I used to associate tragedy mainly with physical death, so I never saw it coming.
It began long ago, while my husband Max was still on staff at a church. Having a very analytical mind, he began to ask the hard questions about God and the Bible. He claimed to have searched the Bible and found more contradictions than answers. So, he surreptitiously asked his colleagues. But to Max, their answers seemed more like excuses for God. God was apparently silent on the issues and Max entered into a time of great fear. He wouldn’t tell me much about his struggles because he said he didn’t want to mess up my walk with God. But he wrestled. And he thought.
As the years went on, his tone changed. He didn’t want to reveal his true thoughts to me because he feared my reaction to what he had become.
He’s made it through fear and came out on the other side. He is happy with his enlightenment. He is happy he’s no longer “delusional” and no longer believing in an all-powerful and loving Creator that doesn’t actually exist. Because if the all-powerful and loving Creator actually existed like the one he says the Bible describes, that being would be a terrible being.
And here we are. It’s so simple to write, yet I’m trembling because of the ramifications. The fellowship once comprised of God, Max and Mae has been broken. Epic Ecclesiastes 4:12 fail.
This is my tragedy.
We recently attended a sweet wedding. The stunning bride could not stem her joyful tears once she faced her groom. Instead of the traditional lighting of the unity candle, they walked up to their rustic wooden sign, which read the words, “A threefold cord is not easily broken” and wove their cords together with God’s. I had to swallow my sob. This was a verse Max once believed, seemingly with his whole heart. Our promises at the alter were not just to each other. They were heard, sealed, and cemented by God. And it was a given that we would raise our children in such a way that they would hopefully come to know and love God—to actively take hold of him.
Max and I now find ourselves at powerful odds about something that was once a fundamental part of our marriage.
In my grief, I wondered what life might be like if I went the way of Max; to move on together without God. At first it felt earthy and bright—blissfully free of conflict and discord. Our family belted out the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack while cruising in our station wagon on the way to one of many weekend adventures involving backpacking, fairies, and ninjas. But as soon as clouds passed overhead, my reverie shattered and I was chilled by a horrific emptiness. I nearly doubled over because of the depth of sorrow and agony my betrayal would cause God.
I couldn’t do it. Not after he gave up Heaven to rescue my sorry hide.
As the pain of my new reality set in, I wanted to give up at life—to collapse at the base of the mountain I recently descended with God and there remain, until the woodland foliage had made a bittersweet monument of me. Sonnets would be written about the once great love of Max, Mae, and God, and the tragic ending of their tale. But just as I was gently humming the melody I’d invented, I heard a rustle. I brushed off the forest debris, looked up, and saw God leaning on a splintered cross with my name on it. And I knew.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
No matter what it makes my future look like, no matter what it costs me, I knew I must shoulder my cross and move on with God.
So, I did.
Thankfully, and for now, Max still loves me and wishes to stay married. In most ways, he’s a wonderful husband and father. I mean that with all my heart. And no matter how much his transformation to Atheism confounds/hurts me, I still believe that Jesus died for and loves Max. I believe that the Holy Spirit is actively at work to draw Max to God. Every now and then I’ll catch a glimpse of wonder in Max’s eyes and I know he can see Christ in me, even if he refuses to acknowledge it. I believe that one day—even if it’s decades in the future and I’m not still alive to see it—God and Max will have a relationship. So. Because of the faithful, unchanging character of God, I have hope.
And it is enough.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20