Thursday, September 11, 2008

Choices

So... the wedding ring thing. I'm aware that this is a key issue for many men and women in my situation: "When do I take the ring off?"

To take it off too soon gives the illusion of inadequate grief. To leave it on too long is just holding onto a dream that will never come true...

The night Leslie went home, I drove back to our house to get some rest. I had all of her belongings with me-- her clothes, her jewelry, etc... Before I went to bed, I took her wedding/engagement set and put it into her jewelry box. It was a beautiful set. I designed it myself (with the help of the good people at Reis Nichols in Indy, of course)... her engagement ring was unique. Bold. Strong. Yet simple and beautiful. Like Leslie. I took one last look at it, next to her wedding ring, and one more time, gave thanks to God for the marriage with which He had blessed us. Before I closed the box, I looked at my own ring...

It just didn't seem fair that I should be allowed to wear my ring, if she couldn't wear hers. There was something selfishly unjust about that, I felt, at that moment. Those rings were not meant to be worn singly. They belonged together. The commitment which they represented had been absolved-- completed in its fullest... deemed successfully completed-- earlier that night. It just seemed wrong for me to keep it on. So I tucked it into the little box, right next to her rings, and closed the wooden box.

Of course, I called her mom the next morning, before I saw her family, to inform her of my decision... I knew they would've noticed, and I wanted to give them the thought process before it smacked them across the face in broad daylight. They were understanding and appreciative.

Sometimes, when TJ and I are out "in public", I notice people watching us interact... I notice their smiles... "awwwww... that's so cute... daddy and little boy..." And I invariably (falsely or otherwise) sense their glances fall upon my ring finger, to see if I'm a "real Daddy", or am just exercising my court-mandated visitation rights. I just want to scream for all to hear... "She DIED, okay??? I didn't CHOOSE this. And she was an EXCELLENT Mommy, and she'd be here WITH us, if I had anything to say about it!!!"

Which leads me to a related topic...

(I posted this dandy a week or so ago. 5 minutes after I posted it, I removed it. But not before it apparently was read by a few individuals... and subsequently forwarded on to some key people in their lives, with whom they'd thought it might resonate. I actually --and surprisingly, thinking I had deleted it before it had been read by anyone-- got a couple of quite positive responses from it. And it seems to fit, now, given the whole "when do I take off my ring?" topic... So here goes...)

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How can a grown adult-- a parent of children, a spouse to another human being-- actually CHOOSE to abandon the family he/she has created in order to pursue his/her own carnal and selfish whims or desires??? How can you choose the lure of superficial infatuation and fleeting beauty, youth, sexual variety, or whatever, over that through which your own blood runs deeply?

I know marriage is hard work. Even with someone as perfect as Leslie. It takes self-sacrifice, compromise, shedding of pride-- even dreams... out of love for the other. And parenthood requires even MORE self-sacrifice and -denial... not just offering humility, but offering yourself up to humiliation. (Nasty diapers, "The Wiggles" songs sticking in your head, outbursts at the restaurant, etc...)

But how much sin and darkness must cloud up a man's heart, in order to be able to look his once-best-friend in the eyes, the offspring of his own flesh and soul in the next room, and say, "I don't love you anymore. And I'm done being a father."

Don't tell me that "some men just aren't wired to be Daddies". I'm a man. I understand the need for freedom. To "sow the wild oats". To howl at the moon and flex my muscles and so-on... But what kind of small-minded, hard-hearted (or heartless) person can actually let it come to that?

Marriage (or family) is an ongoing decision. I used to say to Leslie-- almost weekly, and often after an argument, or when she was grouchy, sick, or whatever-- "I marry you all over again." Marriage vows are not something just uttered at the altar in front of friends and family, with the promise of the honeymoon looming near. You decide EVERY MORNING, when you get up, to love that foul-breathed, messy-haired person beside you. And you decide EVERY NIGHT to do the same, regardless of what your body or mind or "wiring" desires to the contrary. It's a cerebral, conscious decision that needs to be made by BOTH parties, every day. Not very romantic, eh?

When did I know I wanted to marry Leslie? When ALL the emotion and infatuation wore off... I wrote her songs, wrote her notes, spilled the depths of my soul-felt love to her beneath many moon-lit skies, enjoyed the newness of her soul, body, and kisses... and after all that, I too came to a point where I realized... as awesome as she was, I could live with or without her. (To steal a line from Bono & U2) And living WITH her would mean I would have to lay down a lot of freedom, opportunities, and personal desires and dreams that were only possible withOUT her. But to me (to play business manager here...) the "pro's" outweighed the "con's". The "benefits" outweighed the "costs". (Again, not very romantic, I know.) I chose to live with her. And fortunately for me, she chose me back. And we made that choice every day for the next 7 years. The crazy thing is, the "feelings" (the "warm-fuzzies", the emotion, the romance) come as a RESULT of that ongoing commitment-- that trust, unconditional presence and companionship... the execution of those VOWS. Not vice versa. People seem to think that it's okay to "fall out of love" once you've taken your vows. "We've just changed." "The thrill is gone." "I just don't FEEL that way anymore." "I just want something different, now." What they really are saying is, "I am choosing myself over my family. I choose to break my promise." And that choice will prove to be the worst of their lives. (Seriously, have you ever heard someone in the twilight of their life say, "I'm glad I left my wife and kids for that bimbo"?)

That's the thing I want to scream as I imaginatively shake some of these "parents" I know, who have "fallen out of love". "You don't fall out of love! You CHOOSE your way out of it!!"

I haven't struggled much with anger or rage toward God through all of this. I have yet to discover how to do "grace", and "rage" simultaneously. But I admit, I hold a great deal of anger (even "righteous", perhaps, but I've got to struggle through that thought on my own-- between God and me...), when I think of these other individuals-- these families being broken up by choices rather than cancers. Infidelities rather than infirmities... and so-on. Leslie loved me with her last breath. She would have suffered that last year all over again if it meant being able to spend one more good year with me (as humbling as it is for me to admit that). And I would have jumped into her skin and taken her place in that bed at the first opportunity, just to let her live another breath...

And then I hear of another--[censored myself]-- who makes the conscious decision to leave his wife and children so he can follow his fleeting desire to do whatever it is his fleeting desire drives him to do. I could seriously break a fist on a person like that. I don't have "justice issues" with God for taking Leslie. I DO have "sorry-excuse-for-a-man issues" with the guy that leaves his wife for another woman... his family for another life. And don't tell me you pay your child support or you have "visitation rights". Ask your kids if it's a "right" or if it's a "wrong"!

The part that just seems unfathomable to me, that any man making such a decision is able to ignore is this: Your kids won't have your presence and love in Heaven to hold to and give them comfort when the lonely feelings set in... When the turmoil bubbles up in their scared and abandoned little hearts, they won't be comforted. They'll only have the knowledge that Daddy just plain CHOSE to leave. He didn't want them anymore-- at least not as much as he wanted "other things". And that woman you left in your wake-- I can't even begin to relate... My "loss" is so much more consolable-- finite-- with the knowledge that Leslie died loving me with all she had...

All I can say, to this man (woman, people, whatever) who makes such a choice... "You're choosing to make a bed. How long are you really going to want to lie in it?"

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So yeah... Basically, not a day goes by that I don't give thanks to God for the blessing of the marriage that Leslie and I shared. We "won". We did it. As I told her on her death bed... "Thank you for loving me. Thank you for our marriage. It was as God intends marriage to be."

So that's the story of "when I decided to take off my wedding band". To summarize... I took off my ring when my wife did... when she had completely fulfilled her marital duties. God, I loved her with all I had! Thank you!

18 comments:

ann said...

I took mine off when I had surgery on that hand, when we had been married 7 years. It was stolen before I got unswollen enough to put it back on. I have never wanted another one. That was it, it's gone, but I am as married as I could possibly be. It's not about the ring, it's about the decisions. You nailed it, absolutely. You are a brave man to say those things with such vigor. Praise God for bold men of faith.

Emily said...

Thanks. I couldn't have said it better myself. It was like you listened in on conversations I have had in the past.

rachel weaver said...

AMEN, AMEN, and AMEN!!! Josh and i were recently talking about this and praising God for the fiercity (i'm pretty sure that's not really a word) he's given us to protect our marriage. i love your "righteous anger". thanks for loving Leslie and Tj with that same fiercity and commitment, and for standing up for what it right!

Holli said...

wow... I was thinking about this the other day and thinking of friends who have "lost" their loved ones to God and others to sin.....
thank you for sharing this! Praying many LOST people will read this, be touched by God through your words and return to their promise!

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff and Abby said...

Love this post Tyson. Can't even begin to add to it...you said it perfectly. Thanks for the reminder and being so honest. Love it.

Anonymous said...

Tyson, my prayer is that you continue to allow God to use you as His vessel to reach His children. I appreciate your thoughts and willingness to share them with so many.

I'm a single parent, divorced yes, but not because I chose to walk away, thought it was too hard, was tired of the work, wanted another man, or was walking away from my faith in God or love for Him. It is so easy for any one of us to "look" at another's hand/life and "tsk-tsk" when we don't really know the whole story. God knows though and while I want to scream at people to quit judging or presuming that I just gave up or walked out without trying -- I know that our God loves me unconditionally and accepts me as I am. He feels all our pain and His grace continues to be poured out. I have never thought God celebrates our failures or even says it's okay -- our consequences are still there to live with -- but I do know that He is there to walk with us through it, to draw us near and soak up His love. He is the Potter . . .

For those of you who are choosing to show a Godly example of your marriages and your family -- thank you!! It is a gift for you; your children; those who know you and watch and for those you may or may not meet along the journey of life. Your example is AWESOME and the love you have for one another and show to each other and for each other cannot help but spill over. I pray that it will spill over to those who are broken and hurt; to those you know who may be divorced; to children of broken homes. Be their example and hope -- continue to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Tyson, I still don't understand why a Dad chooses to turn away from His child and I fully understand the desire to bust a few knuckles on them. I've witnessed first hand what that choice does to a child and see every day the pain it causes. Your words and example may be the very thing another "Dad"/parent needs to help them become the person God intends them to be.

Continuing to lift you and your family in prayer.

Byron Gerber said...

Ty, Thanks for the post. I appreciate your ability to put your thoughts into words.

Erin said...

Sorry about the deleted comment...I felt like I didn't quite come out right. Thanks for your post. It really struck a chord with me.

Jeff & Nicole said...

Great post. I am very encouraged by your boldness and your attitude. May the years ahead never change that! Raise your son well. It doesn't matter what the world thinks.

Mrs. Fields said...

Tyson, thank you for your boldness to speak the truth and your committment in marriage to love Leslie through all life brings. You are such an inspiration to me, to fight the good fight, no matter what. A "marriage as God intends it to be" is what I desire for my husband and me - thank you for the encouragment to continually strive for that.

Katie Umbaugh said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. Thanks for loving her so well, and for sharing her love for you with us.

Keep the dress Tyson... as long as you need it. She has already left for Cambodia. Actually I should probably take that blog down anyway.

Praying for you two

Anonymous said...

thanks, tyson.
an indy friend :)

Jilliebean said...

Thank you for sharing your heart and you and TJ continue through your journey. I know that you will choose what is right for you with your rings, but I wanted to share this story...

My father-in-law died in a car accident just before my husband turned 2. I don't know when my mother-in-law "decided to take her ring off," but she saved her husband's ring and her engagement/wedding ring, keeping them together. Then, when my husband was ready to get married, she gave him those rings. I am humbled and blessed daily to wear my mother-in-law's ring, which serves as a symbol not only of the love and dedication of my marriage, but also of the love of a previous marriage. It also serves as a reminder to be grateful for today, because one never knows what tomorrow may bring.

You and TJ are in our prayers...

The Moser Fam... said...

Tyson -
You don't know me, but I went to Taylor (graduated in 01 and was actually a PROBE leader for your little brother, Tad). Anyway, I have been following Leslie's journey and now your new blog for quite sometime. I have thought of your little family often and just been so impressed with how you (and Leslie!) have handled this every step of the way. This post REALLY hit home with me. I thought it was a really great description of what marriage is all about. I've read it several times now and have forwarded it to different people who I think would appreciate your words. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. TJ is lucky to have a dad who loves him and the Lord so much. I will continue to pray for you as you learn to live life without your best friend.

Ali Moser

Anonymous said...

First of all I would like to say that you Tyson, are an exceptional man for handling this whole thing so well. Second I would like to say thank you for the "fist breaking" post. It's my favorite. I have always looked to this page for spiritual guidance and I have been one who "likes" speakers or writers to hit me in the face. Maybe it's just my personality but I feel I respond better to this than always hearing the good.

I usually don't blog, but someone inside me told me to write. I thought maybe what I have to say may help someone. My wife recently had a "threat" of disease and it made us realize things we could both improve on to make things better. We were very grateful things turned out o.k. and wanted to cherish our marriage. I had always told my wife previously that she has to spell things out for me, as in what fills her needs. I just don't automatically know what she wants just like she doesn't automatically know what I want. Anyway we both made a list of our top 5 needs in our marriage and we put it by our night stand so we would be reminded of it daily (I need daily reminders). From the help of this list we both know immediately after looking at the list if we have done our best to meet the other ones needs. a I am thankful to God that he put us through this "health scare" to make us realize how much of a gift a good marriage is.

Rachel said...

i just found your blog tonight & wanted to tel you i loved your explanation for removing your wedding band. makes complete sense. i've never heard of anybody describe something like that, but the way you did it was very, very touching.

about people looking down at your finger when you're out & about... whenever someone has a STORY, like yours, i always suggest keeping cards in your wallet - business card sized - with your whole story typed up on it. :) small print, front and back if you'd like. and just hand them out when necessary & walk away. ;)

sending prayers for you, aj & your whole family!

Anonymous said...

Over the past two days I have read about Leslie's journey and now yours. My husband left me and our daughter for another women. The ache, anger, grief, questioning, etc. comes and goes. Good days, bad days. But my faith has been strengthened and encouraged by yours and Leslie's. Thank you. All praise to the Father.