I spent my teen years sure I’d have a first-kiss-at-the-wedding, fairy-tale courtship and happily-ever-after marriage with beautiful children. After all, if I am “committed to courtship,” believe that “true love waits,” and say “marriage is ’til death do us part’,” what else is needed? My beliefs will direct my future.

At 23, I married. At 24, my husband divorced me. Life spiraled into a maze of brokenness, a gritty reality many friends and acquaintances found uncomfortable. I fell. I got up again. Broken heart, broken life, broken dreams.

My ideals failed me. The courtship formula did not protect me from devastation.

Saving my purity for my husband and being betrayed by him triggered feelings of loss and disillusionment. I felt cheated, like someone who paints a masterpiece only to give it to a friend who shreds it.

If a break-up is a broken bone, divorce is an amputation. How do you recover and return to normal? You don’t. You learn to live life differently. In my opinion, you become a stronger individual. It’s not the most desirable way to gain strength, but for those who must walk this path, it works.

Why would I want to go back to being that idealistic, naive, and self-assured girl? Here is beauty–here is grace. Here is a life of rich colors and vibrant sights which make my heart beat faster. I would never have been capable of loving and appreciating another person so deeply if my world had not been shattered. I would have felt entitled to a perfect life and happiness by following all the rules.

Instead of feeling entitled, I am thankful. Not thankful that I have some perfect love story and happy marriage. But thankful for a place to call home, a son who loves me, and a reason to get up in the morning.

Post-Courtship-2I thought courtship would yield my ideals. But any man-made convention will ultimately fail. Even in outwardly appearing successes there is brokenness. Brokenness and beauty go hand in hand. The one is more than worth the pain of the other.

Courtship, ideals, and living a “good life” do not protect anyone from bad things happening. The teaching of emotional purity often causes great harm (which is a whole series of posts in itself!). Wouldn’t it be better, if need be, to date and reap a broken heart a few times, if in the end you find someone who is good and kind? Could this not possibly be better than marrying the first guy you’ve ever been attracted to, so your heart will be “pure”?

Perhaps the first man you ever loved will be good and kind. Perhaps it will be the third or fourth. Neither occurrence is superior. They should both be valid, respected options. And in courtship they aren’t.

I’m divorced. I’m a single mom. And I have a beautiful life rich in God’s grace. I would not be any more happy or fill-in-any-positive-emotion if I’d never been divorced, never been a single mom, or never seen my world ripped to shreds. I don’t sit around wishing things turned out differently. There are far worse things than a broken heart or a broken body.

Why do we see pain as bad, whether it’s the pain of a broken bone or a broken heart? I fractured my pelvis in 2011 and the pain was excruciating. Even a year and a half later, there is an ache when I walk too much in one day. Yars ago my heart broke, and the pain was excruciating. Even half a decade later, there is an ache when I least expect it. This is not bad.

It’s all about beauty and grace. If you look to the right of this post, you’ll see two quotes, my life mantras as it were. “Beauty will save the world” and “Your grace was not taken.” No one can steal my peace and joy. The grace I walk in is mine alone.

As one of my friends told me, “No man controls my life.” If we put the control of our life in the hands of a man or a formula, we are sure to be disappointed. 

“What went wrong?” People ask me. “What could you have done differently so life will fit your ideals? What went wrong?” I think that is the wrong question. It may be what we want to ask, what we want to accomplish, but it is not the right question. Maybe there is no right question. Certainly there are no answers to the “why’s”.

If there is beauty–and there always is–it is enough for me. I’ll spend my life pursuing it, instead of asking questions.