“Do you really want to know what I’m thinking about?” the stranger sitting at the next table at Starbucks answered.
From the look on her face and emotion in her voice, I wished I hadn’t asked. But I said, “Yes.”
“My life is a pile of rubbish and I am leaving my husband. He has been sleeping with my best friend for about a year and I just found out today. Is murder still against the law…Actually, is murder of a two-timing crud of a husband against the law?”
I sensed the question was rhetorical. I hoped it was. What should I say…if anything?
“Since we don’t know each other, I don’t think you actually want any advice as much as you need to vent. But I can tell you of a similar experience if you are interested. If not, just keep on talking.”
She took a long drink of her latte and then, “Actually I’d like to hear your story. Go ahead.”
Now I wondered why I’d offered to be so vulnerable. I almost never talked about what happened with her. Perhaps this would prove therapeutic for both of us (only God would have that answer).
My wife, or rather ex-wife, and I were spiraling downward in our marriage. She had a daughter from her previous marriage who proved to be more than our marriage could handle. She and I had become enemies. She was 18 at the time.
We were Christians and attended a church regularly. I was involved in the drama ministry and my wife was the office secretary.
“You were Christians?” the woman asked, surprised.
“Yes. Still am. At least I am, I’m not sure about her. Surprising to hear that Christians can have such problems isn’t it?”
“I guess so. But that’s ok. I was shocked, that’s all. Go ahead, tell me more.”
“Although our lives were falling apart, neither of us was sure about the outcome. Actually, she probably was. I just didn’t know…yet!”
“Not to give Christians another bad rap, but my best friend and his wife had just split up. He moved out and she was devastated. She married him when she was 16 and had never known another man. It seemed as though he had turned cold toward her and wanted another life.
To help, I met with him every Saturday morning for breakfast, to listen and encourage as much as I could. During this time he confessed that he had a girlfriend at the coast where he was living. In spite of this, he would come back home occasionally and have sex with his wife, telling her he was not sure whether or not they should get a divorce.
Later I found out that he was also asking for money from her even though he was a qualified building contractor. She worked three jobs so they wouldn’t lose the house.
And then, about six weeks after we began meeting, the sky fell on my head. I found out that he and my wife were having an affair (nice word for screwing each other).
If that wasn’t horrible enough, meeting with me each Saturday while bonking my wife, my wife was meeting with his wife, then telling him whatever she said that might help him take advantage of her.
I moved out within a week and filed for divorce within a month. What a wreck! Imagine meeting with a person, trying to help them patch their marriage up when all the while he is having sex with your wife. I didn’t have to imagine it.
I stopped talking. The woman at Starbucks seemed different. Subdued. Her coffee was gone now but she held the cup with both hands, looking at me over the rim.
“Wow. Did you make that up in the hopes of making me feel better?”
Now I was stunned. “No. I just told a complete stranger one of the most traumatic true stories of my life. I would not make up such an event.”
“Good. You have made me feel better. I’m not sure why though. But I feel more level, hopeful. Maybe hopeful is not the right word, maybe…understanding is better. When you sat down I thought that my life was the worst possible and now I see that it isn’t. There are lots of sad things happening to normal people. Did you get a divorce?”
“Yes. And now I am married to a wonderful woman. We’ve been married nearly twenty years.”
I realized it was time for me to meet my wife in another part of town. I stood and said, “For me, my faith in God proved to be the deciding factor, the reason I was able to move on and actually, about five years later, forgave them. Not that I spoke to them, but forgave in my heart so I no longer carried the hatred. I hope you can have the same faith, if you don’t already.”
“Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll look for that faith. I can clearly see it worked for you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye. I’m glad I came to Starbucks today.”