Divorce a vinculo matrimonii. It’s Latin. It means that a marriage contract is null and void, that all promises to honour and to cherish, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, have been taken back.
It also means freedom.
It might seem strange that this Christian woman who is growing in her faith is rejoicing that her marriage is over. After all, aren’t these supposed to be sad events? And doesn’t the Bible tell us “what God has joined together, let no man separate”? Well, the Bible also tells us “let each of you love his wife as himself”. It says that “love is patient and kind”. Everything that I have learned from the Bible about love was missing, especially towards the end, from that marriage. Love and kindness were replaced with mean words and crueler actions. Things happened in that marriage – awful things that, if they were told, would make you all rejoice with me that it is over. Some of them are public knowledge; some of them have been alluded to; and some of them are dark, horrific secrets that I hold in my heart or carry on my body, and will continue to so do as I smile sweetly when someone tells me it is “such a shame”.
Now I have freedom from that. I no longer live in fear. I no longer look in the mirror and see a fragile shell of something that was once better. I don’t just exist. Every day, I get up, and I live.
I have refused to sink. I have not become the tragic spinster who gave up everything to marry a man, only to have it all fall apart. I am continuing my degree. I am working my dream job. I am writing more than ever. I have even discovered that, what do you know, it turns out I love running. We often talk of “leading a new life in God”, but it took everything that has happened to be in the past year – everything, from the love leaving my marriage to the unanswered prayers that it would return; from every day that I was angry to the one day that I cried; from a sin that I committed letting me see salvation first-hand – to bring me to where I am now. These things that I have – my schooling, my job, my writing – I do not have them because I am inherently good or because I deserve them. I have them because the Bible also tells us that “He will make your paths straight”. My path twisted and turned for a long time. It was only through stumbling along those twists and turns that I could come to where it is it flat and easy. I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am grateful for the dark days. They only make the sunny days shine brighter.
With this new life, this new awareness, I have become another person altogether. Which brings me to a decision that I have made about my new identity.
A good friend asked me if I was going to change my name. I told her no, I wouldn’t; and she was surprised. She said that she thought I would want to distance myself from that marriage. She didn’t ask me to justify my choice, of course (I love you for that, my little sparrow), but it did give me some time to pause and reflect. That’s not to say that I hadn’t carefully considered whether to change my name back again, but for a brief moment, I did wonder if maybe I should change it. Go back to who I was before him. When the questions kept coming – and, again, no one asked me to justify my choice or told me I was wrong – I thought it might be a good thing to address.
The truth is: I am not Alice Overton-Lamb.
Alice Overton-Lamb was a lost little girl. She never knew what she was missing, so she searched for it in all the wrong places: in a bottle, in a cigarette, in a man, in a blunt, in the feeling that comes with an empty stomach. Alice Overton-Lamb was blind to the endless blessings that had been showered upon her. She did not care that she had a healthy body; she only cared that it was not thin enough. When misfortune came, she did not patiently wait for the joy to follow; she eased her pain with any of the toxic pleasures she had at her disposal. When Alice Overton-Lamb stumbled, she did not get back up. That is not who I am any more.
I am Alice Hayes.