Written Out

As Max and I began to trudge through the murky road of his secret atheism, we were helpless to keep from being written out of the lives of our friends. The only thing I can liken it to is Matthew Crawley’s sudden departure from Downton Abbey, only Dan Stevens wanted to leave the show. One minute, Matthew was driving down the beautiful English countryside after the birth of his son. The next, the camera panned from the overturned AC Six Cabriolet and zoomed in on the blood trickling a path down his pulseless neck.

We were once main characters in our friends’ stories—years of countless afternoons and evenings spent together, enjoying food, movies, and laughter. Holidays with their extended families. But our exit from their stories wasn’t as swift and tidy as Dan’s was from Downton. It was a series of, “We’re busy this weekend,” and “Not feeling so well.” Six months later, it dawned on Max and I that we’d been written out and there was no going back.

Keep in mind that the people whose stories we were written out of are good people. I’m sure they felt the change in Max even if they didn’t know exactly what it was. I changed too. I grew silent about God anytime Max was around. I also couldn’t tell any of my friends what was really going on because it wasn’t my secret to tell. Since no real wrongs were committed, I did not have just cause to be angry. But what I did have was powerful.

Hurt.

Jealousy.

Bitterness.

Abject loneliness.

At the foot of Anna’s bed, I would weep in silence while she slept on, blissfully unaware of the way her mom tried to hold the pieces of herself together. I’d weathered dark days before, but I’d never experienced such a profound feeling of aloneness. I did my best to not entertain my bitterness, but since I’d already opened the door and let it into my heart, it became so pronounced I could barely stand to hear the mere mention of a few whom I’d once considered my close friends.

I knew I was in the wrong. I also knew I could not change in my own power. So, I went to God, though it was pathetic at first. I’d rant about this and that and how it made me feel. And how much I knew I needed to forgive Jane Doe for what she’d done to hurt me, but I just wasn’t ready to let it go yet. Because most of the time, self-righteous bitterness feels good. I began to revel in it and play out mock scenes in my head where I gave Jane Doe a witty verbal smack-down and she was reduced to hiccuping sobs over the way she’d cast me off. I mean, is a bit of groveling too much to ask?

It is.

Especially when I consider all the hurt I’ve caused other people in my lifetime and how God forgives me every single time. As God slowly brought me to my senses, he began to grant me what bitterness stole—the want to forgive. The want to see those who have hurt me thrive and flourish. The want to love them in a new, fresh way. Now, every time bitterness pounds at my heart’s door, I send God to answer it—and it’s coming around far less. I’ve come to realize Max and I were never written out of our friends stories. We are still loved; we just play far less important roles.

I now believe these roles were meant to change. There are different friendships for different seasons and there is a natural ebb and flow as is the case with anything organic. The unwanted ebb of some of my friendships deepened the flow of a few others. Walking with a friend through tragedy and pain has a way of cementing said friendship in sweet ways.

Sweeter still was, and is, getting to experience a deeper friendship with God. Years before, I’d learned how to laugh with him. But had I never been so deeply wounded, I would never have learned how to be so deeply comforted. Countless times, I would ask God to hold me while I cried, which might sound dumb unless you’ve been there before. Every time I asked, I could feel him wrap his arms around the pieces of me. I felt his breath as he leaned down to kiss the top of my head as he listened to the newest thing to hurt my heart. He listened. He understood the depth of my pain like no one on earth ever could. He cared. He saw me when I felt invisible and friendless. He whispered to me time and again that he will never leave me or forsake me and that even if I took the wings of the morning and dwelled in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there his hand would lead me and his right hand would hold me. If friends had physically been available to me at my deepest moments of despair, I would’ve traded divine arms for human ones.

And truly, there is no comparison.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Isaiah 49:13

Foundations

June 14, 2010
The cold metal barrel of my 380 Keltec felt odd as it pressed into my temple. Especially since I was the one holding it in place. “I HATE YOU!” My throat immediately felt raw from the force of my words. “YOU’RE TOXIC!” My eyes bulged and nostrils flared.

I’m not sure why I’d put the gun to my head when I’d felt so much rage toward Max. In retrospect, the only thing I can come up with is that I’d wanted to demonstrate the severity of my feelings. We’d had a repeat argument. The kind where the roots were so intertwined and widespread, neither one of us had the strength or wherewithal to completely unearth the growth. And so, our repeat argument became more firmly entrenched.

February 13, 2011
I am, unfortunately, worth more to my husband dead than alive. Tried to look up my insurance policy to check on suicide coverage, but my policy wouldn’t show up online. Everything else was there but mine. Thinking they would be the same, I tried to look under Max’s, but it timed out. Then I just got pissed. Why do I need to be alive anyway? I’m done being a bother. I feel like a dog tonight. A flea-infested, mangy mutt that isn’t even worth the vet’s bill. I just want to go home. Someplace safe. Where someone loves me.

April 1, 2011
Today was pretty much horrible. I left the house last night because Max and I fought and I did not have the desire to come back home. I actually attempted to sleep in my car in the parking lot at a restaurant. Too many sirens though. I kept thinking a litany of cuss words and then tried to apologize to God for thinking them. At some point, I realized the ridiculousness of it all, considering I was contemplating ending my life. But since I’m writing this, I obviously did come home.

May 31, 2011
All that’s fueling me right now is Diet Dew and rage. Composed my own suicide note this morning:
Dear Max,
F*#@ you. If I were your boss, I’d fire you for being an impostor. How’s this for doing what I say I’ll do?
Mae

June 5, 2011
I could barely get out of bed this morning. Max came home from work yesterday, hopeless and yearning for something better. I felt very alone and unsafe. All I could think was, I want to go home. To that elusive place where I feel secure.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I penned these journal entries during Max’s transition to atheism. He was still working for a church and growing increasingly unsettled. I, on the other hand, was experiencing God in new, profound ways. It would have been a time of pure joy for me. But our repeat argument continued to gain traction. And so, I often asked God to just take me out of this world so I wouldn’t have to do it myself.

The entire time, I’d thought our repeat argument was the problem and if we could just unearth the roots of it, we would be fine. But my suicidal thoughts, rage, and hopelessness were only side-effects of the real problem. With mud and dried sweat caked on his brow, God painstakingly unearthed every offshoot until he brought the end of the poisoned root into the light of his glory.

My insecurity.

You see, I’d been placing my security in Max ever since we starting dating in high school. He was a man of God before it was cool to be a man of God. Instead of learning to go to God with my needs, I relied solely on Max. I thought I was being submissive to Max as leader of our household—he should hear from God and disseminate the information to me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I sometimes tried on my own. And I believe being a submissive wife is God-honoring. But I allowed Max to become my God-between. I would take my problems to Max first. I would take my hurts to Max first. I would take my joy to Max first.

Max had become God to me instead of God.

I no longer wonder why I was suicidal, angry, and hopeless. My foundation was built upon sand that sucks your feet down as the water rises. Nothing against Max—some of the very things I blamed him for were actually the result of my own problem. My downward spiral was destined to happen no matter where I laid my foundation, had it been laid anywhere other than on the Rock.

I can’t tell you the exact moment God opened my eyes to the truth of my situation because it was more of a gradual awakening. How sweet it was though, to finally blink awake and find our Savior at the edge of my bed holding the gnarled roots of my insecurity.

Life is different now. I won’t tell you that insecurity never threatens me anymore or that mine and Max’s repeat argument is gone. However, that’s the point of building my foundation on the Rock. Storms are inevitable.

But I am no longer moved.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4