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So Long To Ilusions

So Long to Illusions

{Ben and Ann}

Grief strips away the pretense of life. Grief is about being honest with life and feeling the pain it brings. 

First, I {Ben} had to accept the pain after the revelation of the affair. There was the initial shock and trauma with the why, why, why and how could yous. Slowly, I began to realize that this was indeed my life. The pain crashed in a split second after I opened my eyes each morning. 

I grieved losing the ideal Ann. In my mind, I believed Ann could be tempted, but when it came to actually shaking her jeans down to the ground with another guy, I pictured her saying no before that point. Eventually, I had to learn that she was and is capable of making such a mistake; I had to own that I was, too.

I was lulled into this sense somewhat by a conversation I had with a woman I was emotionally enmeshed with. I brought up the topic of sex with her. She said, "Ben, you don't want to do that. I did that, and it ruined my marriage. You have two young kids and a chance at a good marriage." A counselor helped me see that if she had been more willing, as Ann's partner was, that most likely we would have ended up flinging our jeans to the ground, too.

The other side of this paradigm was learning to love the real Ann. Ann was capable of having an affair. I owned that she could sin with the best of them. I also owned and grieved the ways I failed to love her well. I left her lonely by my emotional affair, left her unchosen, left her with most of the burden of toting around and caring for our kids. I lost focus of all the wonder and glory that resides in her beautiful, feminine soul. None of that excuses the affair, but it makes her vulnerability to an affair understandable, and it was important to grieve my part in our shiny-on-the-outside and gnarly-on-the-inside marriage.

In my grief, I didn't care to B.S. about life. Pretenses were dropped. In a scene in the movie American Beauty, Kevin Spacey reaches that place. At the urging of his wife, he tells his daughter about his day at work. "Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost $60,000. . . pass the asparagus." After some arguing with his wife, he ends up tossing the plate of asparagus through the window.

While I'm not advocating that, I'm giving you a peak into my soul at the time. During an argument near the kitchen table with Ann I slammed a chair into the linoleum. (Again, I’m not saying that was the best thing to do.) A spindle broke. Ann pointed and said, "That's grandma's chair." I said, "Fuck Grandma's chair! How about my broken soul!?"

I didn't want to pretend anymore. Following an earlier moment in time where I called out to God to take me back or show me the way, I felt free and had a growing healthy sense of self. But as we increased our church attendance I gradually put my masks back on, though this time instead of the party guy I wore the good guy mask. Post affair I was sick of masks, didn't know which way was up, but I was going to feel what I felt. Grief is messy because anger is a huge part of it.

I {Ann} didn't feel I had the right to grieve. I was the one who created the mess we were living. I didn’t feel worthy to release the soul-healing balm of tears that could wash away my pain.

I felt a deep sense of guilt and shame for the choice I made. I always believed that if Ben were to have an affair that would be the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. I would feel justified divorcing him. And then, what did I do? I did the exact thing I thought would be cause for divorce. Initially, my tears were more about the sorrow over the choices I made rather than for the pain I caused.

And I caused Ben much pain. Given our history of not addressing conflict, I never imagined he would be so hurt and show it in such volatile ways. I thought it would be one more thing that would create some silence for a few days and then we'd sweep it under the rug along with so many years of trash. As we began to shake out the rug and see what was really under there, as we began to remove our masks and see who was really there, we began to grieve.

With my grief my tears became more about the pain I caused him and myself and our children and friends and God. A shift began to happen in both of us much like the overflow of godly sorrow as described in 2 Corinthians 7 that I previously mentioned.

My grief drew me closer to the One who made me. I collapsed into his merciful embrace and allowed liquid grace to pour from my eyes as he held my heart and soul. Those tears washed away my guilt and my shame and left behind eyes and a heart that could see more clearly God's design for my soul and my life.

What masks are you removing in your grief?