Monday, March 28, 2016

Finding Hope in the Sunrise

Hope is a funny thing.

Generally speaking, I'm essentially what you would classify as an optimist.  I see hope even in the blackest situation.  I feel within my core that there is always a way.  That Love will win.  That Good will triumph.  That Truth will always come to light.

I know that this is part of my character because it is something innate that God has placed within me.  He has given us an eternal Hope.  A Hope that always wins.  But sometimes I place my hope in idols, and idols always disappoint.

It's hard to admit that something that was/is good has become an idol.  Maybe it's your job, your family, your money, or, in my case, your spouse.  To place something above God, whether willfully, or out of complacency, fear, laziness, I don't know… different days, different reasons.  To place your hopes and your trust in something that God has made instead of the Maker is unfortunately not hard to do.

Ever the optimist, ever the hopeful and naive one, I've felt hope even after the first divorce papers were filed.  Hope that he would change his mind.  Hope that he would love me.  Hope that he would fight for me.  Hope that he'd finally see me, like really truly see me, and see that I was worth whatever it took.  And the voices of people around me telling me that there is still hope- that marriages have been saved from the brink many times- to not give up.  To hold onto hope.  The voices fueled my optimism.  My misguided hope.

But hope in what, exactly?  Or more precisely, hope in Whom?  Hope in my husband who has given not a single shred of effort to save our marriage in the last six months?  Hope in a man who is bound and determined to never look back?  I find myself hoping in him sometimes, even now.  "Somewhere, maybe down really deep, he's still in there.  He's just scared.  Or proud.  Or ashamed.  He won't actually do this.  He won't actually rip himself from me and leave me alone in the world.  He wouldn't do that."  But that hope is wrong.  That hope is a lie.  And an idol.  And it's completely misplaced.

Yes.  Marriages have come back from the brink.  But not because the wayward spouse wills themselves to repent.  Not because the abandoned spouse made the right arguments, spouted the right logic.  Marriages have come back from the dead because of the ONLY one we can truly put our hopes in.

The Resurrected King.  The defeater of death.  The God of rebirth and life.

I'm trying to find my way back to hoping only in Him.  The one who died for me and rose again.  The one who laid down his life for me while I denied him, scourged him, mocked him, and rejected him.  The one who loved me despite my sin, my darkness, my brokenness, my shame, and my shortcomings.

That Hope could breathe life back into my dying marriage.  Absolutely.  Just like He has done many times for others.  He could work a miracle and breathe life into something that has ceased to live.  I can't discount that possibility.  I can't deny Him the space to move and work and have His way.  He's a good God who loves marriage.  Who heals families, and brings restoration.  He can do anything.  I absolutely can say that I still have hope.  In the God who could do all of those things.

Even if He doesn't.

See, what I'm learning is that you can't put your hope in man, or chariots, or horses, or marriages, or anything else of this world.  Minds are broken.  Hearts are feeble.  Men are weak and selfish.  If you put your trust in those things, you are sure to be disappointed.  Because even if God is calling and prompting, and leading someone towards something, they can still say "no" and turn the other way.  They can walk away in disobedience and rebellion.  They can choose sin.

But God.  God never chooses sin.  Never chooses selfishness.  Never chooses bitterness.  Never chooses unforgiveness.  Never chooses spite.  Never chooses death.

No matter what my husband chooses, or what your child chooses, or what your parent chooses, or your girlfriend chooses- there is hope.  A hope that transcends all of this earthly suffering.  Hear me here- I'm not saying that Hope means we won't suffer.  I mean, Jesus promises us that we will suffer.  I'm saying that there's a light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.  Even if you're so in the thick of it that you just can't see anything but pitch black.  Trust me.  Trust HIM.  There is light.  There is hope.  There is life.

I find that often times when I go through intense trials that my hope feels more real.  In times when it feels like everything is falling apart and there is no logical reason to have hope- and I'm all about the logic of feelings and reasons and things- that hope swells up in me unfettered.  That I'm expectant.  I find myself waiting for the dawn because I know that after the fiercest storms come the most spectacular sunrises.

Beauty from ashes.

Hope from hopelessness.

This is the most battered I've ever been.  This is the fiercest storm I've ever clung to life through.  It's bleak, and black, and awful.  The night is raging all around me and I can't see anything.

So I just know- deep in the core of my heart- that whatever the dawn brings is going to be breathtaking.  Because that is this hope I have in my God.  Because "Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful, and righteous" (psalm  112:4)

So I'm trying to cling to hope in the Lord.  Even if he doesn't restore what is broken and dying.  Because He won't force anyone into anything.  Even if He knows it would be better in the long run.  And I'm trying not to put my hope in a man or a marriage, because it's brought nothing but heartbreak and intense pain.  And even if my marriage truly dies, out of the ashes I know that God will fashion something stunning.  Out of the darkness, the most beautiful morning will eventually dawn.

Hope is not lost.

Hope is never lost.  He reigns eternal.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What One Grieving Friend Wants You to Know

Ok.  Another dark and gloomy post.  Sort of.  Halfway.  We'll see soon, I guess.  I never really know what is going to make it's way out of these fingers once they hit the keyboard.  So on we go.

Grief is lonely.  It's one of those intensely personal, intensely overwhelming things that seems at times like it has no end.  And often it doesn't.  In the last five years I have experienced several different forms of loss and grief.

Almost a year and a half ago I lost a baby.  That loss has shaped me profoundly.  We named him/her Avery.  Lost at almost 11 weeks on New Years Day, I was completely and utterly shattered.  To love someone that you've never met, and then to lose them before your eyes are ever able to behold their beauty… it's unfathomable.  The physical and emotional toll was heavy, and painful, and dark.

And I thought I was alone.

Until I wrote a blog post about losing my sweet Avery, and the comments started pouring in.  I think by the time they finally died down there were about 100 comments.  The vast majority from friends that had also lost babies.  The vast majority of those were losses I never even knew about.  Suffered and mourned in silence.  And I started to feel a new sense of loss.  I had a new reason to grieve.  Because when we lose someone we love, especially if it could be construed that we had a hand in it, there is shame there that we don't want to feel.

Now, hear me, that shame is a lie.  That shame is the devil trying to isolate you.  To get you to stay silent.  To let yourself feel the weight of that burden alone.  Because here's the thing- when we speak out about our grief and our losses, sometimes it frees others to do the same.  Sometimes it opens the door for someone who has been desperate for support to reach out for it and share their burdens.  Because grief is an extraordinarily heavy load to bear.  And as Christians, we are called to share in the suffering of others, taking some of the weight if we can, provide love, compassion, and support.  So losing my baby and opening up about it made me painfully aware of how difficult it is for people to ask for help, support, and for others to mourn with them.  Ironically, in doing so myself, I found it freed a few others to do the same.

Today I am experiencing a new kind of loss, and an incredibly dark form of grief.  Sharing the loss of my baby was hard.  It felt like a risk.  Sharing the loss of my marriage has been awful.  The shame I feel from being left by my husband, of his complete and utter refusal to love me when it was hard, to fight for me and our marriage, and to love me unconditionally like he vowed to the day we became one… the shame of that is crushing.  The shame of being left, the embarrassment, the feeling of worthlessness on top of the blackest grief I've ever felt is almost too much to bear.

If you've read any of this blog you'll probably see that I don't have much of a filter.  I'm a sharer.  I believe that when we go through stuff, it's ok to talk about it.  Maybe someone else is going through something similar and they just need to hear that they aren't alone at the exact moment when they are thinking about ending it all.  Maybe someone needs to hear what another person is going through to find the strength to deal with abuse, or adultery, or addiction.  Who knows?  That's the point- I don't know.  But I do know that writing helps me process and heal, so maybe it will speak to someone else one day.  That being said, sharing this part of my life has been incredibly difficult.

I feel like I'm a failure.  I'm grieving the loss of my best friend and the man I thought was the love of my life, I'm grieving the loss of stability for my children, I'm grieving the beautiful dreams I had when I said yes to his marriage proposal, I'm grieving the brokenness my kids will come to see as normal…

It's an endless sea of grief.

Part of the reason I have had a hard time putting things into words is because of the emotional abuse I've realized I've been being conditioned with over the past few years.  The complete and total negation of my feelings, struggles, and fears.  The belittling of my heart.  The accusations of lying about the circumstances.  The constant gas-lighting and blame shifting for everything from his affair, to how he was incapable of seeing my depression for what it was instead of taking it as a personal assault.  When you are being told by the person you used to trust most that you are "pathetic" for needing the support of your friends and community around you, and God forbid, help as you try to begin to navigate the incredibly isolating and exhausting reality of your new situation, it can be hard not to internalize and accept that accusation.  That condemnation.  And when that is not an out-of-the-ordinary comment or type of comment, it becomes very easy to want to stay silent.  But silent I will not stay.

So on to my point.  What your grieving friend (aka me, but parts of this probably apply to the other grieving friends around you) wants you to know.

Loss is so freaking messy.  I know there are people out there that handle loss with incredible grace and dignity.  I'm finding that I'm not really one of them.  I know that makes me hard to be around.  I know that those raw and difficult emotions are uncomfortable.  I know you don't know what to say.  I know you want to make it better, to diminish the pain, to make sense of the loss.

But you can't.  It doesn't make sense.  Loss so rarely does.  And it's ok if you don't know what to say.  Frankly, sometimes the most comforting things friends have said to me in the past six months are not things that I'd typically classify as comforting.

Go ahead and tell me that you're sorry.  I'm sorry too.  Go ahead and tell me that it really freaking sucks, and you don't understand it.  I don't either.  And it helps to hear that I'm not the only one, because some days I feel like I'm losing my mind.  That reality has somehow shifted into this warped nightmare that I can't wake up from.  It's ok to tell me that you don't know what to say.  It's ok to sit in silence next to me when words just aren't enough.  Tell me anything, really.  As long as you're not trying to "fix" it, or me.

Grieving people can be hard to be around because we don't always have the extra capacity to make the first move, make light conversation, or smile like we used to.  We know we're hard to be around.  I've never in all of my life felt like a burden the way I do right now in the midst of my pain and grief.  I have one really amazing friend who listens to everything.  And I mean everything.  She's heard so much and listened for so long, and it pains me to put any more of the weight of my grief on her.  I've told her so many times that I hate that this is all I have to talk about these days.  That this is who I am right now.  And I know it's affecting her.  But she listens.  And she checks up on me if there's radio silence for too long.  And she isn't offended by my flakiness and absent mindedness.

And I think that's what I'd like you to know.  When people ask what they can do to help, it seems hard to find an answer.  Because help is in the intangibles.  Help is calling once or twice a week to make sure a grieving friend isn't isolating themselves and crying themselves to sleep too many nights a week. Help is sitting silently next to a heartbroken friend and holding their hand because words just aren't enough.  It's still inviting them over to events that used to be "couples" type activities even if you're worried it will make them feel awkward.  It probably won't.  They'll just be thankful that you are thinking about them and that they won't have to be alone with their grief for that hour or two.  Help looks like random coffee-drop offs and play dates in the morning so your friend can take a hot shower without worrying that one of their children will somehow end up with a concussion.  Help looks like being unafraid to offer to lay hands on your friend and pray for their heart, their circumstances, and their faith.

Basically, I'm asking you not to forget your grieving friends.  Because there's a pretty good chance that we are already struggling with feelings of worthlessness, feelings of isolation, and feelings of insecurity.  I know that I'm not the bubbly, outgoing woman I once was.  I'll find her again, I know I will.  But I think I will find her that much sooner with the help of the love of people who can see through the volatility, darkness, and discomfort of grief.

Then some day, God forbid, we will stand by you in your hour of loss.  Shouldering your pain in the way that you shouldered ours.  Weeping with you out of a heart that was softened by kind words and lovingly-spoken truth.

Grief is messy, and ugly, and raw.  But the person grieving isn't.  Even when we come off a bit ugly.  A bit harsh.  A bit raw.  That's the grief speaking.  The loneliness.  The loss.  We are just people longing for comfort, and one day, God willing, we will become expert comforters.  Burden lifters.  Shiners of light.  One day you may even hear us say that the grief was worth it.  That it made our hearts bigger, more open, more giving.  One day you may hear us say that the grief that once was so dark has helped us become more like Christ.

And maybe that's what I want you to know.  That this grief won't define me.  But how I use it for good when it was born out of something meant for evil, now that just may.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Letter to New Dads, From a Mom Who's Husband Left Her in the Thick of It

Hey New Dad!  Congratulations!  I see you and your beaming smile, surveying your new family with all the pride of a loving husband and proud father.  Life is so fresh, and exciting and new, and so are you, really.  So is your wife.  See, today your baby was born.  Which means a father was born (you), and a mother was born (your wife).  Big stuff.  Exciting and beautiful and exhilarating stuff.

Heavy stuff.

Can I talk to you frankly for a minute, New Dad?  There are some things people don't really like to talk about when you're getting ready to have a new baby.  People think it may scare you, or take away from your excitement and joy.  But I'd bet most of those people haven't been left while their babies were still babies because their husbands couldn't deal with the changes that a new baby brings.  I'm sure you are nothing like the kind of man that would consider cheating on his wife while their baby was not yet six months old.  And I'm sure you're not the kind of man that would leave your wife when your baby was not yet nine months old and file for divorce out of nowhere.

But my husband wasn't that man either.  We were both unprepared for what parenthood would do to our marriage, but I'd say that perhaps my ex was very unprepared.  So please, indulge me for a few minutes while I tell you a little bit about what a new baby brings.

I'm sure you're totally excited right now, New Dad, and happy to sacrifice your time, your personal space, your sleep, and the un-divided attention of your wife as you both figure out this whole parenthood thing.  I'd like to encourage you.  I'd like to help you be aware.  To keep your eyes open as the newness and the euphoria begins to wane.

Everyone talks about making sure their husband comes first no matter what once they have kids.  Yes.  Totally.  Your marriage is so so so important, New Dad.  Here's the thing, though.  It's going to be very very difficult for your wife, who probably totally agrees with the sentiment that you should come first in theory, to actually put anyone before your baby for a few years.  You see, the minute your baby was born, your wife's brain chemistry changed dramatically.  She is now hard-wired to respond to everything that your helpless little human does.  She's designed that way.  She'll get up to nurse your baby every two hours no matter how completely exhausted she is because she's feeling the biological imperative to care for your child.  She'll get up and walk away from you mid-sentance to get the baby out of his or her crib the minute it starts crying because she will have a physical reaction to the sound of her baby.  This is stuff you just can't really understand until you've experienced it.  Because it's so powerful.  It's so consuming.  Your wife will probably forget to eat half of the time because her need to take care of your baby is so strong.

She's not trying to neglect you.  She's not trying to neglect herself.  She's doing what she was designed and biologically programmed to do.  The thing is, our society has changed pretty dramatically in the last century.  A hundred years or so ago your wife would probably have had the daily help of her mom, her grandma, her sisters, some other female in her family.  She wouldn't have been expected to do everything on her own within weeks of giving birth.  She wouldn't have been cooking every meal, driving people around, cleaning the house, and getting up all night long without help.  But today, she is.  Your wife is trying to navigate a hostile cultural environment with very little help.  She will feel like she has to do it all, but she can't.  And she shouldn't.

You may have a hard time with all of this, New Dad.  You may start to miss the one on one time and attention that you used to get daily from your wife.  You may begin to resent the amount of love she shows your child while simultaneously repelling your physical advances at the end of the day.  You may even find yourself questioning if she still loves you because she's just not doing the things she used to do, or noticing the things about you she used to notice.

I'm begging you, New Dad, give your wife so much grace right now.  Every single aspect of her life has completely and utterly changed, and it is overwhelming.  She has no bodily autonomy.  No time for a relaxing shower.  No sleep.  If she seems distant or uninterested, offer to hang out with the baby so she can take a three hour nap.  Or a three hour shower.  Something that will help her feel like a human being again.  Put her first, like she's putting your child first.  Like she's probably put you first many times.  A New Mom needs her husband to be a lot more than she's ever needed before.  More of a support.  More of a helper around the house.  More of a quiet sounding board and listener on those rough and confusing days.  She needs strength and stability and undying empathy.

And can we talk about postpartum depression, New Dad?  Because it's a real monster.  And your wife probably won't recognize what it is for a long time.  Most doctors don't really screen for it.  Most New Moms don't really recognize it because it can manifest itself in lots of ways that may not remotely seem like "traditional depression." but will still knock her off her feet and flat on her face.

Post partum depression affects a lot of New Moms.  A lot.  Probably way more than we realize because so many go undiagnosed.  The really crappy and hard part about postpartum depression is that it can feel shameful (even though it's not!) because here is New Mom with her New Baby, and everyone is telling her that this should be the best and most beautiful time of her life, and when she doesn't feel that… well, she's probably going to think to that something must be wrong with her.  Her personality may change.  The hormonal garbage going on inside of your wife is nuts.  It's like a hydrogen bomb of hormones blasting everything in it's path and leaving destruction in it's wake.

Your wife may not seem interested in you.  Or life.  Or anything.  She may cry all of the time.  She may get angry about pretty much everything and nothing.  She may deal with crippling anxiety.  She may seem like she's a completely different person.  Every case is different.  Sometimes it's a bunch of crappy things all at once.  New Mom is probably going to complain to you.  She's probably going to talk to you about feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe unhappy.  Maybe super stressed.

Please don't tell New Mom things that are designed to hurt.  Phrases like "this is what you wanted.  If you can't handle it, maybe we shouldn't have more kids." are not helpful.  I repeat.  They are NOT helpful.  Please don't shame New Mom for struggling.  If she needs help, offer to make an appointment for her and go with her.  Take her to lunch before hand and tell her how you are there for her and always will be.  Tell her what a fantastic mom she is.  She probably doesn't feel like it, but she needs to hear it.  Over and over and over.  Please don't tell New Mom struggling with postpartum depression that she "Needs to see a counselor!!!" or that she "Needs Meds!!!!" New Mom needs kindness and gentleness and understanding and love.  Not shame.  Not guilt trips.  Not anger from New Dad because she is struggling and he doesn't know what to do or how to fix it.  Or worse, anger because she's just not living up to his expectations.

Please, New Dad, please remember that you and your wife are in such a difficult time.  No sleep, tons of new responsibility, maybe not enough support… it's trying for everyone.  Maybe you feel unhappy.  Maybe you wish your life could go back to what it was.  Maybe you are starting to think that none of this was what you signed up for.

But you did.  Maybe no one warned you that it was going to be this hard.  Maybe they did, and you didn't believe them.  Either way, New Dad, your family depends on you now.  Your wife depends on you now, more than she ever has before.  Even if she doesn't say it.  Even if she seems like she couldn't care less about spending time with you through that fog of postpartum depression and sleep deprivation.  Your family needs you, New Dad.

If you feel tempted to walk away, please go see a counselor.  Right away.  Please don't entertain selfish thoughts, New Dad.  The days are going to feel so long right now, but this really is a short time in your family's life.  And remember, your wife is a New Mom.  She's learning and changing and figuring things out along the way just like you.  Neither of you will be perfect.  That's ok.  As long as you fight for love, even when it's hard.  As long as you act out of compassion.  As long as you realize that someday soon New Mom will be able to put you first again.  But for now, maybe it's her turn to be put first.  And just maybe, New Dad, by putting her first you will find new depth that you didn't know you had.  New strength and integrity and love that you didn't realize you possessed.

I'm writing this to you, New Dad, as a New Mom who's husband didn't really do these things.  As a mom who now does all of the sleepless nights alone.  As a mom who just really desperately needed to be loved through all of the newness and hardships and postpartum garbage.  As a mom who wasn't.

New Mom may not tell you every day that she appreciates all that you do for her and your new baby.  Not today, anyway.  But one day your baby is going to have slept through the night for a week straight and your wife will finally feel rested enough to form a coherent statement of thankfulness.  Because she sees what you do for her and your little family.  Even if she is too deep in the throws of exhaustion and depression to put it into words.

This will be a really fantastically beautiful time, New Dad.  And it will also be really fantastically hard. But keep going.  The love New Mom will show you when she feels like a human being again will have been worth it.  It would have been for my ex.   But no one was there to tell him in the very beginning that this is what it would be like.  So I'll tell you.

Congratulations, New Dad.  You're going to be stretched in ways you never dreamed.  And if you can persevere and push through all of the crap, you're going to be such an amazing Dad and Husband.  A New Dad was born today.  And a with him, the possibility of a New Man as well.

Don't waste this opportunity.  It's worth it all.


A New Mom Who's Husband Left in the Thick of It

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Breaker of Bridges

I feel like I'm struggling to find my voice lately.  My heart screams contradictory accusations constantly, and it's overwhelming.  But tonight I feel like I owe some brutal honesty to my husband. Honesty about my heart and my failings and my struggles.

I can be really selfish.  Like most people I imagine myself to be benevolent, supportive, encouraging, loving, etc etc.  I feel that those were the things I have always tried to be.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably.  Often I fail miserably.  Eventually my gaze turns from being all of those great things for someone else to my own needs.  The things I believe I "deserve" and am "owed."  I am a largely confident and independent person, so I can go a decent amount of time in "selfless mode" and be ok.  For the most part I am able to meet my own needs, and I try to rely on Jesus to meet them.  But everyone has a breaking point.  Maybe the fault is my own.  Maybe I'm never really vulnerable enough from the get-go so it's easy to forget that I can be... maybe my difficulty lies in expressing my needs or the things I long for.  At least while they are manageable and before they lead to situations where I am bombarding my loved ones with very strongly spoken needs when I can no longer sustain myself without help, without tenderness from another, without someone taking care of me.  Bottled up, pent up, messed up feelings bubble over seemingly out of nowhere.  I'm sure it's overwhelming.

I've come to realize that my self sufficiency isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It's really just crappy pride. It's ok to need someone else and let them know they are needed.  It's not weakness.  But I still struggle with that.  It feels like weakness.

I hate being weak.

The problem is, and here's where it gets really muddy and confusing.  Trust me, I don't even understand myself.  I'm not just saying that...

I long for someone to invite me to be weak.

Confused yet?  Yep.  I imagine that my poor husband was too.

Let me try to break this down.  It's not going to make much sense.  Sorry.

I want to be able to be weak.

But I don't want to say it out loud to anyone.  It feels pathetic and shameful and for whatever reason, my damn pride wouldn't just let me say "I struggle with letting someone else be the strong one.  I feel like it always has to be me.  People tell me I'm "strong" often enough that it feels as if to be anything otherwise would somehow be wrong.  But it's so lonely and tiring to be "strong" all of the time.  All I've ever really wanted was for someone to look me in the eyes and tell me that I could rest with them.  That I could lay some of my burdens down and that they would gladly take them up when they started to feel too heavy.  That they wanted to be strong for me so that I didn't have to be.  Not all of the time.  That I could never be everything to everyone, and that's ok.  That I shouldn't feel that I have to be."

So when he couldn't read my mind, and my damn pride wouldn't let those words flow out of me, and I just got so tired, I retreated into myself.

I wish I hadn't done it.  It was lonely, and it made him feel lonely.  I see it now.  I just couldn't see it then.  Pride has a way of obscuring the truth.  Of making our sins and our brokenness and our weaknesses feel like something we have to hold onto for dear life.

The devil has really perfected that tactic.  Why didn't I see it?  (Now there I go again- that's my pride talking.  I didn't see it because in order to grow and to change and to mature you have to go through the fire.  I wasn't born all knowing?  Nope.  No, self, you were not.  Now stop it.)

I could go on and on and on about all of the ways I hate my pride.  The ways I hate pride in general. You could read for hours and I'm sure I would barely begin to scratch the surface of how awful and isolating and shattering pride is.

Let's look at it this way; if love is a bridge between two people, pride is the wind and the rain and the perpetual heavy-traffic and erosion.  At first it doesn't do structural damage to the bridge.  Maybe it's some cosmetic scratches and dings and dents, but you look at the bridge's supports and you know you're doing ok.  Maybe you patch the pot holes that start to pop up, maybe you just live with them as a consequence of time, a natural occurrence.  It is a bridge, after all.  It's going to get some wear and tear. Eventually you stop calling the engineers to inspect your bridge.  You're confident that this bridge was built to last.  This bridge can hold any weight.  Then one day it can't.  A giant semi barrels over this bridge that has been cracked and weather-beaten and fallen into disrepair, and the middle drops out.  The bridge has split into two, and there are only a few possible outcomes.

1. Both parties lay down their pride and don't engage in the futility of laying blame and rebuild that bridge because it's important.  It does important work.  It's harder to rebuild it than it would have been to do some simple repairs throughout the years, but it can be rebuilt.  And it can be built even stronger than it was before.

2.  One party blames the other for the destruction of the bridge.  They level at the other all of the evidence that they can find about how the offending party should have seen the damage that was being done to the bridge, but didn't.  Or they didn't care enough to fix it.  The party being blamed knows they played a part in the destruction of the bridge, but their pride rises up out of feelings of hurt and fear and confusion and no progress is made.  Impasse.  Again, this doesn't have to mean the total destruction of the bridge, simply that the work becomes two-fold.  The bridge must be repaired, but first so must the parties ability to work together for a positive outcome.

3.  Both parties shore up their pride and scream across the ever-growing divide at the other.  No one takes responsibility.  No one picks up the bricks and the stones in order to repair the bridge.  Instead they hurl them at one another until the expanse between them is so wide that it feels impossible that there was ever a bridge there to begin with.

I'm sure you see that there could be plenty of variations, but in the end it all boils down to pride. Freaking, selfish, pointless, death-blow-delivering pride.

Guys, it really doesn't matter who he is in these scenarios.  I can't control his behavior, and as much as I sometimes think I want to, I don't.  I want to be loved freely.  Forgiven freely.  Reached out to freely.  So all I can do is take responsibility for who I am in these scenarios.  And that has proven to be an incredibly difficult and painful task.  One which I have failed at pretty miserably.

I've attempted some rebuilding.  I really have.  It's what I want.  It's what my heart desires completely.  However, if I'm being honest with myself and all of you, I've done a whole lot of screaming and hurling and closing up.  Trying to overcome intense grief and fear and pain to be the person that quietly begins the process of rebuilding regardless of the actions of the other bested me.  I wish it hadn't, but it did.

So here I am, sitting alone at my desk, thinking about how things could have gone differently if I'd just let go of my pride and decided that doing what had to be done to save my marriage was worth more than my ego.  It's a crappy place to be.  And if you learn anything from me, learn this-

It isn't worth it.  Pride isn't worth it.  It never is, no matter how loudly it screams at you from the dark places of your heart.  Squash it.  Pray for the death of it.  Tell the devil where he can shove his contemptible sin.  Because love is worth everything.  I'm telling you this as someone mourning, deeply, the love she has lost.  Love is worth everything.  Be better than me.  Be more humble and gracious than me.  Maybe it won't solve your problems.  Maybe your bridge won't be repaired either. But at least you won't have to struggle with the regret that comes along with the destruction pride brings.

At least your heart won't harden and require reviving.

Of all the things I regret, of all the things I blame for the destruction of the one thing I held more dear than anything else, no matter how imperfectly, I regret letting pride get the better of me.  It has been a costly lesson.  The price is higher than I ever wanted to pay, and the regrets that will linger because of that will be pretty hard to get over.

Choose love, guys.  More than I did.  Choose humility and empathy and grace.  More than I did.  If all my messy brokenness helps one person find the strength to let Jesus flow through them in weakness and meekness and humility, then at least something good has come out of this.

Choose love.