Over the years, I used to dream about them.
When they first left our church, I dreamt frequently that she and I were together in their home, finishing a Bible study or finishing lunch, laughing--and always, that sound mingled with the noise of her two girls, who played at our feet.
Sometimes, I dreamt that I saw him on the street, and he wasn't angry anymore. I found just the right words, in those dreams, to tell him how much we loved them both ... and how much we missed them. I woke crying after more than one such dream.
Once I actually saw her driving behind me in their family van. I caught her eye in the mirror and waved. She waved back. Her husband--in writing--had forbidden me to talk with her, even threatening to sue me if I ever made contact, but I couldn't help but turn and mouth through the back window, "I miss you." She mouthed it back, and the tears came before I could stop them.
When my husband learned, through the freely given admission of our friend, that he was contemplating and taking steps toward a disastrous decision--one that would jeopardize if not outright destroy his marriage and the security of his children--Dave acted. He responded to the pleas of this man's wife and stood in the gap between our friend and his desired choice. My husband's firm action infuriated our friend. The last time he stood in our church, it was in the doorway of my husband's office, where he raised his voice and yelled, "I could line up a hundred pastors, and not one of them would have done what you did." But my husband had simply obeyed God ... and helped save a family.
The choice had been halted. The family stayed together, and stayed in our town. They changed churches, obviously, but maintained a few mutual friendships. Sometimes I'd hear news about them, such as when their third child was born. The news was always bittersweet. I'd be happy for them, and grieved for us--grieved that our church family was missing out on joys that should have been ours.
I must have stopped and prayed a hundred times over the years, "Please, Father, help him to know that Dave acted because he loved him."
Sometimes, God says yes.
Not long ago, on a Tuesday night, Dave came home from the church office and gave me a look that promised he'd brought news. "I want you to read something," he said.
He opened his laptop, navigated to his mailbox, and brought up an email. I began reading--first the name of the sender, and then the words, "Dear Pastor Dave." The tears came so fast and so hard that I couldn't keep reading. I had to stop first and let six years of sadness run their course before I could take in those healing words.
He'd written four pages. What it all settled down to, was this: I've known for many years that I needed to say this to you. I was wrong to pull my family away from people who loved them, and who they loved. We've missed so much because I did that. I created a gap that shouldn't have been there. Pastor Dave, will you forgive me?
I don't remember ever feeling so light. We closed the laptop, put our shoes on, and drove off. Within five minutes, we turned down a road I'd missed, pulled up to a house I'd missed, and knocked on a door I thought I'd never approach again. He answered, and swung that door open. There wasn't time enough for surprise to register in his eyes, because my husband didn't hesitate. He reached first to take our friend's hand, and then pulled him into an embrace. I stood behind, and watched six years of regret melt away. The intensity on our friend's face, as he accepted and returned my husband's embrace, is a look I will see forever.
"We never stopped loving or missing you," I said, as I accepted my own hug. And then his wife was there, and I got the tearful reunion I'd prayed for and dreamt about.
Our God heals silent wounds and secret longings and dreams that seem long past mending. He whispers words to those who no longer hear us. He nudges hearts, and opens doors we're powerless to open.
And sometimes, He surprises.