Delighted Husband and I spent this afternoon in the garage sorting through belongings from our attic that were damaged during Hurricane Ike. We've been married for nearly 12 years and some stuff was mine before we were married. There's a lot of stuff!
I want to mention first that this is some of the stinky stuff in the attic mentioned here. I don't do it perfectly, but I like to keep things organized, so nearly all of our stuff in the attic was stored in cardboard banker boxes. Those banker boxes acted like sponges, soaking up all the water in the attic when the roof leaked during the hurricane. The wet cardboard was breaking down deteriorating in the heat and smelled awful! But now the cardboard had dried and it was time to sort through them and be done with it.
Some things were ruined and had to be claimed.
Some things were—to my great delight—salvageable.
I want to tell you about one of those things.
Two of the many boxes were things from my single life and girlhood that I had kept and brought into marriage. One box was full of books and journals from the years when I first began my healing journey. Relics of the heart. This box-out of all the damaged boxes-the contents of this box were completely unharmed. I was so glad to see this, and I made a note on the index card which book titles were in there in case anyone ever needed it and I could give it away. There was plenty of work to do, so I quickly folded together a nice clean banker box and began to move the books and journals into their new home.
Then I saw it: A program from the funeral of a man who loved me and mentored me for many years when I was a teen and single adult. I'll call him Paul. Such joy filled my heart and tears filled my eyes. I stood there in my garage, wiping tears, and read the whole article. This man and his dear wife spent their lives loving God and loving people.
They loved me wholeheartedly during the early years of my recovery. They believed me when I told them about my sexual abuse, and they loved me without condition. I don't know quite how to describe it, but there was a gentleness about this man. He saw me. When he looked at me, he really saw me. As a young woman, this was so special to me. In a world full of pain and abuse and inappropriate flirting, this man looked at me with love and fatherly affection. He affirmed me as a writer when I was first finding my wings and beginning my career. He took me seriously. When I talked to them about my questions and trials as I was just starting my corporate career, they really listened. Paul had a wide varied career and he coached me on the people dynamics I encountered on my job. I was so young! So naive yet talented and I found the unspoken culture of corporate America confusing. He took me under his wing and coached me about workplace dynamics and my career goals.
Paul and his wife were always very affectionate with each other. I remember how special and good I felt inside when I would be over at their house for dinner and he and his wife would stand embracing and smiling right there in the living room. Their devotion and affection for each other was a breath of pure air in a season of my life where I was processing all the pain from my past sexual abuse. I would look at Paul and his wife standing in their living room, smiling and talking with their arms around each other, and I would think, "Oh my God. All is right with the world. This is the way it should be."
Years later, I realize that Paul was one of the first people to speak the truth into my life that the sexual and the spiritual were equally important and deserved to be balanced in a healthy life. We both loved to read, and we shared many hours talking about novels and what they spoke to us. We had discussed big tomes like Herman Wouk's The Winds of War, the family legacy and the horror of the Second World War. I remember he asked me what else I had been reading, and embarrassed, I mumbled, "Oh just some other dumb stuff, a Danielle Steel novel." I was sure he would see that as some unspiritual waste of time or worse a shameful detour for a Christian young woman. But you know what he said? Paul looked me straight in the eye and said, "Well, Shula, romance is an important part of life. Never forget that. Life would be pretty dull without romance, and if you want to read about it and let God stir up the desires of your heart for a good man and a good marriage, then you go right ahead. Okay, so what else you been reading?" and the conversation went on, calm as could be. We went on to talk about James Michener's Covenant next, and the staggering issue of South Africa's racial unrest.
I kept up with the conversation, but inside my jaw was dropped in shocked delight. Up until that point in my life, sex and any kind of boy/girl connection had been icky, and toxic and filled with pain. In that one single conversation, I learned that romance and marital love, even the mushy sexy kissy stuff was an important part of life and that was okay for me to want to be married. Of course, I still felt I was exempt from that sort of thing; Having been abused I felt like I was damaged freight. But that one conversation gave me a spark and I began daring to hope. I took all my questions and longings to my counseling sessions with my therapist, but that conversation with Paul was a turning point. A catalyst.
Better yet, the way Paul calmly spoke of romance with the same level of respect he showed the topic of racism or genocide told me that romantic love really mattered. It wasn't just meaningless fluff, it mattered. Romance was a legitimate issue.
I smile as I conclude this article, and there are happy tears in my eyes. Because I know that Paul would be so proud of me, of the redemption stories I am writing and of this life of love I have built with Delighted Husband. I so so WISH Paul had gotten the chance to meet my beloved Delighted Husband. They never met. My first date with Delighted Husband was the night of Paul's funeral. It was a new season in my life, and while the two men never met, I brought my changed and healing heart into my marriage.
What a legacy of love!