I drove on in the rain. An hour behind schedule. Frustrated bits of anger spewing from my lips.
I hate being late.
After more than eight years, I had finally ended up in the same city at the same time as my long time missionary friend and her family. Having lived in different hemispheres for more than half a decade, I jumped all over the chance to see her while we were both in the same state.
Finally I arrived at her house (after driving past it once and having to pull a somewhat legal uturn at a really blind corner) and apart from apologizing profusely, we hugged and laughed and I met her daughters and gave gifts and settled into to a nostalgic dinner of teriyaki chicken and rice.
I sighed. I shifted in my chair, smiled, and said, “So, how are you?”
And the bomb dropped.
“Well, six months ago my husband had an affair and we are done.”
And so unfolded an evening of open hearts, fresh wounds, God’s grace, tenacious strength, honest questions, starting over, and I’m-not-sure-a-church-pew-can-handle-this reality.
They met in missions. Overseas. Married, served, followed God’s leading. Started a family. Moved again. Led outreaches. Then visas and residency and technicalities suddenly tore this young family of four apart – oceans, continents, and worlds apart. For three years he has been in one country and she and the kids in another, waiting for immigration to move forward on their case. At times it was hopeful. Other times there seemed to be nothing but a brick wall. Eventually she sensed there was something else, something more. She asked. He confessed. A week later she had moved across the state and started life over as a single mom of two preschool girls.
I had nothing to say, nothing to offer. My dear friend, fellow missionary, the one who dreamed with me of the nations and the unreached and the ends of the earth. Now a single mom, holding down a full time job and house payments and bills and groceries and tantrums and digging through the lost and found for the missing coat and screaming four year olds at bedtime.
She poured it all out for me. I asked tough questions. She gave real answers. Like, ‘I’m-starting-over-with-God-and-it’s-so-good-for-me’ answers. In the most unimaginable of circumstances, she is standing strong and moving forward and making it work.
And, as she told me, she is “a-frickin’-mazing!”
Hours passed. Finally, close to midnight, I tore myself from her couch and started the trip home.
It took every ounce of willpower in my being to not drive as fast as I possibly could, run through the door of my parent’s house, and dive into my kid’s room to gather them into my arms and weep.
Never let go. Never let anything hurt them. Never. Never.
These two girls – her girls – were babies when their dad was separated from them. They really don’t know him, although they do know they don’t have a dad and at one time they did.
That night a new sense of terror and reality and fear and respect and awareness rose up inside me. What struggles do I allow to entertain my thoughts just a little bit longer than they should? What sins do I continually justify simply because I think it’s not hurting anyone? What selfish motives do I cover up to look like servanthood or self-sacrificing? Dear God, rescue me.
Not only did I want to swallow up my kids with waves of love, I needed my husband close to me that night. Of course, we are hundreds of miles apart right now but it was a physical hunger that could only be filled by his presence. I tried not to let my mind wander. All I wanted was to bury my face in his shoulder and climb in his lap and hear him say how beautiful I am and feel him tenderly stroke my back and listen to him whisper, “I choose you. Always. You are mine.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about her since. Prayers, spoken and unspoken, have drifted to heaven constantly on her behalf. I don’t know what else to say or how to end my thoughts here. It’s still too close and too real and too fresh for any sort of summing up.
I simply can’t wait to be held by my husband.