I love Church, me. I love going because even just being in the building makes me feel at ease.
I love listening to the Sermons, because I always learn something that’s really important. One Sermon in the past talked about us all being sauce bottles and that we wouldn’t know what we were really like as people – until we got squeezed. I really liked that analogy and I’ve remembered it ever since. When we’re being squeezed (under a lot of pressure/stress), who we are in those moments is very telling of our true selves.
When I got divorced from my 1st husband Jon, his true colours came through and oh my word, were they a shock. Jon sent me an INVOICE for being his wife. I looked over his huge spreadsheet of costs with my mouth open. I couldn’t believe he’d charge me – and even more stunning was how detailed his spreadsheet was. The spreadsheet went back 7 years and was so accurate – listing tiny things – like magazines he’d bought me to read on our plane trips to Australia each year, a can of coke he bought me on a road trip (the list had the exact location, day and time), lipstick he’d bought me at a store on one of our holidays. I got billed for boxes of tissues Jon had bought when I was sick (FFS, Jon – really???), for every piece of jewelry he’d given me on Valentines and birthdays – for gifts I’d received on Christmas mornings…it was…horrendous.
In horror, I realised this ‘Spreadsheet from the belly of Hell‘ wasn’t something Jon was ‘recollecting’, this was something he’d had going from day one.
Who does that?
That kind of tallying and tit-for-tat takes a very special kind of hatred. I was bowled over by how profoundly painful that petty spreadsheet was.
The tally at the bottom was for 30,000.00 pounds. Jon had charged me half for our wedding, every flight home, every holiday – EVERYTHING.
Through a river of tears, that last amount (typed in bold and underlined. Wow, Jon. WOW) was loud and clear. In Aussie dollars, that was over $60,000.00!!!
- How did this amount to SO MUCH?
- Why am I being INVOICED for being your WIFE?
- How the f**k do you think I’m going to pay this?!?
I was unemployed and living at my Mom’s when I got Jon’s invoice in the mail. I didn’t have enough to pay rent, let alone money to pay Jon for his stupid spreadsheet.
But during every phone conversation or email or Facebook message once that spreadsheet had landed like a bomb in Mom’s mailbox, Jon would enjoy lording it over me “YOU OWE ME!!!” and I thought he was right. How on earth would I pay this? Would Jon take weekly installments of $10? Because that’s about all I had to give.
I’ve lived a battered, rough, burnt-edges life. I’ve been pushed down so much and for so long that I don’t have any self esteem or confidence in myself. I will immediately accept an insult and I will beat myself up for not being ‘perfect’. When someone has a go at me, my immediate response is to agree; “Yes, you’re right. I am a piece of sh*t…thank you for reminding me”.
So I didn’t even think to tear Jon’s spreadsheet up and not bother with it ever again…no. Instead, it rested on my shoulders like a heavy backpack. That spreadsheet felt like Jon had dumped the demolition of our 7-year-marriage onto my heart – all the bricks and mortar. All the dust and brokenness. In that spreadsheet, he’d said a very loud, very clear “F**K YOU” and I immediately agreed.
F*ck me, indeed.
I felt great shame.
What a horrible person I must have been. A dreadful wife. Yes, Jon deserved every cent just for putting up with me, bless him. I felt lucky it wasn’t a bigger bill.
It was only when I told my friends, that Christine said how wrong that spreadsheet was.
“When you were married, did you cook any meals, Janet?” she asked “Did you buy groceries? Did you clean the house? Did you pay bills? Did you take the rubbish out and hang the laundry up?”
Yes. Yes to all. I was the ONLY one who took the rubbish out, the only person who ever scrubbed the toilet, I did ALL the dishes/laundry/house chores. Jon was always too busy. I didn’t know to ‘take note’ of these things because I did them out of love. Not obligation and certainly not as part of some sick transaction. I told this to Christine.
“Then YOU bill that bastard right back. Bill HIM for house-cleaning for 7 years, for buying groceries and for all the cooking you did. The bill for a personal chef is pretty high these days, Janet. Same as a daily housekeeper. You may find at the end of all this that he owes you money”
Christine laughed and wrapped a caring arm around me as I collapsed into tears. I never thought things would end this way.
Her words echoed in my heart for the rest of that afternoon though.
The backpack around my shoulders felt a little lighter from telling her about it.
I think that’s the thing with secrets. With guilt. With shame. If you are able to TALK about them to someone you trust, the burden instantly becomes lighter.
Shame doesn’t feel as heavy or as awful when you share it with someone else.
Even so, my low opinion of myself won. It wins almost every time. I would feel the “you owe me” from Jon like a target on my back. It felt at other times like a ticking clock. Tick. Tick. Tick. I felt like I had Jon in my ear every day “you owe me” “pay up“. I don’t think I took a deep breath for over a decade because of Jon’s threats and impatience to have that money.
When Jon was “squeezed”, ugly brown poop came out. It was so unexpected because his ‘outer packaging’ of Youth Pastor and Church Leader looks so beautiful. I think a lot of “Christians” hide their true selves behind the packaging of “I’m a follower of Jesus” “I believe wholeheartedlyl in God”…but they’ll be the ones shouting about shame outside abortion clinics – making young women who are already hurting feel so much worse. I don’t think that’s something Jesus would approve of, to be honest.
This morning, though…freedom arrived.
A dear friend of mine told me that Jon had sold our home and was planning to move away with his new wife.
That’s right, Jon. OUR home.
You were more than happy to charge me for HALF of the expenses and debt…but you forgot that HALF of that house is mine, too. Since you’re going to charge me for expenses, you’ll HAVE TO AGREE that financial benefits are half mine too – no?
So I’m not going to fight over the house sale with you. I’m not going to wave my marriage certificate at you with my tongue out and my middle finger up. I’m going to let you have ALL THE MONEY, Jon. ALL OF IT.
Because that’s the person I am. When I get squeezed, gratefulness, faithfulness and forgiveness comes out. Like a type of organic honey.
From this moment on, Jon -I will consider us ‘square’ (Australian for “even”) and consider my DEBT in that horrific, sarcastic, incredibly painful Spreadsheet of yours PAID IN FULL.
Imma sleep so good tonight. My first full night’s sleep in 13 long years.
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