Thursday, July 21, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong? Chapter 35: Steven

Don walked in to SPF7 energized with commentaries in hand. The routine of following Chris into the library, taunting Lurch, and smelling the academia enthralled him. His adrenaline pulsed as the excitement of learning a whole new language and a whole new world that he had never before experienced unfolded before him like a rose receiving the sun.
He sat down at the horseshoe table and surveyed the regulars. PJ Dunn, a freckled 40 year old mulatto man who had strong opinions and seemed to always have answers with which Type A always agreed. Scott Michael laughed and hit Michael Riley on the shoulder. Don noticed that Michael Riley had come a long way in his faith.  Michael Dryer stepped in the room and his voice penetrated the noise making it distinct above the roar.  He had an edgy sense of style and a confident air about him. He had a son in San Antonio that he kept making prayer requests about and he wondered why he didn’t just move down there. It seemed to Don that he had an overconfidence that was covering up something. What it was, he couldn’t say for sure.
Watching the chaos of Monday night before Chris got everyone’s attention made Don smile. Type A was in usual form smiling and encouraging everyone in the room, it was slightly sickening, but everyone knew it was just Type A. Brit came up from behind and put his arm around Don and Don smiled.
“Hey Brit, great to see you this evening.”
“Hey,” Brit smiled. “How’s Marion?”
“Great.” Don said and smiled. “Thanks for asking.”
The other men came in and sat down. Chris looked like he was back to himself. He opened the meeting talking about how bad it was with Zoe and what happened and how he had not been fully forthcoming with all of his sin and hurt. He then looked over at Don and thanked him in front of everyone.
Don didn’t feel like he had done anything special, but there was a bond that he shared with Chris that went beyond the tears of this week. It was based on a mutual trust and admiration they had for each other. It was strange that Don wanted to be close to a 30 year old straight Republican who was young enough to be his son.
Don noticed Steven looking down at his Bible and being uncharacteristically silent. Don wasn’t sure what to make of Steven. He had an incredible intellect, but Don felt he lacked the capacity to implement what he had learned. Steven caught Don staring and he tried to smile.
Ah ****. Don knew he was hurting. He had seen that look before.
Type A prayed the Bible study in and the book of Matthew was discussed in detail. When prayer requests came around, Steven shared his heart.
“Guys, I hate my wife.”
“What?” Don asked.
“I hate my wife. I’m tired of her ****. She has no ability to be intimate with me whatsoever. I feel like a complete failure for ministry and I just want to do something where I am wanted and loved.”
All eyes were on Steven.
“I can’t remember the last time we had sex. It feels like she always wants me at arm’s distance. Close enough to keep me desiring her, but never close enough to satisfy my manly desire. And believe me, it’s a big desire.”
Collective nervous laughter filled the awkwardness.
“My wife is battling depression, she had been in abusive relationships up until me and has a daughter whom I adore, but I feel trapped. Trapped with a woman who can’t love me—****! I get her back by not talking to her at all. She won’t give me sex and I won’t give her cuddling. She is also going through chemotherapy for cancer. I don’t know if that makes me a monster, but she is a ***** to me.”
“Thanks for sharing that, Steven,” Chris said.
Don had known these moments before and he had learned in AA that whenever someone shared an intense moment, no one should coddle the person or hug them or anything, because there was usually more to follow—and any intervention might quell that person’s desire to share.
Steven put his head in his hands for a moment and then just stared straight ahead. “This just sucks. That’s it for me.”
The Bible study went on with prayer requests, but Don couldn’t stop thinking about Steven. As Chris finished praying Steven walked toward the door and Don stopped him.
“I’m sorry for all that you are going through, Steven,” Don said.
“Thanks Don, I am not very good at being married. There is so much that I am clueless to, and I need God more than ever to love my wife.”
“I can understand that. You have committed to her and there are certain pains that come with commitment, treating each other well is one of them. If you can’t do that, then there are plenty of divorce lawyers who can set you free.”
“I could never do that, Don.”
“Why not?”
“Because I am a Christian and you can’t just go to 1-2-3 Divorce anytime you have a problem.”
“Sounds like you have a disaster, not a problem.”
“No offense, Don, but what the hell do you know?”
“I’ve been in a relationship for 18 years and it may not be perfect, but it sure as hell has been satisfying. I may not be straight, but I don’t give a ****, there is no reason why two people should be going through the hell that you both are.
“Don, relationships aren’t perfect and God hates divorce. I won’t even entertain that thought. Maybe God wants me to be miserable for the rest of my life.”
“****, why would anyone want your God.”
“Look Don, God is and I can’t deny that. Right now I can’t feel Him, I can’t sense Him, but I know He’s there. What that means to you, I don’t give a ****. I won’t even try to poke fingers into your relationship when mine is as you say a disaster. I know you are trying to help Don, so thanks for that, but I need to go.”
“Okay, well you know that I’m always here if you need to call.” Don said goodbye to Type A and the rest of the men. He got into his jeep and drove home. Don unlocked the door and stepped out of the cool air. He went into the kitchen and grabbed a water out of the fridge.
“Hey baby,” Don said.
“Hey,” Marion said and kissed him on the cheek.
Don turned around and went upstairs to his computer and tried to peck out an email. However something inside told him to pray. So Don pulled out his journal like McGregor and Type A had told him and started writing to God to help Steven.
Marion walked by the study and looked at Don furiously writing. He paused for a moment to watch, and then went to bed.

The next morning, Don woke up with an intense desire to pray. Was this the Lord? Don tiptoed downstairs and squinted at the clock on the wall. 4:30am. He started to journal again and he kept writing until his hand cramped. ****!  He wrung out his hand.
He then went upstairs and pecked out a message to Steven.

 Don Dent wrote:
Good morning Steven, You were a pleasure to talk with last night. I wanted to tell you that nothing is impossible with God, [look me telling you that—that’s ironic] I wish I could scream and holler and curse at you and that it would make a difference, but you evidently don't need any more stress. And all my rage would just enrage you. If you think it will help, I’ll jump up and down and curse the hell out of you. I'll scream and holler—only to help, I can also give you a huge tight bear hug and you can cry on my shoulder, without feeling insecure. [How's that for an offer]. I will do anything to help you—that is some me—but mostly God talking.
I wasn't a horrible non-Christian, I cared for people, but God takes caring to another level. There’s nothing I can do to make you love yourself, that's a process, I've been through, believe me, I know that process intimately. But the other side is great. Self-approval wow! Self-worth is nice. It’s not pride in a bad way. I prayed for you last night and this morning. I am so empathetic with you. I don't know you well, but your openness to share is such a huge deal, that expression is letting go of what's eating you, it's a big step, keep it up—Keep sharing as honestly as you did last night, I have a feeling you’re very close to a huge crying for forgiveness episode. I don't know what issues need forgiving—it’s not important, but you know, and I have suspicion that God knows, what the **** do you have to lose?
I’m being supportive the only way I know how, to offer physical comfort or to scream and holler, and I now offer my prayers. Don't forget Steven, you are a winner, I don't apologize for coming on strong—I will apologize if you tell me I’ve over stepped boundaries, but we said last night we would be honest, I'm new to this, so please know my intent is sincere and not one of blame.
Bye, Don

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong? Chapter 33: Broken

I walked into my apartment confused. Everyone seemed to be against Zoe. My mom, Bill, the Brodersens who had become an incredible mentor family for me—all thought I was nuts for even considering such a woman. But why? Sure she was young in her faith and had bouts with lying, but she loved everyone. She was kind and generous with people. She was trying, and she shared her faith openly and—she was beautiful. But deep down I knew something wasn’t right. I went to my apartment buried my face into my couch and prayed.
“Dear God,” I started, “please give me wisdom here. I know something isn’t right, but I love this girl. I love her with every ounce of my being and I know it’s crazy. Something inside me says there is something that isn’t right. Every godly counsel You have ever given me is not for this, but I can’t break it off with her if You don’t speak to me clearly. I need You.”
I prayed that over and over for what seemed to be an hour. I had frequented the First Baptist Prayer Tower in downtown Dallas many times waiting for God to respond. But the only thing I heard from God concerning her was “run.” I decided that that couldn’t be God, cause—well, I loved her and that didn’t sound very loving.
After praying I walked over to my laptop and typed Zoe’s full name into Google. References to her being an actress popped up, but then there was a strange reference to her name and another guy. It listed her name next to a wedding date. My RPMs redlined as I clicked on the link. I saw her in a Wedding Gown. I didn’t want to believe it. I saw her kissing another man. I saw her wedding cake with the date of a month ago. Everything inside me melted.
My thoughts spun and I kept walking to the couch and then picking up my phone to call her. I put the phone down. I texted her. It was over. I hit the floor in the fetal and wept. My mom called and I picked it up. She asked what was wrong and I tried to explain, but the emotion kept choking me. Within an hour my mom came and just held me like I was 5 and had just skinned my knee. Eventually the tears stopped and mom went home. Moms just know how to be there.
I had never had my heart broken like that. I had never been hurt so deeply, but there was nothing I could do now. It was over. I walked over to the window and watched the naked trees wave. I cried to the Lord to take the pain. I prayed that this pain would not be for nothing. That somehow the Lord could use this.
I put in a 24 DVD and let Jack Bauer save the world for a straight 24 hours. My phone rang over and over again. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to hear the “I told you so” I didn’t want to die that painful death again and relive it. I just wanted to fast forward life.
Then Don called and for some reason I answered it. My voice was still shaky and I knew Don could tell, but something about Don made me not care that I was a mess.
“Hey Don,” I said.
“What’s wrong, Chris? You sound terrible.”
“It’s over,” I said.
“What are you talking about? Zoe?”
“Yeah, she married someone else.” I said.
“****, Chris, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay. I know God is in this, but right now I am not okay. God answered my prayer, it just wasn’t the answer I wanted and I am feeling the consequences of not listening to him.”
“Well ****, Chris, love is tricky thing. It’s like a fog you walk into and then all of a sudden you are in a relationship.”
“I just don’t get why, Don. Why? Why would she lie like that. I know I wasn’t perfect, I know that I sinned against her in various ways, but she never stopped lying.”
And then something inside me erupted and I couldn’t stop crying. What can break an Airborne Ranger who has seen the horrors of combat and come out fairly unscathed—a woman.
“I’m coming over.”
“Okay,” I said.
In twenty minutes Don was at my apartment. His footsteps sounded like the cavalry coming to my rescue and I hugged him hard. I just kind of fell into his arms and just cried. I didn’t care for a moment that Don’s theology was completely screwed up. I didn’t care that he was living in sin. My own sins had brought me to a place of utter destruction that I had been warned about and warned about from the Lord and others and I knew it. After being beaten down about how Zoe was not God’s best for me, I had hidden the fact that I was still seeing her—except from Don. Maybe it was because I needed to be around someone who had screwed up worse than I had, I don’t know. I felt like a complete ministry failure. I felt like a complete life failure. Emotions whirled about in my heart and mind—I had reaped what I had sowed.
It was like experiencing a death, only it wasn’t a death, it was worse—it was betrayal.
Death is a clean cut. There is loss, but it is a dull ache that eventually fades. Betrayal is a jagged cut that heals and reopens over and over as the wondering if it can be made right somehow go through your mind.
I don’t know why Don was the only one I wanted to see at the moment. I don’t know why he had become like a best friend to me. I don’t know how that happened, I just knew that he had. I think it was here, crying into his shoulder that Don stopped being a project and fully stepped into friendship—a deep friendship.