When I left off my story last, my husband had just ended his first year of traveling. His new job was going to make our lives so much better. After all, he was going to be home three full days a week. That was more family time than fathers with regular Monday through Friday jobs got to enjoy! That was a huge plus, and we intended to make the best of it.
Also now he was going to get the respect at work that he deserved. No longer would he be given the daily grunt work while high-priced consultants came in and got all the fun work and the glory. Now he was the high-priced consultant! He had always been up for any challenge (he is a very intelligent and capable man with a strong work ethic) but the tendency of firms to look for expertise for new projects outside of their own staff had worked against him. Surely being happier at work would make him happier at home too.
Also this new smaller firm did not require him to dress in suit and tie unless his clients did, and most of his clients were business casual. No more trips to the dry cleaners on weekends. The smaller firm also required much less paperwork. So the days he was home he would actually BE home. And finally, they offered him a big fat pay increase. It was a set-up for a wonderful life.
He was still a great dad in many ways, but two huge problems were just beginning to surface. One was his criticism of our young son. This breaks my heart to write about. My precious young man ballooned out that year, as eating and watching television became his way to numb out the pain of rejection from his Dad. I tried to make up for his dad's rejection and immaturity by putting my son in sports, where I hoped that coaches could help fill the void of male approval he was experiencing. And to some extent that did help, so thank God for youth football and YMCA!
What I also did not expect was the great strain this new way of life would put on our marriage. And no, it was not because of the traveling. It was because my husband was withdrawing his heart from his wife and children and reliving his boarding school days through his new job.
My husband was recreating his own childhood trauma in his new family life, all because he refused to admit his pain and deal with it. Since he couldn't deal with it, we his family would have to deal with it for him. Not because we wanted to, not because he consciously thought it was the better way, but simply because his not dealing with it on a conscience level compelled him to recreate that scenario in his life until he did deal with it. Things were going to get a lot worse.
They were an unprofessional lot, his new employers, but they were a lot of fun! My husband was "one of the gang" again, and he soon began to see me as the old ball and chain. In his personal journey of healing this past year, he would come to recognize that he put me in the role of mommy while he went back to being a little boy, hanging out with his friends and having a good old time. And mommy was the enemy, the kill-joy, the one to be snuck around, mananged and ditched in order to spend time with the people who really loved him- his boarding school buddies!
He was relating to me in a whole new way, and there was nothing I could do about it. If I tried to talk to him about the way he was being overly harsh to his son, he would blow off my concerns. This floored me! If I spoke to him about feeling rejected by him, and lonely, then I was the one with the problem. It was my perception that was off, not his behavior. I couldn't believe that this man, who once hung on my every word and praised me for my wisdom and insight, now treated me as if I was the most stupid person he had been forced to deal with all week.
It was truly unbelievable. I honestly could not believe it. And so I would keep trying to reason with him, assuming that I was somehow failing in my efforts to communicate my point of view effectively. However since he had put me in the mommy box (and he had a ton of resentment against mommy that I had no idea existed!) there was no way he was going to hear me. What once would have been a brief conversation became three day arguments. And this was actually to become the norm for many years to come, I am sad to have to write that down as truth. But it is the truth.
I truly just could not believe this was happening. And honestly, sometime Sunday afternoon, when the weekend was almost gone, he would often apologize and appear to try to understand my point of view. And so I would forgive him, and accept his excuse as to why this was a one-off but things would be better next week. But then he would come back that Friday once again arrogant and aloof to me, critical of our son, immature and reckless in his responsibilities. It was crazy, but I thought I was the one who was losing it because it did not make any sense to me AT ALL.
One person that did not suffer, at least it was not apparent yet that she was suffering, was my daughter. She remained Daddy's little girl. He ran to her with a smile of delight when he got home, while my son waited patiently to be noticed. Oh how it grieves my heart to write this down. I can see my precious son, smile frozen on his little face, as his leaps of joy at seeing Daddy again are brushed aside while the princess is whirled through the air by Daddy, Daddy looking her full in the face and delighting in her. My sons leaps are less high with every spin that Daddy twirls his big sister around. And then son gets the left-overs, a pat on the back and a one second smile and mom gets a perfunctory kiss on the cheek.
At first I just continued to throw my heart into volunteer work at church and in the home school community, and into creating the best home school environment I could for my children. And I believe that I did a stellar job in all these things, but still my heart was breaking. I was burnt out at my church. I taught the junior high Sunday school class and helped out with the youth group, and then when the youth pastor left I took over the youth group for a few months. Because I take my walk with God and my responsibilities as a believer seriously, I put 100% into this job. Yet at the same time, I was being persecuted and hated at home by a passive-aggressive man who would one day be the man I married, loving God and loving people but then go for several days haughty, self-centered and mean as a snake, albeit mostly in a quiet, unobtrusive way.
When his hatred did break out overtly, he was always quick to apologize for the outburst. In truth, my husband was just as confused as I was. One part of him wanted to serve God, but another part of him was reveling in the camaraderie of his new buddies. They were all about the fine foods, fun times and expensive things and they accepted him! He was in hog heaven. He liked all the things they liked. He would do anything to continue to win their favor.
Yet he still wanted to please God. Deep inside he knew that his heart wasn't right. He knew that what he was feeling towards me wasn't right, but he could not admit to any sin as grievous as hatred or resentment. He had no great passion for serving the Lord, like he had shown when I met him. Yet he went to church every Sunday and sometimes read his Bible. He would fall asleep in church, but he went! Proof positive that he was spiritually sound, and his wife was only being a stupid hysterical female. I was stunned that my husband could so steadfastly continue to deny anything was off with him, and even more stunned at this new misogynist man that had invaded my husband's body. What had happened to the man I married?
I found no help in my church. The women of my church considered me super-spiritual because of all my volunteer work and they had nothing to do with me. I sat and listened to my pastor expose people's problems in his sermons, so there was no way I was going to explain my heartache to that man.
So I started calling my sister-in-law, because I thought that she would truly care and find some way to help me through this time. I also (mistakenly) thought that my brother-in-law would help somehow. I thought they would honestly pray for my husband, and that my brother-in-law would find a way to talk to his little brother (in the power of the Holy Spirit) and help him to come back to God and his family with his whole heart.
Looking back, I can't believe how naive I was. My sister-in-law kept telling me to be submissive and pray (as if I wasn't already doing this!) and at first she would pray with me. But then my husband would come home over the weekend and things would be just as bad. Broken-hearted, I would call her again and get the same platitudes. Even though it was obvious my husband was becoming "worldly" and "materialistic" there was no advice ever offered but submit and pray and then the Lord will change Him for me. Only that never happened. So obviously (to my sister-in-law) I was lying about being submissive and praying. If I was doing it right, my husband would change, so I must be deceiving myself about my commitment to obedience.
Actually, she never came out and said those things, she just quit caring. I would call and she would act a lot like my husband (monosyllable grunts in answer to my side of the conversation, acting as if things couldn't possibly be as I described them) until I got the hint that she didn't want to hear from me. I am slow, and I can plow through a lot of passive resistance before I figure out I am being shunned. But one day the light went on for me, and I realized this wasn't a supportive friendship in the Lord. It wasn't a friendship at all. I resolved not to call my sister-in-law again unless she called me first. That was at least ten years ago. She hasn't called to check on me yet.
If only I was a bit smarter, I would not have been surprised at the lack of Christian support from my in-laws. But they were in ministry and we were long time financial supporters of theirs. I really believed that they loved the Lord and sought to do His will as sincerely as I did. I was shocked at their passivity in the face of our family's need. My brother-in-law never once said a word to my husband, never called to check on him, never cared enough about his own brother's marriage to get involved. This is an additional pain for my husband to deal with now in his season of healing.
I thought Christians all loved the Lord like I did. Boy what a shock to find out that many Christians love their doctrine more than their family in the Lord. I know I sound so naive and Pollyanish, but it is an accurate representation of my heart. If I had been in the know about my brother's denomination and the recent heresy going around in it, there were plenty of clues that my brother-in-law was getting in deep. He kept name-dropping about his buddy Phil Lancaster, who I assumed was an old family friend or something similar I should know about. Once I asked and was told he was a big deal among Plymouth Brethren, my in-laws denomination.
Recently I found out Phil Lancaster was the publisher of the flagship magazine of the patriocentric movement. It all makes sense now. My brother-in-law wouldn't help my husband because men don't need no stinking help. They are always right by virtue of being men. If his marriage fell apart, that would be his wife's fault and I guess they would show him lots of sympathy then. But until then I guess they would just shake their heads at all the poor man had to endure with his rebellious wife with a mind of her own.
I was still seeking the Lord with all my heart, in spite of my confusion and rejection, and the Lord did send help that brought great relief for a season. But how that came about will take "some 'splaining", so it will have to wait until tomorrow. But I can't end today's entry without plainly making one thing clear:
The Lord is faithful! He never stopped loving me, never stopped sending my a kind word at just the right time, never stopped meeting me in times of prayer with special ways of making His love for me known to my heart, never stopped giving me peace and wise counsel even in the midst of my strife and pain. Jesus never fails us. Jesus never forsakes us. Keep trusting in Him even when you are totally confused and feel abandoned by everyone in whom you trusted, because Jesus always comes through for his beloved sheep.
Isaiah 50:10 Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.