On My Wife’s Four Marriages

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In her sunset years, on a sun-filled late morning, my wife is full of wonders. In wonder, she fixes her imagination to wander the credulous confluence with four different husbands. She reminisces those many long years with each in gladness, grief, grace, and grit. Her assured smile betrays an efficacy. This is how she remembers them.

In the Spring of her life, a dreamer of a young man courted her. He won her heart with his night-dreams, daydreams, and pipedreams. Before long, they made a nurturing home for a growing family and partnered in pastoral work. It was not easy going. He was underpaid and overburdened. But he was idealistic, and their idyllic future was nursed by his ideate presence. She remembers how senselessly happy they were. Their hospitality invited many into their home. Most evenings, even into the dead of night, friends congregated in their living room, to trade words, share laughter, read the Bible, and enjoy her cooking. Those early years were simple, almost conventional. Even in disappointments, with much uncertainty, her dreamer was simple about life and passionate about God’s work. She was content to live his dreams.

In the Summer of life, she married a man prone to dark moods. Some bad people treated them badly and drove them out of the church. Her husband struggled to feed their family. For the first time he was uncertain of his calling. Emptied of dreams, he looked west for a future. Her callow husband dragged her to a far country. They spiked down their tent among the plush homes of an affluent congregation. Learning ministry again, perhaps for the first time, he never felt more inept, insecure, and invidious. Those challenging years, nevertheless, grew them as parents and pastoral partners. Soon, whipped by a whirlwind of conflicts, utterly defeated, he left in a fevered huff. Not without recrimination, she followed him implicitly and suffered explicitly with him.

In her Autumn, she married another man, a difficult man, whose irascible ways she endured in incomplete silence. His conflicts with the church elders drove him out of the church. He felt utterly broken by God. To this day, he claims a brokenness from which he has not recovered. They built a new home in middle America. There, they found another Americana, gentler and kinder. It would enrich the whole family in each one’s holistic growth. But his travels made her a virtual widow. In his absence, she managed consolation with other women in their cul-de-sac. Together, they built a warm community, sharing one another’s food, fancy, and family. Meanwhile, her husband was building a professional resume. His travels exposed many, diverse faith communities. They informed and reformed his ecclesiology. He also gained confidence. At last, restless, he was eager to move on. Reluctantly, grievously, she followed him anywhere.  

In her Winter, she married a complex man in his winter of discontent. His padded resume afforded a new work in theological education. But he was never happy. He often pondered dark thoughts, as if God has failed him, or rather he has failed God. Mired in melancholy, sad and lonely, he grew darker. In time he walked away from ministry. He retreated into a solace of solitude. Old friends left him and newer friends he pushed away. His reclusion also impinged their marriage. He even babbled about marital distancing. Like two people adrift at the opposite edges of a pond, they had to scream to be heard. She listened but heard none of his nonsense. Her lexicon just didn’t allow a word for separation. Strained in their proximity, she resolved to love and live with him until the final sunset, by re-imagining how she had loved and lived with her first husband.