With my back to the door, I slump down onto the floor in front of it.
Knock, knock. My husband, Mike, patiently knocks on the side of the screen door again.
“So what do you say, Kelly? Can I come in?”
It’s not supposed to be like this, I know. Generally speaking, husbands don’t have to knock on the door of their own house to be let in. Generally speaking, they’re already on the inside, loving their wives and enjoying married life. But that’s generally speaking. That’s not our life…anymore.
But it started out that way. I remember our wedding day so clearly. It was the culmination of months of planning and years of loving each other. It was, quite simply, the happiest day of my life. I remember how, during the ceremony, the pastor reminded us that marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. He told us, “Marriage is the closest thing to Heaven that a couple can experience, this side of Paradise.” I loved that! And, oh how I loved Mike.
But love wasn’t enough, I guess. The cracks in our marriage appeared early on. The fights would erupt over silly things sometimes – and sometimes over things more serious. I remember feeling ashamed that we didn’t have the picture-perfect marriage that I thought all Christian couples came by naturally. Our marriage certainly wasn’t the closest thing to Heaven, this side of Paradise!
But we would always make up eventually. And things would be good for awhile. But then came Ethan. He was our first baby, eagerly anticipated and long awaited. But Ethan didn’t come into the world howling. He came silently, dead before he was even born. I left the hospital with empty arms and even emptier heart.
I have read stories of how other couples have gone through the loss of a child and the shared grief drew them closer together. But it seemed to have the opposite effect on us. Mike didn’t want to talk about Ethan and busied himself at work. Ethan was all I could think or talk about. I insisted on visiting his tiny grave every day. Mike refused to go with me. Things were a long way from Paradise.
“I can’t take it anymore,” Mike had announced one Sunday, about three months ago. It had been a year since Ethan’s birth and death and once again, I was curled up on the bed, sobbing.
I sat up and replied, “Then maybe you should go.” And, to my surprise, Mike did.
In the three months that he’s been gone, I’ve done a lot of soul searching. I understand that awful things happen in this world because it’s a sinful place. And I know that God allows suffering in our lives sometimes. Little Ethan’s days were planned before he ever came to be and he lived exactly as long as God intended. And while there will always be a place in my heart that belongs only to Ethan, I have finally begun to heal, I think. But the question now is this – what is to become of my marriage? Mike failed me. When I needed him most, he was distant. But truthfully, we had been failing each other long before Ethan. Generally speaking, I don’t think most marriages can survive this kind of hurt.
“Kelly?” Through the screen door, I can smell Mike’s familiar scent.
“I want to come home,” Mike says again. I turn around and look at him through the screen. He has sat down on the front stoop and is facing me through the mesh.
“We can start over again -- if you’re willing,” he says.
I lift my hand helplessly, “There’s so much,” I begin.
“I know,” agrees Mike, “But this time I want to do things right. We can get some help. And maybe we can heal -- together.”
Mike isn’t just asking me to let him back into our house. He wants me to let him back into my heart. A glimmer of hope springs up, taking me by surprise. Is it possible that we could mend the tattered remnants of our marriage? Could things be even better than they were before Ethan? Can this earthly version of Paradise be restored?
I don’t know. There are some hurts that nothing can heal.
But, quietly, I stand and slowly open the door, reminding myself that true love offers second chances. Real love is always strong enough to try again.
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