"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

How divorce changed my view of the world


One of the things we love to do at the end of a busy week is to relax with a good movie. So one Friday night a couple of years ago, the first evening of our kid-free weekend, and a long public holiday weekend so plenty of movie-watching opportunities, my husband and I got three movies out from our local DVD shop (yes, this was quite a while ago, before DVD shops disappeared and Netflix became the new normal.............).

The one we decided to watch that night was The Railway Man. I'd read some positive reviews, and had heard from friends that it was a good movie. And it was. We were shocked at the atrocities portrayed, and moved by the forgiveness extended at the end of the movie. We both found ourselves teary as we watched the final scenes, and read the postscripts.

Curiosity prevails
Then, as is often our habit, knowing it was based on a true story, and because we are both curious people, we turned to Google to fill in some of the gaps. Not because of any suspicion about the storyline, but simply because we thought we'd initially misread the date in the early scenes, and had spent a good part of the movie wondering about the time frame, and how old the characters were. So we really just wanted to find out a bit more, work out the age difference between Eric and Patti, and see if we could find some more details about their life together. What we discovered completely changed my perspective on the movie.

An incomplete story
There was so much missing from both the movie and, apparently, the book on which it was based. And the truth that we discovered about their lives made me realise that my own divorce experience will probably forever colour the way I see life.

What we learned was that Eric and Patti didn't just meet on a train, fall in love, and then live a troubled but loving life together until Eric died at the age of 93.

The truth was, both of them were already married when they met.
To other people. 
And both of them had children.
To other people. 

In fact, between them there were six children (and one deceased), and two other spouses. Grieving spouses, it turns out, as both were abandoned when Eric and Patti allowed themselves to fall in love with each other.

The truth changed my perspective
And now, although I'd still consider the movie to be a good one for what it is - a story about one man's life-changing experience as a prisoner-of-war on the Burma railway - I know the truth. And my perspective has changed.

Instead of a man scarred by his experience, and eventually rescued from his torment by the love of his wife Patti, I now see Eric as a man who lacked the courage to be completely honest about who he was, a man prepared to completely exclude his first family from his memoir, as though they never existed.

To me, that's the real tragedy of this story, and I know that my response is shaped by my own experience of abandonment, betrayal and divorce. But I'm truly glad that my experience has sharpened my compassion for others in similar situations, and shaped the indignation and disappointment I feel for Eric's first wife, for Patti's first husband, and for all the children of those first marriages and families who were, it seems, tossed aside.

Something beautiful from the dust
I understand more and more that this is what God means when He promises to bring something beautiful - compassion, understanding, empathy for others, and much, much more - from the mess and the dust of my painful life experiences.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28, NLT)

You can read the real story of the Railway Man here.


  1. I feel indignant when I read these sorts of stories - like you, I think of the poor spouses that are left when a love affair of this sort occurs. It colours and sours my whole perception of their story and I find it hard to forgive, especially where children are involved. And I haven't even been divorced myself! I can only imagine the way divorce colours your perception of the world even more. Broken-ness is such a sad reality of life but I am grateful that God uses it for good even so. xox

    1. Ah we must be sisters, sweet friend - indignation and me, we're like THIS! That's definitely how I felt when I discovered the real story behind what was otherwise a really good movie. I suspect it's rare that we ever hear the real story behind anyone's life though, and I'm no different. I hope I haven't ruined the movie for you, it's still worth a viewing xx


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