“Four years ago today, we all woke up early, excited to go snow skiing. It was going to be Lacey’s first time on skis, and Lane was excited to get back out for some more practice, while little Leanne who was two, would get to hang out with Grandma Sara in the lodge. Heather, who was about 20 weeks along with our fourth child, opted to stay home and relax. She hadn’t been feeling well, and I hoped the rest without the kids might help. She had been prone to preterm labor with both of our girls, and seemed to be having similar issues this round. In fact, she was concerned she might be miscarrying. Still thinking that rest and quiet would be a good thing, we loaded up our gear, and crowded into the van with Heather’s brother, Jim, and his oldest, Lizzy, and headed off to the slopes for our long awaited group ski trip.
In retrospect, that was a very foolish and insensitive thing to do. We were still on the gravel road, about a mile from home when Heather called to say something was wrong. She had miscarried, and was hemorrhaging – lots of blood! We flipped around quickly and were back a few minutes later. While Jim stayed in the car with the kids, I ran into help Heather and analyze the situation.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw as I walked quickly into the dining room! Heather had tried to go from the bathroom back to the bedroom, but only made it about 10’ before getting so unsteady she went down. There she was, lying in a growing pool of blood! I don’t believe anything before, or since, has ever scared me that bad! I’ve been an avid hunter all my life, and especially within the bow-hunting realm where hemorrhaging is the primary issue in assuring quick, ethical, and humane kills. Blood has never bothered me in the least. But all that experience gives me a pretty good feel for the effects of rapid blood loss, and seeing my most beloved person in the world, in a pool of her own blood, shook me to the core!
I got her sort of cleaned up, bundled up, and loaded up, while Jim took our kids back to his and Rachael’s place for the day. Poor Jim and Rachael got a bit more than they bargained for, as we ended up going from the ER in Harrisonville, up to Research Hospital for the night. We did not realize it at the time, but that was just a liability shuffle as they never ended up doing more than keeping Heather “under observation” for a while. It did serve to give us some piece of mind though, so the exercise was not totally futile.
That was a lot to deal with for me, and undoubtedly, for Heather as well. Nobody wants to lose their child, or spend their birthday (Heather’s on the 25th) in the hospital concerned about hemorrhaging. The full impacts of that event are still being lived out I’m afraid, for that was what I see as the beginning of the end for our marriage and our family, though no one could have known so at the time. I just wrote a bit about the concept of “emotional freeze points” that Gary Smalley and John Trent introduced in their book, “The Two Sides of Love”. I believe we both experienced that in the course of this event.
It was not a conscious thing, but we both went “shields up” relationally with each other, as well as with others. I now see how even our children were emotionally deprived of our involvement, as they quickly sought attachment to other sources of love and acceptance. As the husband and father, I lacked the tools to adequately lead my family through that event. I lacked the ability to emotionally seek healing for myself, and therefore, I had nothing to offer my wife and children but the pain that I shoved out of sight within myself. I rode bulls for a decade, and I knew how to continue to function through physical pain, and naturally applied the same methods to the soul-wrenching emotional hurt of losing a baby, and by all appearances, my wife. But what is helpful and positive in dealing with physical pain, is neither healthy, or good, in coping with emotional pain, which does not simply heal with time.
While there are emotional implications of dealing with physical pain, it is more of a surface issue. Physical pain sort of floats on the surface of the emotional pool, and over time it floats to the edge and gets pulled out as our bodies naturally heal. Then, it is only a memory. In contrast, emotional pain is like a bottle of iodine being dumped into the pool. It can quickly mix throughout, and thoroughly contaminate the whole body of water in a very short time. It is below the surface, and its concentration is impossible to assess from without, and difficult to judge even within ones’ own self.
What is an antidote? Sympathy, compassion, empathy, and understanding are a good place to start from without. These are all necessary components that we can exercise through loving one another, and as Christ says “bearing one another’s burdens”. But there is more to it than just that. Unlike physical injuries that result in pain, emotional pain goes deeper, and requires some conscious self-evaluation and exercise to heal. Time may do wonders where the physical is concerned, but emotionally, time often just results in poisoning the soul. Instead of healing, it festers and infects us more and more.
How do we experience this infection? Discontentment, fear, anger, bitterness and strife are all indicators of unhealthy emotional conditions. Undoubtedly, there are many more, but you get the picture. In the Bible, unforgiveness is a big one.
So what are we to do if we are experiencing this emotional infection? Well, from a practical standpoint we must start with the cross of Christ. Understanding our forgiveness of sins due to His sacrifice on the cross for our sins is critical to experiencing the healing power of Christ in our lives.
But wait, you may say, didn’t you grow up in a Christian home, in solid Biblically based churches? Why yes, as a matter of fact I did. I know intellectually all of the answers, but I failed to correlate them to my emotions. There is a dramatic difference between ‘knowing’ something and ‘applying’ it. Therein lies the danger for those in our Christian culture who can so easily separate the emotional and intellectual elements of truth. Plus, God has created us as individuals with different strengths, weaknesses, and needs. In addition to our unique entities, our environment also has a major influence in forming our character. It is especially important to understand these characteristics and their implications in our spouse. I did not.
In the beginning of our relationship I was certainly more attuned to my wife, but failed to maintain that basic relational component as our marriage progressed; the distractions of children and making a living trumped knowing and being known. Never underestimate the value of strengthening your relational foundation while the weather is nice. For when the storms of life come that will test your foundation, you are out of time to build anymore. And while you are probably thinking, well, if Christ is that foundation….? I assure you, both of us would have adamantly claimed He was.
Yet, here we are: Divorced after four children and 9 ½ years of marriage. I sit in prison while my ex-wife and kids live in another state and only interact with me via a court ordered provision in the divorce decree stating she has to let the kids send me a card, note, or coloring sheet once per month.
I failed my family. The foundation that was my responsibility to build as the husband and spiritual leader of my home was insufficient to weather the trials that God allowed to test us. So often, and so pointlessly, I catch myself thinking, “If I only knew then what I know now…” But that opportunity is blown. Perhaps not forever—I pray for mercy for my family. My marital sin of sexual unfaithfulness is certainly mine to bear, and I daily hope and pray for the restoration of my marriage and my family. I assure you, there are dire consequences for flagrant sin. But the God I serve can resurrect the dead, and certainly has the power to change hearts and circumstances to restore a broken family.
Regardless, please learn from my mistakes! If by telling this painful story I can help save someone else’s relationship, it is worth the pain of doing so. Even if it is simply improved and strengthened, to God be the glory! I pray that my pain might be your gain. Trials will come no matter who you are. Work on your foundation with that in mind. Confess your sins and struggles one to another. Provide a safe environment for your spouse to do so, or I guarantee they won’t, at least not very often. We get pretty gun-shy with someone hammering on us, and nobody can do that with the kind of precision your spouse can! I have come to believe that forgiveness is a critical component of your foundation. Learn it, and practice it, just as Scripture commands us to do. I pray you survive the beatings of life intact.”