Nathan’s Story (Brother)

His dilemma was frustrating:  Kneel or sit.  Kneel and his knees would throb by the end of the prayer, sit and he’d avoid the pain.  How does a 26 year old man avoid kneeling though, when he’d prayed that way morning and night for 14 years?  He didn’t.  He couldn’t.  Kneeling beside his bed and praying had been a source of comfort for so long, and on this cold night, that comfort would surely outweigh the physical pain.  He’d stay right there at his bedside, on his knees, as long as he had to.

He glanced up as his wife stirred in bed.  One of the cats was chewing on her fingers again.  Gently, of course.  She turned on her side, still asleep, her arm aimlessly searching the empty sheets beside her.  Quickly, but softly, he lay a hand on hers, squeezing three times to let her know he was there…and that he loved her.  If she were awake she would squeeze back four times, the fourth being a drawn out, tighter squeeze that meant “more.”  He wished she would squeeze back right then.  He needed it.

So much was unraveling in a life he’d worked so hard to obtain.  As a boy he’d imagined what his future would hold…pictured himself as a faithful, dedicated husband and father.  Every decision he’d made had been influenced by that vision.  While his high school and college peers were living for fun and in the moment, he was weighing the consequences of his decisions based on the future he wanted.

A family.  He was so close…

Tears began forming in the corners of his eyes.  Almost instinctively, he started praying.

“My dear Father in Heaven, I need you right now.  Please come be with me?  Thank you so much for all that I have.  My wife, my job, our home, my family and friends…everything.  You know I hate to start talking or asking for things before I express gratitude for a while, but if you could let me make it up to you next time…I really just need to ask for a favor.  Please, please don’t let them take her from me….”

The tears began spilling silently over his eyelids and down his cheeks.  He looked up to make sure he hadn’t woken her.

He repeated his request over, and over, and over, occassionally making the mistake of looking up at her again.  This was the third time in three nights he’d woken in the early morning hours, incapable of sleep, and rolled down onto his knees in search of any form of comfort.  Always begging, always crying.  Most of the time he begged for her happiness, hoping that meant she was by his side but willing to accept the opposite.  Sometimes though, he begged for the judging and the accusations to stop…

“Please help them remember who I am…”

They certainly didn’t remember at the time.  To them, questioning the church meant weakness, sin, unworthiness.  It meant he wasn’t good enough for their daughter anymore, and it meant silently convincing her that life with him would be unbareable, that he was incapable of raising children.  What made them think he enjoyed the position he was in?  Would anyone in their right mind actively look for opportunities to question the church they had served in, preached about, and defended for so many years?  Not likely.

“Please don’t let them take her from me…”

“Please help them remember who I am…”

His knees popped as he crawled back into bed.  He squinted his eyes to read the alarm clock without his glasses.  3:43 AM…he had been praying for over an hour.  No comfort this time though, only confusion.  And sore knees.  He gently positioned himself beside her, grateful for the warmth she’d created under the blankets.  As he settled in and began his second attempt at sleep, her hand found his again.  She squoze four times.

Tears….

(read others’ stories here)

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6 thoughts on “Nathan’s Story (Brother)

  1. Oh wow Nate. This made me very teary… You are a very good descriptive writer. I felt like I was right there, watching you like a fly on the wall. So sorry you went through all of this. You’re an amazing man, brother, friend, and example. Someday you will find someone who you won’t have to wonder if “someone will take her away”, because she will accept you for who you are, and enjoy it so much that there would be no question. Love you!

  2. Oh Nathan. I cannot press “like” on this post, because it reveals so much of your pain. I am both sad AND impressed that, while your wife was talking to and receiving counsel from her parents, who DIDN’T remember who you were — you were completely silent about those challenges with me and the rest of your family. You are a loyal man, always filled with hope.

    It is possible that you DID receive an answer that night, Nade… and there was nothing about it that could have been comforting. My views on this have changed so much. As a parent, my job is to prepare my child for a successful life, and that is NOT done by rescuing or stepping in where the child is able to act on their own. NOT stepping in is difficult, but it’s necessary, and it stretches the child and builds confidence.

    I know you have confidence in your worth as a man. Just keep those dreams alive. You deserve their realization. I love you.

    Mom

  3. I just read this again, Nate. It has been a rough road, that’s for sure. I’m glad that at this time in our lives we were closer to each other than in others so you could talk with me. I don’t think we talked often about things like this but I remember that phone call pretty vividly when you told me you didn’t think you believed anymore. Even then, even having been out of the church for 3 years, I was hesitant in my reaction. I was surprised, and a big part of me was happy that my bro saw things the way I did. But I also knew how much that would affect your life, your marriage, family, and everything else. I knew how hard it would be. I think my words were, “I’m not really sure what to say right now . . . but what I WANT to say is, ‘Welcome to the team!'” Thanks for your openness and for letting us see a very personal moment, to experience it with you to a little degree. Love ya.

  4. I really like getting a peek into the WHY of some of the family members that have left. Thank you all for sharing. I am sorry for all of the pain it caused you. That is part of why I am curious, because while there were painful moments for me, I was not tortured by my deciosion to leave. Probably because I was never very invested in the church in the first place and I always had issues with what I was being taught. Thanks, Jeff, for putting these stories to good use.

  5. It has been some time since I last wept; I wept while reading of your pain in kneeling, and then the “fourth squeeze” tore at my heart. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  6. I second what Curtis said. The 4th squeeze tore me up and I balled! Nate I am so sorry for the pain you both went through. I’m sorry it stung so bad and am grateful you shared such a deep layer of your soul and were vulnerable enough to allow us to see that. This reading really stirs up the human heart and reminds us of how deep our love for another is, how deep we try relying on answers, and so much more. It cries HUMAN. And EMOTION and though it brought me to tears, it also had me feeling that much empathetic to ANYTHING another was going through for a while after I read it. Thank you for allowing us to be aware… My thoughts and prayers are with you in hopes of each day you experience happiness in the forms that bring you the healthiest smile. 🙂

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