(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

 

I am a child of divorce.

That’s not rare these days, I know. But unlike a lot of people who have waded through the muck and mire of a broken family, I don’t harbor resentment. I’m not angry or bitter over it. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out or was abandoned. I was about three years old when it happened, so all I’ve ever known is my dad living apart from us.

In fact, both of my parents remarried, and I’ve had good relationships with my step-parents.

But while I may not have any deep scars, there was a question that haunted me for a long time. A question complicated by Hollywood and, honestly, by my faith: Did Mom and Dad mess up and choose the wrong people when they got married? And what does that mean about me?


Did Mom and Dad mess up and choose the wrong people when they got married?


Think about it. Movies and TV have led us to thinking there’s always “the one” out there. Everything works out in the end, you end up with “your person,” and you always feel great, right? Love finds a way. No. Matter. What. Bae is out there just waiting for you.

That idea was perpetuated by a lot of people around me as I was growing up who subscribed to the belief that “God has someone out there for you.” That eventually evolved ever so slightly to, “God Himself has picked one person out for you, and what a joyous day when you finally find that one person.”

That may sound innocent enough, but it actually puts a lot of pressure on you. As I grew older, that pressure built. In my head, it was like a massive, anxiety-fueled game of finding a needle in a stack of needles. How was I going to find her? How would I know? Is it based on feelings? What happens if I’m dating someone but find myself attracted to someone else? Does that mean I’m with the wrong person?

Throughout high school, the idea crescendoed. There’s one person out there for me, I kept telling myself, I just have to find her. And in the back of my mind, that led to some annoying questions:

  1. If that’s true, then did my parents pick the wrong “one”?
  2. And if I believe God is involved in helping me find this person, does that mean He got it wrong with my parents’ first marriages, or their second ones?
  3. If the second ones were really who my parents were supposed to marry, why would God do that to my family?
  4. What happens if get my signals mixed up and choose someone who’s not the one?
  5. Was my parents’ divorce actually a good thing, then?

To some, the answers might seem obvious: Well, yeah, if they divorced they obviously weren’t right for each other. But I don’t think it’s that simple. A big reason being I don’t think divorce is something that’s ever ideal. (Warranted in some instances, but never ideal.)

So I was stuck.

Eventually, though, two things happened that finally helped me find answers: First, I got married, and second, I started attending a church that made me realize some of the ideas I grew up thinking were staples of the Christian faith were actually faulty interpretations of it.

Let me start with the first: marriage.

Marriage taught me that there isn’t just “one” person out there for everyone. That probably sounds a little confusing and, frankly, unromantic. But actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s best explained in something I wrote earlier this year:

Love is not that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. I’m not sure what that feeling is (sure, I have experienced it with my wife), but it’s not deep love. Love is when you really, really want to watch the football game you’ve been looking forward to all week but your wife asks if you’ll go on a walk with her and you do. Love is knowing you’re right, but willing to concede the argument. Love is publicly supporting your spouse when you privately disagree. Love is sacrifice. As my pastor puts it, “Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.”

It’s a conscious choice.

[…]

The idea that there is one person out there who perfectly satisfies all your desires, needs, and passions is not only idiotic, but it’s dangerous. Instead, love is a choice.

My wife and I both have a great understanding with each other: We both could have married someone else. That may sound so unromantic and counterintuitive, but it has actually brought tremendous strength to our marriage. That’s because it has helped us put to death the idea that marriage is all about feelings and helps mitigate questioning each other when things aren’t going so great.


My wife and I both have a great understanding with each other: We both could have married someone else.


After much prayer and thought during our time dating, I concluded my wife was definitely marriage material. She had all the qualities I was looking for. She did the same thing and felt the same way. So we chose to marry. Sure, there were those butterflies. But here’s the truth: If Brett would have told me no when I asked her to marry me, while I would have been crushed, I’m confident there would have been another woman out there that was marriage material that I would have married.

So, when I encounter times of just “not feeling it,” that doesn’t shake me. When I encounter another woman that is attractive and that I hit it off with, I don’t walk away wondering if she’s actually my soulmate or “the one.” My soulmate, if we must use that word, is the woman I’m married to. Period.

Mom and Dad were each other’s “one” because they got married, not because they were the only person for each other. And while I’ll repeat that I’m not a fan of divorce, the fact is they did divorce. And that doesn’t make my step-dad or step-mom sub-par spouses.

The second point: my faith.

Four years ago I began attending a church that challenged a lot of the thinking I was taught to accept as truth growing up. That includes thinking that the Christian faith is all about my happiness, that Christianity is about trying to guarantee that good things happen to me, that if bad things happens it’s because I’ve angered God, and that if I act a certain way that means God will love me more and give me more good things.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I’ve learned that God actually specializes in messes; that nothing I can do can make me more worthy of His love; and that I am going to mess up (a lot) and that He is going to teach me, and even use me, during those times.

If I could sum it all up, I would say it like this: God is at work in the mess.


If I could sum it all up, I would say it like this: God is at work in the mess.


Listen, I can’t explain away pain, I can’t explain away why bad things happen, and I can’t justify the evil I see around me with some trite, simple answer. But here’s what I do know: Time and time again history shows that God takes the bad things and uses them to teach us something and make Himself known in a bigger way.

He can take an adulterer and murderer and make him one of the most revered men in history. He can take a guy that ran away in shame and stumbled over his words and make him the leader of a nation. He can take a woman who thought fertility had abandoned her and make her the mother of countless generations.

That’s the lens through which I now see my parents’ marriage and eventual split. Even though divorce is never ideal, even though there was hurt and pain involved, I can look at the 20+ years since and see how the God of the universe has worked so many aspects of it for good. I don’t think God wanted my parents to divorce, I don’t think he made it work out that way so that both of them could find their actual soulmate. Rather, I think he took an awful situation and made something out of it, just like he has done time and time again throughout history.

When I finally embraced that, the questions faded. And that’s also when I realized finding “the one” has nothing to do with anyone on this earth.

Thank God.

Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second.  You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@jonseidl) and like him onFacebook.


For an in-depth look at marriage, check out Chip and Joanna Gaines’ film below: