When my wife phoned to tell me I was about to be served divorce papers, I was filled with anger. I’d hoped something could be worked out. For days I fought the reality of what this might do to me and to my calling as a minister, a Christian author, a speaker, and a radio talk show host.
I thought that perhaps if I didn’t say anything it would just pass by, but I knew that wouldn’t work—especially since I’d established myself as someone who was open and honest about his problems. I wanted to just crawl into a hole. I hated this part of my life; I wanted it to go away, but I had to face it. If I was going to heal, I had to face it, accept it, and embrace it.
The “face it” part was difficult enough, but the “embrace it” part was something else entirely. I didn’t want to embrace it—that would mean making it part of me. It would mean accepting that my identity would always be connected with the word divorce.
I’d been speaking and writing about the fact that we’re all messed up for some time. But now I had a chance to live it. All of my past struggles were just that—in the past. This was happening now and I had an opportunity to walk through it with others struggling with divorce or some other trauma. Embracing the divorce and walking right into it meant I was truly stepping off any kind of pedestal I’d crafted for myself, and connecting with people in a more authentic and personal way.
So I embraced my new identity as a divorced person. I embraced the circumstances of being a single father and all that goes with that. I embraced the challenge of looking people in the eye and knowing they had questions and doubts. With the help of God I could show them by my actions and my decisions about my future that I was worthy of their trust. This wasn’t the end of life as I knew it as much as it was the beginning of life as I’d never known it.
Radical Adjustment of Expectations
For most people, embracing their own lives comes down to making a radical adjustment of expectations. If you don’t do that, you’ll always be hanging on to the life you thought you deserved or wanted. If you adjust your expectations, you can embrace life as it is and live it to the fullest. Then you’ll discover the life you have is more meaningful than the life you thought you deserved or wanted.
Make a radical adjustment of your expectations. You expected to stay in control of your life, but you never were in control. It was an illusion. You did what you could to maintain a feeling of control, but you didn’t have it. So you can adjust your expectations and relax a bit. Perhaps you’ve been shaking a fist at God because He hasn’t delivered to you the life you wanted. Adjust your expectations and embrace the life He has given you. You might’ve expected something close to perfection from yourself. You couldn’t deliver on that, so adjust your expectations. Accept your own limitations and allow God to work with you in spite of them.
The Big Lie
The big lie is that if you just act as if the hard realities aren’t there, they’ll eventually go away. This lie isn’t something you keep just in your head or down in your heart. This lie becomes a way of life. You live it every day, and it keeps you from a life that’s full of meaning, purpose, and connection. You live in denial of who you are and one day you find that you’re living—or attempting to live—someone else’s life. Rather than face each day as it is, you’re trapped in living each day as you wish it were. In doing that you miss so much of what your life could be.
I want to challenge you not to bide your time and simply hope that whatever you’re dealing with will just go away one day. In fact, I challenge you to make it the centerpiece of your life. Chuck Colson could’ve ducked for cover and hoped people would quickly forget he was ever in prison for his implication in the events surrounding the Watergate scandal. Instead, he made it the focal point of his life, and as the fruit of his Prison Fellowship ministry testifies, the results for the kingdom of God are staggering. Perhaps there is an opportunity like that in your life, and to begin to live it all you have to do is embrace your life and live it to the fullest, trusting God to bring the best out of the worst of circumstances.
Healing is a choice. It’s God’s choice, but we can stand in the way of the healing that God has for us unless we embrace our lives and the tough realities we find within them.
The above piece is an adaptation from Healing Is A Choice: Ten Decisions That Will Transform Your Life & Ten Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them, by Steve Arterburn. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2005.
Stephen Arterburn The founder of New Life Clinics, the largest provider of Christian counseling and treatment in North America. As host of the daily New Life Live! radio program, he is heard nationally on over one hundred and eighty stations and at www.newlife.com. Steve is the creator of the Women of Faith® Conferences and is the author/coauthor of over thirty books, including Healing is a Choice, Lose it For Life, The God of Second Chances, Every Man's Battle, and Avoiding Mr. Wrong.