The letter detailed how much we owed, the steps the bank had taken to try and resolve things, and how we hadn’t cooperated. Naturally, they hadn’t wanted to take this action, but they had no choice really, considering our breach of faith.
Our house payment was automatically drafted from our checking account. I knew that every two weeks, I put more than enough money in that account to pay the mortgage two or three times over. So did Stacy. Or so I assumed. She balanced the checkbook. Something was wrong.
Just about the time I was ready to call her up and demand an explanation, I stopped, took a deep breath and put the phone down. We needed to discuss this face to face. I called my boss and explained the multi-layered mess I was in. I told him I’d be in as soon as I could in the morning but I had to get things straightened out with the bank. He was understanding and very sympathetic seeing that he was on his second marriage.
I called my mother, just as she was slipping into full-blown worry mode. She had allowed for all reasonable contingencies and still hadn’t heard from me. She went from worry to relief to indignation all in three seconds flat. Then after a breath, she offered to come to Memphis and help, whatever that might entail. I assured her that a visit to the bank would clear up this obvious misunderstanding. She made me promise to call if it didn’t. Then she made me promise to call even if it did.
Finally, she sighed, “I’m sorry. I’m sure I sound crazed.”
“No. I think you want something to work out the way you expect it to. You’ve had too many shocks and surprises, and you just need the universe to behave itself for a little while until you get your bearings back.”
I could imagine her smile. It was gentle, but weary. “Yes. I think that’s it exactly,” she said. “But you must understand, you are not on that list of things I expect to behave.”
“It’s a good thing,” I joked, but she wasn’t in a kidding mood.
“Michael, I trust your judgment.”
That was one of us. “Thank you. Sincerely. I’ll call you tomorrow after I talk to the bank.”
“Kiss Christopher for me.”
I drove home, got Christopher settled in bed and then debated whether to call my uncle James with the latest developments. It wouldn’t matter how many compliments I paid Stacy, her mind was made up. His advice was worthless. Oh, I believed his way represented the way things should work in a best-case scenario. We didn’t have a best case. Besides that, I bet there hadn’t been ten divorces in his church in the thirty-some years he’d been the pastor. He was all theory. Just like David.
My dad, on the other hand, had seen his share of messy divorces. There were far more people and far less stigma about divorce in St. Louis. But, even before he pastored, he did marriage and family counseling, and people don’t go to a counselor until they’ve exhausted all their options. He could give me some real-world advice to temper the Sunday school stuff. Without my dad, it seemed I was left with either-or. I had already heard the Sunday school version, so I called my uncle Nolan.
“She’s hiding money,” he said before I even finished the story. “You see, she caught you flat-footed, but I’m sure she didn’t decide to leave you on the drive home. She’s known for a while and she’s been planning.”
“She’s going to take you for everything you’ve got. She’s confident you’ll take care of this little oversight which means, she’ll still get the house. She’s counting on you being a white knight and doing the right thing.”
“So what should I do instead?”
He laughed. “There is no instead. You do the right thing. This is just money. You’ll make more.”
“It could end up being quite a lot of money before it’s all over.”
“The thing is, Michael, you promised to love her, and whether you realized it or not at the time, that means you love her like Jesus loves. I believe that means when she rejects you, when she cheats you, when she spits in your face, you still sacrifice for her.”
I was stunned. I’m not sure what I expected him to say but that straightforward, distilled theology wasn’t it.
“There will be pressure on you to go after her, to make her pay, especially when the lawyers get involved. They will encourage you to claim all sorts of things about her most of which are based on only the faintest hint of truth. Outrageous things like she’s an unfit mother, or that she has a drinking problem or that she’s been unfaithful. Don’t fall for that.”
I hadn’t even thought ahead to the battle.
“You maintain your integrity. Trust me, it will be worth it. You’ll be able to sleep at night.”
I asked the question that would have horrified my mother. “Is that what you did with Aunt Elaine?”
He was quiet for a while, then he said, “This is what your dad told me. He said, ‘Nolan, when I don’t know how to respond to someone, I go back and look at how Jesus did it.’”
I could hear my dad saying that.
“So we studied how Jesus treated the people that walked away from Him. He didn’t take vengeance on them. He didn’t berate them. He didn’t beg them to come back, either. But, he never stopped loving them, and He trusted God the Father to vindicate Him. So that’s what I tried to do.”
I should have talked to Nolan first.
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