I returned to the States with my heart decidedly fixed on getting a divorce. I called Dan and told him, and he said to do whatever I wanted. When I talked it over with my Thursday nights group of ladies, they were relieved. However, the directors of the sexual addiction division were a couple who had married after he came out of homosexuality. They thought I should stick it out. So, they asked me to give up leading the group. In the end they apologized, but for the remainder of my time in Texas my support group was taken away.
Dan didn’t sound particularly interested in the details of the divorce until I mentioned it seemed a shame to divide the duplexes.
“You’re right. And when you go to France, the Lord will take care of you.”
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “I’m thinking of taking the duplexes as alimony. I am entitled to alimony, and you have no means of paying me that.”
“Well!” he harrumphed. “It takes a situation like this to really know what a person is like!” I knuckled under and gave him what he wanted; we split the duplexes. I hired a lawyer, who was totally unnecessary as we didn’t have much, and what we had we agreed to split down the middle, but it seemed best. Dan planned to be home May 15th for Noelle’s graduation from Logos, and I made an appointment with the lawyer to sign the papers.
On May 14th I picked him up at the airport, and we drove directly to the lawyer’s office. Approaching the airport, I felt apprehensive, but he gave me a wave and a smile like a “cool-daddy,” and I could see he was taking this in a light-hearted manner. The lawyer told us it was the easiest divorce she had ever done. Dan assured her that he wanted the divorce as much as I did. We sat in the conference room settled in stuffed swivel chairs before a polished wood table and drank cokes, signed all the papers and left. Simple as that.
Dan only had three days in Texas, as normally in his program the men were not allowed to leave during the six months. However, because of the divorce, they permitted him to attend Noelle’s graduation. The airport he used was two-and-a-half hours away from the facility, so they sent three men to drive him there, and three men would have to pick him up. He arrived Friday and would return Sunday; therefore, we had to divide everything right away. Our next stop was the safety deposit box.
Odd things made the tears flow. Our marriage certificate, for example. I picked it up with a question in my eyes. Dan said, “I don’t want that thing.” I dropped it into my newly acquired safety deposit box and sniffled.
We had an odd number of gold coins. I held the last coin in my hand, and Dan held out his hand to receive it. I looked at him, again questioning. He recoiled and said, “No, no, you take it.” I dumped it into his box. We divided thirty-three years in less than an hour using fewer words than the number of years. Then we closed the mutual bank accounts and opened individual ones. By the time we arrived at Noelle’s all the business had been handled.
Because of graduation, Noelle’s in-laws stayed with her, making seven people in her house. J.J. and Vicky stayed with me, which made three, so Dan camped out at my place and slept on the couch. It wasn’t particularly awkward. In fact, once I accepted his cavalier attitude as being easier to handle than any resistance he might have given, we enjoyed each other’s company. He talked about his program and all the changes erupting in his life, how renewed he felt, how ready to conquer life.
Both Saturday and Sunday we got up early and sat out on my little patio, reading our Bibles and drinking coffee. An expanse of lawn separated my house from Noelle’s. I now owned the building I lived in and Dan owned the building Noelle lived in. That expanse of lawn held assorted children’s outdoor equipment on which all the neighborhood children played, and around which the neighborhood parents gathered on Sunday afternoons. Each morning across from us on a matching patio sat Noelle’s father in-law, a pastor, reading his Bible.
Both mornings he joined us. At first, he started in softly. “This morning I woke up early with shooting pains in my chest.” He rubbed his chest shaking his white-haired head quizzically, his white beard trembling gently with emotion. “I asked, ‘Lord? Am I having a heart attack?’ But the Lord said, ‘No, son. You are experiencing in your heart what I feel in Mine.’”
Noelle’s father in-law’s head swung from one side to another in an exaggerated sweep worthy of a staged production. “I asked my dear Lord, ‘What would bother You like this? What would cause You so much pain?’ And He answered back,” here his voice dipped replete with anguish, “Maggie and Dan are getting a divorce.” The father in-law, eyes closed, patted his heart gently, soothing the pain of God. If I could have pulled a lever and caused the father-in-law to disappear from the face of the earth, or at least expel him from my patio, I would have pulled it.
The next morning his voice was loud enough to pull Noelle to the window and his son to come out to see what was wrong, although my friend from years past, the pastor’s wife, never showed her face. The father-in-law shouted, “This is nothing but you, Maggie, wanting to go off on your own. You want to get rid of Dan because he is extra baggage. He’s in your way! So, you want to throw him away like a piece of old newspaper!”
I thought it strange he would use the same metaphor I used to describe Dan throwing away our sex life. “That’s not true,” I feebly tried to defend myself.
“You’re behaving like an uppity woman,” he shouted. He came close to my face, trying to stare me down, “The Bible says . . .” But he stopped, maybe from the look in my eyes or maybe he remembered I knew the Bible better than He did, and I wasn’t one of the unlearned who could be intimidated by throwing Scripture around.
“I know what the Bible says,” I continued for him. “There are nine reasons for divorce, and we have more than one of those reasons.”
Not to be outdone, he shouted, “What are they? I don’t believe it. I think you are a selfish woman who wants to live for herself, and you’re willing to abandon your family and damage your children and grandchildren to satisfy your own selfish desires!” But his curiosity wouldn’t let him stop there. “What are those reasons?”
“They’re between us and the Lord,” I said between gritted teeth. Dan just sat there, and I tried to defend myself without giving away Dan’s “secret,” but I clammed up and let the father-in-law blow off steam.
On Monday, with Dan gone and me left alone, the father-in-law accosted me again, and this time really railed. “Do you know what you are if you get this divorce? You are scum! You will be the scum of the earth! Go ahead, if you think you are so smart, but nothing will go right for you!” If he could have broken my arm to persuade me, I’m sure he would have. Now he had me in tears. I didn’t want the divorce in the first place. It was the Lord who orchestrated the divorce, and now this tirade nearly drove me to call it off.
Instead I called Ken, the head of my ministry, and sobbed into the phone, “Am I doing the right thing?”
He said, “There is nothing in me that wants to tell you to stay. Addictive personalities act cool, like they’ve got it all together, they tell you how good they’re doing to try to hook you and keep you taking care of them. Maggie, you are doing the right thing. You will be amazed at how your life will change. Things will go well for you. Be encouraged and go forward.”
Other than the father-in-law’s enervating tirade, the family gathering passed congenially. Graduation, held in the Civic Auditorium, was wonderful. Noelle and her husband processed in wearing their red robes and caps. We were all so proud; we forgot the other drama for the night. Dan and I tried to keep our little granddaughters quietly in their seats, but they only wanted J.J. and Vicky, so we gave up and let them play. The dinner afterwards was fun; Dan’s humor brightened our end of the table.
Dan’s return flight left early Sunday afternoon, and everyone wanted to go see him off at the airport. They surrounded the car, ready to go, but I said no, this being my last time to be with Dan as my husband. They could be with him as Dad for the rest of their lives, but I only had this one moment remaining. No one said a word; they just complied.
All the way to the airport I held his hand, that soft hand whose caress I had longed for but whose soul I had never occupied. I told him how much I loved him and always would love him. I wanted him as a husband, and if it wasn’t for this “condition” in his life, I would never give him up. Words tumbled out of my mouth in appreciation of him and gratitude for the life we had lived together. Again, I was crying. I talked non-stop on the twenty-minute ride, words of love and words of longing.
He hadn’t said a word the whole trip, and now he said, “I know.” Then he burst into tears. “Please forgive me for being such a goof-off all my life.”
I begged him, “Dan, make it right. Please, just make it right.”
He said, “I will.” He got out of the car, trembling with his grief, pulled his suitcase from the back seat, and then stood and looked at me in the car. He couldn’t move to go inside, and I couldn’t move to drive away.
I pleaded out the window, “Please go inside. I can’t drive away leaving you here.” He turned and walked into the terminal. However, I couldn’t drive away. He looked at me out the terminal window. I could see the tears streaming down his face, and he pulled out his big handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Then he waved me on and turned away.
I had no idea my chest could contain so much pain. As I drove away, I cried louder than I thought it was possible to cry. The pain had to have a way to escape. I went for miles crying beyond the top of my voice. I screamed out to God to help me. After an hour of driving aimlessly, crying uncontrollably, I calmed down and made my way back home.
When I entered the house, I found J.J. and Vicky working feverishly in the kitchen as a backyard picnic between my house and my daughter’s house caused the neighborhood to converge, and all the kids needed drinks, popsicles, or something. Uncle J.J. and Uncle Vicky (she didn’t want to be called Aunt) were taking care of them as the parents battled furiously in a soccer match. I joined in the work at the sink, but when Vicky asked, “How are you doing?” I fell into her arms sobbing once more.
“He’s the man I chose to love. That’s all there is to it.” I said. That night she and J.J. put me on the couch and rubbed my feet, my hands, and my shoulders plying me with love and tenderness. Grateful, I kept patting them, but I felt dull and dead inside.
On Tuesday I met the lawyer before the courthouse to be present at our 1:00 p.m. appointment. She brought the signed papers, and we appeared before the judge. We were first on the docket, and the judge looked surprised. “These papers were signed on the 15th and this is only the 19th.”
We both looked at him as if to say, “So?”
He said, “So, it takes ten days to obtain a divorce in Oklahoma. Why should I approve these papers six days early?”
My lawyer did a verbal tap dance and finally settled on, “My client is moving to France to begin missionary work there and wants all of her business completed before she leaves.”
He asked me severely, “Is that accurate?”
I said, “Yes.”
He tapped his little gavel and signed the papers. I looked at my lawyer whose eyes were wide with surprise and I thought, “This is why I hired her.” We weren’t in the courtroom any longer than ten minutes max. By 1:30 in the afternoon I was sitting at “The Wild Fork” in Towne Square ordering lunch, treating myself to my new freedom.
It felt like any other day. But there was a difference. As I eavesdropped on an animated conversation at the adjoining table, I found myself writing a script in my mind with very clever dialogue, and I realized my writer’s block had dropped away. My life was changing. Ken was right.
Dan called that night. “Well, is it final?”
“Yes, it is,” and I recounted what happened in the courtroom.
“Are you okay with that?” He asked.
Surprised at his solicitude I answered, “Yes. What about you?”
“Well, they’re thinking about kicking me out of the program.”
“Why!?” I demanded.
“They wanted me to go to Texas and take a masculine stand. They wanted me to go barging in there and refuse to sign the papers. Before I left, they told me to tell you no, we were not getting a divorce. They’re very angry with the way things went.”
“Do you really think they will kick you out?”
“No. We met for an hour, all of them shouting at me, but at the end they said I could stay.”
“Dan,” I paused for a minute. “If you had done what they said to do, we wouldn’t be divorced.”
He said, “I know.”
But we were divorced. I had taken the giant step and my path had gone unopposed.
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.