Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wings to Fly — 7

Memoir Index

My Marriage — The Early Years

I am often filled with so much sadness and longing for what I cannot have. I married a most wonderful man who loves me so much. There is so much inner conflict within me. Why is it so hard to accept him as he is? During our 28-year marriage we went through one struggle… his values and my values are at opposite extremes. We compromised at great pain yet I continue to long for what I cannot have.

Tom grew up very different from me. His childhood was full of playing and creativity. He was the fourth of seven children growing up in Connecticut. His father was an engineer who had his company at home… and his mother was… her family was everything… mom. He had woods for a backyard. Neighbors were too far away, so his best friend was his younger sister, Shirley. To me, his childhood seemed like a dreamland. He recalled his younger years as such. It was always Tom and Shirley. Their play consisted of creating an on-going drama with their stuffed animals and dolls. The theme and story would continue for months. He told me of creating a newspaper called The Weakly Weekly when they were in fourth and sixth grade. They were the news collectors, writers, editors, and printers and then they sold the papers for 5c a piece. The paper existed for years. They were so lost in their child’s wonderland. There were so many adventures of carefree childhood, and I would compare that with my sad childhood in the war-torn land of Korea.

Tom and I met during our college years. We were both in the same church, the church in Chicago. Yes that was our name, and we were affiliated with other churches which were named after their city. We were Bible-based, Jesus-loving, Jesus-centered people. Those were wonderful years. Oh the joy of being lost in Christ... Our young people’s gathering was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I saw life bigger than all the struggles of individual beings. I saw life bigger than what I had ever imagined human life could be. In 1974, Tom’s family moved to Chicago. He was tall. I never thought he was handsome, yet I was so attracted to him. His quietness intrigued me. When he played guitar and sang, it absolutely melted my heart. I also observed that many other young girls in our gathering had a “crush” on him. I thought it is better not to consider him. I refused to be in a one-sided love affair. Also at that time I was the only Korean in the gathering. With so many American girls trying to get his attention, I could not possibly be one of the contenders.

We were married in 1979. I was the happiest young woman on earth. I met the most wonderful man there could ever be. He loved me so much. And I could not imagine a day without Tom. I was a pharmacist and he was an engineer like his dad. In this new life I saw my future. I knew how to conserve and accumulate our earnings. I saw that in a few years, we could buy one property, then another in a couple of years. I saw that by the time we were 50, we would have a small empire of estates. I would fulfill all my passion and destiny that was ingrained in me. It was an inevitable thing. I would raise my family to be kingly, and that would somehow fulfill my grandfather’s wishes. I would fulfill my mother’s dream. She would tell me during my growing years, “You just study …I will clean and cook so that you do not have to do this when you grow up.” Cooking and cleaning were for servants.

I had a passion within me to be a significant somebody academically. Yet I was a Christian now. My priorities had changed. I would settle for being a part-time professional, raising children, yet underneath creating and fulfilling my destiny. Little did I realize that Tom shared none of my passion or drive for building up wealth. He had no desire to accumulate wealth. All he wanted to do was one day to serve Jesus, whom he loved, full time. I wanted to be a famous somebody; he did not care if he was nobody. I desired to have recognition; he needed no recognition. In our churches, we sing songs he has written, yet no one knows he wrote them.

Tom worked as an engineer from 1980 to 1998 and served the church. He allowed me to accumulate much of our earnings in a 401K. I insisted on doing this because I knew in my dread of dreads that he would enter full-time service to Jesus, which would knock our income 80%. The pain that would encompass me was intense. Yet he would not do that without consulting me.

Tom took a leave of absence from work in 1987 to be in a full-time training program for a year. He was in the heavenlies daily. It was so good to see him so happy. Yet I was suffering. I could not handle this. To me every day he did not work was a day wasted. I continued to work part time, and that was enough to pay our bills. To me the right way to live was to save 70% and live on 30%. To do otherwise was destroying me. To live from pay check to pay check was despicable and lowly to me. It was fine for Americans but not for me. Tom was gone for weeks at a time. The feeling of abandonment flooded me. This one year would damage our marriage. Yet I said nothing to him. I just kept telling myself, “After this is all over and done, when he goes back to work, everything will go back to normal.” It did not. We were on a rapid downward course, and our marriage was in trouble.

I felt unloved, uncared for, abandoned, and used. Yet when he came home, he loved me so much, I was lost in his love. Then he would leave, and I would enter an intense cycle of suffering.
I remember one evening, I could not face another day of being “used.” I determined that I would leave my two children at our babysitters and leave Chicago…go somewhere and start my life all over again. I could no longer go against everything that was me…. As I was thinking this I got a phone call. It was Tom. He said, “JaeHi, I am leaving now. I will be home in seven hours. That will be around 2 or 3 AM, and I did not want to scare you.” I said OK and fell back on my wet pillow.

He spent the next two weeks just with me and promised me that he would go back to work after the training ended. I asked him what made him come back that night. He said, “The Lord told me that I needed to take care of you. I felt I could take on the world, but the Lord told me to take care of you first.” I cried. God was real. That was 1987.

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