As I read through the journal pages that chronicle this story, I am surprised by the emotions elicited from the words on the pages. Three years have passed since those pages were filled with words and stained with the tears that fell as those words were written. At the time, I doubted survival. Now, I marvel not only that I did indeed survive, but also at the wonder that our marriage survived as well. It would take time, but eventually I would come to see that God did have a purpose for the difficulties we walked through. Not only did He have a purpose, He has followed through on His promise that all things will work together for good and for His glory. The story begins to turn at this point, even though the days will continue to be excruciatingly difficult. It is at this point, though, that God begins to bring together the small army He has been preparing over the last few months. That army, up until now, was missing one key individual who would play a much greater role than even he knew at the time, not only in the story of our marriage but also in the story of how God brought me to Himself.
March 2012 brought the return of our son, DJ, from Chicago. Spring Break for him was two weeks. Most colleges only get a week for this break as it signals the beginning of the end of the school year. His college, though, always allowed for two weeks because the choirs and band always traveled during this time to minister to churches around the country. It was also a time that the school encouraged students to take some of what they had been learning and use it on a mission field. This year being his first in college, I was thankful that he would be coming home. While he knew that our home life wasn’t great, even he was not aware of the conditions he would be walking into. There was no use in even trying to hide it anymore. Our marriage was too far gone for faking happiness. We couldn’t even pull off faking toleration of each other at this point. The tension in the house was thick and it seemed like one was walking into a dark cave as soon as they entered the house.
Sunday mornings meant church. This had been the case on and off for us from the beginning of our marriage. Over the years we would bounce in and out of various churches. I never felt like I belonged in any of them, but a few of them did do a wonderful job in making the kids feel welcome. The church we were attending at this point in our marriage was very close to our house. Our younger son had found his niche there and it was on a summer camping trip to Wyoming that he felt God calling him to be a pastor. The church was fairly large, having three services every Sunday morning. Dave would attend one service with one of the remaining two kids at home, and I would attend a different one with the other. It usually worked out that Dave took our youngest, Anna, because she was helping with Sunday School. I would then come with our oldest, Zach, and Anna would join us for the service. Dave would head home. No one, with the exceptions of Pastors 1 and 2, noticed that we were not attending church together. I preferred it that way. It meant less lying about what was really going on at home. The first Sunday DJ was back from college, Pastor 2 stopped us in the foyer after the service. He had a special place in his heart for this boy anyway, simply because he had a special place in his heart for the school our son attended. Pastor 2 had been an adjunct professor there at one time. He asked DJ if he had some time to meet for breakfast. He had mentioned this to me previously and had told me he would love to just talk with him and see how school is going. They set up a time to meet that week.
DJ and Pastor 2 met for breakfast at Perkins. What I thought was going to be a meeting to talk about school and DJ’s chosen career path turned into something different. While those things were discussed, and DJ gleaned some helpful insight from Pastor 2, he also learned just how bad life at home had become. Pastor 2 asked him the following question: “What was the spiritual atmosphere in your house?” DJ responded honestly, telling him that he was actually the one responsible for being the spiritual leader and he had been in that position since the age of fifteen. Pastor 2 said that’s a pretty difficult task to put on the shoulders of a fifteen year old. DJ agreed but said that’s how it had to be. Pastor 2 eventually told DJ everything, including the details of the day I had called him while he was at a lunch meeting. I probably should have been angry at Pastor 2 for this, but instead I was relieved. DJ had always been my rock and now that the pretending was over, I could be honest with him about things.
Pastor 1 called me at some point soon after DJ’s breakfast meeting with Pastor 2. He wanted to have a meeting with me, Anna, DJ, Friend 1, and Pastor 2. We all met at the church and gathered in the office of Pastor 2. Pastor 1 began by telling the group that this has gone on long enough and they would all need to be supportive of my filing for divorce. Pastor 2 disagreed and said he still believed there was hope. Pastor 1, slightly agitated, disagreed and said there is no reason for me to stay; the time for Dave to be a positive influence on his kids was gone. Pastor 2 again disagreed and replied, “A father can influence his children as long as he is alive.” Pastor 1 simply said, “Well, I guess we disagree.” I felt like a beach ball being tossed around during a game of keep away. Sitting in that circle were all people I loved and respected, yet it seemed no one could agree on anything. Confusion filled my heart and my thoughts. Friend 1 sat silent, tears rolling down her face as she watched me fight to hold back the sobs that so wanted to be released. Pastor 1 asked both kids if they would support me in a divorce. Both agreed they would, although DJ says that isn’t the outcome he wanted to see happen. DJ, as upset with Pastor 1 as Pastor 2 seems to be, suggested another meeting. He proposed this one include the man Dave had chosen as a mentor. Pastor 2 agreed, knowing that this man is wise and soft spoken–he would be careful to be supportive of Dave while still being truthful. DJ also suggested that neither pastor be present. Very honestly, DJ looked at Pastor 1 and said, “No offense, but my dad doesn’t like you very much.” Pastor 1 quickly agreed with that statement and affirmed that he knew that but he still felt that he needed to be at the meeting. Pastor 2 looks at me and asked, “Becky, who do you want to be there?” I think about it and tell him I agree with DJ–Pastor 1 should not be there. It is decided that the meeting participants will be me, Dave, Mentor and Friend 1. We set the meeting up for a late afternoon time. The task of telling Dave about it fell to me. He was NOT happy about it when I told him and initially he refused to go.
The day of the meeting came. Dave was working from home that day and was beyond miserable. Anna begged me to just cancel the meeting and leave. I went to the grocery store just to get out. I called Pastor 1. He encouraged me to go forward with the meeting. He said it will be my gauge to see if Dave is serious about saving this marriage. He told me he was going to be at the meeting–he was not confident that Mentor would be able to run this without Pastor 1 being there. I had no words to say. I know this will set Dave off big time, but felt as though I couldn’t tell Pastor 1 not to be there. By this point I had made sure all the kids were behind me. In fact, I had borrowed Friend 1’s van for a day the week before and had driven three hours west to my older daughter’s house. She knew our marriage wasn’t great, but living so far away, she did not realize how bad it had gotten. I asked her if I divorced her dad, would she stand behind my decision. She was visibly upset at my question. She cried as she told me that was not what she wanted. I tried to calm her down, fighting back my own tears. I told her that wasn’t what I wanted either, but it may be reality. Deep down, though, a little voice told me that divorce was what I wanted. Maybe Pastor 1 had been right all along. Maybe this marriage was too far gone. Why would I want to spend the rest of my life miserable. He said I deserved to be happy–not abused. I was beginning to agree with him. I left Sara and headed home, assuring her that I would do everything I could to avoid divorce. On the way home, Pastor 2 called me. He prayed with me about the upcoming meeting and assured me he would be praying as we met. The meeting time came and sure enough, Pastor 1 is there. Dave was very upset but headed into the church and sat down. We gathered once again in Pastor 2’s office. Friend 1 and Mentor were there as well. The meeting went fairly well, all things considered. Pastor 1 looked at Dave at one point and said that for me to stay in this marriage, Dave must agree, as I already had, to be in weekly marriage counseling with Pastor 1. Dave absolutely refused at first. Mentor said some things to Dave–he had such a calming effect on everyone. Dave finally agreed to think about it. He walked out with Mentor. Pastor 1 held me back a minute and said me, “You should now see for yourself that this marriage is over. He won’t agree to the one stipulation given. He obviously isn’t serious about saving his marriage. I think you should call an attorney.”
The next few days were very quiet around our house. My mind was full of thoughts and fears. I spent much time alone, crying, or talking with DJ or Friend 1. One afternoon I took DJ to lunch. I had not had much of a chance to talk to him alone since he had come home and his break was quickly coming to an end. We went for pizza and spent the time talking about his life at school. The marriage difficulties loomed large, like an elephant in the room, but neither of us addressed them. This time was meant to be just a mom and a son catching up and spending time together. Upon arriving home, Dave motioned to the shelf by the door. “You got a package.” His words were short and sounded angry. I told him I didn’t order anything. I don’t think he believed me, but it was the truth. The square, brown box was not large and was addressed to “Becky”. Had I ordered something it would have certainly been addressed to “Rebecca”. I picked it up and began to open it. The contents of this package would literally turn out to be a gift from God, a miracle sent from the hand of Providence–one sent by someone who had NO idea what was going on in my life at the time and one that would prove to be the catalyst that helped our marriage begin to emerge from the deep, dark, valley where it had been for so long.