Sent in by DifferentNow
On January 15, 2007, I told my husband I wanted a divorce.
It was a cold day in New York City. My second time there. We were on a company retreat with our business, the graphic design company we both owned. I woke up at 6 a.m. unable to sleep and went down to the hotel lobby so I could email the man I had fallen in love with and tell him I was antsy... really antsy. I couldn't put on a front any longer. It wasn't in my nature to hide things, and I couldn't keep it up for long.
I had barely slept in two weeks. Two weeks since our first date. Two weeks of listening religiously to the wisdom of Johnny Cash while painting our studio space black. As black as my mood. Pouring myself into the old, worn down building that I convinced my husband to let us rent with dreams creating a theatre space and pursuing the never ending quest for fun, always fun... A pursuit that left him exhausted and asking me often, "why can't you just slow down?" His inquiry always met with my resolution to stay home more, try harder, be a better wife.
My husband followed me downstairs, before I even got time to log in to my laptop. I looked up in surprise, like a frightened teenager caught in the liquor cabinet. I scolded myself for not getting up quieter from the hotel room that all five of us were sharing. I hated myself at that moment. I wanted to hide. I wondered if he could see it. I wondered what he knew.
He sat down, a concerned and sad expression in his clear, innocent blue eyes. "This is our first time in New York City together, and you will barely look at me," he said quietly, his voice trailing off as he tried to make sense of my strange behavior. He often told me I acted like a squirrel that dashes in the street, looks around in a frenzy, dashes back, unable to make up her mind which way to go. I felt like I was crossing the road for the last time.
He sipped his coffee, always black, patiently waiting for my response.
The trendy hotel lobby was quiet this time of morning. Large abstract paintings depicting colorful taxi scenes hung in front of red and black leather couches. A waitress was setting up for breakfast. A few businessmen walked by in a hurry, briefcases in hand. I wondered if they were going to a trade show, the one we were supposed to be at later that day.
"I know. I know. I'm sorry. I'm just not feeling myself these days. I'm sorry."
I had been saying "I'm sorry" for a long time. I said it so much in grade school that my teachers and friends' moms would call my parents and ask what was wrong with me. What did I have to be so sorry about? I was still trying to figure that out.
I was fidgety, sleep deprived, restless. Unable to look him in they eyes. Like I was someone else living in another body, the body of a girl gone mad. I felt 'foggy', like I had described my feelings that last week to our home group that met Sunday mornings at our house, an intimate way of 'being the church' without a building and a budget. People loving people. I loved that concept.
"Should I be afraid?" he asked.
Those simple words. I mentally flashed to a quote he had cut out and taped to his computer screen at home, the neat san-serif font reading "What would I do if I was not afraid?" I had often wondered what he was afraid of, many times viewing him with disdain for what I saw as his black and white mentality, the simple and clean cut ways he thought of the world, God, love, humanity.
I remember a conversation we had had a month earlier, while I was mentoring a teenage girl in our church. She was a beautiful spirit with lots of questions and hunger for life.
One day he asked me, "Is Jenna a Christian?" I was so mad at him for asking me that, for trivializing our depth of friendship so it hung on one, stupid word... a word to him that held the depth of the universe. I felt ashamed for being angered by this, ashamed that I did not care about the answer and that I hated him for asking it. "How am I supposed to know." I answered, always defensive. "We just go shopping together. She likes white cafe mocha and blond boys and dangly earrings. That is all I know." My heart was racing and I felt shallow and wrong. I wondered why I despised him so much.
Sometimes, when he would play the guitar in Bible study, or lovingly listen to people's problems at church, I would force myself to smile and muster a look of tenderness in my eyes like I had seen the other wives doing, just in case our friends were watching me out of the corner of their eyes, thinking, 'isn't she blessed to have a man like him'. I wanted my face to say, 'yes, yes I am grateful. God has been good to me. What a wonderful, sweet, God-loving man.' After all, isn't that why I married him?
I hadn't planned on telling him yet. In fact, I had hoped my feelings would go away. My parents always told me I couldn't rely on my emotions. I was to rely on God alone. And God hates divorce. Divorce. Divorce. The word hung in my head like a dirty rag. Just like me.
I kept telling myself, just get through New York. Get your head clear. You are with three of your employees who look up to you. You run a business together, you can't do this. You will loose everything. What will people think?
"Should I be afraid?"
'Yes, yes, yes, you should be afraid,' my mind was screaming. 'I want a divorce. I want a divorce. Dirty rag. Divorce. Divorce. I don't want to hurt you but "I want a divorce."
Oh my God did I really say that out loud?
He turned beat red. The blood started in his neck and went all the way to his close cropped dirty blond hair. His fair complexion held no secrets. A bulging vein crept up the left side of his head. His eyes welled up with tears. He told me that if we weren't in a hotel lobby he would have thrown his hot coffee at me.
I didn't doubt it. In fact, I deserved it.
I wanted to crawl under the table and cry and cry and cry. I felt so sorry for him. He demanded 'who, who, who is it?'
"No one you know. A filmmaker. I didn't plan for this to happen. I wanted to tell you right away. I couldn't see myself having kids with you. I don't know why. No, we haven't slept together yet. It was only a kiss, a few dates. There is a bigger problem. I meant to tell you before. I tried to say something, you just didn't see. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." My words fell out of my mouth and like in slow motion clattered on the tile floor like bone thin china teacups.
Then I was still. So calm. I barely moved. I thought for a moment that maybe I was possessed by Satan. Later he told me that I was. I wondered if this was true. It was like the time I went to see Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." I knew I needed to see it, to come a little closer to understanding what our Savior went thorough, but the suffering of others makes me so upset. I can't even listen to cruelty on the news without it obsessing my mind. So I went into the theater and became numb. I did not let out a single tear for fear that even one would unleash an ocean of emotions.
They say that right before death a flood of memories will overtake your mind, one after the other. As I looked into his anguished expression full of shock and despair, I saw the sweet, kind man I once knew in what seemed another life, walking in the city as homeless people bypass every other soul on the street and come straight to him. As if they can feel his big heart and know he will care. He would always buy them food... he would go with them to the restaurant. Talk with them, ask them questions. Find out who they are and why they were there. He really did care. A good, kind, loving Christian man.
I knew whose side God was on. And I hung my head in shame.
Now, after almost a year of searching, and then stumbling upon this site, I decided that the God who was his God, could not be mine too. So I left the Christian faith and am trying to pick up the pieces of all I knew once to be true.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)