Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Empty Arms

Alvin did come to the hospital on Sunday. Bethany was still in ICU. I was still in the private room. I don’t think I had seen him since the beating. I felt conflicted because of the children. They should have a father. But he was no father to them. He abused them. I was not sure how to navigate the spiritual landscape of divorce. I still believed in the old fashioned values concerning marriage.

Some people will still tell you that God always wants to restore a marriage. I think that is true. However, both people in that marriage have to come to the foot of the cross and be willing to be changed, molded and transformed into whole people. Alvin simply didn’t. Alcohol and other “demons” controlled his life.

I had begged God to change me. I had begged God to make me into a good wife. Yet my instincts as a mother also told me it was past time to protect these children. There was a new child lying in the ICU fighting for her life.

Alvin walked with a strut. He strutted in with no shame. His sister had told him I had the baby and that it was a girl. I said: I’m naming her Bethany Joy. She may not live. She is in the ICU. Do you want to go see her? 

He replied: No.

Then he started asking me what I was going to do about a divorce.

I said: nothing.

He said: I want to get a divorce.

 I said: go ahead.

Largely at the urging of my mother to just get the divorce I had divorced him rather quickly the first time. I had found an attorney. He did the work with the understanding that the Alvin would pay for it. Alvin never showed for any of the proceedings. It was mostly paper shuffling. The attorney never got paid.  I decided if he wanted the divorce so badly, he should go get it. I’d already been through that once.

It’s hard to imagine now how defeated I was at that point in my life. No self-esteem. My self-worth in shambles. I struggled to imagine that I would ever be anything more than a rejected person. It’s like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter, instead of an A, mine would be an R.  I’ve learned that there are some things in life that you never fully get over. Rejection is one of them. It’s like a wound that can never truly heal. Regardless of future successes or love, regardless of friends who cheer you on, you wait for the next rejection to open up this festering wound once again. Once the wound is open, the pain returns once again.

He walked out. He never turned to go see his helpless daughter lying in the ICU. Later I learned his girlfriend was waiting in the lobby. Soon I would read of his engagement to this woman. For now, I didn't know she existed.

I walked down to the nursery to peek at her. She had tubes going everywhere. Later that night they would let me scrub, don a yellow sterile gown, reach through the holes, and touch her. My mother and Murl returned from their weekend trip. They went to the nursery as well. Peering through the glass while blood gases were taken, I remember Murl’s pained face at seeing this helpless fatherless child fighting for her life while being pricked repeatedly.

 My Pastor came to see me. He offered a prayer. He asked me her name. I told him Bethany Joy. He repeated it. He said that’s nice. He added you could call her Bethy Joy. I often did. Jane was in and out all weekend. She told me to come to their house when I was discharged. I thought that was a good idea since I had no phone in the trailer.

On Monday, Nathan, Jason and I were reunited at Jane’s farm. Bethany stayed behind. As I was leaving the hospital, I was told that the cardiologist needed to see her. They had discovered a heart problem. For the third time, this time with no husband, I left a hospital after giving birth with no child in my arms.


  1. Joyce,
    thank you for your honesty, I know exactly what you mean about rejection being a wound that you never feel fully heals, once again I find myself in that desolate landscape, yet I am reminded of the Truth that there is yet One who never rejects us, He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He alone knows the fullness of the broken heart, the empty arms and the wounded soul. Even in the deserts of rejection, lonliness, abandonment and woundedness we can say "I find rest my soul/ in Christ alone, I know His power in quietness and trust/when thunders roll and oceans roar I will soar with You above the storm/Father You are King over the flood/I will be still and know You are God" and "yet I will praise Him more and more" Such is the hope we have! That no matter how the landscape looks, no matter how we feel, He can fullfil it all. I love you Joyce and thank you!

  2. Your openness and honesty is an encouragement! We all have things in our lives that we haven't talked about but because of your willingness to put it all 'out there' you are giving confidence to others to face their 'stuff' and deal with it. Thank You!!

  3. Thanks - I needed to hear that, especially today.

  4. I call my Bethany Joy, Bethy Joy as well. :)


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