It's day 23--only a week left after this post. Today's topic is a real change of pace. The assignments over the last several days have been fun and mostly lighthearted. Today, though, I am asked to talk about a hard time in my life.
Without question, the hardest time in my life was when my wife and I got divorced. Actually, to be completely accurate, the few years before the legal divorce and the time we finally decided we were going to get divorced were the hardest. Things take so long with the court system that by the time the papers were actually signed and everything was finalized, things were a lot better. But I'll talk about that in a minute.
I don't want to get too personal and I won't speak ill of my ex-wife. She had and has a lot on her plate emotionally and physically and I'm not sure I could say I would have been able to do anything differently than she did if I were in her shoes. Be that as it may, though, there was a point where I found that I just couldn't go on with life the way it was. We were, at best, tense roommates who basically took turns using the public areas of the house. But I couldn't say the words. I couldn't pick up and move out. Looking back, I think the only thing that was stopping me was that I hated the idea of divorce. I actually had concluded that I could learn to be miserable the rest of my life and that I would just be her roommate and caretaker.
But she saved me from it. She asked for the separation and then filed for the divorce. It was then that the emotional and spiritual avalanche hit. I felt like the biggest failure and the most unworthy person on the planet. I turned into a zombie. I went to work, I came home, and anything else I had to be forced to do. I had this fantasy that I was handling it really well and that my students didn't know anything was wrong, but that was shattered one day when a former student stopped by unexpectedly after school. We sat and chatted for a bit before she uncomfortably asked if something was going on. I asked why she thought something was going on, to which she replied that a friend who was in my class asked her why Mr. Stephens was so sad all the time. That was a real wakeup call for me.
And the other thing that pulled me out of the pit of despair (intentional reference to The Princess Bride) was my Sunday School class at my church. Specifically, our teacher, Randy Halterman and his wife Suzanne, Keith and Jennifer Schoenhut, Jonathan and Maria Delgado, and Joe and Brenda Bolian actively supported me through this time. I really question where I would be without them. Keith, who also went through an ugly divorce in years past, and I found immediately that we were brothers. God brought him into my life at exactly the right time. The Schoenhuts, Delgados, and I are a big family now and I just love them to death. They've made me feel worthy of love again.
That was my hardest time. I hope it wasn't too much of a downer.