The following is a writing exercise for me in the form of therapy as I write to tell my story that no one else but me can tell. For over two years now I have dropped off the face of social media. I was nowhere to be found online, my blogosphere got three months of ever more rare and limited posts before total silence and Facebook only got an occasional (always impersonal) post or share, mainly pictures of the kids. It was only several months ago that Facebook became a regular thing for me again.
It extended beyond social media though. Friends struggled to get a response from texts they sent or calls they placed and voicemails they left. I suddenly disappeared from everyone except my kids. People who ran into me would say, “Aren’t you pastoring" With virtually any question asked next I would visibly lock up and mutter some quick, conversation killing or altering comment. Over the past 2 years now some people have heard some things that has led to some information being somewhat public in some cases. Most people have no idea though of a pain worse than death that exist as the Bible suggest.
This blog post is several things for me. It is a reemergence into the social media world, maybe even the world as a whole. It is deeply therapeutic. It is a symbol and manifestation of my personal progress. It is me choosing to own my story. It is an outlet for some of my strengths (and likely weaknesses). It is evidence of hope and peace.
For years I was a consistent blogger, reaching out through Facebook and Blogs to the world in general for Christ. The blogs were about the ministry I had, showing what God was teaching me. Then I went silent. I want to return to the blogosphere with the hope of being a writer/communicator who shares what he is learning about God and life. The only way to do that with any merit is for it to be personal though. The only way to be personal is to open and honest. The year plus of social silence has been because I did not want to nor did I know how to do so well or appropriately anymore. This is my attempt.
5 years ago this summer marks a deep tragedy in my life. It was the beginning of a long, painful journey that I admit I am still on. It is fair to say that nothing I’ve ever experienced has shaken or tested me like this. I am still learning how to heal, cope, survive and thrive.
Here is a secret about me: My deepest desire in life is to make God happy. Guess that’s not a secret anymore. I don’t mean happy as in appeased. I don’t think God is awful and terrible and seeking sacrifices pleasing enough to make Him content. I mean I wanted to make God happy. Sometimes that’s a good thing and I live because I know and trust Him to be the epitome of good, love, truth and peace.
This desire was the root of several things: trying to be the best husband possible, seeking out how to be as loving as I could be for others, and so forth.
One year ago I was spent. I had overly given of myself to others, the church and my wife without knowing how to set boundaries or say “no”. I was even told so by the good counsel of a wonderful friend. But I didn’t understand and I just kept going. At minimum I consider myself guilty of pride, arrogance, foolishness, youth and lack of self worth. My wife had an affair, then another, and yet another. I lost my marriage. Family was my life...my dream...my world. I was one of those who fought for and worked endless hours to make a future for my children and wife like no one else could, making a future that now...no longer exist.
I’ve never in my life considered divorce an option. I’ve always considered marriage vows binding. If you say “til death do us part” then that’s what you mean. Once married, I thought that unless one of us died, we would always have each other.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy either. I actually got married at a time where my usual optimistic romanticism had been thoroughly tainted by cynicism. I expected hard times with bad emotions and was ready to commit through them, ever pursuing love and joy. I was abused as a spouse. One time after the first affair I packed my bags and was leaving...it ended in her strangulation of me until I passed out on the back porch. Cuts and burses from her fits of rage that I kept hidden from the world, that my parents didn't see until after the divorce became more evident of the struggles I faced in marriage.
I will never forget the night that I was blindsided by a report of parents of a 21 yr old caught on the phone with her at 33 yr of age. It could not have been more unexpected for me. Not only had it come with no verbal warning but it came right after I had purchased a $800 gift card to dicks for her to get things she has expressed liking. I had finally scrapped and saved for to give on our 14th anniversary.
In a moment I went from focusing my energies on means of making my marriage better to being told it was going to end without my consent. It was over six months later before I was able to accept or grasp that the divorce was inevitable and out of my control. A marriage is not made up of one person’s resolve. No matter how deeply you love, you cannot alter the freewill of another. They always have the freedom and ability to make their own choice.
After six months of hurt, struggle, and sacrifice to save something, I accepted it was all gone forever. A deacon forced us to leave to protect his children from her new addictive sinful lifestyle, I also received a pledge that they would work against us in all we do, even threatened to never receive a check or benefit again financially. I briefly considered having the church to vote on it, but quickly realized it would cause a division, and that is not what I was called to do. So we left, without the churches knowledge why, and letting those men left to lead them, with lying hearts. I lost my job, my spouse, my kids half the time, and all my income in the blink of an eye. Then I got a job in masonry, selling firewood, logging, any odd job really to keep the house for the kids. Alimony was not an option for me as I am not a tyrant, nor greedy, although my lawyer told me I could receive half her check! Events years later would show her greed, but her heart is lost...searching for a shadow, only to see it vanish as she grabs. Sin does that. The house to me is worthless...just a place of broken dreams...lost hope...and endless sorrow.
My intention for the separation was for it to be a time for us to get individual help before reuniting and getting marital counseling together. In a little over a year, she had cheated on several other men and they all ended up contacting me and spilling the beans...and seeking the truth. Lies had according to her become a habit she couldn't break. She even said she lies to herself. I possess a physical copy of the papers, she sued for divorce and full custody of the kids, but that was impossible to take place. The kids beg me to not send them back to her constantly, crying as they leave...heads down dragging, but always running to reunite with me smiles all around..to me that tells the tell. And I am still learning how to protect them with out being there with them. Her verbal abuse continues on in them sadly. My 6 year old could rip out your heart with the stories he tells of how they are treated.
I was a youth pastor of a church. I was a husband (my joy). I was young and full of hope and thoughts of the future. My life had a trajectory. Suddenly, it was all stripped from me.
I am now a divorced man. Many Christian communities would not accept me as a pastor on those grounds alone. The "elite" pastors of our community treat me as if I had cheated...and as though I have the plague. I have seen men of Baptist renown, as pure hypocrites now whom I use to see as heroes in the faith. I realize today more than ever...we need champions of love in the church, in which we have none. I’ve always wanted to live as a missionary in foreign countries. The missions organization I most desire to work for has already informed me that because I have been divorced I can never work for them. Nothing was asked of the circumstances. The label is enough that I am disqualified. To live out my calling as a pastor and/or missionary is now inevitably going to be a difficult path for me to search out, and perhaps impossible.
For over 18 years my life was tied to a person who has now rejected me, and finally now, I them. I am now teaching History at a high school. I had a degree as a back up plan as I had been done wrong by my home church before and knew better than to rely solely on the church for finances. God loves the church, but sadly the church does not always reflect that same love. I commented to the deacons that I was still burdened to pastor at the church I had served as senior pastor for 10 years. I used Charles Stanley as an illustration that it could be done as he has faced identical divorce from a spouse running to the world....the response he gave was that "I was no Charles Stanley". Words cut deeper than swords. My intent was never to compare myself to such a man, but to illustrate it could be done. My heart was broken...rejection from a spouse, from those who were suppose to be my friends and even pastors who told things that were shared with them in confidence...my faith in man was at bottom. My dad is the only man I trust and my best friend. So now what do I do?
I am 38 and feel like I’ve been set-back a lifetime. I’m through 2 years and I’ve dedicated to healing before trying to live life as usual.
I need to own my story. A better way of putting that might be “come to terms” or “accepting and realizing”. That’s what I have been reminded of over and over again. I feel shame and failure because of my divorce, even though I gave it my all, and her words were she was treated like a queen. I believe in striving ardently to have only one marriage and staying true to those vows. I believe in the spiritual symbolism behind marriage. I believe in love. And because of a circumstance I had not imagined, I am here today divorced knowing that God is gracious, that covenants can be broken and honored as such and that though divorce is ALWAYS a tragedy, sometimes the fault is not wholly two-sided. Sometimes someone is a victim of divorce, not a participant. She was simply set down after 3 affairs and told...to chose..and she left. She likes to tell people she was kicked out, but that is a lie she tells to feel better about herself and she loves to have people feel sorry for her to show her pity. I sat the kids down on her departure and made her tell them why she was leaving. Her words were "me and your dad have tried and cannot get along" I smiled in pain...and quickly stopped her..and told the kids I was indeed willing to forgive all her wrongs to me and them and make it work still, but she was not interested in our home but other men. She agreed and they heard the truth, which was why I wanted to do it all together so she couldn't tell that lie I knew she would in front of them later on. The kids know.
There is a lot more that I’ve been learning through this. There is infinitely more that I do not know. I have a long road before me. I’m still very broken on Holidays, they are the worst. I will carry this with me for my entire life. How I respond is my choice; the situation is not.
I don't see any easy avenue to grow in God. I need to be myself, living out of my giftings and strengths. That means also displaying my weaknesses. I need to love like Jesus, which means loving myself and loving my enemies. I need to heal and be living evidence of the restorative power of Christ. I am looking to start over, finding the right one who will view marriage as binding and know that with me they will always be safe. The right one will surface...I do not believe it is Gods plan for me to remain alone...patience is a difficult thing...and that is what God is teaching me...which is not good for me :)....patience.
I hope that sharing my story helps someone. I hope that my honesty and vulnerability are treated with care and respect.