Back from the Brink: Divided Loyalties
"What do you mean, 'Pack for the drive home'? We're going to visit your parents every weekend?" my new bride exclaimed.
We'd just returned from our honeymoon when it began: the tug-of-war over my loyalties between my wife and my parents.
Before, I'd driven the eight-hour round trip every weekend in order to lead worship and the college group in my church. It was a demanding schedule—but one my father, the senior pastor and my boss, expected. And I'd always complied.
Now that I was married, Dad expected me to continue the drill, while Carrie* wanted to enjoy our first weekends together as a couple, setting up house, and delighting in the newness of it all. It was our first fight, and she lost.
As we neared each weekend, she'd withdraw and quietly endure the travel to my parents' home, where I'd slide back into the warm familiarity of my "son" role. Instead of opening a place for her in our family, my parents—and I—defaulted to our shared history, often leaving her out of conversations.
One evening during dinner at my parents' house, Carrie spoke up to be part of the discussion and asked Mom a question. Mom answered—to me! As if Carrie wasn't there.
After graduation from seminary, I was "promoted" to a full-time position on my father's staff. As my church commitments grew and Dad demanded more of my time, Carrie began to see him as her enemy and the cause of our growing separateness. The gulf between them hardened into predictable patterns of isolation. A polite hug. A few pleasantries. And then a quick dismissal.
Several years into our marriage, my father pulled a doozy. He volunteered me to teach at a worship conference—in Romania! While I was excited, I knew Carrie would have "issues" with the trip.
"Hi, honey," I beamed as I walked into the kitchen. Annie and Alley, my four- and two-year-old girls, made a mad rush for my kneecaps. Meanwhile, Carrie was juggling our two-month-old boy, Trey, on one hip while she stirred the bubbling pasta sauce.
Carrie forced a weary smile. "Hi. Can you hand me the colander?"
It was two baths and a nursing later that evening before I broached the topic of my intended trip. Fire flashed in her eyes. "Are you crazy? You're going to leave me for 10 days with three small children while you gallivant across the planet? I don't think so."
Carrie wouldn't budge this time. And I dreaded saying no to my father.