For over twenty years, on many nights, I have struggled with this man. He regularly intrudes my dreams, leaving me shaken or tearful. But after all this time, all these many nights, I have come to a peaceful solution.
My marriage to John ended 20 years ago, when he had yet
another affair and left me, just after our 30th wedding anniversary.
After our marriage ended he died of brain cancer, so he is not only out of our
marriage, but really gone. In the early years, he was frequently in my dreams,
mocking me, pushing me away, or threatening me. Often I awoke crying, my
heart pounding. In one particular dream that I remember vividly, I was naked,
wet, and cold, hiding in a bathtub, while he was in another part of the house
with the other woman. He found me in the bathtub, tenderly wrapped me in a
blanket and helped me get away. That was almost harder to handle than when he
was being mean.
In more recent years he was in the background in my
nighttime ramblings. No matter what I was doing, it was implied that he was
there, his presence always felt. That awareness, that he was so firmly
entrenched in my subconscious often made me sad or angry. I cried that I simply
couldn’t get him out of my brain, or got angry, pleading for him just to go
away. John, always John—so much a part of me.
Yes, I have had a huge struggle finding forgiveness. I
have prayed and prayed, read every book I could find on the topic. Still, he
was there, always there.
Recently I really accepted the reality that this
forgiveness was beyond me, not something I could do on my own. Sitting on the
sofa in my living room, I prayed and asked Jesus to sit beside me. Jesus, who
forgave those who murdered him, even when he was dying on the cross. He knows
about forgiveness. With Jesus beside me, I asked to be able to address John
directly. With my eyes closed and Jesus beside me, I could see John as a young
man, sitting across from me. He said not a word. I remembered everything about
the 21-year-old man I married—his hair, his hands, the way he made me laugh,
how protective he was of me. Most of all, I remembered what it felt like to
love him so deeply. I saw that young man and thought about the things that
happened to him in the years after he was 21. I acknowledged the betrayal and
the harsh treatment. But I still loved the young man I married, and that was
the person I forgave. I forgave him, the love of my life, not the harsh,
troubled man he became.
Last week I dreamed about him again. All I can recall is
a glimpse of the dream. John and I were together, talking about one thing or
another, and I felt a deep love for him. No angst, no anger, no bitterness,
God's mercy at work. Thank you, Lord! Thank you.