Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recounting Fatherhood: An Unapologetic Recovering from Separation and Divorce

I am writing this article for possible publication. (And obviously editing for length)

Recounting Fatherhood: An Unapologetic Recovering from Separation and Divorce
by, Brent Posada

I had always thought of myself as a Christian. I prayed everyday, "God I hope this movie is worth the money..." I had always thought of myself as a good husband. I did everything my wife needed. Dishes? Check. Laundry? Check. Dinner? Check. Kids to bed? Check. Check. And I had always thought of myself as a good father. I worked to keep a roof over their heads. I spent every waking hour feeding, changing and scolding them. I thought I loved them. I even thought my wife loved me. But how can you really love something when you really don't know what love is? My life was not great, but it was livable, until he came into her life knocked me to my knees. Sometimes it is on our knees where we find our greatest healing.

Complacency is a funny thing. It hits you when you least suspect it. It holds you like an intimate lover and it strokes your hair whispering reassurance in your ear. Its seductive manner is as such that you simply become comfortable. It lulls you into bed and promises relaxation. But it is in that bed that the worst of fears creep up on you and eventually fall asleep in your arms. I am ashamed to admit it, but that's me you see lying in that bed.

I've been there about six months and I can't get up. See that grin on my face? That's what I called peace. See the way I hold that pillow to my chest? That's what I called love. My pajamas? Comfort. My bed? Home. You see the TV in the corner? That's my real god. Yeah, I prayed every day. I prayed that God would help me with this and that. I prayed that he would show me His face. It never occurred to me that with my mind I was praying to one God, but with my heart, another.

Look at the wall behind my sleeping mass. You see the family picture? That's me with my wife and my two daughters and my son from another marriage. Yeah, I was married once before. No, it wasn't her fault. It was all me. I dropped the ball. I gave in and left. In a way, what happened next was my payback. If you believe in that sort of thing, but we will talk about that later. For now, let's focus on this marriage. The one that just ended.

We've been together 4 years, married less. We have two daughters together aged three and two. They are my little princesses, and they have no problem telling me that on a daily basis. In a way this story is about them as much it is my walk with God and how I found that again for the first time. It took almost thirty years, but God finally popped in to say hello, and this time the door was open.

A little bit of back-story and I promise you will understand what in the world I am talking about. I am a PK. For those with little knowledge of the church jargon, PK means "Preacher's Kid." This can mean one of two things. Either wildly rebellious or clean cut and down to earth, seldom having an exception. For me, I always thought I was the latter. In retrospect, I have denied myself in saying this. I was the rebel from the start. I just never admitted it for reasons that closely resemble ego and or pride. I started smoking at age 18. Drinking at age 20. And sex? Lets not go there. Let us just say that I had a problem with honesty with my first wife. But, like I said, we do our best healing on our knees. I had no idea how thick the calluses were on her knees.

My marriage to my first wife ended with the infidelity that spurned this new and ending marriage. From the start, my wife had a problem being honest with me, and to a degree, I with her. I never lied about major things. I never cheated on her, and I honestly never even looked at another woman with lust in my eyes or my heart. She was the woman I chose, with all her flaws and all her goodness. I gave everything to her and our relationship. I never even flinched. It came naturally, as I thought it was supposed to be with love. However, there was one thing I never gave her, as my father so eloquently put it so many times. And that was a relationship with God. We were a Christian couple, but only in name. Not in practice. Not even a little bit.

At first our relationship was perfect. We enjoyed each other’s company more than being apart. We did everything together. We went out. We ate fast food and drove fast cars. We played games together and watched movies. To everyone around us, our relationship was enviable to the degree that I had friends and co-workers coming to me for advice on their own relationships. The ironic thing is that I told most of them to do the one thing I was not doing in my own relationship: “Put God first and the rest will follow.”

After two daughters and my son from my first marriage, things began to change. I noticed my wife beginning to become restless. Her patience for the kids grew thin and she began to lash out at my son. Her attitude seemed that of jealousy, stating frequently that I paid more attention to him than to my daughters. Simply put, I had him 2 very short days a week and I soaked up as much as I could then, but I never neglected my daughters. And I never neglected her. I’m not saying I was a model of perfection in a father and a husband, but I did everything I could for my family and especially my wife. In Ephesians chapter 5 verses 21 through 25 it says, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" I fully submitted to her, but there was never the submission in reverse. Nevertheless, I loved her in spite of all these things.

After our big move into our dream house things seemed like they would only get better. Instead they got worse. We began to fight more and more. Tensions over her inability to assist in daily chores because of the difficulty of watching our children began to come to a head and my temper began to increase. Her neglect of the house turned into disrespect of our own personal property and the children. Crayon and marker on the walls became a regular occurrence. I dreaded coming home and kissing her as she left for work as I knew the mess that awaited me after my eight-hour workday. She would work for 4-6 hours in the evening during which I would be cleaning and catching up non-stop with all of the housework, minus the “tidied-up” living room, all the while taking care of the kids and putting them to bed.

Sleeping late was her addiction and thus my children would stay in their room by barrier of baby-gate until she dragged herself out of bed anywhere from 10am to noon. In January, I began dragging her to the sofa so the kids could play there while she slept and hopefully woke up earlier. I would wake up at 7am, shower, shave, change the kids, feed the kids, move my wife to the living room and be off to work. I would then work eight hours, come home, take care of the kids, clean up the daily mess, put the kids to bed, do the laundry, dishes, and whatever else hadn’t been done. Then a home she came and it was time to watch TV or do whatever she wanted because she could not go to sleep yet. She said she wanted to spend time with me, but deep down I knew it was just superficial.

It was during this time I began to drink fairly heavily. I had struggled with it in the past, but this is when it hit the hardest. From the futility of the thankless daily routine and the outright rejection of anything but superficial intimacy I turned my frustrations toward alcohol. All the while God made a tent outside my front door and routinely knocked to see if I was ready for Him to come in. I sat in my chair drunk and frustrated hungering for the sweet release that never came. She sat beside me growing more hesitant with every pointless breath. Her sleeping in was only a symptom of a greater problem. She was not happy. The monotony had stretched it’s cold dead hand over her spirit and had crushed it.

As the routine began to stagnate for both of us, arguments became the norm and we grew further apart. To try and regain excitement in her life she began to invite several male co-workers over to hang out. I would be lying if I did not see it coming, but I wanted to believe that she truly only wanted friends. However, as time began to batten the hatches on our fate, I saw the true colors of the situation with stunning clarity. I was holding her back from the affair she so wanted and longed for. She was turning to the comfort of another man instead of turning to me for her comfort. To be honest, the me of yesterday would not have been much of a comfort to her. I was not in a place with my walk with God to have given her even the smallest degree of solace. I was still doing things my way. In retrospect, I was more of a father figure to her than the husband I needed to be. Though, not for lack of reasons, her behavior was bordering on the low end of childish.

Her sleeping in and neglecting my children had come to a head with me and I was grasping at the proverbial straws as to how to handle it. Finally, I resorted to a video camera set up on the bar in the living room, hoping I could show her the tape and allow her the ability come to terms with her neglect. She found the camera and assumed I was trying to catch her. Her immediate response was infidelity and the request for divorce. Her obvious disenchantment with marriage had come to a head. Which brings us to the current circumstances of my journey.

Having never really understood what it was to have been on this end of infidelity, I really had no idea what I was in for. I did, however, have a stunning example that had been there in front of me for the last four years. My first wife. All I had to do was look at the way she had treated me and I could see Christ. And in that moment, I realized all the pain and hurt I had not only caused God, but her and my son. Like I said before, prior to her leaving me, my walk with God was kind of a run in opposite directions. My Bible was actually in my laundry room covered in lint. But The first night after she left, I picked it up and opened to Isaiah 56 and 57. If you read it, be warned, you may not like what you hear. It deals with complacency and illicit pursuits, partying, and neglecting God. As I read it, my focus was my wife and what she was doing to me. You see how selfish I was? I could not even read it for what it was, God talking to me about me. He told me, "The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion; they, they are your lot. Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings and offered grain offerings. In view of all this, should I relent?" Isaiah 56:6

Dear God, "Please Don't!" For a couple weeks I sulked and cried knowing my wife was in another man's bed and could care less about her children. During that time she said and did things to me that no man should ever have to endure. But something had changed inside of me. Something was working on my heart softening it so that I was able to respond with nothing but love and care. She was having intimacy with another man, but I was having intimacy with God. My heart, all the broken pieces, screamed for love and affection and was met by the silence of the Hand of God at work. At first He just rearranged the pieces for me, showing me how they were going to fit back together. First was cleaning my house. The disaster of Katrina proportions. My best friend, Kelly, and her boyfriend came over and we had a cleaning party. It took a solid six hours to decimate the mess, crayon off the walls, mop the kitchen, clean the bathrooms, and empty the garbage from the coffee table and under the couch. Six hours and I could already feel the depression turning into something new. I was not sure what, then.

The next week my parents came from Florida and my brother from Southern California to stay with me and help me get off my butt and back onto my feet. Hugs were plentiful, and encouraging words were always ready for me. My mother burned through four years worth of laundry as my dad put up all the child locks I never had the time to do. All the things I had asked my wife to do on numerous occasions were now complete and I could not understand how she could not have done them in the past. Then I remembered my childhood favorite Bible passage, “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest- Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man." Proverbs 6:10-11

Again, I had to baton down the urge to point too much at her, as I was guilty of the same thing on yet a greater level. And as I have told you that I realized everything my wife was doing to me was what I was doing in my relationship with God, well, I cannot take credit for that discovery. The first few days after D-Day, I sought pity and solace from any ear that would listen. I wanted my wife back and I wanted my life back. I cried. I read my Bible. I prayed, but I really didn't want to hear it. I wanted to hear her voice telling me she loved me and wanted to come home. I wanted to see her face in my doorway again with longing in her eyes. (Truthfully, there is still a part of me that wants that to this day. But without God there is no tomorrow.) I sought answers to questions I was not ready for answers to. Why did this happen? Was I really that bad? etc. Then a random wave at a friend I hardly talked to in the supermarket parking lot tipped the scales in my own personal "Rube Goldberg."

After waving at Brandon, I parked at Wal-Mart and went inside, completed my purchase for work and left. Arriving at work I parked and Brandon pulled up. We talked and he explained that he heard what had happened to me from our mutual friend. He then informed me that he had been through the same thing in his own life and that he would love to talk to me later. I called him when I left work. It's not that I had not talked to anyone else about my experience, but I found solace in the words spoken to me from experience.

Now understand, my father comes from 30 years of pastoral service which includes quite a bit of counseling. I talk to my parents on a daily basis and they speak to me out of love regarding anything I may have done or has been done to me. But sometimes the words of your parents fall on deaf ears. And that simply because they are YOUR parents and you have heard many of the same things over and over throughout your life. This is my own problem and something I work on on a daily basis. But the words spoken to me that night in my tears and anger and frustration hit me in the stomach with a punch that resonated for weeks after. I had cheated on God. I had raised idols in my own life that had set themselves on my mantel waiting impatiently for my daily worship. God, however, sat in my closet patiently awaiting my return. Occasionally I would dust Him off and turn my questions and requests to Him, but the prayers of a deceitful heart fall upon deaf ears.

For years I had called myself a Christian yet lived in lust and corruption. My heart was laden with treasures that were drowning me in the sea and I was oblivious to my own need for the breath of the Holy Spirit. And I set this example for my wife and my kids! How sad is that? I never took them to church and made up my reasons why and made up my mind that I did not need it. Still, my parents faithful prayers and my friends encouragement carried through, and the morning after she asked for a divorce and chose another man over me, I loaded my girls up in the car and took them to my old church.

I entered the lobby and immediately felt the breath of God on my face. I was home. I realize now that I do not need church. I do not need to go on Sunday, but I do need the breath of God and the fellowship of other Christians to sustain my countenance and comfort my spirit.

Back to the words of my friend. I listened to him talk and I felt peace about my own situation. No matter how alike his situation was to mine, I know that my situation may or may not end the way his did with reconciliation, but it is my obligation and my joy to honor my commitment to God and my wife. Whether she chooses to honor her commitment to me or not is irrelevant. That day I learned what it was to serve God and be blessed through my pain. I'm not saying I do not hurt. I do. On a daily basis I think about the betrayal I feel and I get sick to the point of vomiting when I think about the intimate relationship my wife carried on with a co-worker. But when I think of that, I also think of the pain God must have felt every time I looked at something impure. Or the illness He felt every time I chose sleeping in over going to church. Or the mere disgust He must have had when I left my first wife in much the same manner. I ask not for sympathy, but for the ability to give testimony to the power of God to pull you out of your despair and give you a chance to breathe again. Don’t believe me? Read James 1. But a word of caution, you had better understand the meaning of considering it joy to face your trials because the alternative is quite unpleasant. Life is too short to focus on your pains. As Private Trip (Denzel Washington) said on “Glory,” “Buck up!” When you weather the storm, face it! Put your face into the wind and scream as though no one can hear you, “YOU ARE MINE AND YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME!”

My wife has since broken up with the "other guy" and has moved back in with me until she finds another place to live, but she has not committed to working on our relationship, only to hold off on filing for divorce. Our separation is now legal in the eyes of the Law, but in the eyes of God we are still married. I will honor her as my wife not only because of this, but because I love her and I want her to come to the Lord and be saved. I want to see her become the woman God wants her to be. I want to see her be a mother to our two daughters. If we get back together it will be only through God and His perfect plan. I will not settle for less.

In this storm I am in, I feel peace. I feel the peace that passes all understanding. Love is not just a word, it is an action that never stops. I urge you to not use that word in vain. If you say the words and do not have the fortitude to back them up with your actions, you will pay the price I am paying right now. I told God I loved Him and I did not back it up with actions. I stagnated. And it took my wife leaving to wake me from my stupor. This is an ongoing battle with no end in sight and I intend to be long-suffering as my friend also told me to be. Right now, I am broken. Completely broken. But God is fixing me. I have an amazing family that flew halfway around the world to be with me in my hour of need and have been a constant source of encouragement in my life. My mom especially has been the one to kick my butt into gear on more occasions than one. I have the Simpsons who have watched my kids while I worked while my wife was in her own world. I have my brother who dropped everything to come see me. (Thanks Tim) And I have He who began a good work in me. And HE will carry me through until completion. I believe that with my whole heart. All the broken pieces.

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