From early girlhood, I anticipated leading my conception of an ideal life. I would marry a wonderful man, we would raise a noble family of exemplary children, and we would influence thousands of people with our Christlike living and closeness to God. I don’t know how I developed the hubris to think I was capable of such a thing, but I was bursting with self-confidence and the sense that this was my destiny.
It didn’t happen. I did marry a man with a lot of potential, and we had several beautiful children who started off well. But at age 40, my husband left for greener pastures, and I became a single mom with a houseful of children, many of whom developed problems after the divorce and began to act out and run off the rails in various ways. I returned to school in order to become able to support myself and the family, and for several years lived that difficult solo-parent life of trying to do it all: succeed at mothering, in the home, at work, at school, and at Church. It couldn’t be done; I kept coming up short in every arena, and feelings of shame and inadequacy became part of my life.
As I watched all my dreams disappear like so many popped balloons, I developed a sense of aggrievement towards God. I struggled to find a job and begin a professional career in middle age. Years of prayers pleading that my straying children would shape up and make the choices I wanted them to went unanswered, and I felt God had abandoned me. It was especially painful to observe my former husband’s apparent happiness and prosperity, and that some of my children, who left home as soon as they were old enough, seemed to prefer spending time with him and his new wife rather than with me. It seemed as if he had been rewarded for his unfaithfulness, whereas I, on the other hand, was being punished for some apparently egregious but unknown offense.
Living alone after all my children were gone, I would bleakly watch friends and relatives enjoying the companionship of their spouses and their surrounding children and grandchildren, and bragging about their successful families on social media. Family, I know, is all-important, and my failures to be the wife and mother I had hoped to be seemed to suggest my ultimate inadequacy as a human being.
Before dawn one Thanksgiving morning, I got in the car to make the 7-hour drive to my nearest daughter’s home. Because of the holiday, I decided not to switch on an audiobook, but instead to thank God for His goodness. To my surprise, this exercise turned into a seven-hour epiphany. As the sun rose and the miles of prairie rolled past, an endless panorama of personal blessings, mercies, experiences, opportunities, joys, and enrichments were revealed to my mind, that had come to me in the past several years since my marriage ended. I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of them. Hour after hour, I recalled and acknowledged the abilities and traits I had developed through my career, the exciting ideas and talents that had appeared, the fascinating array of people I had gotten to know, the emotions I had felt, the challenges and problems I had gotten through, the places I had been, the experiences I had had, the knowledge and understanding I had gained in so many different areas, the roles and services I had fulfilled. I was overcome with gratitude, and the realization of the tremendous richness of my life, which would not have been the case had I not gone through the changes and the difficulties that I did. I was surprised to acknowledge that, if life is a learning experience, mine has indeed been the deluxe educational package. Along with this grateful realization, as I pulled into my daughter’s driveway, I made the decision to trust that the Lord has been, and continues to be, in charge of my life, and that I can rely on Him and His love to provide the experiences that will be for my best good and my ultimate well-being. Because of the challenges of my life, I am more—better– than I would otherwise have been.
No, I didn’t, and won’t, achieve my early life goals, but I hope to attain those apparently set for me by the wiser and more farsighted overseer who put me on a different path.