Riding the Rails

Victor and I are having lunch together when suddenly our conversation is muted by the loud rumble of a train. We feel the tremors of the building shake in response to the passing locomotive and wait for the train to pass.

We have been apart from one another due to a season of unexpected hurdles in our marriage. We are just now beginning to live life together again, and it feels fragile. My teary eyes stare into his as I ponder the miracle of our reunion.  

A train of unexpected disasters hit our marriage and family. Lives were left suffering and waiting to be found under crumbled rubble. The victims’ bodies, souls, minds, and hearts were in desperate need of nurture, care, and rescue. I realized that time was necessary to focus on recovery. 

The reality became very clear that I was living in a marriage I did not sign up for. Rather than facing down demons in a holy war, denial and addictions had replaced the pain. When this reality came into focus, clearly naming it was the beginning to the end of denial. Like the Arab proverb says, “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” 

Embracing reality meant facing down the fear of disrupting the image of our thirty-year marriage. Years spent experiencing churches and theologies under the authority of “male-only” leadership had left a confusing void in my soul and a fear of my community’s judgment. As a result, doing the hard work of requiring honor and truth in marriage and seeking more healing was frightening, but not taking the risk to do the work threatened to suffocate my soul. 

Voicing truth for the purpose of resuscitating a marriage barely breathing felt like jumping off a cliff; however, hope is not found in a woman’s silence. Instead, silence is where passions, dreams, and desires die.

Sending out a loud and gutsy cry for help when plunging into a River of Hope was a bold act of courage, for I was at risk of drowning. I invited a small number of women to join me in this labor for love, and those who responded to my call for help were vital.

The voice of a faithful and brave friend who risks noticing with kind curiosity is a powerful voice of invitation. 

The voices of these women did not emerge by living life silently. They first came alive to desire and passion because life went wrong and they did something about it. These women were love in action to me, bringing me much needed coaching to breathe.  

One “sister-coach” offered a space to breathe with other women in community through her summer book study. Hers was a brave voice of tender invitation, reaching out to generations of women. 

In her book Theology of the Womb, Christy Bauman writes, “I beckon you to explore the story of your womb specifically because it holds a theology of God that the world is desperate to know in order to create more life. My daughters and granddaughters are waiting to hear and read about as you live your life theology aloud. We are in need of this sisterhood….”  

Yes to sisterhood! I think of another sister. She is a woman whose friendship was and continues to be God’s answer to written prayers in my journal from the first time I found myself battling unspoken burdens in my marriage. Hope came alive through listening to and sharing the stories of brave women gathered around Tracy’s Johnson’s dinner table.

Red Tent Living extended yet another invitation. Here, women come to simply be and be together. Amidst the impossible, confusing, and shaming ideas of femininity found in our culture today, we find respite in gathering and telling our stories. Red Tent Living believes all women are welcome at our table, and every story belongs.

Women gathered in community, sharing stories of life and death, birthed hope in me. My circle of women nurtured this hope as I waited for a miracle. The wait was long, the battle fierce at times, but in the end, it brought Victor and me to this place…  

Finally, the noise subsides as the train continues down the tracks and out of sight. We finish our meal in peace. Then, we walk outside toward our waiting turquoise golf cart. I smile as I notice the golf cart’s name—“Freedom.” Ours is marriage of thirty-plus years of saying “yes” to God as he continues to grow us as two separate individuals and as a couple living with ever-increasing hope for more truth, more love, more life, and more freedom. My heart is full with gratitude for God’s faithfulness.

Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of thirty years. She is a mother of four children and one grandchild. She is a spiritual counselor with Restoration Counseling, and her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two-stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play, and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.