I began the questionaire for the nullity petition for the Diocese of Raleigh before I was hired at OLA, and the questions brought about such an intense re-living of the experiences, the loneliness, the memories of Dan’s hostilities, that I hadn’t finished the petition in four years.
But I want to celebrate the many ways God demonstrated grace to me and helped me along.
First was my church. I wasn’t Catholic in those days, didn’t even dream I ever would become one. I was a fervent evangelical, member of evangelical churches, and those churches, and the people in them, were great support to me even while they didn’t know I was experiencing all the other, ugly stuff.
I realize now that even in the 70s, when Dan made his first announcement to me that things were more complicated and painful than he’d let me know before, I could have gone to our pastor, a lovely man named Dale Brister, who would have been fully supportive and helped me see my way through the crisis. There were men and women in subsequent churches, too. But everybody loved Dan, and it was such a horrible thing to accuse him of… and there was that horrible burden of being wholly unable to talk about some things, back in those days.
But the emotional and spiritual support was there, and the grace.
The man who’d very much wanted to have an affair with me was, in a strange and convoluted way, another gift of grace. There was something comforting about being found desirable, adorable, by a man, even a man not my husband. And Bernard was responsible for re-awakening my love of reading and a hunger for reading things far more substantial than I’d known up until meeting him. He was really responsible for getting me to read C.S. Lewis’ meatier works, and Watchman Nee, and excerpts from other theologians. Bernard was enchanted by my mind, when Dan thought I was stupid.
Then I got to go to Guilford College. It was my first academic success, and I was discovering abilities and loves I’d not dreamed myself possible of. I was encouraged and applauded by brilliant men and women whose credentials I couldn’t dismiss as I had been able to minimalize Bernard’s admiration. One professor, the one I was accused of having the affair with, who had something of a reputation for being impossible to get along with, told one of his colleagues, and it got back to me, that I was “one of the most brilliant students to come down the pike in (his) entire career.”
That one remark did more to awaken me to my own value and merit than anything else I had encountered. It was easy not to take the commendations of other professors quite so seriously; they were warm, affirming men and women, “nice” people, which made their enthusiasm for my developing abilities easy to dismiss from serious consideration.
Still, had it not been for those men and women — Beth and Mel, Joe and Ellen, Carol and John, Becky, Ann, Jeff… — I don’t think I could have finished college, no matter how startling Rudy’s praise had been. They were my community, my family, my support as my marriage to Dan was falling apart and as I was going through the nightmare of discovering he is gay.
More recently, other friends have come onto the scene as instruments of mercy, healing and grace. There was Jim, my former boss, who discussed intellectual and spiritual issues with me between legal cases, and who inadvertently started the ball rolling toward my falling in love with the Church. There have been other teachers, colleagues, bosses, who have brought about degrees of healing and restoration over the years.
And now, there is the Church, the Sacraments, to hold on to, giving me literally Jesus Our Lord, Himself, in tangible and concrete ways.
I have to say that the real test of God’s goodness to me is that I can say with all earnestness, I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy… but I also wouldn’t take a million dollars for it. I like this woman I’m becoming. Right now I’m in the midst of a major paradigm shift (more on that later?) and I am excited about my present and my future as I’ve never been before.
Such beauty on the horizon!