There are many deep and dark torture chambers of the soul that I have not experienced. But I have been swallowed alive by the pit of divorce, twice. Its rotten odor, its razor edges, its oxygen-deprived atmosphere—I know it. If you could see my bones, you’d spy teeth marks where the monster sank its fangs in me. Far too many of you bear those same inner scars.
We also know that divorce is a haunt where getting lost, and staying lost, is far more common than following the bread crumbs back home. We make more wrong turns than right. It might help, at least a little, to hold up six little candles to illumine the path. That’s what I offer here, especially for men. Nothing profound. Nothing life-changing. Just a little light to throw into the darkness. If one of these helps just one person, then thanks be to God.
Here are six bits of advice for men staring at divorce:
1. Take away the fat lady’s key. We’ve all heard the expression, "It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.’’ Well then, bar her entrance to the opera house. Steal her key. She might find an unlocked back door or open window eventually, but put it off as long as possible. In other words, don’t rush anything. Fight like hell for your marriage until the judge tells you it’s all over. Things happen. People are funny creatures; they change their minds sometimes. Whatever happens, act now in such a way that, should the divorce go through, you can look back and say, "I gave as near to 100% as I could to save my marriage.’’ Take away the fat lady’s key.
2. Don’t be a human dog. Male dogs mount a female, ejaculate, and move on as if they’ve made the only required contribution to their offspring. Don’t be a human dog. You’re divorcing your wife, not your children. The death of a marriage doesn’t mean you are now less a dad. Nor does it mean you will have to work less at being a dad. Quite the opposite. It means you’ll need to work harder, sacrifice more, put your own selfish interests aside to continue to care for your children. Your contribution didn’t end with sex, nor does it end (or recede) with divorce. Your marriage may be over, but your fatherhood will never end. Don’t be a human dog.
3. Don’t burn trash in your home. When I was a boy, growing up in the country, we had a couple of barrels out back where we burned our trash. We hauled all the garbage about a 100 yards from the house, dumped it in, poured a little gasoline on it, and threw in a match. Only a fool would have burned trash too close to his house, much less inside it. After the divorce, you’re gonna have lots of trash to deal with: broken dreams, soiled hopes, dirty anger, and rotten grudges. Take all that trash way outside your home to burn it. Don’t pile it in your children’s bedroom and set it afire. Don’t trash-talk your ex around their mother. That’s stupid and juvenile and destructive. It’s unmanly and unfatherly. It’s verbal abuse of your children. It serves no other purpose than to stink up your home and poison the hearts of your children as they breathe it in. Find some buddies, go way out to the country, and unload all the garbage with them. Rant and cuss and vent. Do what you gotta do to get that trash out of your system. Then throw some gasoline on it and strike a match. Just make sure there’s no kids around to smell it. Don’t burn trash in your home.
4. Overhaul your jeep. In one of the Seinfeld episodes, Elaine tells George and Jerry, “The female body is a work of art. The male body is utilitarian. It’s for getting around. It’s like a jeep.” You’re going to be boiling over with frustration, anger, and stress. That stuff isn’t just in your head; it affects your body, too. Find a positive outlet for it. Join a gym and start a regular workout routine. Team up with a CrossFit class. Get your butt off the couch and, slowly but surely, train your body to run a 5k. That will give you a tangible goal to strive toward. You’ll not only be healthier, but the physical exertion will help to relieve some of your stress. The older we get, the harder it is to keep our jeeps in good, running condition. Overhaul your jeep.
5. Join up a group of pirate monks. When everything in your life comes crashing down around you, there’s a temptation to run and hide. To dig a deep hole, crawl inside, lick your wounds, and feel sorry for yourself. Or to find the nearest woman (or women), run to them for comfort, and anesthetize your pain with as much sex as you can get. Aloneness and lonely women aren’t going to get you anywhere but in a worse predicament. Alone, you’ll be trapped with your pain. Alone with women, you’ll be using them as a Band-Aid to cover your gaping wounds. When author Nate Larkin was at the lowest point in his life, he started to get together with a group of men that came to be called The Pirate Monks. Find some pirate monks of your own. Men need the companionship of men, not women, when they’re going through a divorce. We need someone to listen, to sympathize, to swap stories, to give us encouragement, to pray for us, to tell us at times that we’re full of shit, and to show us the way forward. We don’t need one-night stands, nor do we need to be a lone wolf. Join a group of pirate monks.
6. Buy a packet of seed, plant it, and wait. Go to your nearest Home Depot or farm store, buy any packet of seed you want, go back home and plant it. Then wait. And wait some more. Nothing will happen for a while. It might seem like forever, but eventually a tiny bit of green will peek out from the soil and start to grow. This living thing came from darkness and death. In fact, that seed you planted had to die in the dark soil before it grew into life again. That seed is you. During the hardest times in life, such as a divorce, God plants us in the darkness, in what feels like death. And there we sit for a while. We wait. And we wait some more. We might wait one helluva long time. Nothing will happen for a while except feeling dead and trapped in darkness. But that’s where God is at work on us. We have to die before we live. We have to endure darkness before we’re ready for the light again. God is doing what he does best: he’s conforming us to his Son, to Jesus, who was buried in the darkness and rose again into the light on Easter. In time, the darkness will go away. A little bit of green will peek out of the soil of your life. You’ll start to hope again and feel alive again. This is God’s doing. This is how he works. He’s the God who buries and resurrects us with Jesus. Buy a packet of seed, plant it, and wait.