Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Even Death Passage

The last few months before the trip had been the worst. He was unhappy—profoundly and seemingly inescapably unhappy. It had been a long winter. “I resign,” he would inexplicably mutter under his breath as he drove or showered or sat in his office. Each day was another tug on the rope around his neck—when would his toes leave the ground? He was convinced he was losing his mind. His members seemed cold and unappreciative. Attendance sagged. Distractions and dissensions and time -consuming though unrewarding tasks with nothing to do with the ministry loomed unrelentingly and unceasingly. Even the most trifling matters seemed to take on an insurmountable immensity. Depressed and burned out, he didn’t talk to her, and when he did, it was only to rant. Come home, mix a drink, retreat to his office and his books: that was the evening ritual. And what did she do? She gave him time to work through his funk.

It came to a head not long before he left. She knocked on the door to his office and mentioned something that needed to be done—not nagging, just reminding. He exploded, vehemently took to task everyone and everything that had knocked the wind out of him, turned his bed into a hideout, stripped his church life of what made the church the church. He was relentless, rabid, someone he’d never been before. And while he was swinging at the world, she took all the verbal punches; mad at God and the devil and everything in between, she was the one he berated. And why? Because she would sit there and take it. Because she would forgive him. Because her commitment to him didn’t depend on how much he did, or how far he bent backwards, or how careful he was not to offend. Because she loved him, loved him as the church loves Christ precisely and even as he treated her as the old evil foe does Christ’s bride. And she took it. She sat there. She looked at him with eyes that said that she knew him and this wasn’t him and that if this might bring him back she’d happily bear with it all. And he hated himself all the more. Would he ever be able to tell her he loved her again and not have it seem a joke? What untold damage had he done that he would never be able to repair? What would she harbor for the rest of her life because of him? How would she remember him? Would she remember him?

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