Going the Distance

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Hearing the family van park in the driveway, I typed out the last words of my text message. I pressed SEND, and stuffed the phone into my pocket. My wife, Misty, opened the front door, glanced in my direction, then diverted her eyes elsewhere.

“Hey,” she said, disinterested.

“’Sup,” I replied casually.

“So…can we talk? I have something on my mind.”

“Sure, what’s—” My phone buzzed. A return text had come in.

“No, not right now. Besides, someone needs you, obviously.” She pointed toward my buzzing pocket. “Maybe we can go out tomorrow, for a drink.”

As she walked away, I reached for the phone.

‘She’s a liar, and you need to leave her,’ read the message from a female colleague. Recently, I had taken to confiding in her regarding my marriage. ‘You can do so much better, Ennis. You deserve someone who can take care of you.’

The next day, Misty and I drove to the riverfront. We walked along the boardwalk making small talk for awhile.

“All right, we’re here, Smith.” I turned toward her. “What’s on your mind?”

“Our marriage,” she said solemnly. “I think…maybe…we should try separating for awhile.”

And there it was. We were now talking about the pink elephant in the living room.

“It’s really not… you. I just think I need time to myself to discover who I am, and where I need to be.” She stared out over the gray rippling waters of late fall.

I didn’t put up a fight. I agreed to the separation. In truth, I was tired of the nagging feeling that my wife might have embraced a life of infidelity. I had also begun to believe in the soothing words of my newfound confidant, who continuously shared her own marital problems with me. Our stories were similar, and I had come to view her as a shoulder to lean on.

            Two days later, my fears were proven correct. The phone bill arrived. I scrutinized Misty’s cellphone portion and discovered dozens of calls made to a specific number over the past month. I dialed that number, and my heart sank when a familiar voice from her past answered the call. It was him. The man I’d had to deal with almost ten years past. Once again, it seemed he’d returned to her life. I couldn’t speak; could only end the call with a trembling hand. Hurt immediately turned to rage. I called her, demanding an explanation, and insisting on a divorce.

“I want you out of my house!” I yelled. “If you want to be with this idiot so badly, you can leave tonight. I’ll let the kids know you won’t be coming home.”

“You can’t take my kids a—” she started.

I abruptly ended the call. Spitefully, I gathered up our five children and announced our divorce. The three oldest were rocked to the core, understanding fully what that meant for the family. The youngest two didn’t understand. Having to explain divorce to my three- and six-year-old children only intensified my rage toward Misty.

She never left the house, and for a week, we tip-toed around one another. I spent most of my time drinking myself into a stupor to cope, while she openly continued her separate life. One weekend, we sat in our bedroom and talked candidly about our failing marriage.

“I can’t understand why you just can’t be honest with me,” I said.

“You want the truth? I don’t know why I don’t love you anymore,” she said. “I don’t even know why I see other men. That’s right; other men. It’s not just one. I think I love him, but I’m also seeing his best friend unbeknown to him. I can’t stop it.”

My knees buckled, and I collapsed to the floor. My pride broke and I cried out to God. In that instant I rationalized that this whole situation was payback for the thousands of indiscretions I had perpetuated over the years. I had once given my heart to the Lord, but had backslidden and become worse than before. I’d lied to my wife, behaved selfishly, cheated and stolen to get my way, so many times. I deserved everything that was transpiring now. My tears flowed and I pleaded with God for forgiveness. I apologized to Him for everything I had done.

Two weeks later, I found a small home to rent. My wife had settled for an upper flat to move into. As we packed our belongings and prepared to go our separate ways, she came to me one afternoon.

“Dear, are we doing the right thing?” Her eyes seemed so sincere, but emotionally, I had already departed from her.

“Yeah, I think we are. People divorce every day. The kids will adapt.”

“Can we try one last time? I think maybe we should give church a try.”

I was appalled at the idea. It was the fact that she had come up with it. I stalled for time, having already fixed my mind on starting a new life without her.

“Sure. I guess a few visits wouldn’t hurt.”

Six months later, Jesus recaptured my heart. Up to that day, we had church hopped until settling on a large congregational Pentecostal church. I struggled to accept the worship music, and often fought against the messages of the pastor. Because of my hard-heartedness, our marriage sputtered along slowly. By all appearances, we were fine: still in the same house together, still one big family. But, we each fought our personal demons, maintaining one foot in the world while trying out Christianity. And then it happened.

I attended a men’s ministry meeting, one Wednesday evening. The speaking guest, Bill,  was the author of a small book entitled, 30 Minutes in Hell. During the altar call, I reluctantly approached, fell to my knees and immediately felt the sensation of burning pressure fighting to remain over me. I remember pounding my fists on the altar. Bill approached and laid a hand on my shoulder.

“Woo!” he screamed. “Brother, I don’t know what you’ve got going on but some burden you’ve carried for a long time is lifting off you, right now. Don’t fight it! Let that thing go!”

It was hard, but I did. I released years’ worth of misguided anger against my wife, that very night. God set me free, and almost immediately I saw a change in our marriage.

On January 31, 2010, Misty and I were baptized together. For a few months afterward, Satan came against us with vengeance. Misty struggled to severe soul ties with other men, and I struggled with forgiveness, drinking, and releasing my own negative ties. But we maintained our dedication to the Lord and He has continued to strengthen our marriage and family.

Recently, I got the chance to witness our two youngest children, now seven and ten years old, raise their hands unabashedly in worship to the Lord. I cried tears of joy, knowing the Lord blesses and keeps us.

On our return home from the two-day children’s rally, my wife wrapped her arms around me and hugged me close. “I didn’t realize how much I loved you until you were gone away from me.”

“Me too. I really missed you.”

Today, I’m giving God the praise for helping us to go the distance.
 
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