The day after I filed for divorce, I started moving my husband out.
The plan was to take his belongings to his parents’ house, with little to no explanation. I did not want any of his family to know that I had filed for divorce, simply for the fact that I could not trust them. They would surely go bat-shit crazy on me.
Joy was there to help me. She started in the Master bedroom, taking on my husband’s side of the closet, and whatever else might be hiding under the bed, in the drawers, cabinets, etc. I had recently discovered an overdue parking ticket and credit card bill buried deep beneath a pile of sweaters. I didn’t want to deal with any more surprises.
I decided to tackle “The Man House” (basement), which was a slightly bigger project. It was full to the brim of my husband’s “toys”: knick-knacks, gifts from students, surfboards, wetsuits, Samurai swords, collectible Star Wars figurines, a couple of skateboards, and the like.
This would be it: the last time I’d have to look at anything that physically reminded me of him. Energized, I started sorting through a basket of his teaching books and papers.
Almost immediately, I found something horrible. Two things, actually.
There, on a single sheet of crisp, white paper, was a cluster of Russian writing. The handwriting was clearly female. Underneath, my husband had scrawled out the English interpretations of the foreign phrases, all of which were sexual. I read descriptions of what my husband and his 24-year old Ukrainian student/lover had done — or wanted to do — to each other.
My mouth went dry. It was the most explicit thing I had ever read, until I discovered the next item.
Right underneath was a thick packet of my husband’s articles he was writing for a particular magazine. The series was entitled Leave Them Wanting Less. My eyes scanned the first story. Within the third paragraph, my husband detailed having raucous, drug-enhanced anal sex with a “hot” flight attendant in an airplane bathroom.
Just elements of the story.
I dry heaved.
Shaking, I exited The Man House, holding the papers between two fingers, as if they were diseased. I breathed noisily as the groans started to well up inside of me again. I forced them back down. My heart felt heavy and my blood ran cold. I stumbled into the house and searched for Joy.
I found her in the bathroom, cleaning out the medicine cabinet.
She took one look at my ghostly-white face and reached for me.
“What’s wrong?!” Her eyes flashed with immediate concern.
I couldn’t breathe.
“What is it!!? Are you sick? What happened?”
I collapsed into the tiny bathroom’s doorframe and tried to speak. I raised my right arm, and gestured towards my hand, which still gripped at the writings.
She pried my fingers away from the papers and studied them, briefly.
“Get rid of them, now,” she ordered, horrified. “Don’t go back down there. Just leave it. You don’t need this.”
I swallowed hard.
“Okay,” I managed. I was sweating; feverish.
I took the papers from her and dizzily made my way back to the kitchen. I fumbled through the drawers until I found a lighter, and carried the entire operation outside.
I squatted in the dirt and lit all four corners of each individual piece of paper on fire. I squeezed my eyes shut so I would not be able to take in any more of my husband’s sickness. The ends of the paper curled up as the small, orange flame struggled to illuminate, then swallow, the darkness. I stood up and watched the white turn to grey.
Then, finally: fluttery, black ashes.
I went back into the house, grabbed my phone, and started texting my close circle of friends, begging for help. I felt bad for doing so, since Easter was the very next day.
My pastor and dear friend, Joseph, showed up almost immediately, as did my dad, and neighbor, Eli. Together, the five of us were able to get almost everything out of the Man House, into Eli’s truck, my dad’s minivan and Joy’s car. Only a few surfboards remained, which Joseph neatly organized, then stacked together.
Joy called my in-laws and explained that the house had been leased, and we needed a place to store “some” of my husband’s belongings. They accepted.
So, the “bombing raid” (as my dad dubbed it) began. I watched the caravan of three vehicles carry the physical remnants of my husband back to his parents.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and went back upstairs. On my way back into the house, I passed by the pile of ashes.
Later, it would rain, and wash them away.
This rain feels like a huge cleansing, I wrote.
God, I know he is forgiven, and even though it is difficult to imagine myself ever near him again, I think I can get to a place where I can forgive him — even for what he is doing right now…it is so sad to watch him be destroyed and enjoy it. (He is) destroying himself…oh, God, release me. Release me from the burden of his sin. Release me from the burden of loving him. I do not know Your will; I am blinded by my pain.
And so I struggle, but I do honestly want to thank You for this crisis.
It is making me into the woman You created me to be.
It is so difficult to not want to forge ahead and taste the future. I am scared, God. I don’t want to move. I love my house and my neighbors and the comfort of being here in my home; my haven.
Yet, You are calling me elsewhere. I am following You, Lord…and I pray that You would continue to guide me; be patient with me, dear Father.
I cannot see.
Months and months later, a sweet friend of mine would give me a copy of Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest album, “Beauty Will Rise”. I will be the first to admit how uncool Christian music can be, and have tried to avoid it as much as possible. Yet this particular album comes from a very real, deep, personal, painful yet beautiful journey through a tragic loss.
What resonates is hope and beauty. Beauty from the ashes.
It will take our breath away to see the beauty that’s been made out of the ashes.
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise —
And we will dance among the ruins,
We will see it with our own eyes.
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise —
for we know joy is coming in the morning.
Out of this darkness, new light will shine,
And we’ll know the joy that’s coming in the morning.
Beauty will rise.