Sunday, February 21, 2016

Then Things Got Strange

As we continued on in this new project, like I feared, things got worse.  I don't know if it was the increased work load, the detailed work focused on little things and not people (outside of my husband's energy-giving sphere), or an attack against us, but things got worse.  My husband would work a full day at the office, come home, nap on the couch until a late supper, and then work for another five hours on the new work.  He would be up early in the morning because that was when people on the other side of the world were up, and on his computer in our bedroom talking away and working.  It didn't do good for our relationship.  I began to parent alone again - entering the awful world of preteen boys all alone.  If the kids disturbed him or were loud at home when he was on the phone - which he so very often was for so very long - he was angry with me for not having them under control.  I had two boys with ADHD attempting to navigate school with varying degrees of success, and I was working a part time job to supplement our income.

We were far too busy.

I tried not to complain.  After all, I was also deeply invested in the work my husband was doing and was willing to sacrifice to see it done.  But I also wanted a husband and a father for our kids.  We hadn't learned to take time out for each other and for family.  A new couple joined us at the office and instead of being a help to us, they came with their own agenda and their own pressure because their sending agency wanted them to do things their way.  That ended up splitting the fledgling church that was in our city because they had to "plant" a church.  Working with an existing fledgling church and helping grow it would not meet the demands of their agency, so they pulled people out of the one to create another that they "planted".  This caused division and trouble among the little group.  They also came into the office and grew very close to one family of the two that worked with us and spent much time with them.... and not the other.  This also caused more problems.  My husband was the "hearer" of the problems and maintained a fairly calm demeanor at work, but then would come home and vent his emotions at home.  One day, I again tried to ask Dick, as our field leader, for help.  He told me at first that I must be lying or exaggerating because my husband "does not get angry".  He told me that my husband had lived with them for a year once and he had never seen him angry, so either I am lying or it is something wrong with me because he never gets angry at anyone else.  This began to erode more and more at my confidence and my sense of self that I hardly knew what to think any more.  I knew he was wrong, but there was no way to talk to him.  He either accused me of being too emotional  or being too logical.  He continued to tell me and my husband that I was "damaged" from my past and that I am weak.

In desperation, I went to our pastor, and my husband agreed to go with me for counseling.  I was actually really optimistic.   This was the first time he had agreed to go to someone besides Dick, and I had great hopes that things would being to work out if only we could talk and get some godly counsel.  The first session, the pastor listened to us talk.  At the end, he handed us this two page list of references.  Bible verses.  About 120 of them.  He wanted us to look them all up; they were references to different sins, and list the ways each of us were sinning according to these verses.  We were both stunned.... but we wanted to cooperate, so we tried to work our way through them all on top of our busy lives.  List after list of sins, we waded through.  When we went back, we mentioned that it was a lot of verses.  His comment was, "Some people would think it is not enough."  On the bright side, it did get us talking, because on the way home every week, we would talk about how odd this pastor's method of counseling was - that he seemed to have no idea of what to do other than condemn people.  But, the problem was, we couldn't stop going without looking like we were rebelling, so we went, but there was little value in it.  He was a good preacher, but not a counselor.

At some point in here, because Dick was still checking on us, and he heard that we were going to our pastor, our pastor wrote him and suggested that we have a break from ministry.  I really do not know what triggered Dick to do this because it only came across my attention later, but Dick wrote my pastor a letter and told him not to listen to me.  It was two pages long of some of the worst slander one has ever seen.  I am tempted some days to change names in it and post it on here because no one would believe it otherwise.  It was vile.  On and on he went, and just when you thought he was done, he added a page of postscript that was more vile than the letter.  He told him that I was lying, that I exaggerated, that I had a psychological disorder that he and another counselor (who when I asked her about it said that not only did she NOT say that, but that she would never because she didn't think it true, neither was she qualified to make such a statement!) both agreed that I had.  That this disorder was shown by my logic and skill in thinking.  He said it likely came from my past of severe abuse, and that I will never be normal or be able to be lived with and my poor husband will just have to endure it all his life; there is no other hope despite a miracle which he doesn't even think is possible.  He told my pastor that I am likely pathological liar and should not be listened too.  He even went so far as to mention all of my family members and drag their characters down stating "I do not even know how her mother lives with her father".  Then he quoted a letter from his wife saying how I do not even care for my own children and my poor husband has to take all the responsibility in our household.  Interestingly, his wife had only visited our house once in the last eight years, and we had visited her once.  When she visited us, I had just fallen on the stairs (yes, really, really - the ER asked me a few questions about that too!!  But I tripped running up them and took a flying fall into the next ones!) and had broken my clavicle and cracked my shoulder blade.  So, no, I wasn't doing much to care for my kids and my husband was very kindly taking most of the responsibility for the kids.  When we visited her for two days, I had just recovered from a pinched nerve in my arm, and my husband was doing most of the child care to give me a break and because he was about to leave for a three week trip and wanted to be with the kids.  I didn't see her point.  (Later, under questioning, he admitted that his wife had never written that, nor seen it, but that he made it up "from conversations we had had together".)  Then, to make matters worse, Dick sent this letter to my husband "to see if I have it right before I send it to the pastor"!  

It is hard to explain how I felt when I stumbled across that letter.  I had always had the passwords to my husband's e-mail accounts and at times would look for a letter or so in order to write prayer letters, and I came across this jewel.  I think my blood ran ice-cold.  I knew before then that Dick was a bad influence on my husband and had the feeling that things weren't being handled well, that I wasn't being listened to with any respect, but I had no idea!  At the time, I was still believing that my husband loved me, but was over worked, suffering from burnout, possible PTSD issues, and his moods were out of control due to the above and his uncontrolled diabetes issues and lack of sleep.  I needed this to change, for sure, but I believed it was possible, and I believed that people would help us in that.

Then this.  Wow.  I didn't even know how to react.  No one would ever believe me if I accused the team leader of something like that.  He was already saying I was illogical (and too logical) and paranoid and a pathological liar.  And honestly, I had no clue who to trust or where I was safe.  Was the pastor saying these things about me, too?  Is this what he was telling my husband about me behind my back?!  No wonder my husband was not being respectful of caring towards me!  I basically shut down.  I couldn't think.  I didn't dare ask for trust or for help again.  Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to copy the letter and save it.  That step saved me later because it gave me the ability to say no when I finally got strong enough to stand up to some of this.  (Years later, when I showed this letter to a few counselors working with us, even they could not hide the shock on their faces.  Two called it blatant spiritual abuse, and one who knew him, called him a misogynist.  But at the time, I had no one to carry the pain of that letter with me or to stand up and loudly contradict it.)

Still, my husband and I continued to work on our relationship, and Seth continued to mentor us, and we got to a relatively stable place and then even moved on to a good relationship.  We began talking more, sharing our hearts, taking time for each other, and life was good.  Then my husband was excited to start working in a new ministry... a culmination of the project he had taken on before.  He was so excited.  I was thrilled for him.  I went on a trip and began a new ministry myself of writing.  Life was good.  Seth was over visiting, and we had a relaxed and wonderful time.  A few weeks later, my husband packed to go on one trip that changed our lives.  We just didn't know it would when we packed his bags that last evening.  We were so happy with our family life and all we had struggled through to get to this point of peace.  Life was about to change, and we spent that last evening sewing some aprons together for a friend who wanted some.  (Shh... don't tell, but my husband can sew quite well!)

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