your joy on the other side of sadness. You have done much more than become an iron man. You have also become "blog man"!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

      well Keith… you have always been a solid friend to me… you and your lovely bride. In fact both of you are shining examples to me of what a healthy "do-over" should look like. Thanks for your example, friendship and the life you both live. Happy Easter!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/fourfecta Mitch Ebie

    Thanks for being so open. I am not divorced…not even married yet, but I know many people very close to me that have experienced divorce, my parents for example. This is really good advice, and it is something that I have practiced to a smaller degree just in my break-ups.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stephanieinlex stephanieinlex

    Wow, Spence. Thank you for your transparency here. You just had ME in tears–the catharsis of realizing the redemption you were seeking and experiencing at mile 13 when I met you just hit me, kind of bringing your IM accomplishment story full circle. It just shows the battles each of us are waging of which we aren't even aware.

    As for the question, yes, I'm 'a redeemin'. The story goes deeper than this, but after years of self doubt and believing I was either too much or not enough (why else would I be single at 32, I thought, without the family I've always desired?), I'm redeeming those years and accepting the grace and love of my God right here and right now, and realizing the adventures he's taken me on in the past 11 years or so have had a great purpose. He has me in a place now where I MUST rely on him deeply each day and I am finally living in the now–not regretting yesterday, and trying not to live in the middle of next week. And I'm learning both the sweetness and the pain of that now-living.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/chuckazooloo chuckazooloo

    wow Spence. thanks for sharing that. praying for continual redemption for you.

  • http://dontcloseureyes.tumblr.com Alicia

    Wow… this post really hit me. I haven't ever been divorced, but I have let pain from past relationships really rule me and specific dates and locations to really hurt me. One being my church! My ex is a deacon at my church.. and the place where I used to find such joy and peace and comfort in my Savior I now find a sick feeling in my stomach. Thank you so much for this post! … my break up showed me a lot of things God wants to change in me, which He needs to heal and fix, but I also need to redeem those things in my life….

  • http://speakupalready.com Eddie Harrison

    Spence,

    I never knew you pre-divorce but I have heard a little of your story during the short Compassion trips we have taken together. Redemption is God’s natural response to any discouragement or pain in our life. The conflict comes in when people are passive about the redemption process and don’t allow it to happen. You have rejected passivity on all accounts and allowed God to have full control of your situation. You are an inspiration to many and it’s a true pleasure to call you friend.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonWert JasonWert

    Spence, I know I commented on RefineUs but I want to add here what an inspiration you are in how you've walked through this and dealt with it.

  • lambert Landry

    Hey Spence,

    I am recently divorced this is only my second week alone and last night was one of the tough ones. I really liked your story it help me to stop and remember that even though I feel a lot of pain at times I know that I can get through it and that one day I will be happy again. Here to getting through the woods!

  • http://beckytschamler.blogspot.com Becky

    Spence, the way that God taught me about His desire for redemption is through my marriage. I think that's my favorite part of God's character.

    Great post.

  • http://timsuttle.blogspot.com/ Tim Suttle

    Freaking great story of redemption!

  • Michelle

    What a pleasure to read this. Thank you so much for posting such a “sensitive” subject. I was married in Sept of ’97 and divorced Aug ’09.
    Being the daughter of a pastor, I never thought that divorce would be something that I would face. I can truly say that despite all the emotional ( and sometimes physical ) pain it brought, divorcing my husband after 12 years was a pivotal point in my life.
    Not only did I become more aware of myself, my flaws and strengths but, most importantly, God’s grace, peace and love became so profound.
    Thank you for sharing your story! God bless you.

  • Cliff Young

    Finally found a place where I can find you. Great article….gives me a little insight on things I can do and confirmation of things I have done.

    Looking forward to catching up cuz we've got some catching up to do!

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