With the love of my life gone, I fell into an even deeper depression. Drinking became my only real hobby. I spent the better part of the next year drunk. I moved around from place to place and had several jobs. Life was miserable during that time period and I spent the majority of that time trying to make everyone else around me just as miserable.
Something happened though that got me off the drinking. I found out that i had a sister, which I had never met. My father and her mother had been together during his time in the Marines and she was the product of their relationship. My sister is only 7 months older than me. After getting out of the military, my father met my mother, got married and shortly after she had me. Finding out that I had a sister was one thing, but then she came to visit and I found out that she was very religious….annoyingly religious.
My sister was constantly asking me to go to church with her. I kept saying no, but it didn’t stop her from asking and so finally I relented. I had been raised religious but in my late teens had left the church and had considered myself an atheist since then. It was a Wednesday night service and so there were hardly any people there but I generally enjoyed the experience. It seemed like this was something I could do, to fill my time and would give my life structure. Over time I enjoyed it more and more, to the point that I actually found myself becoming religious. I quit drinking, stopped many other bad habits, and started working within the church.
I come from a family of ministers and so I figured, if I enjoy this, why not become a minister. It was also around this time that I met my second wife. It might seem strange but I had converted every bit of love that I had felt for my first wife into a complete hatred of all things that reminded me of her. So I married a woman that was a complete polar opposite to the first. Where my first wife was sweet, my second wife was coarse. Where my first wife was considerate, my second was selfish. Where my first wife was beautiful, my second wife was plain and somewhat homely. This did not go well.
Becoming a minister was easy, living with someone that hated my guts on the other hand was not. Even so I figured that no one on Earth was really happy, so I could survive in a loveless, anger filled life. Over time, my ex cheated on me with several different men. During the years we were together, I said to myself, if I ever caught her outright, I would be gone. Knowing she was cheating and catching her cheating were two entirely different things. We were married for almost 10 years without me catching her. Another of her favorite things to do, was threaten divorce, almost weekly she was going to divorce me for some reason but it never happened. Luckily enough for me, she got interested in a college professor and admitted to me that she was trying to sleep with him. She encouraged me to find someone else to sleep with, but I had my out, unfortunately my faith was anti-divorce and so I knew that if I chose to divorce her, I would have to give up my ministry.
In all honesty, my faith had not continued as strongly as it had been in the beginning. Truth be told, I pleaded with God almost nightly to give me some sort of sign that he did exist. When no sign came, my faith lessened more and more. It might seem strange, but the last two years of my ministry, I was more or less an atheist behind the pulpit. Ministry was the high point in my life at that time, and even though I didn’t believe, I still enjoyed being a minister. So when it came to losing my ministry, or continuing in a horrible marriage, the choice was not easy.
One night I was teaching on 1st Corinthians 13, it’s a familiar passage even to those outside the faith. I read,
“Love is patient, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
As I read those scriptures, a deep guilt fell over me. I was deceiving the people of the church, pretending that I had a faith that no longer was my own. I was living in a marriage of deceit, and I was deceiving myself, pretending that it was ok. I went home that night and told my ex that I wanted a divorce. The next Sunday I stepped down from the ministry and began to take back control of my life.
A few weeks later I moved in with one of my friends. Something still was not right. The deception that I had built up in my mind began to crumble. All of that hatred that I had felt for so many years was gone. I began to recall some of my own faults in my first marriage and even though I knew I would never win back the love of my life, I could at least reach out to her and let her know that I was sorry for my part of what led to our divorce. I spent days trying to figure out exactly how I was going to get in touch with her. How was I going to say I was sorry? After 10 years would she even respond?
I sat down at my computer and wrote the only thing that came to mind.
“Hey, you look like a girl I used to know.”
Stay tuned for the Epilogue tomorrow.