Kelly´s life has turned out differently that she thought it would. Almost forty, she finds herself restless, frustrated, and lonely. Her marriage is stale, she feels isolated, and she has begun to look within herself rather to God for her answers. Mike knows that all is not well in his house. He feels the distance that stretches between himself and Kelly, but he isn´t sure how to build a bridge. So he builds a wall instead, hoping that things will eventually work between them. Andrew is a success in the ad game, a partner in the same agency for which Kelly works as a consultant. He is a man of character and integrity, and he always makes the morally honorable choice. Always.
Christmas was very busy for the Bowling family. Kelly’s aunt, uncle, and three cousins were all home on furlough from the mission field. They had spent the last four years in China, and the entire family was excited about seeing them and hearing all about what God had been doing. The Christmas plan was to spend a few days before Christmas at Kelly’s parents’ house. Then they would go after Christmas to Mike’s, then back to Kelly’s parents’ for New Year’s. It didn’t leave much time for being home, but it was a special holiday. Kelly was especially looking forward to seeing her aunt. She and Kelly had always shared a special bond.
They arrived in Roswell, Georgia on the 22nd of December. The driveway was lined with cars. Kelly looked at Mike, her eyes shining. “Let’s worry about the luggage later. I want to get inside and see everyone.”
“I figured you would. You go on in, and I’ll take care of all the luggage.”
Kelly kissed him quickly and bounded out of the car and up the side steps. She opened the door to her parents’ house, and the smells and sounds and sights of Christmas enveloped her. She quickly spotted her aunt, wove through the sea of relatives, and gave her aunt a hug. “I am so glad to see you!”
Aunt Judy returned her hug. “You look wonderful Kelly. Your mom said you had lost lots of weight. Where’s that husband of yours?”
“He’s being chivalrous and bringing in all of our luggage. He should be done in a few minutes. I can’t believe you all have been in China for four years! Are you glad to be back in the states?”
“Yes, we are. But it’s funny. We already miss China too. It’s become a part of us.”
“So does that mean you’re going for another four years?”
“Yes, we are. We’ll be home this year and go back in 2003.”
Kelly admired her aunt and uncle so much. Uncle John had been a successful architect when he and Aunt Judy felt God calling them to the mission field. They sold his part of the business to his partner, went through training, and were sent to China. It had been a real sacrifice. Kelly had received several letters from her aunt, and God seemed to really be blessing their work. Their oldest daughter, who was sixteen, had already surrendered her life to missions as well.
“Oh, there’s Mike,” Kelly motioned him over. “Hey Mike, we’re over here.”
Mike reached them and gave Judy a hug. “It’s so good to have you all back. Kelly’s been bursting to see you.”
“It’s good to see you two. Where are Mikey and Sam?”
“They’ve already found some of the cousins, and they are all playing in the second den. I think someone brought a board game.”
“So,” Aunt Judy said. “What have you two been up to? Is the full time ad job going well? Is the business going well? Are you two still madly in love?”
“My business is doing better every quarter. I think that by next year it will practically be running itself, and I can be there more for Kelly and the kids. Kelly’s really taken on a lot the past couple of years to allow me to do this.” He put his around her.
Kelly smiled somewhat stiffly. “Work is great for me too. We just landed a big account.”
“Kelly’s leaving out the most important part,” Mike interjected. “She helped write it.”
Judy punched Kelly playfully in the arm. “Well, what do you know? An advertising genius in the family!”
Kelly laughed and waved off the compliment.
Judy waited, looking at both of them. “Well, what about the last question. You two lovebirds still starry eyed?”
There was a pause, and then Kelly answered. “It’s a little busy for a honeymoon right now. But hopefully things will settle down one day.”
Mike nodded. “I think I’ll get a glass of tea. It’s actually hot in here.”
Judy scrutinized Kelly for a moment. “Is everything okay? You seem to be leaving something unsaid.”
“It’s nothing Aunt Judy. We’ve just been busy, that’s all. And we’ve been married over ten years now. You can’t stay starry-eyed lovers forever, right?”
“Well, I guess John and I are just two of the lucky ones then. Sometimes I get weak in the knees just looking at him. I have to go help your mother with dinner. But I want us to talk later.”
Dinner was wonderful that night, even if the large crowd made it somewhat chaotic. The house was filled with talking, laughing, praying and singing. Judy and John told stories about China and the people they had met and worked with there. Kelly noticed that Mikey seemed particularly enthralled. He never took his eyes off them as they described the country, the people, and the way God was working.
Finally, one by one, relatives began to leave to go to their homes or hotels. The only people besides Kelly and her family who were staying in the house were Judy, John, and their daughters. After all the children had gone to bed, Kelly went downstairs to find Aunt Judy waiting for her.
“Here, I made you some hot chocolate,” Judy said.
“Thanks,” Kelly said. She sipped it slowly. She would let Judy guide the conversation.
“Kelly, we’ve been close for a long time. In many ways, you are more like my sister than my niece. I saw something in your eyes tonight, there’s something you’re struggling with.”
Kelly sighed. If there was anyone she felt comfortable talking to, at least about her and Mike, it was Judy. “Well, things have been really hectic the last couple of years. It was fine at first, but the last year or so…I don’t know. I feel restless, unhappy somehow. I’m so moody sometimes. I feel isolated from Mike, like I take last place. I know I haven’t been exactly kind to him at times, but I can’t seem to help it. The truth is, Aunt Judy, I don’t think he feels anything anymore. I don’t know if I can live that way.”
“You’re thinking of divorce?” Judy’s voice was not full of rebuke, but concern.
“No, of course not,” Kelly responded quickly. “It’s just…I need to be important. I want to be touched, to be loved. I am lonely. And the more distance I feel, the more distant I become. It isn’t all Mike’s fault. I just feel out of control somehow.”
“And…how about your walk with God?”
Kelly shifted uncomfortably. “I know my Bible study isn’t as regular as it should be. And sometimes I get so frustrated when I pray. I don’t understand why life seems to be taking this turn. I’m just not satisfied with the way things are, but I don’t think I can change them. I’m not sure it’s possible to change them. To be honest, I feel more happy and fulfilled being at school and with my colleagues than at home or with Mike.”
Judy searched Kelly’s eyes thoughtfully. She didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she asked softly, “Kelly is there anything else you need to talk to me about?”
Kelly colored and looked away. “No, that’s it. I just think Mike and I are not ever going to be really close again. And it makes me sad. I know you’re tired. I’ll let you go to bed now.”
Kelly stood up to leave, but Judy caught her arm. “Kelly, please be careful. I sense that you are shutting Mike out, shutting God out. Please don’t try to find your own happiness. It can be very dangerous.”
“That’s not going to happen. I know what’s right. I just have to hope life will change.”
“Before you go to bed, I’d like to pray for you Kelly.” Kelly nodded, and Judy bowed her head. “Lord, I ask you to wrap your arms around Kelly. She is feeling lonely and confused. Help her to find contentment in you and to purpose in her heart to love Mike as she should. I ask that you work in Mike’s heart also. I fear he is neglecting Judy in his desire to provide for her financially. Guard them both Lord. Help them to look to you for their joy and satisfaction. Guard their hearts, and help them to resist temptation. We love you Lord and thank you that with you all things are possible. Amen”
Kelly hugged her aunt, willing her eyes to stay dry. Then she went up to bed. As she lay there, she felt conflicted. She knew that what Judy had said was true, and she squirmed as she thought about how perceptive Judy had been. She felt a pull to get on her knees, confess her confusion to God, and learn to be content. But another voice in her heart spoke up too. She was entitled to feel valued. It wasn’t her distance that started these problems; it was Mike’s priorities. Even if she was moody at times, it was because she felt so alone, and she had no recourse for relief. She rolled over and went to sleep
The rest of their holidays were like a blur. Kelly noticed Aunt Judy watching her closely, and for the first time in her life, Kelly found herself trying to avoid her aunt. After they returned from the new years’ visit, Kelly felt relieved. Her aunt’s words still made her uncomfortable.
On New Year’s, Mike and Kelly went out to dinner alone. A girl from down the street took care of the kids. It had been a long time since they had been alone anywhere. They went to a local family type restaurant. For the first few minutes they chatted about the kids, the holidays, and the specials. Then they fell silent. After the waitress had taken their order, Mike looked at Kelly and sighed. “Kelly, can I ask you a question?”
“Have I done something wrong? Have I hurt you in some way? You seem angry at me lately.”
“No, why do you ask?” Kelly answered, guarded.
“Kelly, we’ve been married a long time. I can tell when you’re not okay.”
Kelly felt a surge of irritation. “Isn’t it hard to do that while you’re working all the time?”
Mike looked hurt. “You said you supported my going into business. You said you understood the work load.”
“I do…I did. But we’re still married, Mike. I still need you.”
“I try to help out when I can. Maybe I’m not doing enough, but I do try.”
“Mike,” Kelly struggled to keep her temper in check.” If you think my main problem is how often you wash the dishes, then you really don’t get it.”
“Then what? I don’t know of anything else that could be wrong.”
Kelly was seized by an anger she couldn’t explain or control.
“Good God!” She spat. “Are you blind? You don’t love me. I can feel it. Or maybe it’s what I don’t feel anymore.”
Mike’s eyes grew wide. “What are you taking about? Of course I love you.”
“You are committed. You are going to fulfill your duty and be obedient. But you don’t feel anything anymore. You don’t touch me. You don’t want to be with me. We only made love five times last year. I feel so lonely, and you don’t even know I am there most of the time.”
Mike seemed stunned. He folded his napkin and looked around, trying to compose himself.
“Why haven’t you told me any of this? You haven’t been around much for me to be in love with you. Going to dinner with friends, working on big presentations, staying at the office for all hours And if you need me to touch you, you can always ask, not that it’s easy now that you have made the guest room your own.”
Kelly closed her eyes; she was not going to cry. “Why should I have to ask? You’re the man. You’re supposed to be the pursuer. You’re supposed to want me.” As soon as she said it she realized she had hurt Mike deeply. She knew she should apologize, but the unexplainable anger she was feeling kept her from doing so.
Now Mike was angry. “Kelly, I try to be what you need, and I try not to upset you. Lord knows that’s not the easiest thing to do lately. You are so unpredictable. One day you’re in a frenzy, either happy as a clam or on a rampage. The next day you’re too tired to even do a load of laundry. I get home from a long day, trying to provide for us, and I can’t even find a place to put my briefcase.”
“Well, maybe you should have married a wife who was a neat freak with no sex drive. Then you’d be happy.”
Mike looked away, and Kelly thought she saw his lip trembling. “If you really don’t think I love you, there’s nothing I can do about it.” He threw the credit card on the table. “I’ll be waiting in the car.”