Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Selling The Past

In a few days, the home that my wife and I bought in 2002, will close escrow. To me, that house represented a big part of our life together. It was the place where our kids would finish growing up. I thought it would be the place where we, as a family, would call home until—well, until I died, at least. But circumstances changed.

Within the period of six years after moving into this home, my wife became disenchanted with our marriage. She never said anything to me, but she evidently began harboring some anger and resentment that she was unable to express. I noticed that her once avid church attendance became more of an exception instead of the rule. Shortly after moving into our new home, my wife gave up her decision to become a teacher saying there wasn't enough earning potential to support my retirement later on. Instead, she entered the field of Human Resources. It seems sarcastically poignant that the beautiful young bride I had exchanged vows with nearly fifteen years earlier, had become an at will wife.

The winter evening in January when she declared that she wanted a divorce, my world came crashing down around me. I was barely able to absorb everything she was telling me. It was almost as though this were happening to someone else and I was watching the destruction of someone else's marriage on some cheesy Lifetime Movie. As reality sank in, I was shoved downhill on an increasing cycle of insomnia, eating disorders, and an inability to concentrate. I played and replayed the recording of her complaints in my head, trying to make notes all of the issues that she had given for leaving me. It turned out that the charges relating to my marital dysfunction were largely the behavioral symptoms of an undiagnosed chronic depression that had probably been festering for years...maybe decades.

There are so many reasons for divorce. And for many, depression can be an immovable boulder that results in the eventual death of too many marriages. Vows regarding sickness and health easily find their limits when faced with protracted periods of isolation, detachment, lost libido, unrelenting pessimism and negativity. The only reasons I've ever been able to justify for leaving a marriage are either the abuse of the spouse and/or kids, or remorseless and continued infidelity. Unfortunately for me, my wife didn't share the same threshold of divorce justification.

I energetically sought treatment for my state of depression. Even though my physician and therapist said that overcoming the effects of chronic depression could take a long time, I couldn't give up on trying to save the most important human relationship in this world to me.

The past 19 months of my life have been a washing machine of volatile emotion. Not long after my wife filed for divorce, I made some discoveries that answered the biggest question that had dogged me. While my depression-fed behavior was a difficult thing to bear, I can't help but assume it was a secondary cause and certainly a convenient reason for leaving me. This revelation certainly explained why she rejected any attempts at marriage counseling or seeing if treatment for my depression would improve our outlook together and preserve our family.

As hard as it has been, all I could do is let go of her, move on and try to find healing and happiness. At first, the phases of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance were repeated over and over, then again in no particular order. I would be at peace and in a state of acceptance one day, then the next day I would be so angry I could kill her. Minutes later I would be in denial that she was really going through with the divorce at all. I was a mess. Was? Hell—I'm wrecked. Loneliness has tempted to put my heart back out there for someone else, but the divorce won't be final until at least November and I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that pursuing a romantic relationship while I'm still legally married, is in bad taste.

I still hold onto the hope that God might arrange life's circumstances in such a way that could bring our marriage and family back together. However, miracles are seemingly rare commodity in a modern spiritual economy. Dwelling too intently on what could be regarding "us", is almost as futile as looking back at what we could have been. The reminders of our life together (our kids) are sadly a painful one much of the time. I hear and see my lost love in their faces, words, and actions.

The house that represented our past and our future will be gone in six days. A past memory in hundreds of photos taken over the years. A place we shared many happy times as a couple and a family. But to Lucy, they have evidently lost their ability to call her back from her decision. Some measure of healing must have occurred in my heart for me to exchange those hopes for a wad of money. With all of the pain I've endured anguishing over the past and projecting worry and anxiety into the future... I have decided that I have to begin living in the moment. God has shown me that the here and now is the only thing that is real and meaningful. Letting these moments go to waste while having too many backward or forward thoughts, is a habit I am anxious to lose. I'll let God take care of my future. I already know He has taken care of my past. In the moment that I can totally just live RIGHT THERE for God, is the moment I will have the perfect peace, joy and the irresistible love of God in my heart.

I welcome any responses, but I hope these posts will serve as an encouragement to those who are going through the pains of separation and divorce.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fight or Flight

Faced with life challenging situations, the natural order of things is usually either to stand and hold the line to the best of our ability, or we determine the challenge is beyond our ability to fight so we take flight either to regroup or retreat.

In the life of Christian faith, we stand, in a spiritual sense, by the strength of the ultimate victor [Christ] who conquered the very death and grave that is appointed to all mankind. If we count on the saving grace of the gospel, we know conceptually that the Creator of the universe has our back, and even if we begin to sense our battles are going against us, we cast our fate into God's hands and determine in our hearts to come away with the positive things that can be taken from the field - win or lose.

Taking value from life's dreadful episodes, requires a HARD look for the oft overlooked sparkle of those precious diamonds formed by trial. Some of life's most grievous chapters contain a bounty of greatness...if we can look for the gem instead of dwelling on the jam. Rejecting defeatism and refusing to quit can turn losers into winners. Even though I've lost my wife and had my family divided in half, I cannot afford to let my circumstances defeat me.

I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 53. I have probably lived at least two decades with an accumulating chronic depression. The classic behavioral symptoms were much less severe in my late 20's and early 30's, or maybe those symptoms just weren't as easy to pin-point considering all of the drugs I shoveled into my system since adolescence. I can't be sure if the beginnings of depression caused me to self medicate, or if my self-medication produced the depression. Either way, its a safe bet that unstable pharmaceuticals cooked up in some hippie's garage might have crippled normal brain function and hormone development during my post-adolescence. As a person struggling with depression, I'm really a "newb". I'm hardly in any position to give advice or dispense any sagacity in regards to psychology. However, I believe its safe to assume that a general skill set is essential if people in my situation even hope to maintain ground while fighting on two separate fronts simultaneously.

What I found to be an essential ally in my fight against depression, was the same aspect of my being that allowed Christian faith to come to me in the first place. CHOICE. And even though I couldn't effect my wife's choice to leave me and divide our family, I still had a choice in how I would respond to the situation. I determined that attempting the same patience and long suffering Christ shows me, was a good place to start.

In my prayers I intercede for my children and my wife. What she has decided to throw away by the power of the courts, I seek to keep sacred between myself and God. I realize that she will always be free to exercise her own will. Nevertheless, until she remarries, I am trying to keep in mind that God is the one who has the final say in our relationship and our family. I try with all my mind, heart, soul, and strength to trust whatever God's decision brings. Even if His decision is to let her go forever.

How I choose to respond to my depression is to take all negative thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5). I struggle against floods of emotion-fueled defeatism and pessimism, with sandbags of reason and truth. And when I find myself overwhelmed by too high a tide...I take respite in the healing that comes from prayer and the Spirit as well as a program of properly prescribed medication. After all, we are beings of spirit, mind, and body and in the same way the spirit affects the mind and body, the mind and body also affects the spirit. In a perfectly biblical world, we can imagine that all infirmities are cast out with prayer and trusting faith. But in reality, it is no less regrettable to apply the same medical principles that we would appropriate to diabetes or hypertension with hardly a Godward thought.

All in all, however, the most effective tool in having peace and joy in the midst of trials is my choice to delight myself in the Lord. I'm not always successful. But that is what discipleship is all about. Practice, practice, practice! Certainly grabbing hold of joy and peace while life's circumstances are drop-kicking your heart through a hedge of thorns isn't easy. Failure is to be expected, but ultimate defeat cannot occur if we start each new day with a decision to be delighted in our relationship with God. Being devoted to a God that shows love, grace, and who is far more obsessed with saving, than condemning...makes the morning far easier to face. The God of all creation numbers the hairs on our heads and takes notice of the small things that we are often blind to. While our days might be numbered, He has all time in the world at His disposal.

Its ironic how the sovereignty of our choices contain the power to either make us the most miserable putz on the planet, or an embodiment of His joy and glory.