Category Archives: Love

By the Grace of God

Yet, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t pull the trigger.

I still loved him.

Dammit.

So, I went back to marriage counseling and self-help books.

We went to church together and tried to pretend like everything was normal.  The first Sunday back, our charismatic pastor delivered an outstanding sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33.  I could have sworn he was looking right at us the entire time, else we were the only people sitting in the pew.  Things got intense when the pastor paced, sweated and screamed, “HUSBANDS! LOOOOVVVVEEE YOUR WIVES!”

Members of the congregation communicated right back:  “A-men!  Preach!”

The man directly in front of me put his arm around his wife.  She responded by reaching over to scratch his back with her left hand.  Her diamond sparkled in the chapel’s bright light.  For a moment, it hurt my eyes.

Myhusband and I sat dutifully on our wooden bench, not touching.  We had always made fun of the “back scratchers” in church.  I glanced down at the tiny diamond adorning my tired left hand.  It was dull, dirty.  I rotated my wrist around in the light, trying to manipulate the stone to reflect some brilliance.  I briefly caught a faint glimmer, and made a mental note to get my ring cleaned.

I later re-capped the play-by-play of the sermon in my journal.
Most poignant was the definition of sin, that it is self-centeredness. We end up with the inability to look beyond our own needs and consider anyone else’s…I spent the majority of the service crying, which is always awesome.  I keep having angry outbursts at [him] which is even more awesome…God, his heart is still so very far away.  Help me to forgive him, Lord.  I need and want to forgive him and heal from this.  I need patience for his re-attachment to form, if it ever will.  I pray that it does.

Every day over the next few weeks was a complete struggle.  I had no self-esteem whatsoever.  The only time I felt “normal” or alive was when I was doing tasks that didn’t involve my husband.  I still felt like I was in a one-sided marriage, and thus a failure at everything I was trying to do.  I beat myself up for overreacting, for not being thankful or forgiving enough, for constantly “taking the temperature” of our relationship, and, most of all, for not trusting God.  I was desperate to trust Him in that He would change my husband.  I wanted to see immediate results of repentance and spiritual growth.

Isn’t it funny?  Little did I know – especially then – that God was changing me.

Marriage counseling was beginning to help.  In one session, our counselor had us face one another and apologize.  I said I was sorry for having an “affair” with my career, with New York.  My husband apologized for having an affair with a 24-year old married girl from the Ukraine.

We then looked into each other’s eyes and said we forgave one another.

Our counselor defined New Testament love as action, not feeling, and explained that, after ten years of marriage, we may not necessarily “feel” love, but we act it, and the feelings will follow.

Hmmm.  Too bad I still actually felt love for the guy.  I wanted to raise my hand and demand a gold star in the love and feelings department, but I kept my hands to myself.

Our next task was to re-write our wedding vows.  Our counselor — one of two pastors that had married us ten years earlier — rummaged through several metal cabinets until he finally found our file.  It was complete with notes he had taken during our pre-marital counseling sessions, as well as our original vows that we had recited on our wedding day.  As he opened the coffee-stained folder, a 4×6 wedding picture fell out.  My husband picked it up and studied it for a moment, before handing it back.

I studied him and wondered what he was thinking.

Our counselor had us read our old vows.  They were pretty traditional, but cut straight to the point.   My heart briefly sank when my eyes scanned the “forsaking all others and remaining true as long as we both shall live” section.  It seemed null and void at that point.  I again wondered what my husband was thinking.  I decided to just be glad that he was there, participating.

Our counselor then gave us a few suggestions on re-writing our new vows.  This time, we’d write them ourselves, but could use phrases such as, “With Jesus as my guide,” and “By the grace of God.”

“Why not throw in a few ‘Hail Marys’ and ‘Hare Krishnas’, as well?” I joked.

We all laughed, and left our counseling session that day, feeling somewhat peaceful.

I quickly wrote out my new vows.  Part of them felt generic, but I wanted to get the point across that I supported my man, and wanted to trust him.  And, above all else, I loved him.

By the grace of God I take you as my husband.

I offer myself only as I am.

With Jesus as my guide, I promise to be “your best”, your wife.  I promise to be faithful and true to you in the good times, and especially in the most trying times.  Wherever God may lead us, I know that with His help and our commitment to one another, we can be “bigger than life.”

I promise to care for you and provide an encouraging, supportive, forgiving and loving home as we continue to rebuild our marriage and become one.

By God’s grace and mercy, I promise to trust you as my faithful and only husband, to lift you up, pray for you, encourage you and passionately love you forever.

I promise to stand firm in my faith, knowing that our marriage is and will continue to be God’s amazing plan for our lives.  Without Him, we are nothing.

I love you so much.

A few days later, my husband flew to Portugal – again.  I was about to commence a six-week tour, myself.  We made plans to meet up in Baltimore for Thanksgiving, and I obtained permission for my husband to spend a week on the road with me.  Our goal was to re-build our marriage, and, at the same time, our careers.

My husband’s plane took off on a Wednesday morning, early.  When I finally awoke, I found his vows sitting on the kitchen table.

He called me his wife.  His only.He told me he loved me more than words could ever express.  He loved me with everything in him. He acknowledged that he failed daily, but even his worst failings didn’t change the fact that and that his heart was now — and always would be — mine.

He wanted to be “big” for me; to make a place where my talent could shine.  He said he had never known someone with a greater talent, or bigger heart than mine.  And he wanted to mirror back all the love that I had shown him.

What struck me most in his letter was that he referred to me as an inspiration. He promised to become an inspiration to me.

All by the grace of God.

10 Years

He came home on a Tuesday, three days before our 10th wedding anniversary.

I refused to pick him up from the airport.  I was extremely weary, and wary of his intentions.  My behavior was anything but stellar.  We met for dinner at our favorite local pub the night he returned.  Halfway through, we started arguing, which evolved into a huge fight, which escalated to me screaming expletives (surprise!) in his face.  I quickly left. He followed after me, and I responded by kicking him in the shins.

Things got a bit better the next day, when we returned to marriage counseling.  Through another two-hour session, my husband expressed his desire to be in the marriage, and said he was back to “do this” with everything in him.  Clinging to Hope, Part Three, I had faith that God could, and would, renew my marriage and resurrect our relationship.

Still, I had trust issues.

It is the eve of my 10th wedding anniversary, I wrote.  I want so much to pretend it’s just another day, but it’s not.  Is this my final year of being married?  How many more months or years will I endure [his] apathy?

Oh, God, I mourn the loss of [him].  I miss him so much. I miss my loving husband who didn’t care what anyone thought. I suppose I deserve it.

I just have to treat tomorrow like any other day.  God, I know you love me even if [he] can’t.  He may never again – I can’t bear his apathy.

I CANNOT BEAR IT.

Suffering from jet lag, my husband went to bed early that night.  While he slept, I found a note that he had written to himself.  It was neatly printed on a small, lined piece of paper.  I don’t quite remember if I was snooping through his belongings, or if he had strategically placed the note so that I would find it.  His words made me gasp for air.  I have since burned this particular writing, but I recall reading that he did not love me anymore.  At the same time, he still loved me.  He dubbed himself a liar, and wondered why he had ceased caring — even about his family.  In the end, he concluded that there were more exciting things going on in his life than his marriage.

I felt like such a fool.  I immediately fled the house, note in hand.  I had no idea where I was going, but I needed shelter.  I “followed the windshield” and ended up at my in-laws’ house, just two miles away.

My mother-in-law didn’t react to the note.  She didn’t see anything wrong with it.  I was confused.  Still, I asked to stay over that night.  I couldn’t go back home.

He has no energy to make the marriage work because there are more exciting things, I wrote, sitting cross-legged on my husband’s childhood bed.

LORD, I want so much for him to be brokenBut he is not there.  I give him to You.  I set him free.  I will set him free.  God, I don’t know what to do otherwise.  He doesn’t love me, he doesn’t see anything about marriage beyond a history and that he once loved me.  He fell out of love with me.

Lord, I know that You will never fall out of love with me.   God, I don’t want to be divorced but I cannot endure this treatment any longer.  I don’t know what else to do.  [He] is paralyzed, incapable of making a decision.  But he doesn’t WANT to make a decision.

I don’t want someone who is apathetic.  I don’t want a husband who just sticks with me because we had a history.  I don’t want a liar and a cheater for a husband, and certainly not one who is incapable of action, especially forgiveness.

The next morning I lay in bed and stared the large, intricate collage of family pictures hanging just above me.  Depicted as nothing other than the happiest of couples, my husband and I adorned the wall.

Ten years earlier, I had woken up with such hope, excitement and anticipation for the future.  Vivid memories of our wedding day flooded my mind.  I remembered goofing off with my bridesmaids just before the church doors opened and the organ blasted; I remembered how much my face hurt from grinning as I floated down the aisle.  I remembered how my husband and I enthusiastically recited our vows to one another, and then became overwhelmed with joy and amazement just after we had been pronounced “Husband and Wife.”  I recalled the faces of our wedding guests, even what some of them wore.  I chuckled at how our wedding cake toppled over in the unseasonal heat of that late October day, and genuinely laughed at the memory of my husband shoving his hand down the front of my dress as we drove away, bound for our honeymoon suite.

We were so innocent.

I dragged myself out of bed, still fully clothed, and drove home.   I slowly climbed the stairs and quietly slipped in through the back door.  I didn’t think my husband would be awake, much less notice that I had been gone. Yet there he stood.  He greeted me eagerly and presented me with a dozen red roses.  A note accompanied the large bouquet.

This note was vastly different from the last one I had read.

He called me his wife.  He knew he had failed me, but I still loved him, and that was beyond anything he felt he deserved.  He wanted to do me justice.  He wanted me to soar.  Most poignant to me was that he said he loved me.

So, in that moment – that day – things were better.  We had made it to Tin / ten years.Our “celebration” was not spectacular.  It fact, it felt just like any other day.  Yet it was refreshing to behave as a couple again.  We went out to breakfast with my mother-in-law (yes, weird), strolled with our dog, Wimbley, around the Rose Bowl, shopped for socks and T-shirts, scarfed an early dinner at happy hour, and patronized the indie theatre to catch Nick Hornby’s An Education.  It would be the second time I had seen the film.

I
t was a fine anniversary, I recounted. We…made love, which is still hard for me but I want to trust [him].  I don’t know the correct formula for healing sexually after an affair (but) I don’t want to hold it over both of our heads for years and years.There have been small steps and some progress.  I don’t want to give up…I so very much want him to become a godly man.I want to be married to a godly man.

Restore us, O God Almighty,
make Your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.
~Psalm 80:7

Tagged

Love Letter

I wanted to get out as fast as I could.  I continued to clean and pack the house, but I couldn’t do it alone. My mother drove 280 miles south to help me organize and sort through what remained of my (our?) life.  In one weekend, we scrubbed the entire kitchen and took a large load of unwanted dishes, glasses, pots and pans to the Goodwill.  I touched up paint in all the rooms as my mom washed floors and windows.  I took down every single picture in the house and packed them away in bubble-wrapped boxes.  I duct-taped those boxes shut.  Together, we tightened fixtures and fixed loose doorknobs.  The house started looking and feeling less like a “divorce house”, and more like a happy home.

I didn’t want to move out anymore.

One of the tasks I ordered myself was to start going through the mountain of boxes in the garage.  I was focused, and determined to get it done.  As I opened each individually labeled box —  “JUNK”, “LES”, “KEEPSAKES”, “PICS” — the anger within my icy cold heart started to melt.  Before me lay tangible evidence of a joyful, fun, committed fourteen-year relationship.  Our love had been real.  I didn’t care if we were fetuses when we got married.  What we had was special.  All the old memories started flooding back, washing over the pain of the present situation.

I poured out my heart in a long email.

I’m going to bed in a few minutes but I just wanted to write…

I went through boxes and boxes of keepsakes today.  It was unbelievably beautiful and painful at the same time.  To see our correspondence through the years, and to see old pictures and silly remnants of times past. 

I read through some journals you wrote to me before we got engaged, and I read a letter I wrote to you the night before you left for Germany; I read a ridiculously large card that I wrote to you on your 23rd birthday — just two months before we got married.

Our letters have always been filled with such love and hope; such encouragement and support of each other.  And such a desire to live together, always, in the Lord.  I must have done something that made you sad right before your 23rd birthday and I wrote about it…apologized for being selfish, and it made me cry.  Here I am, ten years later, apologizing for being selfish. 

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t go through any more boxes.  I am not sharing this to make you feel bad (I’m not even sure what you actually feel), but I haven’t wept like this, ever.  I guess the point in sharing all of this with you is that I realized just how beautiful our marriage is.  We have withstood a lot together.  We have weathered separation, deserts, bombs, kidnappings, overwhelming financial messes, sickness, selfishness on both our parts, roommates, “nihhsty” hot chocolate, parental over-involvement, the divorces of our friends, Showtunes, the list goes on and on.  I wept at the thought of it all being over. 

“And like that,” Verbal Kent says, “Poof! (It’s) gone.”

I went to church this evening with my sister.  It was, first, such an answer to many years of prayer for her, and it also was really good to go to church.  Afterward, we trekked across the street to the coffee house.  You can imagine how old and retarded I felt — here I am, baggy-eyed 32-year old Les hanging out with three 20-year olds in a Christian coffee house.  I looked at Carolyn, and then I looked at her friend, and I realized that they are the exact age that I was when you and I got engaged.  I started observing their innocence and the hope in their eyes…then I noticed the excitement around me…just a bunch of nerdy Christians getting coffee, but there was something so wonderfully familiar about it all.  It felt like I was back at Biola, in Common Grounds…something you would have loathed, but it brought back good, wonderful memories.  Coupled with the letters and pictures, birthday cards and old plane tickets I sorted through today, it brought back a flood of memories and emotions about you and me.  We have such a long-standing history, but what is more, we have such a beautiful foundation upon which our marriage stands.  And maybe it looks dorky from a 32-year old perspective, but it snapped me back into a place from which we haven’t been that far.  It certainly made me miss you and grieve your loss all the more, especially if I had to pick from the intolerable “prospects” in the room.

There simply is no other for me but you.

I’m not writing any of this to invoke a response, please don’t feel like you have to say more than you want to or are even capable of at this point.  I’d probably start censoring myself and hope that I didn’t say anything to turn you off or annoy you.  I’m simply going back to the best way I think I communicate, which is through words on paper/computer screen.

You may argue with me on this next part, but I have to say that I know you…I know you better than anyone knows you (except God).  I would even say I know things about you that you don’t know.  And I care.  I care so, so much.  I may do a horrible job at showing it, but I do. 

I am your wife, and I love being your wife. 

Every word that I wrote to you ten years ago is still true.  I love everything about you: your mind, your wit, your humor, your touch, your taste, your smell, your skin…I still love that inside part of your arm.  I love you deeply and I love you for who you are, even if you are able to go back and pick apart all the ways I failed at showing that to you.  You cannot take away from me the love I have for you, no matter how hard you try.  Yes, you successfully damaged all trust in our relationship, and when you continue to pursue a relationship with UKR you are incapable of seeing the beauty that is still our marriage, but even that won’t stop me from loving you.

I love you, I love you dearly and I don’t know what else to say.  It’s so late for me, I don’t know why I can’t go to bed, but I just have to express to you how I feel.  I want you to know my heart, and how much I want to be with you. 

Someday I hope you can read what I am writing to you and it will strike a chord…it will make some sense…maybe it will remind you of the foundation upon which our love is (and has been) built.  I have said to you before, nothing is irreparable.  You are worth it to me.  You are my beautiful, wonderful, amazing husband, whom I love, support, admire and desire.  If ever you read anything more from me, know that; know how much you mean to me…our past, our present, our future together. 

I don’t mind being the “old familiar” because “new exotic” will eventually become “old familiar”, anyway. 

I want to help you write the next chapter of your life, and the next, and the next, and the next.

I love you.