It was Monday of Holy Week 2010, 2 pm. I was making one last check for new email before I hopped in the car to pick my kids up from school. It was then I received an email that would profoundly change me.
I clicked on a Facebook notification that had just come in and read the following message: “Hi, Lisa! Bob (my ex-husband… we’ll call him Bob) wants to be friends on Facebook.”
There was a picture of him with his wife and three children.
This hit me hard. I had lost three children in miscarriage by the time we got divorced. His personal message read, “Lisa, I can’t believe it’s you! How have you been?”
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.
There had been 17 years of silence between us after a bitter divorce and he wanted to be friends on Facebook?
My first thought was, “Did you forget what happened 17 years ago? Because if you did, I can certainly remind you.” My hands began to shake with rage as all the terrible memories of what had happened flooded back. Was this some kind of joke?
After catching my breath I forwarded the email to my husband, Jim, regained my composure and went to pick up my kids. Later that evening when they were asleep, Jim and I discussed it all. “I’m really sorry this happened,” he said. “You must feel terrible. Do you think maybe he needs some closure or wants to say I’m sorry?”
A volcano of emotion erupted inside me. “NO! The man is incapable of saying he’s sorry! You don’t know what he did to me…how he ruined my life! He doesn’t want to apologize. That’s impossible.”
“OK,” Jim replied, “But you might want to think about that.”
I had also sent the email to my older brother, Patrick, who called the next morning and said, “Do you think he wants to say he’s sorry?”
Again, the volcano erupted. “NO! Doesn’t anyone remember what he did? How deliberately he did it? No, I don’t believe he’s capable of an apology.”
“OK, well I suggest you don’t friend him but instead send him a benign sort of reply, you know something like, ‘Hi, Bob, I’m fine and it’s good to know you’re doing well.'”
I followed Patrick’s advice that morning and within 30 minutes of sending my response, Bob had messaged me again.
He wrote, “I’m sorry.”
What followed those words was an admission of the regret he felt and a request for me to forgive him. I can’t remember a time in my life when I was that stunned and amazed. I had always moved forward believing I had completely forgiven Bob, but apparently there was this final step I needed to take. I felt God’s grace pouring into my heart, bringing relief and joy.
My next response prompted an email discussion between he and I that would last until late Wednesday. He admitted that on Palm Sunday, he was moved to tears and a deep sense of grief over what had happened between us. This prompted him the next day to try and find me and apologize.
The discussion, although productive, was extremely painful. I felt as if I was living a mini-version of my divorce all over again. Christ had given me the gift of Bob’s apology and at the same time seemed to be saying to me, “Come suffer with Me a little more. Pick up your cross and walk with Me to Calvary.”
I spent the next several days in prayer, contemplating Jesus’ passion and death. I reflected on Him carrying His cross and falling under its weight, then each time getting back on His feet and forging ahead. I could hear Him saying, “Father, forgive them…” as He hung on the cross.
On Good Friday, the suffering was replaced with incredible sense of peace. There was not a sore spot in my heart to be found. I went down to my computer and emailed Bob for the last time. I told him I was truly glad he had made contact and that I would keep him and his family in my prayers for a wonderful life. And Easter 2010 became the most incredibly joyful Easter I had ever experienced.
I share this with you just to offer this thought: There is great joy in carrying the cross. If you are burdened with trying to forgive your ex-spouse or some other aspect of divorced life, contemplate Christ’s suffering and crucifixion as intensely as you can, uniting your suffering to His. Walk beside Him on the road to Calvary and remain at His feet with Mary as He gasps His last words. Then trust in God’s grace and mercy, for He will turn your sorrows into joy.