Three short paragraphs of an introductory letter and the paper stating the actual annulment decree.
That’s all it took to announce the official end of a 14 year “marriage” or was it a 17 year “relationship?” Had we just dated for 17 years? I would stumble over, not just what to call the man who had shared such a significant part of my life, but over knowing what to call the time we had spent together.
What had we experienced all that time? An affair? Again, creepy. We were married for 14 years, but weren’t really married at all, so do I say we were together for 17 years or 14 now? It was so unclear. It still is, and no one in the church seems to know what to call us or that period either. It’s like it all existed in a sort of limbo.
There was a surprising lack of emotion as I held the papers in my hand. I turned them over looking for more. After all the long trips into a city I don’t know, to the intimidating facilities housing our Archdiocesan headquarters, the tall ceilings, the glass windows, the formal check in desk, after so much surrounding the annulment process, the letter announcing such a big decision seemed so nondescript.
I turned the papers over looking for more. I don’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t this. I’d been prepared to be saddened by the loss, and there was a touch of sadness, but the sadness was shallow. I’d thought I might be overly happy. I’d finally be done. Done with the process. Done with my (insert unknown word for the man you had had a relationship with for 17 years here). Just done.
But the truth is, we weren’t done.
I still had to deal with He Who Has Yet To Be Named. I still had five boys to care for and Love and support, five boys to cook and clean for and to lead toward God. I still had college applications and kindergarten open house and a new teaching job.
The annulment didn’t mean I was done at all. It just meant that a part of my life was over. I could now move on. There are those who say, as difficult as the annulment process is, there is peace and closure when it is received.
I didn’t know. I think I’d felt some of that peace and closure even before. I think over the past five years, I’d drawn close enough to God that, whether the annulment was approved or not, I had some peace knowing He had plans for me.
Two thin little papers in my hands.
I guess I’d hoped for a gold framed letter, for trumpets and angels accompanying the decree. I’d thought the Heavens would send a messenger robed in white and glowing brilliantly bearing tidings,
“Hail you who we call by her maiden name, you who went through the trial, you were burned by the fire, you whom Satan took ahold of, you whom God would not let go of. Hail you who prevailed.
Thank your God for holding you in His hands! Thank your God for protecting you and now making you free. For you have been given a freedom that does not free from temptation or sin or from falling and hurting again, but free to know that God is with you when you are with Him.
Hail you who are free from the man who you once allowed to chain you, restrict you, hold you to earthly pursuits. Hail you who now have the Gift of Starting Again!”
Maybe I truly expected some miracle to accompany the result of the annulment decision.
Instead, I held two nondescript papers in my hands.
If I were on the subway heading to the Archdiocesan headquarters, the person sitting next to me would know nothing of the importance of the paper I held in my hands.
I lay the papers in my lap and thanked God.
Thank you my Lord, my Savior.
The whole reading and reflection took maybe 30 minutes. I folded the papers and got up. I carefully put them in a safe place, hoping I’d remember where that safe place is since it’s usually when I put things in a safe place, that I tend to forget them.
And I got on with my day. Receiving the annulment didn’t make today any different from any other day.
I’d wake up tomorrow, Sunday, not knowing it would be different.
Please join me tomorrow for one last post on my annulment experience.
My heart goes out to those whose annulments are denied and have not received that closeness, to those who long for a partner and even more for those who mistakenly think their self-worth is tied up in acceptance and approval of another human being.
Please let me reinforce that You are worthy. You are Loved, perfectly, wholly, unimaginably. You never know what conversions God has in mind for you, for your spouse, or for those you come into contact with when you turn away from seeking the love of man and toward sharing the Love of God. You have a special place, a special purpose. You can find it!
Part V – My Chains ARE Gone!