Six years ago this month, I was in agony over a major life decision and how it would affect my family. I had been married for 16 years and knew that I most likely needed to end my marriage. I had looked at the situation from every angle, talked for hours with my religious leaders, and prayed, prayed, and prayed some more. I felt I had some very clear direction about how to proceed but everything in me was fighting the answer. How could that possibly be the right thing to do?
Even though I understood intellectually that I needed to end the marriage, every time I thought about sitting my 6 children down and telling them their parents were getting divorced, my heart about broke open. I cried just at the thought of it.
On one particularity difficult day, I was on my knees pleading with Heavenly Father for a different answer. I did not want my precious babies to have divorced parents. It seemed completely out of the question. That could not possibly be okay, and I remember telling God that I had not signed up to get divorced, and my kids did not sign up to have divorced parents. As I was sitting there pondering, a very clear thought came to my mind. “Andrea, they were mine before they were yours and I love them even more than you do. This is part of their journey. Move forward.” I could imagine Him saying, “You think I don’t know how this impacts your children? You think I don’t know what I’m asking you to do?” WHAT? This moment shifted everything for me.
Leading up to that moment I thought I was protecting my kids by believing divorce was out of the question for them. What I didn’t understand though was that the very hardship of going through that trial was needed for their own growth, and their own journey through life. Why? I don’t know. I have lots of questions but I also have a lot of faith that we are all a part of something much, much bigger than ourselves. Maybe they will be able to help children down the road who are struggling with their parents’ divorce. Maybe they needed to go through that to build their own relationship with God at an early age. Maybe they will have struggles in their own marriages and will draw on their own experience for strength.
After I got that clear answer about my own children, it gave me the courage to take the next step forward. I went from feeling like it could not possibly be the best thing for my kids to a whole different thought: “Who am I to get in the way of what their life is supposed to look like?” To this day, that conversation was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was excruciating in every way, but I don’t know that I could have had that conversation at all had I not understood that the decision was much bigger than me and the short-sighted vision I had in front of me at that time.
As parents we can spend so much emotional energy trying to shield our children from hardship and pain. It is our natural inclination to want to protect them. But what if the pain IS part of the plan for them at that certain moment when they are experiencing it? What if it is FOR them, for their growth, for their own personal journey? We want to control all the things that happen to our children because we love them and think they should not experience pain. But what if we could allow our children their life experience while still loving them fiercely? What if we let go of the need to try to control what their life is, and just love them through it? Can you feel a shift when you think of this?
Practicing faith in a bigger picture, a bigger plan, and a loving Heavenly Father orchestrating all of it has given me more comfort than I can express. It has given me peace when I have so desperately needed it. It has allowed me to let go of the suffocating grip of guilt, doubt, and worry so I can grab ahold instead on faith, hope and trust in a bigger plan. Sometimes loving your kids means allowing them to experience ALL of life. They aren’t going it alone, and neither are you. They are stronger than you think they are, and YOU are stronger than you think you are.