If you’re reading this blog, most likely divorce is a reality in your life. So let’s think about how we’re going to consider this new, or maybe not so new, fact of life. Are you going to think of it as a catastrophe … or a devastation … or maybe a relief. I’m going to make a different suggestion: How about just for today, we look at our divorce as an adventure. Don’t stop reading. Hear me out. There are benefits for us in this attitude, and it can be a helpful tool for our kids to use as they face the challenges of life.
Here’s a thought that really stood out to me when I first read it: “As a rule of thumb, adventures are not fun while they’re happening.” That’s from Never Trust a Calm Dog and Other Rules of Thumb by Tom Parker. In pondering this quote today I thought of two things: one is that my son and grandson are biking across Kansas this week. Today, they will be pedalling 88 miles. It’s become sort of a right of passage in our family since my Dad did it the first time when he was 60. I and all of my children have made the trek several times. This is my 5th grandchild to make the trip.
It’s an adventure. 88 miles in one day. 20 mile headwinds. Thunderstorms and flat tires. A quick evacuation from the tents at night into the safety of the high school gym. But then there is the strong, subtle beauty of the Flint Hills. The friendliness of the people from the small towns you stop in for lunch. The camaraderie of fellow riders. The lessons learned in patience and perserverence. The discovery of your own abilities to overcome difficulties.
When I read the quote about adventure not being fun when you’re in the middle of it, I also thought about divorce. Even though “adventure” is not a description I would have normally given that mostly agonizing experience, I decided to look up the definition to see what Webster has to say. “Adventure: a dangerous incident, or a hazardous enterprise. To adventure is to risk, expose to danger. Adventurous: requiring courage, fraught with danger.” Midlife divorce is definitely an adventure by those definitions.
Fraught with danger. (It can destroy us or make us stronger)
Requiring courage. (We can decide that we will overcome no matter what!)
Full of risk. (The biggest risk is that we ignore the powerful, positive lessons of the journey)
Divorce is not fun while it’s happening. In fact, it’s not fun even in hindsight. But adventures and troubles and challenges of every sort do make us stronger, more confident, more creative and empowered in a way that the easy life does not allow. We can get bolder, more resilient and more determined. Or we can feel sorry for ourselves, give up and let the van take us and our bike back home.
Just like the bikers pressing on to the state line, as you get through this midlife divorce journey, you will see how much you’ve grown … how much stronger you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (I remember doing a lot of praying on my trips across the state on my bicycle!) After the trip, you aren’t bothered by the little inconveniences as much. A rainstorm? Pshaw. A few potholes in the road or bugs in your teeth? You look at the other riders and they have them too, and you can even laugh about them. You’re also more willing to help each other on the road.
Another benefit, is that during an adventure, we’re more aware of the wild nature of life itself. In divorce, we are faced with extreme testing and extreme doubt and discouragement and fear … but like the bikers traveling together, we can survive. We will help each other survive.
Here’s another thing: when we are tested to the max, victory is even sweeter because it heightens our awareness of everything good, and life’s small obstacles are less bothersome. (Huge, huge benefits!) Tough stuff makes us better and braver and more loving than ever before. For that we can thank God as we pedal along.
Let’s all look at ourselves as adventurers today — regardless of what we’re facing. The trip may not be fun right now, but if we keep pressing forward, learning and helping others; before we know it we will reap the rich rewards of the struggle. And we can all celebrate our gutsy, never-give-up selves together!
“So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.” I Peter 1:6 (The Living Bible)