Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thirty-five Years of Marriage--Part 2

Continued from "Thirty-five Years of Marriage--Part 1"


God seemed to be telling me to return to Tom but surely I wasn't hearing correctly! I fought long and hard with God about that until finally I put the whole thing to a test--a test that was so weighted in favour of what I wanted, that it could only be God if it went the other way.

It went the other way. I was so mad at God! Why? Why? Why?

Amazingly, when I showed up at Tom's door, pregnant, and told him that God seemed to want me to return to him, he was so eager he wanted me to move in right then--even when I told him how I really didn't want to. He didn't care. He wanted me back, child and all.

As I drove the six hours back to Regina, I cried and railed at God for sending me back to hell. I would obey him and return to Tom but my thoughts were defiant and angry. Strangely, things began to change in me as I drove until I was singing praises to God for what he had done. I was actually looking forward to my return. It’s surprising what God can do to, in and through us.

It was evident from the beginning that nothing had changed. We quickly returned to the way we had related before. The difference for me was that I was committed to God and to doing what I had to to stay in relationship with God. Tom started out also determined to follow God and we began to make connections and friends at church—as well as receiving counselling from the pastor. As Tom’s interest in church and God began to wane, I continued to stay connected with God and other believers and was surrounded by many who encouraged me to hold fast to God.

Despite Tom’s on-again-off-again and sometimes antagonistic attitude towards God, his acceptance of my child was complete. He came to Lamaze classes with me, he was present at the delivery, he learned to change diapers and he would get up in the night to let me get some sleep. In every way except biologically, Mons has been his eldest son and he has been his father. Even when more sons were added to our family, he did not treat them with any preference over this first. I have had many complaints about Tom over the years but in this regard he was faultless and it still amazes me and boggles my mind that he was and is willing and able to do this.

By the time Mons was six years old, we had four sons and no daughters. We also had a lot of animosity between us. I was a stay-at-home mom who sometimes homeschooled and sometimes didn’t. Tom was a teacher and eventually became a school principal. There were many good things about our life together. We lived (and still do) in a nice neighbourhood, Tom was stable and reliable as a provider and I poured my energies into my kids as he poured his into his career. He has earned and deserves great respect from his colleagues, the communities in which he has worked and across the city.

Together we wrote a number of interdisciplinary teachers’ guides, the research for which got me acquainted and comfortable with the Internet. When a huge genealogical opportunity presented itself, I began to use the computer more and more, developing community with other genealogists around the globe. I loved the search and the connection with so many others who shared my interests—including distant family members that I discovered.

Over the years we went to a number of different counsellors and marriage retreats but nothing seemed to change. I continued to feel miserable and, I suspect, so was Tom. When a family crisis unexpectedly arose, Tom and I found a new counsellor who worked with us for the next year and a half or so.

It was during this time that I met Pearl and began the journey described in my book. When I told our marriage counsellor and pastors about my struggle with Pearl specifically and same-sex attraction in general, they advised me to not tell Tom. Deep inside of me, however, I knew the time would come when I would have to tell him.

It came sooner than I expected. We were at a marriage conference and Tom wanted to know what the issue was that I was struggling with so much that I needed another counsellor. I was sure that when he heard, our marriage would be over. His response was totally unexpected. “I guess I need to start going to church from now on,” he said. And though he had hardly darkened the church door more than a handful of times per year for many years, he began to attend faithfully and has done so ever since.

It was a year later when someone asked me what steps I was taking to improve our marriage. God had been doing incredible things in my life and I was learning to relate to him in a completely new way so my answer was, “I’m learning to listen to God.” I guess my advisor thought my answer was a cop-out and didn’t like it at all. I should have a plan laid out that I would do this, and that and the next thing. That’s how I used to operate but it simply didn’t fit the new me that God was creating.

I felt exonerated when, a couple of months later, I went to a retreat in Colorado and felt my whole attitude towards Tom changing. Without my even trying, through the work of the Holy Spirit (and without following any steps), everything shifted. It was sudden, startling and amazing. No way could I have orchestrated that on my own.

We still struggled, however. I had trouble believing Tom truly had embraced God and that summer, Pearl came back into my life. As my romance with her grew, so did my animosity towards Tom. The forward steps of the spring seemed to disappear. In the end, I chose to walk away from Pearl.

The following summer, as I put the finishing touches on my book, I heard God promise me that he would heal our marriage—not just a little bit but beyond my wildest expectations. Not only so, but as an act of believing this, I was to start to write the book about how God healed our marriage even though I saw no any signs of it, just as I had started to write Searching for Love when I was deep in relationship with Pearl.

For two years I held onto this promise though I saw no sign of improvement. I knew the promise was from God because never before had I had the confidence that things would improve. I stayed in the marriage because God had unequivocally made it clear to me when I was pregnant that first time that this was where he wanted me, but I had no hope of things changing until that promise.

Tom continued to grow in his walk with God but I was cynically sceptical, certain it was all a sham and waiting for it all to come crashing down. But it hasn’t! I began to see changes in the way Tom behaved and treated me. At this point I was still convinced that all the problems we had were his fault but it was soon afterwards that my turn on the waiting list was over and I began to see a psychiatrist once a week for a deep depression that I’ve probably carried most of my life.

On one level, psychotherapy makes no sense to me. I go to the doctor, tell her about the week, she asks questions and we talk. Couldn’t I do that with a friend? Obviously something is working because I’m changing. I’ve gone faithfully for two years and I’m beginning to see things from a different perspective.

Granted, it’s not just the therapy that has made a difference in me. I continue to devour books on healing, wholeness and spirituality. I continue to seek God, spend time with him and keep my thoughts focused on him. I’ve continued my pursuit of listening to God and that has paid big dividends.

For instance, two summers ago my niece was getting married in Tennessee. I wanted to drive and visit friends along the way. I’ve done a fair number of road trips through the US by myself and didn’t really want Tom along this time either, but the nudge from God was unmistakable. I needed to invite him along—and push for him to accompany me even when he said he didn’t want to.

I was fully expecting to have a big fight along the way and was quite prepared to take my suitcase and find another way to travel but it didn’t happen. He actually enjoyed the trip and meeting my many online friends. In the two or three weeks we were gone, we got along well and had fun together. I was amazed! I didn’t think it was possible but with God all things are possible.

We continue to grow together. Tom’s support of my book is mind-boggling. Since when has a husband eagerly promoted a book his wife has written about her affair with another woman? Granted, it’s more about what God has done for me and that’s the part Tom is focussing on but still! Again, with God all things are possible.

And now I’m finally beginning to see how messed up I was long before I got married. I have unknowingly behaved out of that messed-up-ness for years. I desperately want to be loved, valued, wanted, appreciated; but the very thing I’ve longed for I haven’t known how to accept. I haven’t been able to recognize it. Others told me how much Tom loves me but I didn’t believe them—despite so much evidence that he does.

And so, as our thirty-sixth year of marriage begins I see myself on a new leg of this journey. I can finally see that many of the barriers between Tom and me were built by me—built in self-protection to keep me from the very thing I’ve wanted. I’ve still got a long way to go—the barriers won’t come down overnight—but it’s a beginning.

I’ve held on to God’s promise about our marriage by faith, knowing that God always keeps his promises; but now I’m beginning to see God’s work in our life together. God does do the impossible. He does do more than we can think or imagine. He does keep his promises and he does work all things for good for those who love God—even if he takes 35 years to do it.

Thank you, God!

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