This is a heartfelt message to my former student Melinda French Gates.
Praying for Marriages
Last week, visiting family members asked me to pray for their dear neighbors, who are having marital problems. They have two young children. “Certainly,” I said. “Keith and I pray for families and marriages every week at church.” Praying for marriages was new to me before we joined Bethany Lutheran Church.
I told my uncle and aunt about my former student Melinda French Gates, whose 27-year, high-profile marriage to Bill Gates is ending. They have three children; the youngest is 18. “Please pray for Melinda and her family,” I said. “This is a very tough time.”
As well I know.
Tough Lessons Learned
Separated and divorced three decades ago and now fifteen years into a second marriage, here are the lessons I learned—the hard way:
- Marriage is about Trust, being faithful to God and one another, honest, loving and forgiving. If either or both spouses are not bound by this covenant—as my first husband and I were not—trust can erode. Then power defines the relationship, who has it, who doesn’t.
- Life is about Time and putting God and family, especially your spouse, before work. My first husband and I spent a great deal of time away from each other, working to make a difference in the world but not in our marriage. Affirmation, partnership, and intimacy dwindled to nothing.
- While in the belly of the whale of Separation and Divorce, I wasn’t fit company and didn’t learn much. I was too hurt, too sad, too embarrassed, too angry, too humiliated, too pitiful, too confused—and desperate to keep up a good face for my children, students, and colleagues. But when I stopped bawling and dropped my mask, God lifted me up. In other words, I fell upward.
Message to Melinda
I imagine you are in the belly of that whale, Melinda, while standing firm in your Catholic faith. When you’re ready, here’s a message from your friend Father Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward, a copy of which I gave you seven years ago: “Healing is a long journey… If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.” Though painful, the long journey of healing is the worthiest of all endeavors, because falling upward is joyous suffering, and transmitting joy to others is one of your gifts.
Your good works have benefited many, Melinda, and your words continue to inspire. As you wrote in your book The Moment of Lift, which I reviewed here, “The goal is for everyone to be connected. The goal is for everyone to be loved. Love is what lifts us up.”
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