Friday, March 7, 2008

What more men need to hear

We see it too often. Good Christian couples - strong marriage, heavy involvement in ministry, excited about God's work, they seem to have it all together. Until the one day that the tapestry of their life unravels and they choose the lie of the world rather than the truth they have so publicly upheld. Some time ago, I heard a story of one such couple where the husband strayed, but the road to divorce was blocked by words of experience and wisdom from his father. What a blessing that father was to his son!

Since then I have longed to write that story, so that others could read it and understand. So that perhaps another marriage could be saved. Today I felt the overwhelming need to get over my fear of trying and failing and just start typing. So I did.


The Rest of Your Life

John sat quietly, listening intently to his son who stood beside him at the kitchen table. Disbelief, grief, and anger flooded through him as he stared down at the grain in the wood, but the strongest feeling was guilt. Ultimately, the decision was Jeff's and Jeff's alone, but John knew that his own actions years before had paved this road his son was now traveling.

Jeff paused in his monologue and John spoke into the silence. "So you've made your decision. You're leaving your wife, your children, and you're moving in with this other woman."

Jeff shifted his weight from one foot to the other, glancing impatiently at his father. "Things haven't be all that great with Beth for awhile. When I met Grace, we just...clicked. Before we knew it, we had fallen in love." He paused, then forged ahead, "I can't live with one woman when I'm in love with another. That's hardly fair to anyone."

John finally looked up and locked eyes with his son. He had to fix this and he knew he had only this one chance. "Sit down, son," he said, waving his hand toward the chair at the other end of the table. Jeff hesitated for a moment, but then pulled out the chair and sat, fiddling absently with the mail that lay in front of him. John closed his eyes and sent up a silent, desperate prayer for just the right words.

"Let me tell you what the rest of your life is going to look like," John said. "20 years ago I left your mom, you, your brothers, and your sister. I had found someone else and I thought I was in love. So I know what you're feeling and how you're rationalizing your decision. And I know what's coming for you."

"You said this other woman has kids and that she's already left her husband so she can be with you. Once you two start living together, those rose-colored glasses aren't going to last too long. It won't be the excitement of an affair and it won't be a honeymoon and before you know it, she'll be nagging you to hang up your towel and you'll be complaining about the fourth mystery casserole in a week. Her kids will hate you for what you did to their family and you'll be tiptoeing around every minute they're staying with you. You'll begin to dread every evening when you walk through that door and you'll be wishing for the life you had before."

John could see the anger flaring up in his son's eyes. "Now wait a minute, Dad!" Jeff started.

John interrupted, "No, I want you to hear me out before you start defending yourself and telling me how it's going to be different for you and that woman."

"Her name is Grace, Dad," Jeff interjected fiercely.

"Grace, then." John conceded. "I thought the same thing. I was in love with Jill when I left your mom to be with her, but it didn't last. It can't last. The whole relationship was built on an illusion created by a few stolen moments and reality tore all that down in a hurry. You see, we could never trust each other. After all, cheating is what brought us together and the possibility of it happening again was always there. Anytime I was 10 minutes late or happened to hang up the phone when she entered the room, she accused me of cheating. And I'm not proud that I did the same thing to her."

John paused and saw a tiny spark of fear in the middle of Jeff's anger. It looked like at least some of what he said was getting through. "And then there's your own kids," he continued. "You say Beth has agreed to frequent visitation. Your kids are young and they have to do what you and the courts tell them, but they will hate you just like that other woman's kids hate you. Their behavior will change, they will test every limit and challenge every decision, and they'll probably need counseling to deal with everything and you will have done that to them. Their whole world is turning upside-down because of your choice and don't tell me that you'll still be an active and involved parent. You'll see your kids once or twice a week for awhile, then they'll start sports and other stuff and they won't have the time or the desire to be with you."

"The absolute worst part is that you will stand on the sidelines and watch Beth, the wife you gave up, come to love someone else. She'll get married and her new husband will be the one living in your house and raising your kids. They'll start calling him Dad and he'll be the one playing catch after school and greeting your daughter's first date at the front door. They'll resent their visits to your house because it's taking them away from their 'real' family. You will be an afterthought - a card at Christmas and a call on your birthday. And it will never change. Think about it. How often have you and Beth brought the grandkids over to see me and how often have you taken them to your mother's?"

John voice grew husky, the unshed tears shining in his eyes. He leaned across the table toward his son. "Leaving your mother was the biggest mistake of my life. It only took me a couple of weeks to realize it and I went back to your mom and begged her to forgive me and let me come home. But it was already too late. She had already burned that bridge and wasn't willing to risk my breaking her heart again." He pulled his handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped his face.

"You have a beautiful, loving, Godly wife waiting for you at home. You have three beautiful children who will follow in your footsteps. Don't throw that away to chase after a fantasy. Don't let your daughters grow up with the idea that she can't trust a man's promise of forever and don't show your son that when things get uncomfortable, it's okay to walk away. Don't end up empty and alone - like me."

Across the table, Jeff had his face buried in his hands. His father watched as he trembled, breathing heavily. The chair scraped across the worn linoleum as John stood up and walked over to his son, placing his hand on Jeff's shoulder. In a voice choked with emotion, Jeff asked, "What have I done? What do I do?" the muffled words full of desperation.

John answered, a sense of purpose giving strength to his words. "You go home, you confess, and you beg for your wife's forgiveness. You go together to a marriage counselor and you find a friend who will hold your feet to the fire as you get back on the straight and narrow." He leaned over, speaking directly as his son slowly raised his head and met his piercing, loving gaze. "Yes, it will be hard and there will be a lot to work out and a lot of changes to be made for both of you. But never, ever doubt that it's worth it."


John watched as his son walked quickly down the path to his car and drove away, headed home to begin the difficult task of reconciliation. There was so much work still to do. Would they make it? Would their marriage recover? His heart was heavy as he turned and shuffled back toward the kitchen. No, wait. He changed his course and sat down in his old recliner, reaching for the worn Bible that he kept on the cluttered end table. With his reading glasses perched on the end of his nose, John turned the pages to James 5.

16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective...19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

John bowed his head and removed his reading glasses. "Lord, I come to You on behalf of Jeff and Beth..."

1 comment:

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

Wow, Valerie, that is a really powerful post. Who of us doesn't know someone that threw away their families for a fantasy like that? Thanks for sharing it, and thanks much for your comment on my blog. Sounds like your kids are a bit younger than mine. I'm tempted to go with a curriculum that is structured, BUT I'm also really enjoying tailoring what Jacob learns at the moment (see today's post). However, next year when my girls join in the homeschooling in grades 8 and 10, and Jacob will be in 11, I'll be needing a lot of prayer support!!! I still work as a tech writer on TOP of the teaching I do!