Warning: This part of my story is very emotional. I read today in Waking up White by Debby Irving, “In my experience, vulnerability, the opposite of bravado, is where humanity reconnects and recharges its circuitry. It is the hardware of the life force that sustains us.” Hopefully this will help someone else realize that they are not alone in their pain even as it is different from mine.
The move came even though I wanted a way out. I had no resources of my own nor did she. We both felt stuck. After moving, we made plans to visit each other about every two weeks. Two weeks doesn’t sound like a long time but to us it seemed like an eternity. This went on for a couple of months, with both of us feeling horrible at the secrecy but seeing no other way. Then one fall day, while I was visiting, she got a phone call from her husband. He had done some snooping and had his suspicions. He asked her outright if she was having an affair with me. She said, “Yes.” I left the next day and drove back to my husband and told him what had been going on. There were many tears, anger, and regret. I experienced my first and only panic attack. I was unable to move, and really just wanted to die to escape the pain I was feeling, not only for myself but for everyone this was affecting.
The storm settled and I tried to figure out what to do next. A week or so later, I told him that I wanted to be with her. He wanted to repair our broken relationship. I just wanted to know what to do. I worried that I was being tempted. I worried about continuing in a relationship where I was not happy. Most of all, I worried that I would not follow what God wanted me to do. I tried to be still and silent and just listen but all the input from my mind and those around me screamed for my attention. I went for a hike by myself, trying to quell the inner chaos. I was specifically looking for signs if I should leave or stay. On the way, I heard the Brandon Heath song, “Wait and See.” Some of the lyrics spoke to me,
“I have to wait and see
He’s not finished with me yet…
Still wondering why I’m here
Still wrestling with my fear
But oh, He’s up to something”
I raged at God. “Why did you let me write that note? I HATE THIS!” I felt like I had been let down. I felt abandoned. I hated that I was the one who caused all this pain for everyone. She had left her husband and moved into a mutual friend’s basement. She had told me she had to follow the love. I wished I had died years ago before ever marrying or having kids. “Where are you God? Where is your love?” More song lyrics came to me, this time from Jesus Culture’s “One Thing Remains.”
“Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me”
And Mandisa’s “Overcomer.”
“You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ’til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now”
Hiking has always brought me closer to God. That day I was in despair. I was confused and hurt and angry. After quite a bit of time I stopped to look at a tree with initials carved into it. I saw a tiny bit of moss move. At least, I thought I did. I watched and didn’t see any more movement. I gave up and left and after hiking for awhile towards where I thought the parking lot was, I ended up back at that tree. The moss was still in the same spot in the midst of a carved initial. I was compelled to put the moss on a leaf and to my surprise it closed up. I retraced my steps back to the parking lot, occasionally opening my hand to see that the moss was sometimes open and sometimes closed. It was definitely something I had never seen before. I was elated! God was telling me that I don’t know everything and that it is okay not to know. I walked back lighter. I didn’t need to know what to do. I could just be.
I was walking with my head down to make sure I didn’t trip over any roots and suddenly I looked up and saw LEAVE carved into a tree. I took that as the sign I was searching for and took a picture of it (see above.) I was going to leave my husband but immediately doubts crept in. I got back to the parking area and sat at a picnic table. I had the leaf with the moss sitting next to my water bottle. I realized the moss was a creature as it climbed up my water bottle holder. Well more accurately, the Brown Lacewing larvae uses moss to hide under. Again, I felt like I was being told that I didn’t need to know everything.
I told my husband that I was leaving. I felt as if my heart would break and the heartache I was causing.
The following morning I woke up and heard a voice telling me to look at the picture of “LEAVE” again. This time I noticed that there was a line going straight through the middle of it. I couldn’t leave now. I felt like I was killing my best friend. How could I claim to love her and then treat her like that? I felt sick. My husband and kids were going to visit his parents and he had to drive right past her town. He dropped me off on the way so I could tell her that I was staying with him. I finally no longer felt torn. I just felt immense sadness.
I got to our mutual friend’s house where she was staying. I broke down. “I HATE myself,” I scrawled in my journal. I saw the cots set up for her children to visit her there. I really wanted to die rather than hurt her. I feared that she would never want to be friends with me again. I also feared that all those people who were friends with both of us would also give up on me and blame me for all of this hurt. I felt so alone. Our friend tried to talk to me while we waited for her to arrive but I had nothing to give. I curled up and retreated to a very dark place where I believed I was all alone. I listened to the words; unfaithful, cheat, liar, coward, heart-breaker, homewrecker, and horrible. She deserved to be loved with a love so much more than mine. My heart was breaking into tiny pieces and yet I was sure that I had to stay. The regret was overwhelming. I read a kid’s book to try to rise up out of the blackness. It was a book about anger. One of the tips was to walk away from the person but how could I do that if it is myself? I wanted to hurt myself so I could release the pressure that was inside me. I wished that she would hit me or say horrible, hurtful things to me once she gets there. I wanted physical evidence to “see” the pain that was inside of me.
She arrived and just held me and told me how much she loves me. That was NOT the response I wanted. I deserved so much worse. She told me she needed to step aside for God and let me follow Him. She told me to cling to Him. She said that she was grateful for the love we share even in the midst of the pain. She told me she was going to try to follow this advice from Rumi, “Look as long as you can at the friend you love, no matter whether that friend is moving away from you or coming back toward you.” Her only negative words were in response to how low I was. She was worried that I would try to hurt myself. Her words and her touch helped pull me up from the abyss.
I wrote her a letter ending with the words “Until Spring.” It had become a way of saying that we were looking ahead past the winter of our lives and to the spring that had to follow. I left not knowing when or even if I would see her again. I left her, with these wise words of Jesus’, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”