by David Scott Klajic
Divorce, the Army and a Decade in the Spiritual Wilderness
As mentioned earlier, I spent two years in graduate school, learning Christian counseling. I was married to my first wife at the time, another lifelong Church of Christ member.
Toward the end of my time in the seminary, I had approached the elders of our congregation about turning my internship (which I was doing there) into a full-time counseling ministry. This meant I was making my unpaid work into a full time job with the church. I had pitched it to them and they agreed. So I spent the next 6 months or so drumming up and securing the funding that would eventually be my paycheck. It was an exciting time, as I was finally going to leave the family business working with my dad and do what I really wanted to do.
Unfortunately, at that same time, my wife hit me the news that she was leaving me and wanted a divorce. This was a shock to me, and sparing the details of it, reverberated into other areas of my life—including the job I was about to start.
The elders decided that I was not qualified to be a church counselor, in light of the fact that I was going through a divorce. This is debatable, but the bottom line is, they were the ones writing the check. I was divorc(ing), and had a masters degree that was pretty much useless outside of the pastoral context—with a student loan price tag in the stratosphere.
So, I joined the Army!
At 29 years old, I left everything I cared about (I grew up, went to college and graduate school and all my loved ones lived in Southern California) for a change of scenery. The army would pay my student loans and I could see the world. I ended up seeing North Carolina.
It was during those first few years that I, for the most part abandoned the Church of Christ, because I was angry, and what the Hell? I felt they abandoned me by not pressuring my wife to stay with me. After all, I had not cheated, I was not abusive, etc. I had devoted 30 years of my life to the church and that was what I got.
It didn’t have to make sense, but it worked as a way for me enter a very dark time. I started smoking, drinking, and engaging 100% in the life of a single enlisted soldier. The reader may infer what they want from that.
Over the next four years, I would occasionally slip in to the back pews of a Church of Christ, and even led singing from time to time, but I did not belong there anymore.
I cannot say there was a moment when the fog lifted and I decided to snap out of it. It was more gradual than that. My initial time in the army was coming to an end, I wanted to go back to graduate school to get my PhD in psychology. So I applied and got in. In the fall of 2004, I entered a PhD program in the northern California bay area. Again, I would occasionally go to church, but for the most part, I just did the serial monogamy, “girlfriend” thing, which I knew was not compatible with any sort of Christian life. So rather than being a hypocrite I just did what I wanted to do. My conscience always bothered me, but clearly not enough yet to do anything about it.
In my 4th year of the program, I met my current wife. She was nominally Catholic, and a single mom. We did the usual, socially normative euphemistic routine of “dating” just like everyone else does. We were married about a year later, and then I was headed back to active duty—this time as an officer and psychology intern. We packed up our stuff and moved to Georgia.
By this time, I was beginning to feel the sting of missing a serious, stable church family. My wife would never be comfortable in the Church of Christ. This discussion was gone over several time. The Catholic Church made me feel like I was worshipping idols and Mary and calling another man “father!” Yikes!
So the compromise ended up being a Presbyterian church. They had a “high church” feel (it was for the most part liturgical) but I recognized enough of the theology and practice to be comfortable. In all we spent 2 years there, and I was even elected to the elder board. Our daughter, who was born while we were there was baptized in that church.
We moved to Texas and started worshipping at another Presbyterian church, and had our next one, a boy, baptized there. It seemed this was going to be our newly formed faith tradition. It was during this time I went on my first deployment to Afghanistan. When I returned, my father’s health was failing and we were not talking much. He was angry with me because I did not call him/write him much while I was deployed. We had one final skype conversation and he blew up at me. We stopped communicating at that point. My parents had divorced right after I graduated from high school, so I didn’t get to do much third party communication with my mom. It was a rough time. He died about a year later, with that angry skype conversation being the last time we ever spoke.
Readers should not be too heartbroken at this point. The previous 42 years of my life and relationship with him were fantastic. It ended on a down note, but we were very close my whole life. That is the part I choose to remember and dwell on. His cloak and dagger story of intrigue, bravery and escape from totalitarianism makes him a bit of an archetype/hero for me.
And the best part is, the story is true.