Too much depression and suicide this time of year. Here is a true story from a few years ago.
The last evening class of the fall semester was over. I felt a warm sense of accomplishment and relief as I turned away from the lightly dusted white foothills into the dark and cold of my twenty-year old neighborhood. Soon the dark gave way to the many houses adorned with flashing and not flashing lights. Icicles seemed to be a popular style of light this year along with the usual array of red and green and, of course, Santa, reindeer, angels and sleighs.
As I turned onto my street I noticed some newly hung lights in front of my house. They were the flashing kind. Instantly, I became concerned and peered across the street at my neighbor's house. Richie, Candy, their Dalmatian, Honda and their Basset, Lightning lived across the way. My heart and soul turned downcast and pained. Richie had been battling with cancer for a decade and it had recently turned up again for maybe the last time. Was he dead?
I went inside to see if Ann was home. She was tending to something downstairs. I grabbed my heavy coat as the temperature was dropping rapidly. I stood on the slope of my driveway to catch a glimpse past the newly hung lights to the house across the way. Just what was going on in there? I saw some men go in and out of the vehicles adorned with the newly hung lights. I didn't disturb them. They seemed to be pressed for time.
The fuzzy-haired blond from next door came strolling around the trees that separate our houses. She had on biking shorts and a tee shirt. The freezing sidewalk didn't seem to alter her gait. She walked in front of my driveway, peered around the newly hung lights and said, "Fuck." As she turned and noticed me she offered, "Oh, excuse me."
I felt some anger at her comment. Being that I am a follower of the Nazarene she thought that I would be offended. I was miffed at not being allowed to be human. Did she think that I would be more concerned about a cuss word than I would be about a man's life? I suppose she could have said that her soul was downcast and pained at seeing the newly hung lights. I thought fuck captured the same sentiment. Soon she arrived back outside with a bit more clothing on, but still not as much as me. Her husband joined us. Ann came out as well.
Some parents drove up and hurried inside the house across the way. The woman carried a bible. I told the fuzzy-haired blond that I thought fuck was a good expression for the moment. She explained to her husband. We all smiled a bit.
Soon, a sheriff's man in a brown uniform came past the newly hung lights and asked us to go inside. He said the family didn't want us outside to see her body as they brought it out. HER body? He said he would come and tell us what he could after she was gone. HER body?
After a while he came to the door. He said she may not make it. The image from the house across the way was of the word Everlast cinched around her neck in bug-eyed, bloody irony. Her last step had found only air.
New jobs, new homes, new towns and new endeavors. All can be great and all bring stress.
During transitions we are more vulnerable to affairs. Many new interesting people come into our lives.
As I trained for my first Ironman, I met people from all walks of life. There is an attraction to the commitment training and excitement of being focused on such a big goal. Emotional entanglements can happen easily and then more can easily follow if one isn't aware.
This quote from a Thornton Wilder three minute play has been making the rounds. I first heard it from Brennan Manning in a video about Rich Mullins after Mullins died a car wreck. Manning grieved the loss of his fellow ragamuffin and remembered him with, 'In loves service, only wounded soldiers can serve. God I miss him.'
The line speaks to me as Ann and I reach out to couples dealing with infidelity. Part of me longs to be totally healed, to not ever hit my scars, to not remember my heart splitting.
If that happened I wouldn't have diddly to offer those in pain.
A deeper part of me doesn't want to forget. When I hear your story of heartache, I'm in touch with my pain, though I'm still focused on you. I remember. Remembering helps my to speak truthfully and tenderly, and humbly. In my best moments my voice may actually tremble as I recall the soulsplosion from twenty years ago while walking with you in yours today.
Here is the complete play:
The Angel That Troubled the Waters (A short play by Thornton Wilder)
The Pool – A vast gray hall with a hole in the ceiling open to the sky. Broad stone steps lead up from the water on its four sides. The water is continuously restless and throws blue reflections upon the walls. The sick, the blind and the malformed are lying on the steps. The long stretches of silence and despair are broken from time to time when one or another groans and turns in his rags, or raises a fretful wail or a sudden cry of exasperation at long continued pain.
A door leads out upon the porch where the attendants of the sick are playing at dice, waiting for the call to fling their masters into the water when the angel of healing stirs the pool. Beyond the porch there is a glimpse of the fierce sunlight and the empty streets of an oriental noonday.
Suddenly the ANGEL appears upon the top step. His face and robe shine with a colour that is both silver and gold, and the wings of blue and green, tipped with rose, shimmer in the tremulous light. He walks slowly down among the shapeless sleepers and stands gazing into the water that already trembles in anticipation of its virtue.
(A new invalid enters.)
THE NEWCOMER Come, long-expected love. Come, long-expected love. Let the sacred finger and the sacred breath stir up the pool. Here on the lowest step I wait with festering limbs, with my heart in pain. Free me, long-expected love, from this old burden. Since I cannot stay, since I must return into the city, come now, renewal, come, release.
(Another invalid wakes suddenly out of a nightmare, calling: “The Angel! The Angel has come. I am cured.”
He flings himself into the pool, splashing his companions. They come to life and gaze eagerly at the water. They hang over the brink and several slide in. Then a great cry of derision rises: “The fool! Fool! His nightmare again. Beat him! Drive him out into the porch.”
The mistaken invalid and his dupes drag themselves out of the water and lie dripping disconsolately upon the steps.)
THE MISTAKEN INVALID I dreamt that an angel stood by me and that at last I should be free of this hateful place and its company. Better a mistake and this jeering than an opportunity lost.
(He sees the NEWCOMER beside him and turns on him plaintively.) Aie! You have no right to be here, at all events. You are able to walk about. You pass your days in the city. You come here only at great intervals, and it may be that by some unlucky chance you might be the first one to see the sign. You would rush into the water and a cure would be wasted. You are yourself a physician. You have restored my own children. Go back to your work and leave these miracles to us who need them.
THE NEWCOMER (Ignoring him; under his breath.) My work grows faint. Heal me, long-expected Love; heal me that I may continue. Renewal, release; let me begin again without this fault that bears me down.2
THE MISTAKEN INVALID I shall sit here without ever lifting my eyes from the surface of the pool. I shall be the next. Many times, even since I have been here, many times the Angel has passed and has stirred the water, and hundreds have left the hall leaping and crying out with joy. I shall be the next.
THE ANGEL (Kneels down on the lowest step and meditatively holds his finger poised above the shuddering water.) Joy and fulfillment, completion, content, rest and release have been promised.
THE NEWCOMER Come, long-expected Love.
THE ANGEL (Without turning makes himself apparent to the NEWCOMER and addresses him.) Draw back physician, this moment is not for you.
THE NEWCOMER Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.
THE ANGEL Healing is not for you.
THE NEWCOMER Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O, Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavours sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.
THE ANGEL I know.
THE NEWCOMER It is no shame to boast to an Angel of what I might yet do in Love’s service were I but freed from this bondage.
THE MISTAKEN INVALID Surely the water is stirring strangely today! Surely I shall be whole.3
THE ANGEL I must make haste. Already the sky is afire with the gathering host, for it is the hour of the new song among us. The earth itself feels the preparation in the skies and attempts its hymn. Children born in this hour spend all their lives in a sharper longing for the perfection that awaits them.
THE NEWCOMER Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbour?
THE ANGEL (Stands for a moment in silence.) Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.
(He swiftly kneels and draws his finger through the water. The pool is presently astir with running ripples. They increase and a divine wind strikes the gay surface. The waves are flung upon the steps. The MISTAKEN MAN casts himself into the Pool, and the whole company lurches, rolls, or hobbles in. The servants rush in from the porch. Turmoil. Finally, the no longer MISTAKEN INVALID emerges and leaps joyfully up the steps. The rest, coughing and sighing, follow him. The ANGEL smiles for a moment and disappears.)
THE HEALED MAN Look, my hand is new as a child’s. Glory be to God! I have begun again. (To the NEWCOMER.) May you be the next, my brother. But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I –I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour… my daughter since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us…
Affairs of the Heart: Emotional Affairs Are A Dangerous Game in a Marriage I thought you'd want to know what an impact it (your article) is having. We know the great ministry value an article like this can have and are very thankful to you for sharing it with us. We pray it reaches many more people who need help and healing in their marriages and relationships.
~Valerie Hancock, Lifeway.com
"Your ministry is crucial. So much infidelity, so little restoration. I bless you both for what you are doing. On behalf of the church, thanks. You've paid the price to be able to share what you do."
Larry Crabb, author of over 20 books including Inside Out, Soul Talk and Marriage Builder