Guest post by "David A."
A note from James Russell Lingerfelt: Wherever we are in life, we are all on a journey. There is never an “arrival.” If this article arises infuriating feelings within, may I invite you to focus on David’s transparency and the courage it took for him to share a story for anyone in the world to read.
This article is not about whether his actions, reactions, life, or leadership is or isn’t admirable. It’s about a man who experienced deep levels of pain and regret, yet mustered the courage to press onward, find hope, and then share his story.
Falling but finding the courage to rise and try again; this is so many of our stories. Through conflict and rising, we become new people. We are never thankful for the hurtful times. But once the wounds become scars and no longer cause pain, we find ourselves thankful for the lessons we learned.
Those scars remind us of where we’ve been and we live with a deeper sense of meaning, purpose, clarity. We are no longer living by theories but realize we now have experience.
In regards to the article below, I’ve developed trusting relationships with spiritual, religious, social, and political leaders. No matter how much you admire a person, or how well put together they seem, at the end of the day, they’re just people.
From David: I was a senior pastor of a church. This was not supposed to happen, not to me. But it did (I speak with the formal naivety I once owned). But things happen to everyone.
Mine was not a case of cheating, but of being a battered husband. The shame and pain, the difficulty for me to forgive, the plethora of unmentioned losses were incalculable: to lose my wife, my children, my home, my ministry after twenty years.
I foolishly concealed what was taking place in my private life because I was ashamed and afraid of what people would think if they found out the truth. My understanding of leadership was skewed.
Men were being mentored for leadership roles in the church, and when I strove to make our home an open home to them, I had no choice but to become completely transparent.
My wife and I were married for 17 years. During the last 3 years of our marriage, her violence erupted regularly. It began after we had returned form overseas missionary work. She had a breakdown after encountering all the suffering in third world countries.
She punched, kicked, bit. Once while we were riding in the van, she jerked the steering wheel trying to make us wreck. The kids were loaded in the back. Sometimes she expended so much energy she would go to bed for a couple of days at a time.
I didn’t know how to handle this. I had never raised my hand or my voice at her. We had fifteen years of happy, harmonious marriage. Love and mutual respect. But during the violence, there were times when all I could do was get out of the home and walk the streets. When it began to happen in front of my kids, that was the real humiliation.
We went to a self help group and discovered that about other couples shared similar stories of their wive’s violence. This was more widespread than we expected.
I stepped down from my position at the church and tried another 3 years to save our marriage. I had no idea what I was doing. It’s not like there’s a handbook to every single situation in life. Depression set in and I was overcome with a deep sense of failure.
The weight of believing I had let my kids down, the people in the church, and all the rest. Here’s a theologian’s question: How is it that all I've been taught and teach myself doesn’t work where the rubber meets the road?
My heart went out to Gerald Rogers for his article. His many noble and mentioned shortcomings. But he is only in the first stages of his walk as a single man. Will he carry the stigma of a divorcee? And the destructive baggage of his past? I hope not.
It took me ten years of seeking healing before I began to find some measure of peace. Part of this is in fault of my carrying secret guilt, shame, failure, and my unwillingness to forgive my wife.
I have never ever contemplated suicide because I believe there is too much loving to do. But I understand those who have.
Years of secret pain, at times, felt unbearable. I knew these experiences would effect my three boys and even shape the paths they choose in life. And I was not there to help guide them through the week since I could only visit with them on the weekends.
Then, taking them home and the aggression and violence of my wife attacking me in the street… Unforgiving spouses can use the children in the destructive game of “I’m taking vengeance.”
I learned through all of the pain and failure, that guilt and shame are the most difficult of all, because I had to live with me. I hated what I had done, thus hated myself.
I told the man in the mirror that I hadn’t loved enough, laid down my life enough, given my wife enough attention and concern, etc. This, in turn, evoked more resentment from her.
After fourteen years, I’ve arrived to a period of discovering grace and new beginnings at a whole new level. I became a man set free. Many will not or ever understand this.
I had grown a beard and grew accustomed to wearing sunglasses so that people couldn’t recognize me or see into my eyes. But then I shaved and discarded the glasses, as if I was reborn.
During the time of our separation and divorce, I had made attempts to reconcile, but we both carried so much past baggage, hurt and resentment. We remained separated, and some years later, she passed away from cancer.
It wasn’t long after, that I was introduced to a woman through mutual friends. A wonderful woman who had come out of a destructive marriage with an unfaithful husband. And she too had found healing. Within a week of dating her, I had fallen in love with her and proposed. And we were married three months later.
We have been happily married now for over fifteen years. There is life after divorce. Just make sure you have found healing from the past, that all the cupboards that could potentially hold skeletons are swept clean and cleared out.
There is hope.
Read another popular post: Don’t Ever Apologize For Loving Someone – Not Ever!
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