Faith, Friendship, and PassionbyArchitect9669©
Description: Two conservative Christians share faith, friendship, and passion
My name is Brad and this is my true-life story of faith, friendship, and passion. But before I begin telling my story, a little background about myself would be helpful. I'm 38 and grew up in a conservative Christian home with great parents. They were wonderful examples of a loving marriage and poured their time and energy into raising a close, God-fearing family. It is because of them that faith has been the driving force in my life since I was a child.
During high school I decided I wanted to pursue architecture as a career and was accepted to several high caliber design schools. However, practicality won out and I attended the University of Illinois after I was offered a full ride scholarship. I quickly became heavily involved in a couple different Christian organizations on campus and met my future wife Trisha during my sophomore year. We were seemingly the perfect matches. We both grew up in conservative Christian homes, had similar interests, and became the best of friends. Following a short engagement period, we were married the summer after graduating.
That's when I started discovering that our marriage, particularly our sex life, was not all that I had hoped for. We were both virgins when we were married and the very infrequent sex we had after marriage was awkward at best. We did not make love. It was simply a mechanical act that lacked any kind of passion. It was always missionary position with me on top. Trisha was not at all interested in foreplay of any kind, oral, positions other than missionary, or any other kind of experimentation for that matter. I simply hopped on and did my thing while she lay there like a rag doll.
As you can imagine, this became a great source of friction in our marriage. Through many arguments, I came to find out that the issue was much more than just inexperience of two virgins. It resulted from Trisha's parents' teachings about sex when she was growing up. They drilled it into her head from a very young age that sex was evil and its only purpose is for procreation.
As she grew older, Trisha learned the truth that God intended sex for pleasure within marriage and that our bodies were made to be explored in many different ways together. Despite knowing better, she has never been able to escape from the emotional baggage imposed by her parents and our sex life remains rare and missionary to this day. I try to be understanding of her emotional damage but that does not make it any less frustrating.
Because of her parents' false and damaging teaching about sex, and several other situations where I have been severely screwed by holier-than-thou "religious" people, my personal faith has evolved over the years. I still have an intense faith and believe in the Bible. However, I have become much more disillusioned by formalized, "old-school" religion and am much more appreciative of "real" people of faith. By "real" I mean people that are trying to grow in their faith, acknowledge they are imperfect and do not put up false facades to hide that they are imperfect.
Enough background about me for now...on with the story...
My life-changing journey began about 10 years ago when I was 28. My employer promoted me to be a Senior Architect in the firm. Unfortunately, the promotion required that I transfer to the firm's suburban Chicago office within 1 month. Trisha and I immediately put our house on the market and began looking for a new home near my new office. We quickly found a house in a new subdivision being constructed. It wasn't our dream home but it was a good value for the money and it was what we could afford at the time.
I was not looking forward to moving but at least we did not have any kids and all the necessary items that come along with them yet. We put in an offer on the house, signed the closing paperwork, and moved in within 3 weeks. As a bonus, Trisha also found a new job at the local hospital during the same period of time. Much to the appreciation of my firm, we were 1 week ahead of schedule and I was working in the new office before the end of April.
Trisha and I quickly settled into a daily routine and began to feel at home. Our new jobs were going well and we were anxious to establish some kind of social life in our new place. We began attending a local non-denominational Christian church and introduced ourselves to the few neighbors we had. Many of the houses, including the two on either side of ours, were still being constructed. As each house was completed, we did our best to meet the new neighbors.
After a couple months, the house next door to ours was completed and I arrived home one Wednesday evening to see movers just finishing their work unloading a very large moving truck. Trisha and I agreed that we should give the new neighbors a couple days to get settled into their home before going over to introduce ourselves.
The following Saturday we saw both their cars were in the driveway and thought we would go say hello. We walked next door and pushed the doorbell button. After a couple minutes without an answer, I pushed the button again and heard the pitter patter of children's feet. Still no answer. We guessed they must not be able to come to the door right now and decided to try again another time.
We tried several more times over the course of the next week. Each time with the same results as the first. One of the attempts was immediately after I hear the family's minivan pull in the driveway and car doors shut. Still the same result. No answer. "Very odd", I thought to myself.
Undeterred, I began to pay more attention to their schedule patterns in the hope of catching them as they arrived home. In my observations, I noticed that one of their cars, an older white Chevrolet Cavalier, rarely left the driveway. Conversely, the maroon Chrysler minivan came and went constantly.
While working from home one day, I had my laptop and design drawings spread across the dining room table at the front of the house. I heard a car approach and looked out the front window to see the now familiar maroon minivan pull in the driveway and a lady begin unloading two boys and several shopping bags. I rolled my eyes and let out an audible groan of annoyance at what I saw. Our new neighbor was probably in her mid-20's and quite small in stature, probably not more than 5'-1" or 5'-2" tall. I guessed the boys to be around kindergarten and first grade. One was obviously a little older than the other but not by much.
It was not the fact that there would be kids living next door that caused my displeasure. It was what they were all wearing. The boys were wearing school uniforms of blue dress pants and white button down shirts. Mom was wearing a dull blue color full-length dress that was quite oversized and frumpy looking. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and she wore chunky white shoes like nurses wore 20 years ago. This could only mean one thing...my new neighbors were ultra-conservative Christians. Probably just the kind of holier-than-thou religious people I had come to despise. Argh.
After a couple minutes, I managed to suppress my judgmental feelings and put my laptop aside. I exited the front door and walked across my lawn toward them. The boys saw me and immediately scurried into the house like they saw a ghost. Mom had her back to me as she unloaded the minivan.
"Hi there neighbor!", I called out as continued walking across my lawn.
Mom turned toward me with a surprisingly pleasant smile and said, "Well hi there neighbor. Nice to meet you!"
"Nice to meet you too. I'm Brad and my wife is Trisha. Unfortunately, she is at work right now. We have both been looking forward to meeting our new neighbors."
There was a brief awkward pause, then she responded, "My name is Rebecca. I apologize for not answering the door when you came over before. My husband, Jonathon, is quite shy and resists meeting people outside our church family."
Just as I thought. Because of my past experiences with some holier-than-thou people, I knew what Rebecca said was church-speak gobbly gook to politely say they are not supposed to socialize, or even speak, with "heathens" outside their church. That also explains why the boys raced in the house when they saw me.
But then she surprised me and continued to tell me about her family, "Jonathan works from home for a missionary organization that our church belongs to. Luke is in pre-kindergarten and little Jonathan is in kindergarten at Kane County Christian Academy."
"I stay at home and attempt to keep Jonathan and the boys happy", she said with a pleasant smile.
Rebecca's expression changed a little as she said, "It was nice to meet you. I better get this last bag of groceries in the house before the ice cream melts."
"Ok. Nice to meet you too neighbor. You know where to find us if you need anything", I replied and walked back toward my house as Rebecca closed the van door and headed into her garage.
I went back into the house and sat down with my laptop to continue my work. But for some reason, my mind drifted back to my short conversation with Rebecca. She said the words that indicated she shouldn't be talking to me but she continued telling me about her family with a pleasant smile and perky voice. These seemed to be signals that the short conversation wasn't just what she had to say to be polite. She seemed to want to talk. Not at all what I was expecting when I saw her frumpy dress and hair bun. Perplexing.
Over the next few weeks, I saw Jonathan outside a couple times. Pardon the stereotype description, but he is exactly what you would expect from an uptight church guy. Mid-20's in age, medium height, maybe 5'-6" or 5'-7" tall, extremely skinny, thick rim glasses with thick lenses, dress pants, dress shoes, button down shirt, and a generally mousy appearance. Even his walk lacked any type of confidence and made him appear as if he would run and hide under a rock at any moment.
My initial impression was confirmed when I attempted to say hello to him on two separate occasions. The first time was the evening of the day I first met Rebecca. Jonathan came out of their house and apparently didn't realize I was outside weeding our front landscape bed. I saw him and as I started to stand up from my weeding said, "Hi Jonathan", loudly enough to be heard. He quickly looked down at the ground and scurried back into the house. I just shook my head and chuckled.
The second time was later that week. I was outside doing more yard work when he pulled into the drive in the white Cavalier. As he got out of the car, I again said "Hi Jonathan". Once again, he looked straight down at the ground and almost ran into the house. Very strange.
Maybe it is my outgoing personality or maybe it was a subconscious desire to break Jonathan from his "shy" religious snobbery but, as of that day, I made it my personal quest to get him to at least say hello to me.
Over the next months, short impromptu conversations with Rebecca and failed conversation attempts with Jonathan became the norm. Rebecca and I seemed to cross paths once every one or two weeks as we came and went about our daily routines. Our conversations usually lasted for 5 minutes or so as one of us worked outside or unloaded items from our cars. Despite her always dowdy looking oversized dresses, her personality was anything but dowdy. She was always upbeat and eager talk. I came to look forward to our little conversations.
Through these short conversations occurring over several months, I learned more about Rebecca and her family. They were heavily involved in their church and spent a great deal of time there. They went to services on Wednesday nights, Saturday nights, and spent the entire day there on Sundays. She and Jonathan were both from large families and hoped to have a large family themselves.
In turn, I shared that Trisha and I were looking to start a family soon and I told Rebecca about my faith. I omitted my distain for "religious" type people. Jonathan clearly fit into that category but I didn't think of Rebecca that way. Although we didn't talk about anything real deep, she always seemed genuine and didn't have an uptight religious guard on. I never had a feeling that she was judging me in any way.
After 3 or 4 months of talking to Rebecca and being rejected by Jonathan, I was outside mowing the lawn when Rebecca, Jonathan, and family came home with a load of groceries. I stopped the lawn mower and walked over to say hello. The boys piled out of the van and quickly found their way to the house. Rebecca opened the rear hatch of the van and started to collect groceries as I said hello. Jonathan sat in the front passenger seat staring straight forward trying to avoid eye contact with me. Rebecca and I exchanged a couple short pleasantries and comments about the weather before I said, "Well, I better let you get those groceries in the house. Talk to you later."
I returned to my yard and started the mower. Only after I started the mower, Jonathan unlatched his seatbelt, stepped out of the van, and went in the house leaving Rebecca to unload all the groceries. Ridiculous.
I continued mowing the yard as Rebecca unloaded their van. When she was about finished, she walked toward me and signaled with her hand for me to shut the mower off. She had a serious look on her face that I had not seen before and said, "I'm sorry Jonathan acts the way he does. I appreciate that you are trying to engage him. He needs to get over his shyness." She said the "shyness" with a bit of a sneer in her voice and then continued, "It's not right that he limits his contact and our family's contact to only people in our church. As his wife, I do my best to honor his leadership but that doesn't mean I always agree with it. You are doing a good thing. Please don't stop trying."
She didn't give me a chance to respond and simply said, "I better go. Talk to you soon." before turning and walking back to the van for more grocery bags.
Our norm continued for the rest of the year. More short talks with Rebecca and more rejections from Jonathan. I really started to despise him. How could he be so rude to totally ignore a simple hello every time?
In late September, Rebecca saw me walking out to the mailbox and came bounding over with a huge smile on her face. In stark contrast to her dull dress, her face was absolutely beaming. She quickly announced, "I'm pregnant!"
"Congratulations! That's great!", I said. I paused for a second and said, "Can you keep a secret?"
"I'm not supposed to say anything yet, but we just found out 3 weeks ago that Trisha is pregnant. I guess the neighborhood will be growing!"
"Wow. Congratulations to you too!", Rebecca said before her expression changed and she lost her happy glow.
It was easy to sense that she was disappointed and I suddenly realized that I stole her moment. "I'm sorry. This was your special announcement. I shouldn't have told you about Trisha just now."
"NO! I'm so excited for you! It's not that. It just makes me sad that we have a great neighbor and I already know that Jonathan will never allow our kids to play together."
I wasn't sure what to say. Rebecca was right. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood and I had never noticed Luke or little Jonathan ever playing with the other kids. In fact, I had never noticed them playing outside other than in their privacy fenced backyard.
I just said, "Don't worry. I'll keep working on him."
Rebecca's expression changed again and a smile spread across her face.
A couple more months passed. Cold weather came and winter spread across the Chicagoland area. We were all hibernating inside away from the bitter cold temperatures and I saw less of Rebecca and Jonathan. The first measurable snowfall of the year came in mid November. A quick storm came through on a Saturday and dumped about 6" of heavy, wet snow. I slept in a little and then decided to head outside to clear the snow. I fired up the snowblower and started to work. As I neared Jonathan and Rebecca's house I noticed she and the kids were shuffling their way out to the still snow-covered minivan. Jonathan's white Cavalier was gone. He had shoveled a path to his own car door but left his pregnant wife's van still covered and surrounded by snow. Jerk.
I yelled her name and motioned for her and the boys to step back into the garage. I ran the snowblower up the driveway once and asked if they were in a hurry.
"No, not really."
"Give me your keys. Why don't you and the boys stay warm inside while I warm up the van and clear the driveway?"
"Really? You would do that?"
I just gave her a look and she handed over the van keys. She took the boys inside and I saw her watching out the front window. I started the van and cleared snow off its hood and windows. Then I started the snowblower back up and quickly cleared the driveway and sidewalks of snow.
Rebecca came out just as I finished and was walking up to the garage to let her know the van was ready to go. She looked at me and I saw her eyes were red as if she was going to cry. To my surprise, she reached out and gave me a quick little hug. She then stepped back and said, "That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me."
I chuckled and said, "I think that's the pregnancy hormones talking! All I did was start your van and clear a little snow!"
"Despite what our church family thinks, Jonathan and I don't have a perfect marriage. I know you can see that. You just showed me more thoughtfulness than I've received in years. Thank you."
"No marriage is perfect. Trisha and I certainly have our own set of issues. I'm in no position to make any judgments."
"Hmmm. That's a refreshing mindset! Well, I better get the boys to church. Talk to you soon?"
"I look forward to it.", I said as I started the snowblower to go finish my own sidewalk and driveway.
Rebecca's comment stuck in my mind and I thought more about it as I finished clearing snow from my own sidewalks. Jonathan did leave a lot of the family burden to Rebecca. She did all the shopping. I never saw Jonathan come home with a car full of bags. From past conversations, I knew she did all the cooking and cleaning. She did all the pickup, drop-off, and general running around with the boys. She took care of the yard work in the summer and probably would have been doing the snow shoveling if she wasn't pregnant. Come to think of it, he almost treats her like a servant. He really was a jerk.
Over the next months, I did the best I could to help Rebecca out where I could do so without making issues with Jonathan. I cleared their driveway and sidewalks whenever it snowed. If it was slick out, I retrieved their mail. Just little things like that.
Trisha noticed and was supportive of me helping out. It scored me some bonus points with her and I noticed we were having more of my favorite home cooked meals. Unfortunately, the bonus points didn't translate into more sex. That area of my life was still a desert. I was well fed though.
The pattern of small conversations with Rebecca, helping out where I could, rejection by Jonathan, and well-cooked meals by Trisha continued on for several years without notable change. During that period, Rebecca and Trisha both gave birth to healthy baby girls. Rebecca and Jonathan proceeded to add one more girl and one more boy for a total of 5 children. Trisha and I had another girl for a total of two. After our second child, Trisha started working the evening shift at the hospital so we wouldn't have to put the girls in daycare. It was another strain on our relationship but we were willing to make the sacrifice for the girls.
During those years, I really looked forward to the impromptu conversations with Rebecca. Not for the subject matter. They weren't about anything significant. Usually just about the kids doing this or that. It was her personality and friendly smile that I looked forward to. My initial superficial judgment of her was so very wrong when I saw her that first time after they moved in next door.