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Discarded. It’s a word I often hear when talking to women whose marriages have ended. It’s how I felt after my own marriage ended six years ago. And as the Christmas season rolls around again, I know that newly divorced women and single moms will feel especially discarded during the holidays.
That feeling of being discarded, disregarded, pops into so many small moments. When the invitation never arrives for a party you and your spouse had attended each December for as long as you can remember. When your children are included in holiday events with your former in-laws, and you’re left home alone. When church friends ask why your kids aren’t with you at the Christmas Eve service.
Feeling discarded is painful. And at Christmas, it can feel like you’ve been stranded on the island of misfit toys. When your house is empty at Christmas, you need to know someone sees you.
Part of feeling discarded is realizing you don’t know where you fit anymore. I recently polled divorced women about the phrases people used that made them feel damaged, abandoned, discarded. I was shocked by what they had been told:
“Get over it and move on.”
“You’ll be happy when you find someone else.”
“What part did you play in causing him to cheat?”
“Abusive? Where did he hit you?”
“You talk a lot; that probably wore him out.”
“Were you controlling or needy?”
“Did you put the kids above him?”
“He wouldn’t do that; he’s a church elder.”
“God can’t use a divorced woman.”
“You should have stayed, no matter what.”
The harshness and cruelty is devastating. No wonder so many divorced women feel discarded.
There’s a cry of injustice that comes with being dismissed and discarded. The Bible recounts the story of a servant girl, Hagar, trapped in a situation where she was mistreated and discarded. Her mistress Sarai was jealous of Hagar to the point that Hagar finally ran away.
But God finds Hagar and speaks to her. Hagar calls Him “the God who sees me.”
This is the mention in scripture of an angel of the Lord visiting anyone, though the experience was later shared by Abraham, Moses, Balaam, Gideon, and others. It’s important to note that this first mention of the angel of the Lord appearing was to a person who was discarded. God appeared to a single mother-to-be who had been mistreated and ran away.
God saw Hagar. As I moved through my own heartbreak and divorce, I often felt seen by God. Sometimes it has been as I read my Bible, prayed or journaled. Other times I felt seen by God in the loving words and actions of family and friends.
Three years after my divorce, I was anticipating my first Christmas morning without my three children. I’d known it was coming since the Christmas before, but advance notice didn’t soften the hard reality.
I certainly didn’t expect this every-other-Christmas situation when I said “I do” two decades earlier. It could have felt like life had moved on and people had forgotten I was still alone. But I didn’t feel discarded that year. I felt loved and seen.
One set of good friends, The Brewsters, had become extended family, friends for the long haul, for life. I would feel totally comfortable spending Christmas morning with their crew. But that year their family was would be visiting family in another state, so Jackie Brewster and I enjoyed our own pre-Christmas celebration breakfast. Afterward, as I pulled into her driveway to drop her off, she asked me to wait. She had something she needed to grab for me.
I was shocked when Jackie reappeared at her front door. She and her entire family of six were carrying ten wrapped gifts they had picked out and purchased with loving care. For me.
You see, Jackie was raised by a single mom. She had a front-row seat to a mother’s Christmases alone, so their family was making sure I felt seen and included.
That Christmas morning, I woke up to an empty house. I was alone (except for my trusty bird dog, who had a stocking full of treats), but I felt seen. With the lights twinkling on the tree and a fire in my fireplace, I slowly unwrapped each gift.
Seeing what each member of their family had picked out made me smile and the thoughtfulness of their gifts brought me to tears. I was known. I hadn’t been discarded. The gifts reminded me they knew me, they saw me as an extension of their family, and they loved me enough to help me celebrate my Christmas alone. I was cherished and loved.
God sees you. He knows when you feel discarded and heartbroken, when you have been mistreated and abused. Be patient, keep showing up, and be brave and vulnerable. You’ll find the place where you’re accepted and wanted. Because God sees you.