They say you go through 7 stages when grieving a loss. I felt like I was experiencing one of those stages for everyday of the week. It was a continuous roller coaster of emotions. The first few days after he packed his things and left, I felt like a hospital patient in critical condition. I was constantly checked on and monitored. Poked and prodded with questions, texts and prayers. Everyone close to us was trying to make these next transitional days easier for me, but there was only one person I felt could completely understand what I was going through.
Through my ups and downs, my dad always remained consistent.
One afternoon he came into my room, his gentleness and warmth filling the atmosphere. Just like it always did. He sat on my bed and asked me how I was feeling.
“I’m doing okay… right now.” I said hesitatingly–not sure if I would be able to say the same tomorrow.
He reassured me that I wasn’t crazy for feeling good one day and shattered the next.
“It’s hard… I really want him to come back home… and I’m just afraid he never will.”
“We all want him to come back” he said. “I miss having him here, but give him some time. It’s only been a few days. This is a time for you to begin really putting your trust and focus on what God is wanting to do in you. This isn’t just a test for him, this a test of obedience for you also.” but I wasn’t sure what God was trying to say to me. Or if He was even talking.
I let out a deep sigh and cupped my chin inside my palm as he continued.
” During the first few years of our marriage, your mom did not desire any kind of intimacy with me because of the abuse she had suffered as a child. I would get upset and tell God it wasn’t fair that I was suffering for what other men had done to her. I would jump out of bed feeling rejected and angry . And then I’d go down stairs, kneel before God and pray– ‘Not my will God, but yours be done’.”
I listened with empathy as I wondered how that rejection might have affected his self-esteem and feelings of worthiness.
Still, in spite of this, he made praying God’s will over his own, into something his heart truly desired. A routine I was feeling I needed to pick up.
“One night as I was praying,” he went on, “I heard God clearly tell me to stop jumping out of bed in anger. He told me to go tell her, ‘If we are never intimate again, I will remain faithful to you. I did not marry you to have sex. I married you because I love you.’ “
“What did she say?”
“She cried. I thought I had said something wrong. The next time I reached to embrace her, she clenched and pulled away as she normally did. But instead of getting angry, I hugged her and told her it was okay. It took 7 years before things began to change between us intimately. But during that time God was teaching me that despite what she did or didn’t do, I still had to obey Him. I had a duty to love her as Christ loves the church. In those time’s I was learning that my joy and fulfillment did not come from her, it came from God. Was intimacy a natural and valid desire? Yes! But it wasn’t something I would die if I didn’t get. Just because I didn’t have what I desired in that moment, did not mean I had a right to disobey or dishonor God– or your mom.”
I admired my dads patience and devotion. But 7 years? I couldn’t imagine enduring this pain another week, let alone 7 years! “What am I suppose to do while he’s out there trying to figure out exactly how he feels about me?”
“You continue living. You take care of Nathan. You enjoy life. I didn’t stop living just because I was feeling hurt by your mom. I loved her, I enjoyed her and chose to enjoy our life. And don’t get me wrong Liv, it was hard at times. There was a point where I felt like I was the only one having to obey God. I would even ask him at times, ‘Are you even talking to her?’ but he would tell me that my obedience to Him had nothing to do with her. He never allowed me to shove scripture in her face or tell her what her responsibilities were as a wife. He just told me to obey Him and love her. “
Ultimately, his unconditional love during my mom’s emotional pain, was a major aid in her healing.
My dad was right. I needed to began living. but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I was feeling as though I wouldn’t begin enjoying life until I had an answer. Were we going to fight for our marriage? Or was divorce the daunting path we were taking? How could I have peace in the midst of this unknown? I couldn’t imagine happily moving forward with my life knowing the future of our family was hanging in the balance.
But according to dad’s story, I knew one thing was for sure– obedience gets you far. I didn’t have the power to make him come home, to clear his confusion, or heal the wounds of his past. But I did hold in my hands two of the greatest weapons of warfare–obedience and love. And after my conversation with dad, I was determined to begin using them.
But I knew there were a few words I needed to pray first.