Out of the Darkness by Gina Messina


Gina and SarahToday is Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, a time to celebrate moving into light and abundance after the darker cold winter. While many of us are lucky enough to have shelter and access to food out of season, this is a time that continues to be a resurrection in countless ways. Not only is it a literal shift from darker days to increasing light, but a symbolic time that allows us to reflect on changes, that while seeming to be hopeless can blossom into new life.

I have been consumed in a time of shifting ground and deep darkness as my sixteen year marriage has come to an end.  Choosing to divorce rather than remain committed to good times and bad is a frightening and soul crushing event. To walk away from what seems to be stability in favor of a questionable future and to defy one’s foundational understanding of family as dictated by society and religion is beyond terrifying. 

I love my soon to be ex-husband and I know that he loves me.  We both love and are very committed to our seven year old daughter. Nonetheless, our relationship as husband and wife is broken, something we both recognize.  Taking the step toward dissolving our marriage and moving towards new futures that are unknown was our choice.  We could have stayed and existed within our family structure. We could have honored what society and the Church call us to do.  And yet, we chose to enter into the uncertain darkness that ending such a monumental time in one’s life brings.

In the last year I’ve wondered, are we nothing more than a statistic?  One of the half of failing heterosexual marriages in our nation?  Are we simply weak and no longer willing to commit to the hard work and comprise that is required of any relationship? Or is divorce an honest decision that reflects the needs of us both?

Can we be family in a new way? Or will our relationship end permanently? Can we still love each other and remain committed to our daughter as co-parents? Or will the weight of guilt, shame, and despair surpass our ability to recognize one another’s humanity?

I’ve lived in this darkness. I’ve felt overwhelmed, frightened, alone, unloved, undesirable, depressed, confused, unsure, weak, selfish, and heartbroken. But what I have come to realize is that there is light on the other side of such tragic life transitions. Uncertainty does not have to be negative. And I do not have to accept society and the Church dictating my morality or my relationship with God.

In this time of darkness it felt as if my life had ended; and perhaps it did.  My life as a married woman in a traditional family no longer exists. But as the Spring Equinox brings light, new life, and abundance, so too is my life resurrecting and breathing new energy into the person I am, the person I lost.  Death must occur for new life to begin. Darkness must come before the light can shine through.

As you embrace the Spring Equinox, consider your own coming out of darkness, your own embracing of the light, and your own resurrection. Sometimes pain and fear are necessary; but with such struggles come new life. If we can remember this, perhaps change and uncertainty do not need to be feared. Instead, embrace the shifting ground beneath us and reach for the light. It is coming. Plant seeds of hope.

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, author, and activist. She is also Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.

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11 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing with us, Gina. I remember how I felt when I got divorced. Like my life was coming to an end. It didn’t. This too will pass. And don’t forget that the darkness is as much a part of the life cycle as the light. In the darkness you faced some truths that will serve you well as you and our world emerge into spring. Blessed be! And thank goodness your pope is urging priests not to excommunicate divorced Catholics.

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  2. Firing up some prayers for you this morning Gina

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  3. There is indeed light after divorce. Life, too. Lots of life! Brightest blessings to you, your soon-to-be ex-husband, and your daughter.

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  4. Wishing you a healing Spring and joy of your own resurrection!

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  5. Thank you for sharing with us Gina and for giving words to the darkness to help others. I am so sorry that you have all had to go through such pain and distress and pray that you will continue to find ways forward together that you can manage and even find peace and delight within. I’m glad that the spring is coming for you

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  6. And you have lots of good friends to support you!

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  7. I had a major shift in theology when after praying diligently for God to “fix” our marriage, believing totally that God could do it, the answer that came was “get a divorce.” It was the healthy thing to do for both of us.

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  8. There can be so much beauty in forging new kinds of alternative relationships, more or differently healing as the ones we were in. I hope that in this re-adjustment that can be painful but releasing, you are additionally blessed with abundant peace and access love from the universe, also self-love for your practiced agency. I honor your sharing.

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  9. Dear Gina, Thank you for sharing your “winter” with us. I am confident you will “spring” into new life that is only possible when we let go of what is and risk a new future. That resurrection will bring renewed life to all your loved ones.
    Blessings on your journey
    and a store of hugs for when you need them.

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  10. Wow — you’re so brave, & it’s wonderful that you’ve made a choice that will allow for further healing. You go, girl!

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  11. Gina, thanks for sharing your struggles with us. My heart goes out to you and your ex and your daughter. I think you and your ex are very strong and brave to realize that your marriage isn’t working for you. May you both heal and thrive as you go forth into your new lives.

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