“Why have you abandoned me!?”

I was done. I was completely spent, and drew my next breath deeply, my head suddenly pounding from the exertion and pressure inside.

Seconds later, my telephone rang…….

Brett was traveling about a hundred twenty miles away on the same morning I exploded. I had only known Brett for six months, having met him in a group setting with some other friends of ours from church. This group now met every Sunday evening; my wife having joined as well for the preceding six months.

We met to discuss issues of faith and love, and learned a lot about ourselves and God along the way. But in that time, I really only knew Brett and his wife Sherrie as acquaintances. We didn’t talk outside of the group, nor did we sit together in church or do anything together as friends sometimes do. There had never been a reason for either of the couples to interact outside of the group; as a result, Brett had never called me prior to that day.

During his travels that morning, Brett was troubled by something he couldn’t put his finger on. As a short amount of time passed, he became aware of an idea to give me a call. He shrugged it off several times, before the idea became more insistent in his mind. Still, he couldn’t decide whether he should call or not. You don’t just call someone out of the blue unless you have a reason, and from Brett’s point of view, never having called me before, he didn’t feel as though he had a reason. Yet he couldn’t shake the insistence of his thoughts.

He drove on for another while, and after a time, several hours had passed since his first inclination to call. The persistence of the idea to call me began to be louder in his mind, to the point of actually becoming a hindrance to his attention for the road on which he was driving.

When he finally could not stand it any longer, he pulled over to the side of the road. He had decided to call his wife, who was at home, to ask her for advice. He described to Sherrie what he was experiencing, and asked her what she thought he should do. After all, how do you tell someone that you have this incredible need to call them without any reason whatsoever? What should he say? What would Tom think?

Brett had never had a reason to call me prior to this, so his conundrum was fairly vivid to him. If there had been several other times where we had spoken, if only we knew each other better, maybe then a call such as this one wouldn’t seem so wacky. But to call out the wild blue like this?

Sherrie convinced Brett to try calling, so he asked her if she could look up my telephone number and give it to him. Before he hung up with Sherrie, she asked him to let her know how it went.

Here is how it went.

I gathered every remaining breath in my chest, and shouted deafeningly, at God, at the cross, “Why have you abandoned me!?”

I was done. I was completely spent, and drew my next breath deeply, my head suddenly pounding from the exertion and pressure inside.

Seconds later, my telephone rang…….

I looked at my telephone in disgust. “Who could possibly be calling me right now!?” I asked no one in particular. I hesitated. I couldn’t decide. Should I answer it? Why answer it? I was angry, sad, tired…defeated. I felt as though I had nothing left to say to anyone. I just wanted all of this over with. I wanted to not have to deal with it, to not have to think about it, to not have it be the only thing I knew in my life, the only thing that currently defined me. I wanted to run from it as far and as fast as I could, but I was too tired to run.

The phone rang three times, and then a thought occurred to me instantly. “I do NOT want to listen to any messages! If I let it ring again, I am going to have to listen to my wife’s voice telling someone to leave a message. To run out of the room, or to pick up the phone, what should I do?

I picked up the handset, pressed the “talk” button, and said, barely audibly, “Hello?”

Brett answered hesitantly (or so that is how it seemed to me at the time). “Hi Tom…it’s…Brett…LaChappelle. How are you doing?”

“Fine”, I lied. Of course I wasn’t doing fine! Who cared anyway? And what in the hell was Brett doing calling me?

Up until this moment, I had not confided in anyone what had occurred in my life. No one knew that my wife had left me. No one knew that I had lost my job. I certainly wasn’t going to tell Brett. My mind was made up!

That’s when Brett said, “Look…Tom…,” with more hesitation than before. “I don’t know why I’m calling you. I…I…don’t even know what I’m supposed to say.” He paused for an even longer moment. I was listening, and it strikes me now that it is so strange that what he was telling me then wasn’t registering in my mind as odd. I mean, it certainly was “odd”, but it didn’t seem “out of place”, if that is even a decent way of describing my thoughts about it all.

He continued,”I have just had this feeling that I should call you, and it’s been getting worse all morning.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked, not really interested too much at that moment. I don’t know when it finally kicked in to me that this was weird.

“Yeah”, He said. “I was driving along, and had to pull over and ask Sherrie if I should call you, and then I didn’t have your phone number, so I had to ask her for that, too.”

“Oh yeah?”, I asked again. Something was beginning to register now, and I remember trying to figure out just what Brett was trying to get at. Then it came.

“Is everything alright with you, Tom? I don’t know what else to ask, Like I said, I don’t even know why I am calling.” Brett said, and something about the concern in his voice, or maybe it was simply agitation at the position he was in, cut its way through the fog that contained me.

Now I had a choice, and I was very, very aware of that choice. I don’t know why I remember that awareness so vividly. I had to choose whether to tell Brett what had happened. At that moment, it seemed so hard to say anything, like it would just take too much effort to tell the story, and I really, really didn’t want to tell it. I was ashamed, struck low, angry, and sad. “What will he think of me, a failure as a husband?” I asked myself inwardly.

There was a long pause before I said anything. It was like the calm before the storm.

“Brett, Nina left me…for another man. She took Ally” I said, through sobs and tears, “and I haven’t seen her since yesterday…..”

After that, the entire conversation is a blur in my memory. I told Brett as much as I could, and balled like a newborn baby over the phone. Through it all, Brett listened. He didn’t interrupt too much except to ask a few questions. Other than that, he just listened.

In exactly three months, it will be six years to the morning since this event occurred.

Every so often, Brett and I talk about that morning, and that phone call. Every so often, Brett talks about that phone call with Sherrie. Nearly every day, I think about that morning. I can still fell the pressurized throbbing inside of my head from shouting “Why have you abandoned me!?” I can still feel the first breath after that shout; long, ragged, and deep. But what I think about most, what brings tears of joy and hope to my eyes even now is the answer I didn’t have enough faith to believe in on my own.

I had walked away from God on that morning. I told Him to go to hell. I dropped MY faith like a bad habit, and was glad in my anger to be rid of it.

This is one story.

This is my story, but it isn’t the only story in my life. It’s just the story that God used to give me a reason to believe.

Nothing else in my life has inspired me in the way this event did. I used to believe in a lot of things, none of them God. I used to believe in my ability to carve my world and my results myself. I used to believe that it was up to me to make my world a better place; I used to believe I could actually do it. I used to believe in science, and in math, in everything I could see, and in nothing I couldn’t.

Now, whenever I begin to doubt, I think of that morning, and how I lost faith. Now, I know that I will lose my faith many times. But when I think of that morning, I know that the faith God gave me will never die. The two are different, my faith and His. The one is fickle and completely reliant upon circumstance. The other is not.

May the God of Sherrie, Brett, and Tom be with you all. He the God of the Living, and not the God of the dead.

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