Last weekend, just as I turned the key in the ERA lock to swing open the front door of the new house, everything started to unravel. The ripples of discontent and uncertainty, mostly hidden under the surface over the last few months but occasionally breaking out in seismic shocks, swelled into an earthquake. A catalytic discovery started a chain reaction in Sam’s mind and by Sunday morning he had made the definite decision that brought a fatal break in all our plans. As I stood guard over the scene, Sam told Jessa he no longer wants to go through with the wedding – it’s off, it’s over, he can’t keep his promises, he needs his space back.
I use the word ‘fatal’ deliberately: in that moment there was a death to dreams of a new life – a sudden murder, a bereavement – and Jessa’s cold horror was overwhelmingly real. Poor young woman! Rejection is bad enough, but to have all her hopes extinguished by the person she trusted, the way of escape cut off… she can no longer stay in the UK, we can no longer pursue the immigration case, she must go home to Pennsylvania and start all over again. For the past week she has mourned in bitterness and anguish, wept and raged – as every spurned lover does – as we have unmade all our plans and with great difficulty made new ones. It seems the union didn’t pass the test and self-examination I referred to in my previous post and instead of this 40 day journey culminating in a celebration, on 10th October Jess will be on a plane to the US.
What a roller-coaster! All this week I’ve filled the gap left between the estranged couple – Sam moving happily into his new house and Jessa abandoned in the deserted and increasingly squalid flat, as I’ve loaded furniture, crockery, clothes into the car. Buying things for Sam, taking them round, checking on the kittens, doing laundry – and in between visiting Jess, holding her as she weeps, listening to her outpouring of bitterness at having been plunged from a mountaintop to the pit of despair – the sense that everything in her life goes wrong all the time and why did she ever trust him?
I remember the pain of losing my first real love: it was agony and misery. Just like Sam, he found an excuse to walk away because he couldn’t cope – he wanted his independence and his own choices and identity unhampered by my demands and needs. How can we force another’s hand and heart to do what we want? Love and commitment have to be given freely or they don’t mean anything: it would only be worse in the end without that choice to pledge “I will!”. That is what the engagement is for… better now than regretting it after marriage.
I’m in the middle – I can see both sides! My son just wants to focus on himself – it’s selfish, yes of course, but he has more reason than most and many leads to follow up after the media exposure… The house is a new beginning for him: he is happy and relieved – despite the shame of failure as he has had to finally admit he just can’t keep the promises he made. Just like many young men, he’d like to have his cake and eat it too – he will reconsider when he’s “ready”! But Jessa cannot wait – she has to leave: she’s alternately a frightened little girl with shattered hopes who had to give back her diamond ring and a vicious hell-cat driven to extremes. She’s been bitten by the sharp teeth of reality as her dream dissolves and longs to drive the pain away with drink and drugs. She’ll certainly need a lot of support to get back on her feet at home – she gave up everything and lost her apartment and belovèd dogs on coming over here. Wading through the emotions this past week has been a full time job, even without the need to find a place to stay and pack up all her things.
We’re going to miss our daughter – for that is what she is – and she will miss us too. But how amazing that we’ll still feel that love for her across the miles and be able to encourage from afar… as all parents do when children leave home. I pray her anger against Sam will subside in time – it’s worse because she loves him still and knows him oh so well – and that the sense I have that everything WILL be alright is truly faith: Jesus’ Name and Jessa’s are only separated by one letter and that’s how close He’ll be. We’ll pray for her and look for His redemption – for us all.
Meanwhile we inhabit that middle place, seeing both sides, standing in the gap, living in the agony of ‘what IS‘ – and knowing that the great I AM who knows the end from the beginning, who knows all things, is here with us to make a way through with His wisdom, provision and presence. He’s helped me mother both these kids this week… and that is what I still intend to do.