Thoughts of being emotionally abandoned kept me up night after night. It seemed as if a wall of isolation stood between us. Rich sought to comfort me, and I sought to comfort him -- but whenever we reached out to each other there was neither peace nor consolation. Our meaningful times of praying together were gone. Going to church became a painful chore.
Not a day passed that we did not find ourselves mulling over our differences of doctrine. Neither of us could understand why the other did not see the plain clarity of our own interpretation of Scripture. I could not comprehend how Rich’s insights could be so divergent from his past. For me, his changed perception and adherence to that change seemed as if he had closed the door on our lives at a critical level. We, who had found our greatest joy serving Jesus at church, now mechanically attended worship services. He began to voice dissatisfaction with the Protestant churches I wanted to try. I found myself in tears during the services at the Catholic churches we visited.
I grew more isolated during those months, alone in our home trying to put the new house in order and prepare for family visits. At Rich’s urging I sought out a women’s bible study at a local Protestant church and I became a member and regular attendee of the art league in town. After three months of attending that bible study, I left. Of the fifteen or so women, only one had bothered to even learn my name. I sought out another bible study farther from home. These women opened their arms in greeting at my first visit. Their acceptance of me unknowingly helped support my fragile courage, especially during the final transition in April.
But most helpful were friends from former days. Although I did not discuss our problems, I did mention the church dilemma we were facing. These women encouraged me to trust Christ. They urged me to stay connected with them. Without their constant commitment to our friendship, I could not have gone through the changes that were taking place in our home. Curiously, one challenged me to look for Jesus in the Catholic Church -- something I did not consider a reasonable suggestion at the time.
During the first months of 2005, Rich began to identify more and more with the doctrines he was confirming in his heart. He tended to have Catholic friends, and because we had just moved to a different state, he reached out to the Catholics he met at work and old acquaintances from our former home in Connecticut whom he knew were Catholic.
Rich did not discuss our problems with anyone, but he asked them for prayer for us to be able to communicate and stop fighting. Some of his new acquaintances tended to take sides. I don’t think they planned to do that, but it happened. What I perceived as their subtle messages about “how difficult Protestants can be” put me on the defensive. I thought Rich was complaining about me to his friends, something he had never done before. When I met them, they seemed cool toward me.
A chaplain he had counseled with at his job tried to instruct me by saying, “I know you are having some problems. We are all on faith journeys and this change in Rich is his responding to God’s call. You need to let him make this change.” As much as we needed help, talking with the chaplain only intensified my belief that I was being singled out and under attack. Rich had gone to her for advice. Yet, objective as I’m sure she wanted to be, she already was biased to his point of view because, as I learned later, she herself had moved with some difficulty from one denomination to another.
That meeting set a wedge between Rich and I that took several months to heal.
Although we both knew how to behave in Christ during good times and difficult ones, we found ourselves focusing more and more on our differences. Our eyes were off Jesus, the One who had held our marriage together for those thirty years. We did not know we were being influenced by the enemy of our souls. Honestly, we believed we were doing everything that was right to do. We sensed our need to find common ground. Yet the slightest problem escalated into sometimes weeks of misunderstanding. This had never happened in the 30 years we had been married.
If our eyes had been opened, we would have seen what was happening. The arguments, the days and nights of feeling abandoned, the lack of joy in our worship together in church or at prayer, the antagonistic feelings and the subtle thoughts of suspicion, anger, frustration were all part of a spiritual manipulation. But we could not see it at the time.
We had become prisoners of ugly, denominational division.
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