Monday, January 23, 2017

Stories of Hope - Jodie's Story 26 - The tough truth I need to share...

So after my last post about anger I’m about to share how practical this information was to me…and how much I likely ignored it at times.  I am really not sure where to start with this section or how much to share. It’s pivotal to my faith journey but it’s not entirely my story to share…so if it seems vague…well that’s because it seemed to be the only fair way to present it. 

I wrote in my last post that anger is a learned response to a provoking situation. In June of 2011 I would come to experience anger on a whole new level and it was certainly brought out by a provoking situation.  As I had mentioned in my last post that Geoff was struggling with his mental health and depression and that caused anger issues for him…and in turn for me and within our marriage.  We were actively seeing a psychiatrist that also did couples counselling.  Although it seemed to be like a slow process, we did seem to be moving forward. 

And that’s why what happened completely rocked my boat and made me doubt myself and my marriage. Over the years Geoff had told me some things that seemed a bit questionable but when I asked him further his responses always eased my mind just enough.  However, without getting into too many details, I had come across some information that made me question things Geoff was doing.  When I finally had stewed long enough, and perhaps had gotten the courage to bring it up, a devastating truth was shared with me.  Once again, this part being Geoff’s story to share, I will limit what I say and will only share that what I learned shattered my trust in him.  A lot of people would not have been as upset about this event, so much of the things that were happening have become very normalized in our society but for me it made me feel betrayed and made me question what I felt the vows of our marriage meant.  It also made me question why I was even trying at all. 

Geoff was very distraught that I had discovered this and was very humble and apologetic.  I think he knew the seriousness of it for me, for my feelings towards him when I wouldn’t fight.  I mentioned last post that I would get angry I would speak my mind and get a release.  This time, however, I remained silent except to tell him how hurt, disappointed and betrayed I felt.  And to his credit, he didn’t try to excuse his actions or give any sort of justification.  I guess I didn’t totally remain silent… I spent many moments in tears.  I felt so lost, so confused, so hurt.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do but, and this is hard to share, I felt certain that I was done trying, done with my marriage. 

We happened to meet with the psychiatrist we’d been seeing just days after this had all come to light.  He sensed right away that I was full of tension and anger and things we not remotely okay between us. He asked me what was wrong and my response wasn’t at all what he expected…because usually I would tell him what was bugging me, what had happened this time to cause tension between us.  I told him that Geoff could explain what happened but that nothing could be said that would fix this.  And so Geoff, in a very humble and quiet voice, with his eyes to the floor, shared what had transpired with the doctor. 

And when it was all out in the open the doctor then completely shocked me with the question “Do you see any reason to stay married to him?” To this day I’m not sure why he asked it that way or what he thought my response was but, having trust between us shattered, having lived with the job losses and financial stress for this long and having dealt with his anger I remember saying, “No, I see no reason at all.  He’s shattered all trust I have in him and he’s a shitty dad because all he does is yell at the kids.”

It was so hard to write that…to share with the world that I had given up on my marriage and voiced it out loud.  I don’t like that we were in that place but I also know that we wouldn’t be where we are today without it happening.  God used this for good too…but again, I’ll get to that in a bit. 

The doctor’s shared his thoughts with us which actually really surprised me.  I didn’t expect anyone to validate me in this way I guess, I expected that given societies views of this subject that he would just offer some ideas for working through it.  Instead, after a few other questions, he asked me if I could think of good reasons to stay married.  I looked up at him and at Geoff and I wept… because the only answer I could give in the hurt state I was in was “the only one that I can think of is financial”.  He then asked Geoff the same question and he responded with something along the lines of ‘she’s my everything, I love her and can’t imagine life without her.’  Given my state of mind, I made some sort of sarcastic comment and told him he was full of it, that he had a very bizarre way of showing he loved me.  Remember that anger I wrote about last post…oh boy was it controlling things here!

After much discussion about what I meant by that, about the debt load we were sitting on and the expenses we had that required two incomes to cover, the psychiatrist offered his thoughts.  Given where my trust levels were at and that I didn’t feel I could afford to live without his income, he suggested we live in a more co-habitation, co-existing arrangement for a while.  He talked to Geoff a lot about rebuilding trust and offered suggestions to him.  To me he said that I could chose to give him a chance or not to, that I could and should remain in a place that I felt my heart was safe from being further hurt until I was ready.  He told Geoff that he must give me space and allow me to be angry, hurt and unwilling to trust, that it was my timeline, not his. 

And with this in mind we left his office and went home.  Life was strained, life was tough. Geoff was so apologetic and so careful around me but also gave me my space…including our bedroom, which became my safe haven. It didn’t really matter to me what he did to make it better, I was still so angry.  I moved past the sad part to just all out anger and sarcasm or all but ignoring him.  Some nights I didn’t come home from work and went and visited others instead.  I took the boys and did stuff with them on my own.  And when others were around us we faked it really well. 

About 3 days after this appointment Geoff was home with Cameron while the other two were at school.  He found a book on my nightstand and felt like he needed to read it.  It had been sent to us by my best friend and was called “ True Love begins with God”.  It was a book based on 1st Corinthians 13 and was written  to “give us a clear, concise description of what true love looks like in everyday life - in marriage, family, and in all our relationships. It is a love that comes from heaven.” It explored how to show love in relationships in a way that weren’t based on performance and it gave so many insights on how God can help with that.  I’d had the book for a year or two and tried to read it to help my own marriage but gave it because I felt like I was ‘going it alone’.  Anyway, that day Geoff picked up the book, read it cover to cover which is a miracle in itself since he rarely reads more than a few pages at a time, certainly never more than 50 per day.  He says he felt an overwhelming desire to cry out to God and ask him to come into his heart and to help him.  The following day he was driving and thinking about the book and the prayer he’d said and suddenly a calm settled over him and he felt like everything was going to be ok, no matter what happened between us. 

So of course I jumped up and down for joy that my husband had found the Lord right???  WRONG!!!  As horrible as this will sound, I felt like I was being lied to even further, that this was a ploy to get me to forgive him, to give him another chance.  I am pretty sure I laughed at him and told him he was full of crap and to leave me alone.  Dark and scary times for me for sure…anger is just so powerful!

And Geoff, with his newfound faith and the assurance it brought, seemed ok with my doubt, my anger, my sarcasm.  He told me he’d wait forever for me, that nothing would change how much he loved me and to take all the time I needed.  He began to read the bible, to listen to worship music and to pray and pray and pray. 

Initially when I had found out I had started to walk…alone or with Cameron in his stroller.  I’d walk and walk, all over town.  It was my way of coping and it was also my way of avoiding.  I didn’t want to talk to him about it, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, didn’t want to give him a chance.  A week or so after Geoff came to Christ he asked me if he could join me.  I said no and he didn’t say anything more and let me go.  The next time he asked, I said that I needed this time by myself.  Again he let me go.  The third time he asked I told him he could but we couldn’t talk about it and if he did and I got uncomfortable, I would walk away. 

And so began our walks.  That first night we talked about mundane things and left all serious topics alone.  The next time we went we talked about God, Jesus, faith, religion etc. There seemed much to talk about on this subject and it was difficult for me to talk about faith the way Geoff did…with such a comfort level with Jesus, such a relationship and with so much curiosity. So much curiosity and so many questions…questions that I’d never really given any thought to because I’d grown up knowing a bit about God and Jesus, a bit about bible stories and biblical ideas, the concept of the trinity and, the big one for Geoff, ‘fearing God’.  For me these were just things I had accepted and never questioned so I didn’t have the answers and didn’t realize I should either have them or have the questions…not just accept it as told.     I remember after one such walk and talk session that Geoff told me he thought I was going to have a harder time with this ‘newfound faith’, with changing faith based mindsets, than he was because I had so much to unlearn so to speak.  As time has gone on I realize he was right and he was wrong.  It was harder for me to just blindly trust at the start but not so hard to change my mindset.

It wasn’t until we’d been walking together for a week or two that he brought up anything to do with us.  Gradually we talked about our relationship, about mistakes and about how I felt.  He was always so calm about it, so patient and so apologetic. Still though, I found myself holding back, unwilling to trust, unwilling to move ahead.  I don’t know if I would say that eventually he wore me down but eventually his enthusiasm for Jesus and his hopeful and peace filled attitude began to rub off on me and I found myself more willing to listen, to do things together, to spend time together.  For a number of weeks I still couldn’t be alone with him, always had a child or two along for a buffer.  In due time, however, I accepted an invitation for a date.  It was a wonderful night and it was a start to allowing him back into my life….slowly, very slowly. 

The slow pace continued for us until, ironically, loss and grief threw us back into each other’s arms. A friend we’d both known well since before we actually knew each other was killed in a tragic accident and suddenly life seemed too short to hold on to grudges, to carry unforgiveness.  It still took many, many months for trust to be regained…and we’re still working at that….but we returned fully to our life as husband and wife and began to work together to find our way with this newfound faith that seemed to have enveloped us both. 

A few weeks after our friend passed away the second BIG step in our faith journey happened as we attended our first service at an evangelical church.  There was no doubt at all that we were exactly where God wanted us to be after only a few minutes into the sermon that Pastor Rob preached.  The basis of it was on enduring trials and how they make your faith stronger despite being very difficult to get through.  It was the first time I’d ever heard James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

and I knew once I heard it and heard the words there about perseverance  and the sermon on enduring trials and allowing it to work on our hearts, to change us, to bring us closer to God, that I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be, that this was exactly the message God wanted me to hear. 

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