I have never been one to make friends quickly or easily. The older I get, the more this seems to be true, but even then, all those years ago, I was cautious. I barely knew myself.
She needed me. Needed a sister. Needed a friend. So did her brother. In ways I expected and many that I did not. He needed strength from me that I did not possess, strength to hold up two people, strength to decide a life for two people, strength to lead a family. I thought our path would be shared, our burden divided, but I was required to carry the load. I was ill-prepared for the challenge and I know now that I did not handle it with Christ's grace.
He was not the man I had thought he was, the man I needed him to be. He did not lead, he only followed. He did not choose, he only agreed. He did not provide me with the emotional support I needed, he was in need himself and so he leaned.
She was a young one, a lonely one perhaps. In circumstances out of her control she needed a friend, a dear one, and I was the obvious answer. But already holding up the weight of a man, I was unable, maybe just unwilling to take on her needs as well. They called her Porcelina, and it was further verification to me of her fragility. She took to me like glue and I was terrified, weak and cold. I was handling her brother with kid gloves and was left with nothing to offer to her. I thought loving them both, meeting the demands of both would crush me. I had nothing to hold on to myself and the weight of two people in such need was more than I knew how to handle.
They said I was terrible to her. When I was concerned, they said I was critical. When I worried they said I was judgmental. When I tried, I failed. And so I quit. I was holding up a marriage that was bound to fall and so my attention focused inward and stopped reaching outward. There had been nothing so divisive in our relationship as her. Perhaps she became the scapegoat for the thing that truly stood between us all those years.
The divorce, as I see it now, was inevitable. Unable to make him the man I thought he was, I left. If I had been in Christ more, if I had been stronger then, maybe I would have made different choices but by then, I had become weak and exhausted, I needed to lean, I needed support and there was no one to lean on.
I left, watching him fall behind me. I had to leave knowing he would hit the ground, but with hope that perhaps he might finally learn how to hold himself up. I'm not sure that will ever happen, but I did not have the capacity to love him into strength. And all I saw in him was weakness.
Of course the impact rippled and her heart was crushed, too. It was not one I could mend, in the process of mending my own. I had to come to terms with facing, naming and realizing my own delusions and moving forward, moving on, moving past.
All these years later, the hindsight is painful. Who was I then? Who was he really? Was he the man he is today, or would it all have come out differently if I had been a stronger wife? I will never know. But today, she and I have stepped on a bridge. I wouldn't say we've met in the middle, I've perhaps caused her too much pain to make the whole journey just yet, but there's been healing, and kindness and I know that has taken much on her part to offer me.
She is strong today. She is a mother and a wife and a sister and an aunt and a daughter and her needs from me today are not the desperate cries of the child I met all those years ago. And today I stand a much different woman, one empowered by the strength of Christ. I do not know where God will lead our journey, but I know He has taught me much.
When the weight of the world was too much for my shoulders, I let go and dropped the burden. What I did not know was the weight was never mine to bear alone. Perhaps the people that I felt were leaning on me, depending on my every turn, my every word, my every breath, perhaps those were the people who had kept me standing.
I cannot undo the decisions I have made and I am not certain they all need undoing, but I hope in some small way I can heal the hearts. I hope that there can be understanding, forgiveness and compassion. We have all come a long way since then and I can only hope that God will continue to lead us together, down this journey, in support of those we love in common, and in support of the One we all love together.