I put on a hoodie, earphones, and gloves, then began to rake the yard. I’ve been waiting for the big tree to drop its entire load of leaves before tackling this chore, and with the recent rain, it was an undertaking that I knew would take some time and much effort.

It wasn’t just a layer of bright yellow leaves – there was another layer of brown, then black, then decaying leaves. Silver trails from slugs and snails, moss-covered broken sticks. It was slow going. I took a break three times in the course of an hour and a half, staggering inside to fill a glass with water and sit on the kitchen floor, legs stretched out and my head leaned back against the kitchen cabinets. I drank, and breathed, and drank, and breathed, and closed my eyes. Then I would take a deep breath, finish the rest of my water, and go back outside to either rake a few more piles or stuff the leaves into large black plastic bags.

I knew there was something God was teaching me in the labor and the solitude and the monotony of a difficult and taxing activity. I asked Him to help me be intentional and attentive.

Later that evening, after a shower and a quick bite to eat, I visited a friend’s church. She had felt led to invite me to the worship service, and I felt – again – that there was a moment that God wanted to have with me in that place. 

During the songs, I ended up on my knees with my head pressed on the backs of my hands, which clutched the pew in front of me. I sang as I prayed, prayed as I sang. And when I finally just opened my mouth to say the most honest words at the top of my heart, all I could repeat was: “I want to be unmarried. I want David to go away, out of my life. I want him to be far away, gone.” And I didn’t really know what to do with that emotion.

 After everyone was in bed that night, I told a friend that I had confused emotions about that prayer. She encouraged me to take those emotions to Jesus, name them, say them out loud, and find out what they were all about.

It’s a beautiful time when it happens: I fell asleep talking to Jesus, able to name and finally understand the meaning behind my repeated prayer for separation… and then I woke up a few hours later in the utter stillness and quiet, and the Lord finished telling me what He’d been whispering in my heart earlier that day as I raked the leaves.

 At my friends’ church, I prayed about being away from David over and over with raw desperation, because of Fear. “What are you afraid of?” “I’m afraid that David’s behavior will seem like change, and it will be just enough to make them tell me to stay with him.” “Why does that make you afraid?” “Because I don’t want to be married to him.” “You’re afraid of others telling you to stay in your marriage?” “Yes.” “They can’t tell you to stay in your marriage. That is your choice alone.”

 And I felt peace.

 And then the other post-midnight revelation:

I’m raking up these dead leaves, and it makes me think of all the layers of marriage-deadness that have accumulated in my life over the past ten years. No friendship. No affection. No tender care. No equality. No understanding. No words of kindness. No mutual pursuit of holiness. No conversations about the goodness and mystery of the Christian life. Dead leaves, dead leaves, the symbols of thousands of moments that I dreamed and prayed for, prayed to share with a man who loves me deeply because he loves Christ even deeper. All the dead moments, layered in decay, and I strained my body and became short of breath as I raked them into piles and gathered them, slugs and dirt and dirty water and all, into my arms and shoved them into bags.

They were heavy bags. A few leaves // a few moments weighed not much at all, but when pressured into a smaller space I was amazed at how heavy they became. I dragged the bags across the yard, and I thought about how I have been dragging the dead weight of my marriage for many years. A neighbor gave us the bags, asked us to save the leaves for him so that he can use them as compost for his garden.

What is dead weight to me has purpose for life and growth.

These past few months have been torturous in their day-by-day, painfully slow speed. I am desperate to get out of this place of waiting. But just as I took breaks to rehydrate and rest from the intense workout of raking, I understand now that God has set the length of this season because He loves me, and He is caring for me. He knows I cannot push through the entire process quickly, because I am not strong enough inside – any more than I have the physical capacity to rake up all the dead leaves in record time and move on. God knows I need times to push myself, to be challenged, to feel the pain and lose the breath, get weak in the legs, and take off the gloves, go into my warm home, drink cool water, rest myself and close my eyes, until I feel I can go back outside again.

 He wants this cycle of contending and respite for my soul, too.

 He is a good Father.

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