Absence, Prayer Make Their Hearts Grow Fonder

When the economy forced them to live apart, two newlyweds grew closer than ever.

by
- Posted on Jun 29, 2012

Don and Angie Thomason

ANGIE: “Goodnight,” I said to my new husband, Don. But there was no goodnight kiss. I could hardly remember when our last kiss had been. “Love you...oh, and tell Mom I said hi,” I added before we hung up.

I plugged my phone into the charger on my nightstand and lay down. But it was no use. Sleep wouldn’t come. Just worry and loneliness.

The catfish processing plant where Don had been a manager here in Alabama had sold and the only companies hiring in his field were in the Dallas, Texas, area. I had a full-time job and we have five kids between us, four in college. There was no way we could all uproot from Tuscaloosa.

Besides, my youngest was only 12—I couldn’t move him out of state, away from his dad, my ex-husband. Fortunately, my mom lived in Denton, Texas, and offered to let Don move in with her while he was job hunting. A good solution to a bad problem.

Yet with each passing day the distance between us felt greater. And it wasn’t just the miles. Don and I had been high school sweethearts. We’d reconnected five years ago after we’d both gone through devastating divorces.

We felt so blessed to have a second chance at love. It felt like a gift from God. But now I wondered, Lord, why did you bring us together again only to keep us apart?

DON: I knew losing my job wasn’t my fault. The economy was in bad shape and the plant I worked for just couldn’t make it. Still, I felt like a failure. I’d always prided myself on being a hard worker, a good provider for my family.

Now I’d let them down. Especially Angie. I was so thankful God brought her back into my life. I’d wanted to take care of her completely, make it so she never had to worry again, yet all I’d done was bring more stress into her life.

She was supporting our family—that was supposed to be my role.

Angie’s mom was very generous. “Don’t worry about staying here,” she said. “I’m glad to help.” But I felt like a burden using her utilities and groceries.

I found a church I liked but what I really needed to find was work. Fast. Problem was, every interview I went on, there were scores of guys just like me: middleaged men with business backgrounds and proven track records. Hundreds of us vying for the same few positions.

It was discouraging. Demoralizing. But I couldn’t tell Angie. No way. I couldn’t drag her down like that. So every night when we talked on the phone, I put on a good front. “How’d it go today?” she’d ask.

“I think the interview went well.”

“That’s great! When will you know if you got the job?”

“I’m not sure. But don’t worry. If this doesn’t work out, another will.” Maybe if I kept saying it, I’d believe it too.

ANGIE: Weeks passed, then months. Nothing opened up for Don. The worst part was, I felt like I was carrying the burden of all our worries. When Don and I talked, he sounded so upbeat, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

It wasn’t just that we weren’t living in the same house—sometimes it seemed like we weren’t in the same marriage.

“Got a little glitch, Ang,” Don told me one night. “Your mom’s neighborhood covenant won’t allow her to have company much longer. She can’t have overnight guests for more than thirteen weeks, and we’re running out of time. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure something will work out by then.”

“Okay, hon,” I said, trying not to sound anxious. Deep down, though, I was terrified. Why would everything suddenly work out? It hadn’t so far. How could Don seem relaxed at a time like this? We hung up the phone.

With each call that followed, I pressed Don for answers and he grew tired of my questioning. We were short with each other. For the first time, tension mounted between us.

DON: I was pretty shaken up. We’d never really argued before. I didn’t blame Angie for being upset. She was the one working every day, paying the bills and taking care of our family. She had a lot on her. Too much.

I just wanted to take her in my arms and hold her tight. If only she weren’t 600 miles away!

One night I hit my knees. “God,” I prayed, “I’ve always been a can-do guy, but I can’t do this alone. Please, help me. Show me how to provide for my family and be the husband Angie needs.”

ANGIE: One afternoon my mom called me at work. “Angie,” she said, “I don’t want to interfere in your marriage, but Don’s pretty depressed about not finding a job. He seems real worried. Why don’t you talk to him about it?”

“What?” I asked, surprised. “He doesn’t sound worried at all when I talk to him.” But maybe Mom was right. I knew Don was doing the best he could. Things were probably taking more of a toll on him than he was letting on. I called him as soon as I got home.

“Hi, honey,” I said. “Mom told me that you’re real stressed about finding work...but whenever I talk to you, you seem so optimistic. What’s going on?”

“Oh, Ang,” Don said, “I just didn’t want to bother you with my worries. I know you have a lot on your plate too. Maybe we need to be more honest with each other.”

“What do you mean?”

I heard Don take a deep breath. “All this time I’ve been trying to hide how scared I am,” he said.

“Now I get it,” I said. “I thought you just weren’t worried and I couldn’t understand why. I thought I had to do all of the worrying for both of us!”

DON: The strongest urge came over me. “Would you do something for me?” I asked Angie.

“Anything,” she said.

“Would you get down on your knees and pray with me right now?”

“Absolutely.”

We’d prayed together before meals and at church, that sort of thing. We’d never prayed together on our knees— let alone over the phone!

At first, I felt so strange, so vulnerable, putting my fears out there, saying everything out loud. But with each prayer I spoke, I felt a weight lift from me.

ANGIE: To hear Don, my Superman, pour out his heart to God and ask for help made me see him in a different light. Here was a man strong enough to admit his fears, his helplessness. My respect for him deepened.

Especially when Don added one last prayer: “Lord, help me to rely not on myself, but on you. Take this experience and use it for your glory and for our good.”

“Amen,” we said.

I slept soundly for the first night in a long time.

DON: I’d been going to the Singing Oaks Church of Christ since I’d moved to Texas, only now I noticed a section in the bulletin about praying for other members’ needs. People going through tough times were listed with their specific requests so that the congregation could lift them up in prayer.

One woman, a retired schoolteacher, had moved to Texas to be near her children. Then the stock market tanked and she was afraid of losing what she’d put away for her retirement. Now, she had to move back to Maryland, where her teaching certificate was valid, and return to work.

My heart ached for her. I prayed for her and everyone else on that list.

I still pounded the pavement every day. But in between, I helped people from our prayer list with their résumés and connected them with the business contacts I’d made over the years. They did the same for me. It made me feel useful again, took the focus off my problems.

All the while, I kept praying every night with Angie on the phone. Having the woman I love go before God with me was an intimacy I’d never experienced before. I’d never bared my soul like that, trusted so completely.

ANGIE: “You’re not going to believe this,” Don said one night.

“You got a job?” I asked.

“Not yet. But I’ve got a place to live.”

“Don, we just can’t afford an apartment right now.”

“We don’t have to,” he said.

The woman from his church had been offered a teaching position in Maryland, but she didn’t plan on selling her house since she wanted to return to be with her family in a few years. So she’d asked Don to housesit.

It was a beautiful five-bedroom home, and she invited Don to live there rent-free to keep up the yard and the housekeeping. She told Don he’d be doing her a big favor!

I broke down and sobbed at her kindness. And at God’s goodness. Only he could have used the miles between us to deepen our love, and our trust in our marriage and in him.

DON: A few months later, I landed a good job with a solid company.

Two years have passed. I’m still in Texas and Angie’s in Alabama. We’re so grateful to have the support of friends and family. My coworkers call me “The Virtual Dad” because the kids and I video chat, e-mail and text so much.

Angie and I watch our spending and see each other only every few weeks but we talk every night and we are joined heart and soul. That’s what praying together has done for us, drawing us closer than ever to God and to each other. And with his providence, we see the future brightening before us.

 

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