Over Easy, Please

eggs over easy

Father Henry and his wife Margaret were already seated in the restaurant when Daniel arrived. Daniel had been futzing about at home looking for his reading glasses. He had wanted to read a newspaper article about claustrophobia when he realized that he was late for his weekly lunch with the rector and his wife.

As Daniel came in the restaurant door, Father Henry looked up at him from the table and caught Daniel glancing at the newspaper. Father Henry was reading the same article that he was trying to read at home: Claustrophobia, Uncovering Your Fears. The title of the article had caught Daniel’s eye and apparently Father Henry’s. Margaret moved across the table to sit with her husband and Daniel sat across facing them both.

“Hi, how are you Father Henry and Margaret?”

“We’re fine Daniel. How are things?” Father Henry spoke, looking at his wife Margaret.

“Except for some claustrophobia, I guess I am doing alright.” Daniel smiled with a nod to the newspaper lying open on the table.

“Hah, I see. Well, good. How about some coffee? Here comes the waitress.”

Daniel ordered some eggs over easy and some coffee. Father Henry ordered some French toast, two plates and two orange juices.

“The last time we had gotten together, Daniel, you had mentioned that you had a close friend at your previous church.” Father Henry spoke from behind a raised coffee cup.

“Yeah, Allan and I were close friends. I spent time with him and two other guys in a prayer cell group. This was before the divorce. We met at least once a month to talk and pray. Later, after the divorce, I would also bring my two kids over to his house and spend time with him and his wife. I often ate dinner with them. We both had kids the same age. The kids got along really well.”

“What was the prayer cell group like? Did you enjoy that?”

“It was alright, I guess. The prayer cells groups were started in order to bring together the people who ministered in the church. The cell group was to be a place of accountability and fellowship. Before that group ever met, I often met with Allan for breakfast to talk about work and to pray before going to work.

“Were you ministering in that church then?”

“Yes, I was a Sunday School teacher for grade school kids and I played in the worship band. I play the trumpet.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Music and my trumpet have been in life since I was a kid. Music has often helped me cope with a lot of life’s madness. I enjoy playing the horn in the worship service. It’s very Biblical you know?” Daniel smiled.

“Were the other guys in the ministry at that church?”

“Ah, yeah, two of them were in the music ministry, as well. My close friend, Allan, was a working priest. He wasn’t a full time priest at the church. He had a full time job.

“How did it go with those guys?”

“I met with them as often as I could for the prayer cell meetings. I had a full time job. I was a partner in a company which I helped to start. I was the VP of Engineering. This meant that any equipment issues – we were a manufacturing company – this meant that if a customer called up with a problem the call was always forwarded to me. I worked a ton of hours and was out of town a lot. When I was at home I wanted to stay at home. The job took a lot out of me.”

“Yeah, something like that would. I am called on at all hours of the night in my position.” Father Henry looked at Margaret.

“I would go to church on Sunday and then I would want to come home and stay at home for the balance of the day. My ex, who was at home all week, wanted to go out and be with our church friends all day Sunday. I would tell her that I was exhausted and that I just needed some rest. I often worked 60-70 hours a week besides taking care of the house, the kids and the rest. When she heard me say that I wanted to be at home on Sunday afternoon she would tell our friends that I wasn’t coming. She told our children, I later found out, that I was being unsociable. My own kids would later say this back to me. I was upset by such a characterization by my wife.”

Did the guys in your cell group talk about their jobs and their marriages?”

“Yeah, my friend Allan and I usually talked the most intimately about our lives and marriages. The other two guys would talk about somebody being sick at their office. That’s what they would pray about, too.”

The waitress brought the meals and poured some coffee in Daniel’s cup. Father Henry gave thanks for the meal.

“So you shared your life with these guys?” Margaret asked.

“I shared with them about my job and about my two business partners. I talked about the work I did and the frustrations of my job. I also talked about my marriage and about how my wife always wanted me to go to counseling. She constantly pushed for a separation. She would say that I was the cause of our marriage’s problems.  She, in turn, wouldn’t accept responsibility for her part in the marriage’s problems. I would go to counseling by myself and nothing would change because the issues she had with me were inside of her and she wasn’t willing to go there. Her past was present in our marriage but she couldn’t see it. My issues were being talked about constantly. I talked about my own unresolved anger and my projection onto her. I learned to stop doing this and to look at the source of my own anger, which usually came from out of my past. I learned that I must face my own anger and my past and to speak out about my real needs. I felt that I couldn’t share with her my needs or who I was and this made me angry. I often felt alone in the marriage, too. I did learn that I should know who I am, that I should know why I am angry, that I should speak about my needs to my spouse and then don’t expect her to meet those needs. If my needs were met by her then, of course, that would be great but I couldn’t demand such a thing from her. I learned to live in the tension of not having my needs met and of not becoming angry and not being escapist with pornography. I put that out of my life. I wanted to be real and be in a real relationship with someone for the first time in my life. But, it was actually at this point when I started to become ‘real’ and honest within that I started to say “No, its not true.” to her angry projections put onto me.  It was then that she became more determined to divorce. We were in two different places and she wouldn’t let me get near her, even though I had tried many times. I understood it later that her perfectionism, born out of her troubled past, kept her from responding to me. She wanted things to be perfect, for our marriage to lived out perfectly with no remembrance of her past troubles.  She denied having any issues at all.  And,  she wanted something that even she could not put her finger on and of course I couldn’t meet that undetermined need.  This was an impossible situation, so things remained unresolved.”

“That must have been frustrating.” Father Henry spoke looking into his coffee.

“It was extremely frustrating. And, I found out via the guys in the prayer group that my wife was saying negative things to their wives about me. They wanted me to share my “stuff” with them in our get-togethers. I felt betrayed by everyone involved. I later decided to stop going to the prayer cell group. I wasn’t going to become the focus of the prayer cell because of my wife’s projection onto me and because two of the guys in the group didn’t share anything of substance at all. I was also working so much that I needed as many breaks as I could get.”

“What happened then, with your wife?” Margaret asked.

“We separated and eventually divorced. We had gone to marriage counseling for a while but never once were her “issues” with me ever discussed, examined or understood. Never. The counselor and I, neither of us, knew what issue she had with me other than her saying, “I don’t think he loves me.” We did know that she wanted to end the marriage and it appeared that I was going to be the scapegoat for her decision. Again, as I found out later, she had talked to our close friends at the church, the rector and her family and she had made me look bad before them. I was being set up for the divorce.”

“What about your close friend, Allan? Did he see what was going on?” Father Henry queried.

“Yeah, I think so. He said he wouldn’t take sides. I was the one in the group who talked openly about things in my marriage so it would seem to the guys in the group, I think, that I was the one who was the problem in the marriage. I did not want the marriage to end and I had made that clear. I wanted to reconcile with her and she couldn’t bring herself to that place. Her own troubled past was too much in the present and I became the object of her unresolved anger. She couldn’t see that this was happening.”

“Did you and Allan get together after you and your wife were separated?”

“Yeah, we still hung out but it was more awkward because I was now single. I brought my kids over to his house, as I mentioned earlier. He and his wife, Joan, had seven kids. Two of their kids were my kid’s age, so they got along great. I enjoyed that friendship but I was hurting a lot from the destruction of our marriage. I didn’t know how I could even share it with anyone. Allan would talk even handedly like all the other counselors and say both people are to responsible in a marriage breakup and I knew this not to be true. I knew these words were just a gobbledygook response of impartiality on the part of the people saying this. If one person in a marriage wants a divorce than what can you do? Vows no longer matter to people like that. They are going to divorce and then relive their unresolved anger out with someone new.”

“I would agree with you, on this.” Father Henry again looked at Margaret.

Margaret asked, “Did Allan’s wife say anything to you about your marriage situation?”

“I felt a cold shoulder from her, like I was the problem in the marriage, like I was too stupid to know better or to change. This may not be true and it may only be my projection onto her but that is how I felt around her.”

Margaret spoke, “Maybe she felt in an odd place and she wasn’t sure of the whole truth.”

“I think you are right.” Daniel responded. “I was very sensitive at this time to any criticism. I knew that I was talking honestly to several people about myself and about my marriage during this time and I felt very vulnerable in doing so. I felt completely alone and isolated. My ex was making me out to be a pariah to my kids and to my friends at church and everyone, it seemed, was going along for the ride. Elise seemed so honest and sincere – this sweet girl from Iowa. I knew her differently, though, but I didn’t talk about her to my friends or to my kids. I just said that we were having problems at home and we were trying to find answers.”

“What happened with the kids? Who got custody?” Margaret asked.

“My ex finally got custody of our two children. I, of course, had to hire an attorney for the divorce and pay thousands of dollars defending myself. Elise knew that I had paid 28% of my income to a previous wife for my two older children for sixteen years. Elise hated the fact that I gave money to another woman for my two older sons. She wanted the money for her own purposes. She gave me grief over it every day. In fact, it became her new battle cry during the last two years of our marriage: “I can take your kids, I can take 28% of your income and I can make you pay!” “I wasn’t sure what I was going to pay for but she made it clear with her threats that I should toe her line. This situation was untenable for any marriage.”

“Wow, that became an impossible situation for you.”

“Imagine trying to run a business as a VP of Engineering and having to go out of town to represent your company. Imagine the weight placed on me trying to hold everything to together at work and at home and then being blamed for not doing enough by my wife to make her happy. Imagine.” Daniel looked down. “The real hard thing is that now I only see my own kids every other weekend. They are no longer the same happy kids. They are decidedly different. They are easily angered. They are no longer respectful to me or to each other or of anyone, for that matter. They have learned from their mother that they can choose who they want to obey. They no longer follow the Lord because Elise no longer follows the Lord. She abandoned her church and her church friends and they abandoned her. Elise tells the kids what to think about me. I get their attitude all the time when I see them. This is sad for me. Elise now lives with some guy she met at a bar. I love my kids and they have been hurt tremendously by Elise and the divorce industry. I have been almost destroyed by all of this, as well. My parents tell me that some day my kids will know better about all of this. I don’t know. I think they will be forever scarred. God help them.”

“Daniel, we will keep you in our prayers. The Lord knows your heart for your kids and towards Elise. He will make all things right for them and for you.” Father Henry ended our meal with a prayer:

“Father, let Your love surround these children, Elise and Daniel. Restore to them the joy of their salvation. Protect these children from the Evil One who desires to use this situation for His own purposes. Keep them in Your love. Give Daniel what he needs right now. We thank you for the courage he has shown in facing these issues. Grant him Your peace. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

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