Instead of being a human being, I had become a human doing. Throughout my life, I’d been seeking affirmation from others. Others – who can be fickle and untrustworthy, even after you give 110 percent to them.
Shortly after the RVL seminar, John Bishop, a friend and Vietnam-era Marine, forwarded R. Scott Rodin’s essay entitled “Becoming a Leader of No Reputation” to me. That essay appeared in the Journal of Religious Leadership (Fall 2002). Rodin wrote that essay after serving as the president of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One line hit me like a lightning bolt: “It doesn’t matter if the world knows, or sees or understands; the only applause we are meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands [emphasis mine].” I realized I had been in a figurative prison, seeking applause from a finite source (people) when it could be had from the Infinite source (God).
One week after Nora responded with the “I don’t know if I’d do it again” to my question, Nora and our children drove the two-day trip to Missouri to share Christmas 2010 with her family. Nora felt she endured a scary drive, navigating our Suburban without me and through ice and snow. I spent Christmas alone in order to save my leave (vacation time) for my anticipated transition (twenty-year retirement from the military) in 2011. During the days after Nora’s answer – “I don’t know” – I began to wrestle with options to answer this question: “How can I leave Nora (and our children) and not hurt any of them – or me?” I thought of one option. Then another.
After nearly a week of mulling over options, I realized that my proposal was ludicrous. If I left Nora and our children, they would be wounded for life. Some wounds never heal into scars – and I believed my leaving would create wounds that never healed. I would be wounded too. What was I thinking? I had promised Nora that I would forsake all others and remain with her until death parted us – and I’d done so in front of God and dozens of witnesses. Did my word and commitment mean nothing? Was I willing to throw away our story, due to my pride?
I visited my brother Jon and his wife over New Year’s holiday. Jon challenged my thinking on how I was reacting to Nora and how I was contemplating leaving her and our children.
Jon asked me, “Danny, do you think everything you saw growing up was what right was supposed to look like?”
I pondered Jon’s question throughout the weekend. I began to realize that I had been blaming my issues in marriage on Jenny and then Nora, instead of taking responsibility as the leader of my family and home. My upbringing had set the foundation for how I viewed marriage. (I later learned from reading Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s book How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage that research confirms my discovery through experience.)
So how do I make things right with Nora?
To be continued