I’m going to back up a little from the last blog. There’s some things I skipped over that are important to what I have for this edition. The time from when I quit my job until Amber’s breakdown was a weird time for me. Not having a job and being a stay at home dad was an odd experience. On one hand I enjoyed not being gone for days on end, but on the other hand there was no real direction or purpose. Sure, I helped keep track of inventory, take deliveries, help set up and tear down any local events she had, but that’s not the same. It’s not good for a man to not have a job, a purpose. That’s when men tend to get in trouble from either being complacent or trying to find things to do that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. This always makes me think of King David not doing what he was supposed to and staying home while the Army went to war. He got bored, complacent and tempted by the neighbor lady. The rest is history. When men are doing what they are designed to do they tend to not get into trouble.
While Amber was building her business I was getting more involved in church. By the time she took the sleeping pills I was considered a “leader” and was well-known by many. The rest of the time was spent with the kids, the gym, running or video games. The video games were an easy escape from what I couldn’t wrap my head around. The fantasy world of the video game made more sense than the real world I was in. That six months was extremely important to me being prepared for the future and building a relationship with our kids.
The church we were at had an Encounter Ministry. Basically the men would take a weekend to deal with spiritual issues and encounter God. The first one I went on was a pivotal weekend. Popular theology states that when you first get “saved” you receive God’s Holy Spirit and that’s it, there is no second impartation of the Spirit. That weekend, on the last night, as we were praying one of the pastors walked by. As he was praying he touched my chest and what felt like a lightning bolt hit me and literally knocked me off my feet. I struggled to stand up and He hit me again. That was the second filling and it was vital. Not everyone will experience the same thing as dramatically as another so don’t question what you have. The weeks following the encounter the men met for a post-encounter group. One of the nights this same pastor was obedient to the Spirit and sat me in a chair. He told the other men to gather around and pray over me and my family because there was a lot of trial and turmoil coming. Not what you want to hear, but I’m extremely thankful he did. From this point my involvement with the church grew considerably.
Fast forward to after my wife came home from the state hospital. We had to literally rebuild. The church family was good to me and very supportive. As good intentioned as they were, they didn’t know what to do with her. Mental health issues is very daunting for people as it’s hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it. As a default action people tend to avoid what they don’t understand and are uncomfortable with further isolating the person with the mental health issue.
She was like a zombie, a shell of the person she used to be. The meds really messed her head up, but the doc insisted she needed them. She was also battling shame and guilt over what we were facing. She felt isolated from the church and felt as though she was a pariah. She said later that everyone loved me and she was just “Andy’s wife”, a sentiment that we have been told by numerous wives of husbands who are very active in the church. I know this is not intentional on the part of anyone in the church, but it is how it seemed.
At some point she decided to come off the meds because she didn’t like how they made her feel, the weight gain or the side effects. She seemed to be doing OK so we chalked up the past being due to stress and a one-off event. Our situation was different so why shouldn’t she be better? When dealing with mental health things don’t seem as they really are, especially if the person is very good at masking the issue. She was feeling left behind by me and the kids and turned to horses and the horse rescue. They needed her, to her we were doing fine. This lead to such a great involvement that the kids gravitated to me as the one stable thing in the home. She was gone a lot taking care of a horse that was in bad shape. This is where she met the individual she would later leave with.
As events escalated I had to make a demand, Stop the relationship with this other person. That was the only option. We could deal with our issues, but only after that. She said she would think about it and was confused. The next day I took the kids shopping for new bathing suits for that afternoon. When we came back she was gone. All we had was a note on the table saying we didn’t need her and the kids would be better off with me. We had no idea where she went. It took several people a couple of days to track her down. After a month she decided she wanted to work it out and come home, but she was still mentally tormented and felt that she needed to admit herself to another behavioral facility. After two weeks there she came home for a few days then left again while I was at work. This time it would be for almost a full year.
The kids and I had to figure out how to carry on without her. With my job it was very difficult, but thankfully my family was close and a tremendous help. It was at this point that I enrolled in ministry school. We also agreed that we would divorce. She stated that she didn’t intend to come back. It was better this way. We came to an agreement on how to settle things and filed the separation. Sadly the attorney I used went to our church and had plenty of business just from church members in the community.
I didn’t handle everything perfectly. I also didn’t sit around with faith that God was going to miraculously fix things. Frankly I didn’t want Him to. I was burned out and had the blessings of the church leadership and the denominations district superintendents. I did have peace that was very uncommon and knew that I couldn’t let the kids get away with disrespecting their mom regardless of how much my flesh felt like she deserved it. When praying about how to handle things my mind went back to something our pastor used to say. Pray for those your mad at, it’s impossible to stay mad at someone you’re praying for. So every night the kids and I would kneel around the footstool and pray for Amber and the man she was with. These weren’t the “Lord change them” demands we issue disguised as prayers. These were “God, reach them, heal them, forgive them” prayers. It didn’t take long before none of us were mad at her and we were easily able to forgive both of them.
A couple of months in Amber called and told me she had an opportunity to move to Texas and take a job at a well-known reigning horse ranch. I encouraged her to go and build a new life. Her family and the people who knew her where we lived would always view her in-light of recent events. Many in our church held a grudge against her and were very distant when they saw her. I explained this to the kids and they were OK with her moving. We reached an agreement on when and how she would see the kids.
While in Texas she had some serious health issues arise. The kids and I were doing pretty good and had that peace that surpasses all understanding even though we were stressed. They had issues to work through, but they were and they were also building their own faith based on what they saw from me. Then out of the blue she called me while I was at work detailing an unforeseen turn of events that I wasn’t sure I was willing to accept. This took incredible faith on her part and unquestioning obedience to God’s will. That’s for part 4.