Faith Reunited Them

Faith Reunited Them

How prayer gave this divorced couple a second chance

Michelle Stewart and her husband, Michael

Any minute now Michael would be over to pick up the boys for their weekend with him. I gave the house a once-over. Not bad. I'd dusted every room. It smelled lemony-fresh. Hardly any dirty dishes in the sink. Laundry done.

What will Michael think of all this? I thought, with a chuckle. He'd probably wonder where I'd gotten the money to hire a housekeeper.

Our marriage had been over for seven years. We were civil to each other, but that was mainly for the sake of our sons, Johnny and Cameron. I had no regrets, though. Michael hadn't known what he was getting into when he married me. He deserved better. I saw that now.

And though I'd changed a lot since the divorce, especially recently, I was content to be on good terms with my ex. I certainly wasn't foolish enough to think things could ever go back to the way they'd once been, when we were two kids crazy in love.

I met Michael in high school. I was hanging out with my sister and some other kids when Michael drove by in a cool car. My sister dared me to call out to him, and I was never one to back down from a dare. Our first date wasn't long after that.

We fell in love hard and fast. That love had been real; it was so intense. All these years later, I could still recall that feeling. We married in 1991. A big, beautiful wedding, like I'd always fantasized about, and a real blowout of a party afterward. I didn't want it to stop.

It wasn't long 'til I realized the party was over. Married life was a different story. I liked going out, seeing and being seen. I mean, I was still young!

Michael? He came home from work, had a bite to eat, watched some TV and crawled into bed early. Way too early for a night owl like me. Then our sons came along, two years apart, and another realization: I wasn't made to be a stay-at-home mom.

I told Michael I needed to get out in the world. I got a job at a bank. I made a bunch of new friends and started going out after work.

Well, Michael wasn't very happy. One night we had a huge fight over my partying. Michael wasn't one to lose his temper, but that time he let it rip. We got into a shouting match that ended with him yelling, "You're just jealous of how I grew up! You're afraid of marriage!"

That stopped me cold. I thought about Michael's family—kind, supportive, loving, always there. After my dad died when I was nine, I'd never really felt stability at home, even though Mom eventually remarried.

Michael was everything I wasn't. Steady, low-key, dependable. Was that what drove me toward him in the first place? "Maybe I am jealous, Michael. Maybe I am afraid. But I'm still going out." And out the door I went.

We talked less and less, fought more and more, slept in separate bedrooms. One day Michael had to go out of town on business. He would be gone for several days.

I felt so free, like that daredevil teenager I'd once been. Free to go out into the night, where anything was possible. I could get a sitter and not have to come home to Michael's angry, disappointed face.

He called me the next day from his hotel and made small talk. Just be quiet already, was all I could think. "I miss you, Michelle," he said.

Something snapped. An awful feeling came over me. It had been simmering ever since Michael accused me of being afraid of marriage. "I don't care, Michael," I told him. "And I don't care about you. I want a divorce."

Michael drove right home. But he couldn't talk me out of it. Anything was better than this—for Michael, for the boys, for me. A couple of weeks later we sat on stools in the kitchen. Michael made a list: "Hers" and "His." We talked about everything we had and he divided it all equally. Organized and responsible to the end. That was my Michael.

I felt a twinge of shame, but pushed it down. I was determined to do this with no regrets. I moved out in 1996 and the divorce was finalized a year later. We shared custody of the boys, and when we saw each other we were civilized.

I worked hard, was a good mom to the boys and kept up my social life even after those nights out started feeling stale and lonely. It was, after all, what I'd wanted all along. Wasn't it? So where was the fun?

A few years after the divorce Johnny and Cameron announced that their dad had started taking them to church when he had them on Sundays.

"We like it, Mom," Johnny said. I guess it made sense; Michael had grown up going to church. I went with him a few times, but didn't like it. The people all seemed like goody-two-shoes. I told Michael I wasn't going back. So, we didn't.

One day I struck up a conversation with a couple of coworkers. They weren't in my party crowd, but they always seemed pretty upbeat. I asked what they did for fun.

"I guess the most exciting thing in my life is my church," one said. "It really changed my life."

"Me too," the other girl said.

Sorry I asked, I thought, groaning inside. But the next Sunday morning I woke up with an overwhelming desire to go to church. I drank a cup of coffee, thinking the crazy urge would go away. Come on, you're still young. Too young for a midlife crisis . Yet the urge stayed, as persistent as any urge I ever had to go out into the night.

I flipped open the phone book and found the nearest church. Then I got the boys up—sleepy, a little confused, but very much willing to go along with this.

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