A message from the wilderness

I had a couple who came to see me for a long time. She said things would be fine in their relationship if he would communicate, take time to get to know her, deal with his past, not use drugs, alcohol, or pornography to sooth himself when he felt bad - her list was very long. He mostly sat quietly and spoke only when spoken to.

She was right in as much as her husband had many issues. She was mistaken in thinking that I would perform a healing exorcism.

Eventually they divorced. I was sad and grateful. He could never do all of what she wanted and the more she realized this, the more insistent she became that he change. The more insistent she became, the harder he worked to remove himself from her. Had they stayed together, they would have driven each other to ruin.

We all have a place where our purest ideals and hopes are kept. We are never more powerfully involved with those ideals and hopes than when we try to unite ourselves with someone we believe to be a soulmate. A soulmate might be a lover, friend, even family member.

If the soulmate turns out to be a disappointment or heartache, we feel betrayed. The betrayal is usually twofold. First, we feel betrayed by the person who hurts us. Then we feel betrayed by our own inner voice.

It is often the case for people of faith that the inner voice is the voice of God. The woman who was my client was convinced that God was directing her to love her husband. Her expectation was that her love for her husband and obedience to God would bring out her husband's full potential which would, in turn, bring intimacy to her.

Spiritual crisis follows betrayal and the discovery that we do not hear God as clearly as we might hope forces us to examine our choices in ways that seem antithetical to faith.

I have said, many times, that one of the hardest persons for me to see in counseling is someone who is sure they heard God. How can I, or anyone for that matter, argue with what God told someone?

When the couple I had been seeing finally decided to go their separate ways I wondered if she would find what she wanted in another partner. I wondered how long it would take him to find a new rescuer with the energy to help him live up to his potential. I wondered if anything we talked about over a two year period would guide them to better choices, more flexible thinking, more creative problem solving, and deeper self examination. I never heard from either of them again and so my questions remain unanswered.

I came away from that experience, and others like it, realizing that hope, hard work, careful listening, and faithfulness, cannot bridge all distances between people. Wanting to do the right thing, hoping to love the right way, intending to make the right choices, desiring to listen to the voice of reason and wisdom, do not innoculate us from betrayal, disappointment, and disillusionment.

I have wondered why try? The only answer I have, and it's my answer for me, is that I prefer to hope, work hard, listen carefully, etc. over surrendering to despair. And, don't take this the wrong way, I expect to be disappointed, betrayed, and crushed. I don't go looking for trouble but I know it happens and that it can happen to me even when I am loving as deeply and fully as I know how.

One of the great ironies of life, at least as I know it, is that the more engaged I become with living the more alone I really am. Not always lonely but never completely fulfilled.

Having said that, I am writing today as one traveling in a wilderness of sorts. Not abandoned to wander but bound to accept hunger and discomfort as part of the price one pays for setting out to find a much bigger God than the one I have known so far.

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