In our hometown, there is a popular hiking trail known to locals as the Incline. The incline is the remains of an old railway up the side of a mountain and gains over 2,000 feet of elevation in less than one mile. It may not look challenging from the bottom, but the halfway point tells a different story. As you near the end of the Incline, preparing to take your last step, you are faced with the unexpected. Laying before you are 300 more railroad ties to the real summit. The false summit is the point where many hikers swear, curse the hiking gods, and look upon their final resting place just 300 steps away from their destination. My last post felt a little like a false summit in our marriage.
I didn’t see it. I thought I would, but I didn’t. Our marriage had been struggling for years, and I had been fighting for so long that I somehow missed it. I was out celebrating a friend’s birthday with a group of girls from work at a country dance hall when I spotted what I thought was one of Chris’s old friends. I walked up to him to say hello. After he said he didn’t know Chris, I stammered out an awkward apology before walking back to my friends.
It’s as if the heavens opened up and declared my destiny in a single name…at least that’s what I thought at the time. We had been surviving the first few months after I found out about Chris’s affair. Each day of our marriage was spent in the trenches, and each night brought both celebration for making it one more day and trepidation for what that night’s dreams would bring to life. I had started reading the Bible again, because what else could I do? I had grown up reading the Bible, and I was familiar enough with the stories to turn to a chapter that I could relate to. So I flipped through the pages until I landed in Hosea.
Before community groups and life groups, churches held Sunday night potlucks and Wednesday night Bible studies. Whether attending a community-building event, tagging along with my dad to elders’ meetings, or helping my mom fill tiny cups with grape juice for Sunday morning communion, I was always finding myself at the church. I can still remember the smell of the church kitchen and the sound of the empty auditorium, but it’s hard to pair specific memories with the moments my beliefs took shape.
When Chris and I “went public” with our marital struggles, we discovered that people reacted to the truth of our brokenness in very different ways. Some withdrew, afraid that our brokenness was somehow akin to the Ebola virus and sure to be contagious. Others withdrew simply because they had no idea how to help, and the silence and pain was awkward. And yet others withdrew, because they had not left any space in their life for people who were hurting. Some came close, close enough to judge, condemn, and preach. Others came close to join the train-wreck party, and rejoiced in knowing that they were not alone. Then there were Corrie and Sarah.