Sitting in the living room, Matt could hear the water running in the tub for his wife’s bath. The radio in the bedroom played softly in the background.
The water in the bathroom stopped and he could hear his wife stepping in, swirling the warm water to sooth and embrace her body that carried their unborn child.
Just moments before she had told him of the news of the baby and he had tried to match her joy. But he had failed, the look on his face revealing a secret he thought forever buried.
She had remained silent, searching his eyes with her own. Then turned and walked away.
“Jenn, it’s not what you think,” he stammered as she made her way to the bathroom, closing the door.
The living room of their apartment closed in on him and he stepped out onto the patio that overlooked a small park. It was late; the streets quiet.
Sitting on a metal chair, he looked out over the park. His heart raced and he bent his head into his hands. He had never told Jenn of his childhood. It was a closed chapter -not thought of, not real.
He could here Randy Travis singing Three Wooden Crosses through the opened slider, the single verse “…it’s what you leave behind when you go.” burned and looped in his mind.
He squeezed his eyes, fighting tears. “I’m not ready for this,” he breathed. Visions of his childhood flickered madly through his mind. Reflexively, he dodged his head as the image of his father’s hand slammed towards his face.
He could hear his mother crying in the background, but knew that she, like himself, was a prisoner of this rage. And as much as his youth was helpless against his father’s temper so too was her courage too fragile to fight against it. Innocence and fear, different ends to the same rope, bound them captive.
His father’s fury had been as a blade, slicing any hope of ever knowing family love out of his life. Before he turned twelve, his mother died, pulling with her to the grave any light to vanquish the despair in their home.
And now, he too was to become a father. A horn honked below and he opened his eyes. A cold fear swept over him and he trembled. “Am I to be like him?” he asked the darkness. “Am I my father’s son?”
Something stirred inside him, he swallowed hard, and he looked over the park.
He was crying and the lamplights glistened through his tears. “God, I don’t want to be like my father. Change me, change my heart. I don’t want to share my father’s legacy.” He gasped for air. “I can’t share it. I won’t share it. Help me.”
The same frail courage that had enslaved his mother to his father’s wrath now seemed to rise like bile and choke him with its gall. He clinched his fists, overwhelmed with a nameless ache to commune with God. “Don’t let me hurt my family, he pled. “Change me.”
He closed his eyes, creating an intimate darkness within his mind that seeped to his core and bled into his heart. He drew a breath that flamed a truth hidden within his heart long before his birth.
Anguish rose from his soul like dark phantoms and his tongue seemed unable to utter his pain. He fought against the despair as a warrior fights because he knew what losing would mean. Such wars took no prisoners.
And, in that solitary moment of valor, God responded by quickening his spirit with a single word: forgive.
His father had passed two years ago and even at his deathbed, forgiveness was something Matt had found impossible to do. But at this moment, it took on a new meaning. It alone could change and heal his heart and give hope to his future.
Yet, even as his heart palpated with doubt and disbelief, a certain peace embraced him. And, again, his spirit was quickened with the single word: trust.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Matt, are you all right?”
“Jenn…I thought you were in the bath.”
Dressed in a white, terry robe, she moved to sit beside him. “I’ve been praying.” She took his hand. Her eyes were red from tears. “Are we going to be okay?”
“More than okay,” He leaned and kissed her on the cheek. “Forgive me. I’ve been praying, too and there’s something I need to tell you.”
Three Wooden Crosses Words and music by Randy Travis, 2002
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