For those of you that know me, I do sound at a church in Athens. Hundreds of people normally pass by the control booth prior to taking their seat. Even though this house of worship is a community fixture, I honestly don’t know most of the people that come by and say hello. However, there are a few parishioners who I consider friends that I speak to whenever I see them. Eric is one of those friends. Eric and I have known each other since I became a member of the church during my senior year at UGA. He’s been the one that I could confide in during my financial and emotional storms. Eric didn’t look at me differently when I filed for divorce. He didn’t judge me as I went down the “rabbit hole” after it was final either. Instead, he would encourage me by saying, “You’ll see the sunshine again Mike, just hang in there”. I would normally look at him like he was the one with the addiction! Despite how I felt about him at the time, he continued to be there for a wretch like me.
This past Sunday, I saw Eric and his wife, Michelle, come through the door with smiles that could have replaced the sun. He gave me a pound a whispered “thank you” as he and Michelle made their way to the front. It had been a year since I saw him last. Sure I’ve checked on him from time to time via text and social media but this was the first time seeing his face since that dreadful Sunday . . . . . .
Eric’s face was without expression as he entered the sanctuary. The constantly yakking, sports trash talking, exact scripture reciting, high tenor singing deacon was reluctant to go to the front with his other brethren. He gave me a deathly stare as he made his way to the bench behind the booth. Although he had on his tailor made suit which was accentuated by his spotless Allen Edmonds and fresh haircut, it couldn’t mask the pain he was currently experiencing. Neither could it hide the alcohol that he had been consuming.
Needless to say, Eric was not well. My eyes continued to go to him throughout the service. As the choir concluded their sermonic hymn, Eric was near tears. He kept looking toward the ceiling, trying not to break down. I texted to ask him if he was okay. He texted me back and apprised me that Michelle, his wife of twelve years, the mother of his two daughters, his very bestest friend, was cheating on him with another man and didn’t know what to do. I asked him if we could go talk but there was no response. Midway through the sermon, Eric left the sanctuary. A few minutes after, he texted me and told me he was going to kill his wife! I immediately grabbed my things and headed downstairs. I searched the parking lot for his car and found him there with his head on the steering wheel and Jack Daniels in his hand . . . .weeping.
I tapped the window and asked him if we could talk candidly. He unlocked the door and I got into the passenger side. I inquired about the situation between he and Michelle. He informed me that Michelle left her iPad at home that Friday when she went into work. He continued to hear the messenger notification go off every few seconds. Instead of turning it off, Eric began to pry and saw the correspondence between her and another man from her hometown. There was talk about getting a hotel after a wedding for a mutual friend and rekindling an old fire. Michelle had been so bold as to send pictures of herself nude in various positions to him! In return, the mysterious suitor did the same. Michelle went on about how she “cleaned her purse” just thinking about the encounter! Eric said that it was at that moment that he interrupted the message and notified the old aquaintance of who he was and what he would do, sending a picture of his gun collection as a sign that he meant business. Michelle immediately called from work, crying and apologizing but Eric said it was too little, too late.
“How could she do this to me?”
Seeing that I had been in this position before, my heart went out to Eric. Now my advice might have been different if I didn’t know Michelle but I felt something come over me that I couldn’t control:
“You’ll see the sunshine again Eric, just hang in there. Don’t quit”
Eric looked at me as the same words he gave me in my time of doubt were being recited to him. He didn’t want to try again. He wanted to be done with Michelle and the hurt and move on (sounds like a lot of us right?). But as we began to talk about the issues surrounding his discovery, he revealed that he went into depression over losing his job. Even though Michelle attempted to support Eric, he pushed her away every time. When I asked Eric how would he feel if the shoe were on the other foot, he told me that he would feel alone and confused. I confided that when I was in a similar situation, I didn’t handle it correctly. Instead of allowing my spouse to help me, I distanced myself from her, just like he was doing Michelle. In response to the distance, Michelle was looking for someone to fill that emotional void she had. Enter the old high school crush.
“Do you still love her?”
“Then fight for her! Don’t quit!”
I confessed to Eric that I wished that I had the friendship that he and Michelle had. They went almost everywhere together. It was like they actually liked being around each other! (Imagine that?) Eric said that Michelle was his best friend and didn’t know what he would do without her. But how could she have done this?
“Well Eric, I hate to say this, but you kinda allowed it to happen . . . .”
Eric had that look on his face like he was about to shoot me! However, I made him think about the times we conversed over the lack of sex he and Michelle were having. Despite all of the outings together, he felt that Michelle wasn’t into him like before. He had even started contemplating about having an affair with a co-worker. He never talked to Michelle about the lack of lovemaking and never sought counseling (you know how WE are about therapy). He agreed. I pulled out my cell phone and gave him the number to my counselor who could help them both through the situation. . . . . .
And now, both Eric and Michelle were back at church . . . . together! It warmed my heart and gave me hope in the institution of marriage. So many times, people are quick to quit when any storm comes. To my single folk, if you were Eric, would you have been able to work it out with Michelle? Could you admit your part in the relationship falling apart? Could you be strong enough to work it out? Always remember that if you hang in there, you’ll see the sunshine. . . . .
Written by Michael Dock, Founder of The Wednesday Gentleman and Author of the Forthcoming Novel “Addicted to Chaos”