I had the privilege hosting Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Ga., in February of 2010 at the first Journey of Hope conference for separated and divorced Catholics. The Archbishop was one of our special guests at the conference and celebrated mass for us on Sunday. He gave an incredible sermon that moved everyone there, even the hotel staff.
Archbishop Gregory related his own experience of being a child of divorce and how he observed how his parents managed their lives after they went their separate ways. From those observations, he shared with us that one of the most important things a divorced person needs to do to move past their divorce and into a new phase of life is to let go of the emotional baggage.
these burdens around with us as if they are important possessions,” he said in a dramatic tone, mimicking a person dragging a heavy load. “But all they do is prevent us from having a deeper relationship with Christ, and a deeper relationship with each other.” When we insist on clinging to our baggage, we forget that Christ has cleared all that away and makes each of us new; we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17
Relationship baggage can be as simple as a lack of forgiveness or as complicated as being afraid that a history of abusive behavior will repeat itself.
Many times baggage that weighs us down and keeps us from having healthy relationships comes in the form of fond memories you don’t want to let go of, resentment that you refuse to let go of, and prideful thoughts that mistakenly make us feel as though we are right and the other one is wrong.
However, emerging from a divorce where there has been a lot of manipulation, deceit, or abuse in the relationship is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Fear plays a large role in why this becomes difficult, and this is a natural response. What if I fall into the same type of relationship again?
So, how do you sort out and deal with your relationship baggage?
The best way to begin to sort out the contents of your baggage is through prayer, especially in the form of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. When you are in the presence of Christ, you can feel confident that your thoughts will be inspired by the Holy Spirit and God will give you the graces you need to discern the truth about what’s happened.
Your relationship with God should be based on childlike trust and a desire to follow His plan for your life, not just randomly falling in love with someone else. If God is your steering wheel, then you can’t go wrong. Trusting God with your pursuits and seeking Him first will always give you exceptional clarity and confidence in what you are doing.
Second, getting to know your date/potential mate as much as possible is critical. Spending a lot of time together having fun, time with friends, sharing meals, in-depth conversations, and getting to know their families… in short, taking note of how your date acts in front of others, not just witnessing their best behavior on a date. I always felt grateful that I met my spouse at work, because I got to see how he interacted with others. I got to make my own assessment of his integrity before we dated. As we became friends and eventually dated, what I had already learned gave me confidence about building a romantic relationship with him.
If you can commit to spending as much time as possible to discern this phase of your relationship and not rush into an emotionally-charged situation, you will be able to begin to see the difference between an honest and a dishonest person, enabling you to begin leaving your baggage behind.
In my years of working with divorced men and women to support them and help them
heal, I count myself extremely blessed to have been present at that mass and hear the wisdom and compassion that the Archbishop imparted that day.
If you have gone through a divorce, one thing I know you understand is that everything about it is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Learning to breath again takes time. Forgiving those who have hurt you takes time. Trusting again takes time. Rebuilding your life takes time. And especially, letting go of your baggage takes time.
My prayer for you is that you will take the time.