The following is a letter received by one of our Weekend to Remember® speakers.
On October 24, 2012, (my birthday), my wife and I filed for Bankruptcy. As we exited the attorney’s office, my wife asked me not to come home after work. Having been married to her for 14 years, I didn’t need a translator to understand her tone. She wanted a divorce. I didn’t come home that night.
To find another place to live was too painful for me, namely because in my mind this action would make her divorce request more tangible and imminent. I could have easily stayed with a friend. However, because of my pride, I buried the condition of my marriage and confessed this crisis to no one. Instead, I began driving into the hills every night and sleeping in my Suburban with a gun and a bag of clothes. I can assure you that being alone all night with your thoughts, memories, regrets, fears, and the grief of not seeing your kids was pure agony.
I began to flirt with the idea of suicide. I thought this through to conclusion, however, and realized my life insurance policy would be nullified, and this selfish legacy for my two amazing sons would haunt them forever.
One of my favorite writers, (David James Duncan), once said, “we hear nothing so clearly as what comes out of silence.” I’m convinced that man is terrified of Silence for similar reasons [to] the Israelites when they pleaded with Moses to speak with them instead of God speaking to them directly. I determined that long periods of being alone in silence will always lead to two occurrences. Occurrence 1: Out of silence you’re eventually forced to deal with yourself. Occurrence 2: Out of silence, (like the Israelites), you are forced to deal with God. I eventually encountered both occurrences in the hills at night.
While my wife is the one who asked for the divorce, out of the silence, or the “hounds of Heaven” as you call it, I had to acknowledge that I abandoned my bride during the 1st year of our marriage and the other 13 years there after. My role as a husband wasn’t in the slightest, honoring to God. All the vows that I had publicly made, I broke through selfishness, poor choices, disobedience, etc. Understanding that I had no idea how to be a Godly husband, I finally confessed my crisis to a friend.
I convinced her to go to marriage counseling. She brazenly advised our counselor on our fist session that she was done with the marriage because of the years of pain I inflicted on her life. We were so messed up that our first counselor was clearly overwhelmed by our story and referred us to other counselors. She knew our marriage needed emergency surgery that she couldn’t perform. Divorce was still imminent.
We both spent time, separately and together, with counselors and doctors. During these times, I was advised to give her space. Lots of space. So I did.
Lots of Space…
Lots of Space…
When she wanted to share. I listened. I didn’t talk.
When she wanted to yell. I let her yell. I didn’t talk.
When she wanted to talk about our living situation and what types of funds were available for me to get my own place, I listened. I didn’t talk.
When she cried. I didn’t say a word or reach out to hug her. She didn’t want to feel my touch or hear my words.
This was intentional, not passive.
Over time, her heart softened, and she said I could come home if I was willing to sleep in our office. I said I would sleep in the shed if that’s what it took.
A year later we were given a free trip to some event called, “A Weekend to Remember,” which I had never heard of. It took place in Coeur d’ Alene, Id. At this point in our lives we’re both pursuing God and striving to honor and obey him. We decided to go. The most precious part about it is that she asked me to go. She asked me…
I think it was during Saturday’s session that a story about Nelson Mandela was shared. We were both so overwhelmed with Nelson Mandela’s pursuit of healing over the pursuit of justice in South Africa. That story of forgiveness severed flesh from bone. It brought me to tears.
My wife really connected to you and your wife’s story and marriage history. She enjoyed your honesty and humor. This event quickly became a catalyst for healing and forgiveness in our marriage. The projects were invaluable to us. Now keep in mind, this event most likely would not have helped us if our marriage had not already been to the emergency room for life saving surgery. However, we are both convinced that our E.R. experience helped prepare us for the next step, which was a “Weekend to Remember.”
I still cannot comprehend God’s grace and forgiveness. I simply can’t. It makes no sense to me. You see, I’m really no different than the depraved officer in Africa who burned the son and husband of that poor African woman. My wife is the widow who forgave the crooked officer in the courtroom.
Our road is no easier. However, we’re both convinced that God’s will is for us to stay together. She agreed to renew our wedding vows. I am in awe of my wife’s forgiveness.
Thank you Jeff, for sharing your story this weekend.
The selfish, destructive man who found redemption while living alone in a Suburban with a gun and a bag of clothes.