Divorce is not God’s Plan A. How can it be? It violently tears apart two people God himself knit together. It rips to shreds the hearts of those who once stared into each other’s eyes and said “I love you”; it makes meaningless the words and promises of lifelong love, commitment and “death alone can part us”.
One day there is love. Then, something deeper and stronger takes hold of that love and crushes it until it is dead. For me, that “something” was mental illness. It stole my husband. It destroyed my marriage.
He was attending seminary to become a pastor. We lived off-campus but nearby, and I stayed at home with our three young children. Looking back, I can see that the signs had been appearing over the years, but I explained them away and rationalized that his odd behavior was due to our circumstances or the pressures of life. I covered over all of it with smiles, assuring those around me that he was fine. That we were fine.
In his third year of seminary, over a period of several days, the initial signs that I had noticed before were growing progressively worse. Then, one late afternoon, he had his first major episode—a psychotic break. I followed the ambulance to the hospital. I stood in the emergency room and watched in horror and confusion as my husband gnashed his teeth, spewed out four letter words and thrashed violently against the restraints that held him to the bed. The man I thought I knew was gone.
After his first hospitalization, it seemed he returned to a level of sanity that at first glance, could be considered normal. We attempted to rebuild and heal through pastoral counseling, but the symptoms again grew only worse. The second major episode led to the abuse of my children and me and a threat to my life. Fear for my children and my own safety gripped me, and I knew we had to escape.
During his second hospitalization, I packed up all of our things and moved the children and me into an apartment close by. Our pastor met with my husband and me separately in an effort to salvage something out of such horrific circumstances. Ultimately, the pastor gave me the news that I could never be with him again without harm to myself and my children, barring some miracle healing of his mental illness. On that day and many days after, I grieved as though my husband were dead.
With “till death do us part” and “in sickness and in health” ringing in my ears, I left him. In one sense, I felt I had failed God and my husband; and guilt rose like bile in my throat, nearly choking out my rational thoughts that shouted, “You had no choice!”
Divorce is not God’s Plan A, and neither is a second marriage. But grace is always part of His plan. I experienced this grace when, a few years later, I was able to trust and love again. I met and married a man who had been through similar awful circumstances. Through God’s extravagant offering of grace, he provided a man who would be my protector and my children’s protector and love us with a remarkable love. He has become a champion for all of us, and we are now a family of eight, living and loving under God’s mercy—and Plan B.