When God Has Other Plans For You

By Wendy Tan

My world fell apart 15 years ago when I found out that my husband was having an affair and had fathered a child with this woman. It felt as though a sword had pierced through my heart and whatever trust I had in him was destroyed.

But deep down inside, I believe that a marriage is meant to last forever and I was sure there was a way to salvage ours. Our son was only three years old then and I couldn’t imagine putting him through the ordeal of a divorce.

So we stayed together for another seven years trying to make things work. But the conflicting feelings of anger, injustice and grief festered within me. While I doubled my efforts to be a better wife and mother, at the back of my mind I was always questioning: “Why me, God? Why did this have to happen to me?”

As time went on, the unresolved emotions built up inside of me and I was getting more and more agitated. Finally the day came. My husband asked me for a divorce. He made it clear that he was done with the marriage.

That was the final blow to my world. In that moment, I saw the broken pieces that I had tried so hard to patch together in the past seven years fall completely apart.

Questions swirled in my mind like a hurricane and I was utterly overwhelmed. “What should I do now? How would I, as a divorced woman, continue to fit in the Catholic Church? How would others see me? Would I be excommunicated from the Church? My first task was to keep my sacramental life active as that is for me a very important part of my relationship with God.”

Asking the right questions of the right people

Thankfully, I had the grace to trust that God would guide me through the mess. And sure enough, He did. I found a Christian counsellor for emotional support, a Catholic lawyer to find out what my legal rights were, spiritual directors for spiritual direction and guidance on where I stood with the Church as a divorced woman.

With all this support and proper discernment, I peacefully decided not to agree to the divorce, opting instead for “divorce without consent”, which meant that we would be legally separated for four years before the civil divorce could proceed.

Drawing strength from God

Despite all the preparations, I was not spared the devastation when my husband served the divorce papers in 2013. The divorce was now real.

I cried, I screamed and I pleaded with God during this period. I called Him dirty names because I was so angry and disappointed with Him! I questioned: “Why did you put me though this? Haven’t I served you well in my mission work?” I found myself breaking down in public places at inopportune moments.

After many years of being absent from silent retreats, I packed my bags and headed to Seven Fountain. I let God have my full fury! During one of my sessions with the spiritual director, I was asked where I got my strength from. The answer came to me immediately. My strength is from God. 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” became a reality for me. This breakthrough set the tone for the rest of my healing journey.

Forgiveness didn’t come easy

This doesn’t mean my journey towards wholeness became easier. Anger, injustice and envy continued to plague me. But knowing that God was my rock and foundation gave me the stability and strength to work through those emotions and begin my life anew. I could carry on life as a mother to my young boy and as an effective worker in the office.

Once, my spiritual director asked me if I wanted to save my husband. I did not quite know what he meant and my immediate thought was: “This is such a stupid question. Why on earth would I want to save him when he had caused me so much pain?”

It was only last year, during a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy that God showed me what it meant to save my husband and to forgive him. He wanted me to keep an open heart and mind to bring my husband back to the Church and to Him. My husband has shown signs of wanting to return to God and I felt that God was asking me to do something about it.

So finally I opened my heart and asked God for the grace to forgive my husband and the woman and to listen to His promptings. I sent an open invitation to my husband to come back to the Church and I left the door open for him. He attends Church occasionally and even Christmas mass last year.

While our first and primary relationship is with God, our Father, He will want peace, unity and goodwill among men and women. Forgiveness and reconciliation are paramount with God. (Matthew 5: 23-24).

Providing a stable environment

As a mother, I wanted to protect my son from the trauma of the divorce but also help him grow spiritually through the ordeal. I assured him that he would never have a stepfather as I still see myself married in the eyes of the Church and impressed upon him that divorce is never the answer to problems in a marriage.

I made sure that I didn’t get in the way of the father-son bond either, even though I was feeling hurt in the early days.

My husband has legal rights to visit my son only during weekends, but he actually comes to our home every day to be with my son, something I never stopped.

To my kindred spirits

To all those who are experiencing brokenness in their marriage, know that you are not alone. The breaking down of your marriage is not the end of the world.

Happiness is within you through God. Seek God and you will find happiness. When something doesn’t go as you had planned, know that God is showing you another way.

Healing is an ongoing process and takes time. Negative feelings will resurface from time to time. In these moments, go back to the times you have experienced God’s grace and draw strength from those precious experiences of grace.

My life has taken an unexpected turn, something I did not ask for. Being open to the journey and the gifts that God desires to bless me through it has resulted in the initiation of the Surviving Divorce programme.

Running this programme and being able to support those going through the same pain has been an immensely humbling experience for me. As a divorcee, I felt I was good for nothing. But now, God showed me how that power is truly made perfect in weakness and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2:20)

Know that God has His plans for you too. Open your heart to Him and let Him take charge of your life.

Surviving The Holidays After A Marriage Breakdown

As the Lunar New Year approaches, Elena Fernandez, an English teacher and part-time DJ with Gold 90FM, shares tips on how to survive festive seasons as a separated or divorced person.

Elena and her younger daughter Kiana

Can you share with us a bit about your marital journey?

We were from Kuala Lumpur (KL) and moved to Singapore 10 years ago when my husband was posted here for his job. When my marriage imploded five and a half years ago, my girls were only 11 and 13 years old. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through, especially as my family was in Malaysia.

But you know, the Lord works in his own way and had arranged support for me when I needed it. A few years earlier, when I became deeply unhappy in my marriage, I took part in a mission trip to Sabah to teach English to children from surrounding villages. I remember feeling so wretched that I walked into a big field and cried to the Lord: “I can’t do this. How can I be of service to these children when I have nothing to offer?”

Two angels on this trip sensed something wrong and reached out to me. They were a little unprepared when I unleashed all the pent up pain of my marriage. But because of their support, I was calm when my marriage eventually imploded.

How did you break the news to your family?

I didn’t tell anyone at first. How do you announce something like that long distance? But eventually I had to, as Christmas was approaching and we’d be returning to KL without my husband. I asked my mum to make sure everyone in the family knew we were separated and not to bring it up. I wanted to protect my girls from having to answer questions as to where their dad was.

If you could change things now, would you?

I do not know what the future holds for my marriage but I believe in John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you” and leaving it in God’s hands. Despite the unimaginable pain I’ve been through, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m now closer to God, I’ve learnt to enjoy my independence, and I’ve discovered things about myself that I didn’t know before, such as, I’m a dog lover! I’m a different me now!

Handcrafted jars for Elena’s BBBs - people she considers beautiful, blessed and beloved.

Can you share some tips on surviving the festive seasons as a separated/divorced person?

Separation and divorce makes the festive seasons even more difficult: seeing other families having their reunions and remembering the times past can be excruciating. These are some ways that have helped me cope with Christmas and I hope it will help others too.

1. Set realistic expectations

Accept that things are going to be different and it will take time to get into a new routine. Be honest with friends and family about what you can and cannot do and be firm with your boundaries.

2. Have a network of friends to support you

Everyone goes through highs and lows. Being able to turn to people in my support group and be honest, no matter how raw the emotions, has made a world of difference. Listening to the sharing among members of the group has been really cathartic and made me realise my situation isn’t that bad.

3. Acknowledge your emotions

Be honest with how you are feeling and know that it is ok to feel not okay. Give yourself the space to grieve, but don’t throw a pity party. Psalm 23, The Lord, my shepherd, always comforts and assures me that everything will be OK in time.

4. Know that it is OK to leave gatherings early

If unwelcome memories or extreme emotions surface during gatherings, have the freedom to thank the host and leave early. Cut yourself some slack. Spend some time with God and pour your heart out to Him.

5. Learn to enjoy me time

At a time when everyone is together and celebrating, being alone can be harder to bear. Use the time to get to know yourself better and reconnect with God. Learn to go on a date with yourself and God. You might just discover something new!

6. Have a go-to list of things that lift your mood

Read your favourite scripture passage, listen to a special song, or hold a treasured item. Whatever comforts and lifts your spirits, make sure you can reach for it when you need a boost. We all need a pick-me-up sometimes!

7. Be in tune with your kids

It’s tempting to try to cheer your kids up with extra expensive presents to compensate for a missing parent. But think again. Is that what they truly need now?

8. Give gifts of joy

I make little craft jars stuffed with joyous messages such as verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or motivational quotes from people like Helen Keller and Martin Luther King, and give a jar to each of my BBBs – the people I consider Beautiful, Blessed and Beloved. They remind me of God’s goodness and help me to be grateful for what I have.

9. Draw close to God

Through retreats, I learned to love myself. I find solace in scriptures and they have been my constant companion. At one retreat, around the time of my separation, I experienced a truly transformative spiritual experience. As I recited prayers of forgiveness, a force that felt like a bright light entered my body and pulled out the pain in my chest. I felt amazingly light and glowing afterwards.

Elena is a facilitator with Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family, an initiative under the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family to support Catholics who are separated or divorced. To find out more about the programme, visit www.catholicfamily.org.sg/sd.

Dates: Mondays, 5 March to 28 May 2018
Time: 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre,
2 Highland Road, Singapore 549102
Contribution: $120.00
Registration: http://catholicfamily.org.sg/sd/
9780 4456 (Joann) or 9383 6868 (Jileen)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter