We were sitting in a motel room, thousands of miles from home when the moment came. The moment when my husband asked me a question with no clue whatsoever where the honest answer would leave him. I had never expected to have what might be ‘the marriage ending conversation’ looking out on a starry sky, a crescent moon and beautiful tropical plants; 5 days into a month long family trip.
If you have never been in one of what I can only assume to be in the top five of life’s most awful conversations, it is hard for me to describe the physical agony of those next moments. Moments which turned into hours and days. When we finally went to bed that night my husband told me that if he wasn’t there in the morning he would be back at some stage. I was grateful for that reassurance – I had no idea what might happen. Over the next days we snatched opportunities out of earshot of our children to talk about ‘us’. To start to come to terms with the new landscape. A landscape in which there were boulders and craters and old, old scars which had been unearthed and opened up again. Maybe it was less that the landscape had changed, more that we both had our eyes wide open and were seeing it as it really was. Yes, I had formed a relationship with someone else, but of course there was a much bigger story behind the downward slide of our marital relationship to the point where that had become a possibility.
I wrote in my journal “I know that God is a God of change and restoration and miracles but I’m not sure I’m willing to let go of this enough to remain (in the marriage) and allow him to take care of me in it.”
The reality was that I had no choice but to remain in it for at least another three weeks. We were 24 hours and a very expensive plane ticket away from home. How we would have explained it to anyone I don’t know but things were so bad that we discussed whether I would stay for the remaining weeks of the trip. My husband wanted me to. I was ambivalent, but I made the commitment that I would be on the same plane home as the rest of the family. Neither of us knew what was going to happen, or how we would get through each day. If we had been closer to home I would have left, but it really wasn’t an option. So I had to remain and let God take care of me.
I am reasonably sure looking back, that if we hadn’t had that moment of uncovering the truths in our relationship, far, far from home, at the beginning of a significant period of holiday, we would not have made it past that point.
We had both come to the holiday exhausted. The previous years had given both of us a battering physically and emotionally. The friend who collected us from the airport and who hosted us for the first few days remarked to me on day 2 “You guys needed a holiday way more than you’ve been letting on”. We did. And we were given it.
We had to spend most of the next three weeks in each others company almost full time. We had to be a family. We had to together negotiate significant travel. We had to stay with, and spend time with friends who we hadn’t seen for ten years; friends who really mattered to both of us. We had to celebrate Christmas. We had to fulfil the exciting plans our children had made months before sitting round our kitchen table.
And we were gifted with doing all of those things in a part of the world where it was warm. The sun shone. Our holiday plans were good. People loved us.
We spent the hardest three weeks of our lives in the softest surroundings possible.
That was God. Lights in the darkness.