We all belong to exclusive insider clubs. Don’t worry, these insider clubs have absolutely nothing to do with the stock market. The only way you can join an insider club is to pay the price. The members of insider clubs are pretty tight because outsiders just don’t seem to understand. I joined the Child of a Deceased Parent CLUB when I was eight years old and the traumatic death of my father changed me forever. Perhaps that explains why the sudden notification that I was being enrolled in the DIVORCED AND SINGLE PARENT CLUB caused the old fear and insecurity to return, bumping my status in the CLINICAL DEPRESSION CLUB from emeritus to active and participating.
Last week I dusted off an old journal which had been sleeping under my bed. I read the page where my husband had just announced that he hated the Church, he hated me, and he wanted a divorce. I could recall the darkness from that era, but as I gently turned the pages, I was surprised that there was so much light and love recorded there as well. My church sisterhood had immersed me in a cocoon of protective love which included babysitting my three young children so I could seek peace and refuge in the House of the Lord. I prayed constantly and fasted weekly to purge my heart of the bitterness and anger, as all the ugly elements of the divorce unfolded. The Spirit guided me in applying to graduate school and I shouted for joy when the scholarship and acceptance letters arrived in the mail. I remembered feeling the presence of angels protecting me when I was too fearful to sleep and of Heavenly Father sending sweet messages of hope with promises of a bright future. I wrote a scripture in my journal that stuck in my mind as I tried to recover from the initial shock:
“But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your affliction.” – Alma 34:41
Years later, I wept over tear-stained pages outlining long forgotten details. When I told my three-year-old that his father had moved out, he looked up at me with big sad eyes and said, “Do you mean I don’t have a dad anymore?” Then he burst into tears. I tried to assure him that his dad had not died and that they’d still be able to play Nintendo. I gave my son a big hug and I thought he was OK until later that evening. I was reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and when I got to “Go ask your Pop,” my son burst into tears and cried out, “I don’t have a dad.” Fortunately, I did not have to tell the baby anything and we still laugh about how I told my five-year-old daughter. I drove to the Target parking lot like a coward. “Your dad wants a divorce. Let’s go buy a new Barbie.” I recorded clinging to the small pleasures of life as the gloomy cloud hung over me. I relished the exotic scent of a stargazer lily, my five-year-old reading her first book, the pride of a three-year-old conquering potty training, and the sweetness of a strawberry from my garden.
One day I lost it and started sobbing. My children wanted to know why I was crying. I didn’t want to frighten them by sharing my fears that we would starve to death or end up living in a cardboard box or even that I would have to work as a cashier at Wal-mart, so I said, “Because I don’t have a husband and nobody loves me….” They instantly started to console me. My five-year-old got me a glass of water and my three-year-old handed me a tissue. They told me I was a wonderful mother and we talked and talked until I felt better. My daughter sang me some primary songs and told me she loved me very, very much.
The membership benefits of the DIVORCED AND SINGLE PARENT CLUB included increased humility and compassion. Before my surprise induction into the club, I felt superior to divorced women and working mothers. I have now had many opportunities to partake of the poison of my previous prejudices. When I filled out an apartment application, I was informed that the owners didn’t like to rent to divorced people. My first inclination was to get angry at their illegal ignorance. Instead I swallowed my pride because the apartment was adjacent to an elementary school and because there was a family apartment shortage. I casually mentioned that I had been the spiritual living teacher in my previous ward and that fact won us an apartment lease for my first year in graduate school. The manager became a dear friend and a trusted childcare provider. Years later I learned that the owners gained a bit more empathy when one of their daughters joined the DIVORCED AND SINGLE PARENT CLUB.
Over a decade has passed since I completed graduate school as a single mother. Our family knows that the Lord answers our prayers and lightens our burdens. My youngest child just left the nest (see blog from April 28, 2009: “Fly, Little Bird, Fly!”) and none of my worst nightmares came true. We didn’t starve to death, we never had to live in a cardboard box, and I never had to be a cashier at Wal-mart. I am even blessed with an amazing computer nerd husband who now refers to me as his sexy blogging diva.
I now have absolute confidence in the most revered member of ALL our insider clubs. The Prince of Peace has already paid the price and invites us to join his HEALED BY THE POWER OF THE ATONEMENT CLUB. It was during my years as a single parent that I figured out there was NOTHING I could teach the Savior about pain and suffering. He is a member of ALL our insider clubs and He knows how to lift our burdens if we’ll turn to Him in humility and faith. Join the Club.
What have you learned from your insider club memberships? What club memberships are you still struggling with? How have your club memberships helped you to become more Christ-like? What can you share that would help others, who don’t belong to your club, develop empathy? Quick! Help me purge myself of any remaining poisonous prejudices before I have to join another club!