Today 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.