When Hope Dies

“How did I end up here?”  I asked myself.  I was sitting alone outside a Douglas County courtroom in Omaha, Nebraska.  The question had double meaning: “How did I end up in Omaha?” as well as “How did I end up in a divorce?”  Both lawyers were down the hall hashing out weekend visitation for two innocent victims, holidays, and whether or not he gets to keep the china. The murals above me of pioneers coming to Nebraska provided no metaphors for the day. Nothing poetic. It’s Divorce Day. Court Day. How weird. I came through the doors a married woman, but will leave this building single. Never thought I’d be doing this. Never thought our love story would end like this. Glad I wore black today. Glad I came alone. No one should witness this. Today Hope will die.

It’s not like this date – court day – was never on my radar. The marriage had been tough for so long. A Slow Leak kind of divorce. But, still…there had always been Hope. Hope seeded in the soil of marriage counselors. All of them: The one in Reno, the one in Phoenix, and the two in Omaha. Hope seeded in marriage books. Those books bloomed Hope. Hope was seeded in all the marriage Bible studies I went to. All. Of. Them. I hung on to each and every book – even after the study was over. I highlighted so many things and turned down corners of pages. Because all of it – all of it – represented Hope. Hope that things would change. Hope that he would change. Hope that I would change – or at least learn something new. Hope that my perspective would change. Hope that he’d become a better Dad. A better husband. Hope had become my best friend.

I’m so very tired.
Hoping is exhausting.

And there we are. In court.
Hope is dying in this very moment.

Once inside the courtroom, my husband sits in the Plaintiff’s seat across from me. I recognize the sports coat he’s wearing. We got a killer deal on it. But I don’t recognize the tie. He looks arrogant and anxious to get on with his life. He is engaged to be married to someone else. He’s still so very handsome. And mean. I try not to look at him as it would be misunderstood.

“And this marriage is beyond reconciling?” The judge looks at my husband.
“Yes, your honor.”
The judge looks at me. “Yes,” I say.
There’s confidence in my heart that I have tried so very hard.

And that’s when Hope died.
June 22, 1984 – September 5, 2005

There’s a story in the Bible of King David, pleading with God for him not to take the life of his young son. (2 Samuel 12:15-24) Although David knew it was consequences for his sin with Bathsheba, he still pleaded with God. He didn’t eat for seven days. And he spent the nights lying on the ground…hoping for things to be different. Pleading for things to be different. His attendants begged him to get up, but he refused. Hope was still alive.

But the child dies.
Then David gets up, takes a shower – even puts on lotion – and puts on some clean clothes.
And…”he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.”
Then he ate…a cheeseburger and milkshake, would be my guess.

This confused his servants. David said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows?’ The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’”
Hope was still alive.
“But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again?”
Hope was dead.  It is what it is.

There’s something very freeing about the Day That Hope Dies.  And there’s all kinds of soil where Hope gets planted.  Hope was in the mom whose daughter was fighting a vicious battle against cancer.  At the funeral, this Mom said to me, “She isn’t suffering anymore and I’m so glad for that.”  There is sadness written all over her face, but also relief. Hope died.

Hope lived in my two sons after the divorce. Hope that the relationship with their Dad would be better. Like a fishing pole, they kept casting their lines into the River of Acceptance and Relationship.  Hope was alive. But when their Dad died, so did their Hope.

Last week, I saw Hope in an old man. Parkinson’s Disease has been a thief.  Not only to his wife, but to him too. “I know she isn’t going to get any better. There is no cure…unless there is a miracle.”  Ahhh…that little flicker of Hope that we cannot resist. I love that about this old man.

And marriages. Some die quickly and some very, very slowly. Battles for the marriage fought hard. And Hope is alive through each one.

When my Hope died there in the courtroom that day, there was relief because I knew.  It’s over.  Question answered.  I could finally, truly grieve. Most of the tears had morphed into a dull ache in my stomach.  The tears that did were not laced with Hope. They were tears of pure grief. And that’s ok. Because now I knew.

Some people think it’s the worst day.
But the worst days were behind me. The horrible days had already been and gone.

David got up. David took a shower.  David worshipped.
I walked to my car. I went back to the office. I prayed, “Thank you that I got through that.”  Pretty lame as far as worship goes. Not even sure if you can call that worship. But it was all I could muster that day.

Since then, though, I’ve seen God’s hand in a much more poignant way and His amazing power to keep Hope alive in a fractured world filled with messed up people. I’ve become so grateful for Hope during those hard years.

Hope was responsible for one foot in front of the other.
Hope enticed me to read one more book, go to one more study, one more marriage counselor.
Hope showed me changes I needed to make.
Hope was in every one of his job changes which required an uproot and move.
Hope hung around long enough to buy more years in a marriage – for my kids.
Hope kept popping its head up out of the dry cracked ground long enough for me to know it was still there and what I was fighting for was worth it.  So very worth it.

God sometimes doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll admit that.
But He can provide me Hope. He did provide me Hope.
And He’s still God. He’s still my friend. Even if I’m mad or confused by him.
And when Hope dies in the middle of this very broken world,
God will sit with me in a courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska and hold my hand.



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