I’m a good Catholic. I go to Mass every week. I’m involved in my local parish. I oppose both capital punishment and abortion on demand. I’ve attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to graduate school. I’m young—just ten years out of college, and barely into my thirties. I am Catholic. I am young. And I’m divorced. Divorced. GULP. Kind of goes down like a horsepill, doesn’t it?
Very much like a pill, in fact. Bitter and chalky, difficult to swallow. Bitter the taste of anger and tears that had passed between my husband and I. Chalky, like the rubble that lay where a vibrant relationship once had stood. And so, so difficult to swallow the fact that I had failed to live out the only vow I’d ever made. It took me some time to realize that this was a pill I had to take. It was the medicine patently necessary to bring me back to health.
Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners,” (Mt. 9:12-13). And so he did. He called me in the midst of the bitter tears, out from the chalky rubble. He delivered sweet mercy to bring me back to health.
Mercy came through my parents, deeply faithful, theologically conservative, celebrating thirty-three years in their own marriage, opening their home back up to their then-separated daughter. “The furrow in your brow is almost gone,” my Mom said to me a few months after the divorce was final. “It is so good to see you happy again.”
Mercy came through new friends and neighbors. “Let us pick you up on the way to church tomorrow morning.” “Would you like to join us for brunch?” They reached out with simple gifts of food and prayer. Like Mary Poppins’s spoon full of sugar, their presence and promise of new live and love helped the medicine go down.
And the morning before I went to court to finalize the divorce, as I prepared to finally swallow that pill, mercy came through an old, old story. Remember Abraham and Sarah, the old couple from Genesis, who were promised a son and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, after Sarah has already entered menopause? The vision of their life came to me as I stood before God, clutching this horsepill in my hand. Like Sarah who knew so well the shame and grief of her barrenness, I looked with some disbelief toward the Divine Physician. “What could be made from these ashes?” I asked.
God answered back, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14).
Sometimes, I still gulp when I have to tell people I’m divorced. Its awkward to run into old acquaintances who haven’t heard the news. It is painful filling out forms which ask for personal information. I don’t know that I’ll ever be quite comfortable identifying myself as a divorced woman. But this I do know: Christ met me in my suffering with mercy. God took me from the ash my life had become into a resurrected future. I swallowed that big horsepill, and now I am getting healthy.