I have this friend; let’s call him Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude and I have known each other since the early '90s, but haven’t had much contact in recent years. But, thanks to this thing I'll call Tracelook, combined with an existential crisis he was having, we saw each other face-to-face on Friday.
Years ago, Jean-Claude had a problem that led to the end of his first marriage. It was one of those problems from which you must spend the rest of your life recovering, lest you fall back into the pit. And there was another factor or two compounding that problem, but lately he seemed to have it all under control. He has a new wife; he has a new job that gives him opportunities to make a difference in kids’ lives.
And I think he may have just thrown all of that away.
On Friday, Jean-Claude and I spent 45 minutes talking through his recent activities and emotional conflicts. It was easily the most transparent conversation we’d ever had, and I felt a little like Jiminy Cricket at one point, reminding him that he has a moral compass and the power to use it. But he seemed to take it well, even thanking me for my “wisdom” later via Tracelook. I told him my pastor’s sermon topic for this week, one that was geared toward his own life's struggles, and the uncanny timing of it seemed to make an impression. He said he’d plan on coming to worship with me before he crossed the county line on Sunday.
We share the same faith, and I realized later it might’ve been a good idea to offer to pray with Jean-Claude before he left my house. A missed opportunity. Instead, I prayed for him later, and asked my small group to join me.
On Saturday, I started getting text messages from Jean-Claude. At first, he assured me that his moral compass was holding tight. A few hours later I watched everything disintegrate, 100 characters at a time.
During Sunday morning’s worship service, which Jean-Claude did not attend, I lifted him up in prayer by name. As I was doing that, he was driving to another part of the state to finish wrecking his marriage before heading back home to his wife. A couple of text messages last night confirmed that.
At least now I understand a little more clearly how one of those so-called perfect couples, the college sweethearts, could reach the point Jean-Claude and his ex-wife did several years ago. I feel like a darkly comic old sage, dispensing wisdom based on my 13 years of wedded bliss only to see it tossed out the window of an un-air-conditioned sedan, somewhere on Interstate 35, in the middle of a Southern summer.
Today Jean-Claude’s Tracelook status is that he’s “waking up to a whole new world,” but I can’t help but wonder if it’s one he will be happy with in the long run.
What am I supposed to learn from this experience? Some obvious options: I can’t control other people. Just because I’m aware of danger doesn’t mean I can put a stop to it. Everyone has to make his or her own choices.
These lessons are nothing new for me. I’m not surprised to be facing up to them again. But I am surprised that a certain cliché keeps popping into my head: “I’m not angry with you, Jean-Claude. I’m just disappointed.”
This just in: Life is hard. Some folks make it harder than it has to be.