Guilty As Charged

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a blog written by Jennifer Lynn

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done? I’ll give you a moment to think about it. Or maybe you don’t need a moment because it’s burned into your brain. It’s become something that you know you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life. We’re taught from very young (or should have been) that our actions have consequences. This is supposed to be instilled in us from the moment we can comprehend it’s meaning in order to prevent us from poor decision making. But as life would have it, the vast majority of us have at one point or another made a decision without thinking about the consequences that follow. We knowingly get ourselves into a mess.

I know for me, when someone accuses me of something and I know I didn’t do it, I immediately get very defensive and feel the need to shift the blame off of me. I need to go down the list and explain the reasons why I’m innocent and give arguments as to why I’m right and they’re wrong. (Maybe I should have been a lawyer?) I don’t like being accused of something that I didn’t do or say. But what happens when the accusation is true? What if we can’t shift the blame because it belongs right where it landed?

We all know the phrase “the devil made me do it.” It’s pretty much a way of avoiding responsibility for our actions. We like to use it a lot don’t we? If there’s a way out we take it. But like a wise person somewhere once said, “If ya can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen.” Or how about this one, “if ya can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” You get what I’m trying to say. My point is that yes there are times where the accusations against us are false and we should stand up for ourselves. But there are those other times where the accusations are true *wince*. We can’t pass blame. We can’t point fingers. We can’t stand up and defend ourselves. The only thing we can say is “yup, I did that.” It’s a very humbling feeling.

My ex husband likes to bring up things from my past. We’ve been divorced for 10 years now and he’s remarried. Yet, once in a while, during an argument he still likes to dig up my mistakes and show them to me. I figured once he got remarried he’d prefer to focus on his new wifey and her mistakes rather than mine from over a decade ago but no such luck. His favourite mistake of mine to bring up is the fact that I was the one that ultimately left the marriage. It’s true that we both drove down to the courthouse together, in the same vehicle to start the divorce process. That part was actually quite civil and amicable. But technically I was the one that wanted out in the first place.

It’s always hard for me to explain the exact reasons why our marriage ended. He never hit me. He never slept with anyone during our marriage. I never slept with anyone or left him for someone else either. We definitely had our issues though. I can only speak for myself on this so from my perspective, it was a lot of immaturity and selfishness. The reason behind our quickie wedding was because we found out I was pregnant and we thought that the “right” thing to do was to make it “official” and tie the knot. Which, by the way, bit of a side note here, just because a man gets you pregnant, it doesn’t mean you have to marry him ladies. Not a good foundation to set for a lifetime commitment.

I was so not ready for all of the hardships that come along with being a wife and mother, especially in such a short amount of time. He was also so not ready to be a husband and father. Neither of us were prepared for the responsibilities and pressures that being married entail. We weren’t prepared emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially. We didn’t have the tools in place to succeed. Looking back, I can see that now. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was suffocating and I wanted out. I remember crying in bed back in the spring of 2008, begging God and asking for help. Telling Him that I didn’t want to be married anymore but that I didn’t know how to get out. Not long after that night, I got my wish. I told my ex husband that I wanted out. Something that he knew I was contemplating. It wasn’t a shock to him. Surprisingly he was actually quite supportive of it. I have a card/letter from him still that states that “no matter what you decide just know that I am still your friend.” Not the type of response you would expect right? Sometimes I think that he wanted out too. The only difference is that he would have been willing to stay for the kids sake. I just wasn’t able to fake it.

Over this past year, with everything that has happened between my ex and my children I have had this feeling of guilt. The feeling that this entire thing is my fault. Which, in part I suppose is true. If I would have just sucked it up as they say, and stayed married, perhaps we would still be a family and I wouldn’t be going through the hell me and my children are going through now. If I would have had the maturity to seek out solutions to our problems instead of freaking out and bailing, perhaps things would have gotten better. Or perhaps things would’ve gotten much worse over the years. Either way, it’s something that I’ll never know. And that is something that I have to live with for the rest of my life. That guilt. It’s something that I can’t pass the blame on. My ex husband is always very quick to remind me of that. It’s something that I take ownership of.

So, yup, I did that. I left a marriage I wasn’t happy in. I broke up our family. I’m guilty. Am I paying the price for it now? Definitely. Do I want my ex husband back? Definitely not! But I’ll tell you something, I am not the same person I was back then. I’m not even the same person I was a year ago. My divorce didn’t surprise God. He has turned a decision I made in my immaturity into a testimony. He has used the last 10 years of my singleness to get me alone so He could prune me down to nothing but a stump. So that He could start to rebuild me. My character, my vision, my worldview, my compassion, my understanding, my maturity, my strength. Most importantly, my dependance on Him.

And He has given me a story. A story that can now be used to tell others that yes, you might be guilty. That thing that you did, that thing that you can’t shift the blame on others. There’s no question you’re guilty. And there might be people that will continue to dig it up every chance they get and remind you. (And if that’s the case those are not your people. You should find a new tribe.) You might be remembered for that thing you did for a long time. But the difference now, if you let God do His work, is that you are not that person anymore. That feeling of guilt, shame and condemnation is not yours to carry anymore. You are a new creation. You are redeemed. Which means you are free. You are free to live a new story. A story of hope, redemption, grace and second chances.