I packed what was most precious to me and left the rest behind. A few small tokens, some letters from my kids from the last Father’s Day, a day I saw two of them only briefly. I took my Boston Red Sox coffee mug, my Irish blessing plaque, my ceramic sign that read in Gaelic “a hundred thousand welcomes”. That and clothes, this small lot is all that I took with me that day as I closed the door and walked away from 19 years of accumulation, familiarity and safety.
-My life. Oh me, ‘tis all.
I had been the victim of a cruel blindside tackle months before, the obvious damage immediate but the visceral afterbirth unaccounted for. I lost the only person that I had ever loved, one soul in the tens of thousands I had met, just one in the hundreds or thousands that I knew personally. I was unaware of the danger, struggling mightily with her daily soft betrayals and so I never saw the killing joke for what it was; her betrayals that drove me to drink wouldn’t kill me, it was her leaving that probably would.
Immediately afterwards and for the time being, it was her indifference to my love, those feelings that raged within me like the anarchic results of a child beating at a mud puddle with a stick; not caring who gets soaked in the process. I was bewildered by the depths and force of her anger at my being. None of it made sense, the 180 degree shift from forever to hatred.
I left the empty house not because I wanted to but because I had to. I could not take a roommate to offset the costs because then I couldn’t have my kids. I couldn’t maintain it alone with the costs of child support. She had taken our only vehicle and then convinced me to sign it over so that she could junk it and get a newer one when in fact, she just used it as collateral and left me without transportation. So I could find no work in our town and could not go to another town to work. It was a jam like I’d never been in before, literally no way out. So I left her everything and walked away from my life and the last place I knew with her and my kids.
I was drinking from a broken heart. One that was exacerbated by having been betrayed and cheated on by everyone that I had been with. Her betrayal stung the worst though, she had been the only person that I had trusted in a life full of trauma. The irony was that she used the drinking as a reason for keeping herself and my kids away when it was her betrayals and distance that caused it in the first place.
And irony just smiled…
The events had triggered a massive CPTSD episode, something I had only recently been professionally diagnosed with, the results of witnessing way too much over the course of my life. She refused to speak with me, preferring to stay away and watch the fallout. The results were massive and terrible. Having no coping mechanisms, I alternated between trying to explain my love and lashing out with cutting remarks that eviscerated her.
I drank, I fought, I could not find God to help because I frankly hated him for betraying me so. I was in a maelstrom that I could not comprehend and I could find no help. Suicide was a daily option, there was no reason to go on without her and my kids and our intertwined lives. For the majority of our 19 years, we were inseparable. The kids had been mostly homeschooled and were constant companions. Now the house sat empty, the windows unblinking as they mocked me with the cavernous hole left inside.
Dramatic? It does not give any justice to the depths of the hell that I felt.
Holiday after holiday passed, each insulting me with reminders of my life. I saw my family; those that I was closest to in the world, walking through the days like ghosts, busily going about the routines and traditions that I had gotten so used to. At times I could almost touch them, I could see my kids on the floor and smell my little girl’s hair. All the while there remained the staccato drumbeat of accusation against God.
-Hadn’t I eschewed treating ministry like a business?
-Hadn’t I at times attempted to pray things in because I was convinced that the world should know that there was a God that answered prayers?
-Hadn’t I preached exactly what I thought that he had wanted me to?
-Hadn’t I rejected the corporate world system, seeing the dangers it presented as it slouched its way to Gomorrah?
-Didn’t she see it and know it too?
-How had he left us when we needed him the most?
-How was he watching me now with sardonic enjoyment as I was unraveled before the world and heaven?
But there were no answers for me. Heaven was apparently slyly yawning as I broke. I accrued mistake after mistake, struggling through days and weeks and months of accumulating trauma. I had never hurt so badly in my life, I’d never felt loss this sharply. It was as if my chest had been torn open like a window for all the world to see.
I cried. Sometimes for days on end. Then I cried harder knowing that she would only equate that with masculine weakness rather than as the result of a broken heart of love.
And still, everyday, the pain alternates between the slow dull ache of loss and the sharp panicked pain of need.
I have found God again or rather, he’s found me. Heaven offers no ready answers other than trust and sovereignty. I had been right in my actions that I thought were serving the Kingdom, I know that now. I see the world system and it’s materialism in a stark new light. I see the results of the temptation of the eye and the fall of Eve more clearly now. I hear a voice behind me saying ‘brokenness’ and ‘revival’. I am sober and praying and preaching once again.
I am different.
And yet this is Christmas and the ghosts are back.
Perhaps they’ve never left and never will.