When Someone Joins this Journey

photo 1 (3)

A friend sent me a copy of a blog yesterday.  It was a blog sharing the loss of another Christian marriage. I’d already read it, but I opened it…just to glance at it again.  As if to remind myself what had just happened to this lovely Christian woman.  And fresh heartache came to me…not just for her and her family, but for the many husbands and wives who have had to walk this path.  Who have had to end a marriage through divorce because of the choice of a spouse to abandon.

Every week I hear at least one story of a marriage ending.  Every. Single. Week. Sometimes more than once a week.  It is always, always sad, but sometimes I find myself numb to it.  As though, my thoughts are, “Oh.  Again?  Yes, of course.”  It’s those words, “again” and “of course” that cause a deep sigh.

But I will admit that reading her blog shook me…a lot. My thought was, “Lord, what in the world?!? Can anyone to be trusted?”  I know the answer is a resounding, “YES!” but doesn’t it sometimes feel that the answer is “Well, probably not”?

I hear it echoed in conversations with my children who, although each wants to be married with a family, feel that nothing is guaranteed…no covenant is necessarily going to be kept.  It’s a reality of our world that relationships are often viewed as disposable, but dang…

I asked my son Peter, who desperately wants a tattoo, if he would consider getting one on his ring finger when he gets married some day.  He said, “No way, Mom! What if it didn’t work out?”  My heart breaks.

My daughter Emma recently shared with me that even if a young man presents himself as a believer, how is she to truly know?  What if he is just faking it?  What then?   I didn’t have an answer, except trust God.

That is a good answer for anything…for everything actually.

Marriage isn’t something we humans came up with…I believe God created and designed the covenant of marriage as the perfect picture of His covenant with us.  

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  Genesis 17:7

This covenant God made with His people – to never leave us or forsake us, to love us always – is beautiful.  A perfect God binding Himself in covenant with his very imperfect people.

And when two imperfect people bind themselves together in the covenant of marriage it is also a beautiful thing…to promise before God to love, honor, and respect one another, to live beside one another, united, committed to love until death…what a gift!  What a blessing!

Maybe it’s social media…all the stories we read.  Maybe it’s the ease of communication, the open sharing, the willingness to sin in public…I don’t know, but it feels as though a barrage of bad things is raining down sometimes.  

And I wonder if this is just the world now…vows and covenants and promises are truly disposable – just things that can be thrown away when they are no longer useful, relevant, or fun.  

It seems that working on a relationship is viewed as unnecessary. Why should we have to do that?  Things should just be blissfully wonderful all the time.  Right?  Not in my experience.

Why is working seen as a bad thing anyway?  We work towards many things we want…work towards getting, keeping or excelling at a job.  Work towards health.  Work towards fitness.  Work towards organization.  Work towards goals.  

Why is working towards a better marriage not considered a viable option by some.  Why do some bail?  I don’t understand.  I really truly don’t.

No person is perfect.  No relationship is without bumps – we, men and women, are made differently…wonderfully different.  God’s design.  And through relationship we grow, are refined, are challenged, are strengthened…through relationships God does amazing things in our lives…or not – if we don’t let Him.  If we are unwilling to invest in each other, to love sacrificially, to value one another, to fight for “us”, what hope is there for relationships that truly reveal the glorious covenant relationship we share with each other and with God?

Oh dear – I will step off my soapbox (a little bit…)

There is a way God wants me to see things.

All along, from the beginning, God had a plan for what marriage would be…what it would mean…what it would reveal about Him.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  Ephesians 5:22-33

We have twisted and tried to destroy that revelation, but God has not changed His plan or His vision for what this beautiful covenant means.

This covenant of love between us…the Bridegroom and His bride.

It is not shaken by man’s sin…not denied its power nor its message.  Not shattered like so many happily ever afters…

It remains intact…strong as from the beginning of time…firm in its foundation…held together by the very God who holds the stars in their places.  

Unshaken…never ending…never forsaking…never forgetting…unchanging…unaffected by time or tears or tests…always…forever…

My hope for marriage might wobbly a bit with each end of marriage message…but even in these moments of misery God is not absent.  He reminds me that He is the covenant keeper who never fails.  He will never abandon His children, His bride.

There is always hope because there is always God.

And when others share their stories of marriages ending, there is still hope.  Because as a dear friend pointed out, we don’t hear about the marriages going along smoothly…the marriages where grace, love and respect thrive, not perfectly but beautifully.  Mess gets the most attention.

But maybe we need to look beyond the mess and see the Bridegroom before us.  See the One who takes care of the Covenant completely.  Who doesn’t need us to do anything but trust that He has got it covered.

My marriage covenant shattered…my faith did not.  

My spouse abandoned…my Savior never will.  

My hope wavered…my Hope remains.  

My future seemed uncertain…His plan stands firm.

God’s covenant to be our God…to be with us always…to love us relentlessly, unconditionally, unceasingly…to provide an eternal inheritance beyond our imaginings…that Covenant will never shatter.

As we sojourn here, whether married, divorced, widowed, or single, it is our joy to remember that our Father is with us always.  There is no place, no circumstance, no sin beyond His reach…there is no person beyond His reach.  So as we pray for one another, encourage one another, identify with one another, weep or rejoice with one another, let us never forget the One who keeps the most important Covenant strong and unwavering. The One who knows what betrayal feels like, the One who felt abandonment, the One who choose to trust and obey in circumstances beyond our imaginings.  This is the One who goes before us, the One who stands beside us, the One who is always with us, the One who never, never leaves us nor forsakes us.

When I was in the thick of things a few years back this verse brought me comfort:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus understood, still does.  He beckons us to trust confidently…to approach Him without fear…to know that He has all that we need.  

The Covenant is secure.

 

Advertisements

It’s In A Box…Somewhere

IMG_8315My mom ’s garage is packed almost to the ceiling with all my belongings.  I thought when we were loading them in that there was some sort of organizational plan.

Yeah…nope.

There might have been, but I’ve messed it up with all my digging and moving and climbing around the mounds of stuff!

And I can’t find anything!

The most frustrating thing has been all my tax documents.  I was so sure I had labeled it and placed it carefully on the outside of the piles. Apparently I did not…drat!

Now I’m looking for my spring/summer clothes…that one might require emptying the whole place, because I don’t want to buy another thing that might end up in a box.

But one thing I think I might have inadvertently packed away is my sense of humor.  THAT I might need to find sooner.

I used to be a funny person…light-hearted and occasionally witty…now I’m just a bit sarcastic.  That’s no fun.

I’ve gotten so bogged down by heavy life things that I haven’t had time to just laugh about things.  I occasionally chuckle, but it’s more so I don’t cry than that I truly am laughing hard.

My kids used to tease me about how loud I laughed…that hasn’t happened in a while. Now they comment on how lame and fake my laugh sounds.  Lame?  Fake? Argh.  I need to laugh!

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:13

I don’t want to be crushed anymore…heartache schmartache.  My heartache might have crushed my spirit a bit…well, a lot…but I am not crushed.   In fact, God says I’m not crushed.

Be we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

So a happy heart and a cheerful face is my goal.

I think this is one way I might actually be able to model the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

I don’t often laugh at the days ahead.  I very often think I’m more dreading…fearing…scared out of my wits than anything resembling laughter.

But I love to laugh!  Why not choose that instead of dread?  Why not find the joy in things?  Why not grab hold of hope?  Why not expect great things?  Seriously, why not?

Laughter gives us the opportunity to change our outlook.  The opportunity to release some stress, defuse the tension, and smile instead of sigh.

Maybe when I look at all those boxes, I can think of something to smile about…well, maybe, but I can’t think of what it would be.

How about my kids…there is ample fodder for fun with them.  I’ve been so busy I’ve missed out on it.

How about a night out with a friend or two…a funny movie…a good book (I can at least get a smile from a good book)…how about laughing about things instead of fussing about them.  Maybe a tickling fight instead of another kind of fight.

I could get a good laugh from most things if I flipped my perspective a bit.  If instead of looking at our housing situation as just a nightmare, I could have fun with the closeness of my kids.

I used to joke that the 800 square foot house we lived in for a few years was my children’s favorite house.  They could never be more than 3 feet from me at any given time.  They LOVED that!  Most of the time I did too. 🙂

When I couldn’t eat after I found out about my husband’s adultery, I had waaay too many adultery diet jokes. I think I might have joked about that one too much.

When my car made noises that no car should ever make, my kids and I would laugh and make jokes I shouldn’t share in this blog.  Let’s just say my sense of humor is perfect for someone who works with 11 year olds!

Sitting in the ICU with my mom could be incredibly depressing, but we have had fun joking about my mom mooning all the nurses, as well as some other jokes, which again, I best keep to myself.

Hey!  I might not need to find the sense of humor box!

I just need to start looking for the joy…even the funny…in my circumstances.

I have to be honest and say I don’t imagine it will always be the easiest thing. There are times when I feel like humor is the farthest thing from my mind.  The farthest!

I believe a concentrated effort to smile and laugh more will make a big difference.

One more thing I’m going to try!  Add it to the list…

  1. Expect great things
  2. Smile more!

(And, maybe #3 should be to organize the garage!!)

 

The Process of Forgiveness: Steps 1 to 70×7

steps Recently I’ve had a few people tell that if I’ve forgiven my husband I should be in a better place.  From what I’ve heard I shouldn’t be angry at him again.  The only problem with this idea is that I gotta deal with the man and he’s difficult so that’s gonna be real hard.

It isn’t so much how he treats me – honestly, whatever.  But I do have a hard time with how he treats my kids.  So being human, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to forgive him repeatedly and sometimes I’m gonna even get angry before I forgive.

I think there is this thought that once you forgive you forget and live happily ever after.  I wish that was the case.  It’s really more like this:

Forgive…move forward…something unpleasant happens…forgive again…move forward again…something difficult happens…forgive again…repeat until heaven…

I think if you are to a place that you don’t have to repeatedly forgive an unrepentant person for their continued rotten actions – you rock!  And I mean that! And I do truly wish I could be like you.

But I’m finding forgiveness to be a rather long and arduous process.  But God in his infinite wisdom, grace, love and faithfulness has some instructions and some encouragement for me (and you if you are like me).

I guess the first thing is this

Forgiveness takes time, effort, intentionality and God.

I don’t have it in myself to be a completely forgiving person, but God is utterly and infinitely forgiving and I have Him so that makes all the difference.

God can enable me to forgive anyone, but He also allows this whole forgiveness thing to be part of my sanctifying.  Do you remember how many times Jesus said you have to forgive?  70×7.  (Matthew 18:21-22) His point was that we need to forgive a lot.  Why would He say that we were gonna need to forgive so much if we weren’t gonna need to forgive so much?

I think that if Jesus was just talking about how much we forgive in general he wouldn’t have even needed to say 70×7.  I can absolutely forgive one person one time…it’s having to repeatedly forgive the same person that’s tricky.

In my situation with my ex – forgiveness must be offered without request or repentance.  In fact, I think we have been moving farther away from repentance rather than closer to it over these past few years.  So forgiveness is challenging – and continually choosing to forgive is also challenging (sometimes almost as much as the first time).

In marriage we must continually offer forgiveness.  It is the same in divorce.  But I’m kinda getting the impression from people that it is not okay to have to repeatedly forgive my ex.  That I should forgive and move on already.  (I think that is a message I’m getting about a lot of things, but I will hit that in another post.)

When I forgave my husband’s adultery and then his abandonment I didn’t’ understand the nature of forgiveness…at least not totally.  I kind of expected some warm fuzzies and some serious peace about things…a happily ever after of sorts.  Although I did experience that peace which passes all understanding, it came with a cost.  I had to and continue to have to lay aside my feelings in order to embrace the gospel as it relates to forgiveness.  And boy does it!

God has modeled forgiveness for us…and to us.

Forgiveness requires sacrifice on the part of the forgiver.

God sacrificed His son and Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be forgiven.  God didn’t want to be separated from us so He made that sacrifice.  So that he could have a relationship with us.  That forgiveness offer is available to anyone who accepts it, but it only changes the nature of our relationship with Him when we accept it.  If someone doesn’t accept it – the relationship is not restored…in fact, there is no relationship.  And that sin still separates and grieves the Lord.  In fact, my sin still grieves the Lord even though I can ask for forgiveness and receive reconciliation.

Forgiveness is offered over and over again.

God continues to forgive me even when I sin repeatedly.  He accepts my repentance every single time.  He never says, “Sorry that is the 70×8 time you’ve done that…we are done.”  Oh my, I’m so thankful He doesn’t.

The difficulty we have…those of us who forgive because we are called to not because it was asked for by the offender…is that we must often deal with repeatedly being offended and continually having to offer forgiveness.

What has helped me immensely is understanding that I have truly been forgiven so very much and that, but for the grace of God, I could be that offender…that person who rebels.  I could be rotten…well rottener.  That gives me a measure of grace for my ex.

I see that often forgiveness is like love…it’s a choice I make, something I do even if I don’t feel it.  I decide I’m going to be gracious and kind and I act that way.  But that gracious kind way might have to come after a little bit of fussiness and anger.

But honestly, to think that the lousy things my ex-husband does are not gonna bug me?  Really.  (Please comment if you have no problem with that sort of thing and tell me how you do it!)

I love my kids and when they are hurting my mama bear comes out…can’t seem to help that.

And that brings me to my second point…

Anger isn’t bad.

It’s what we do with that anger that can be very bad.  Feeling a justified emotion is not a sin, but acting bitterly, unkindly, rudely, and punitively is.

God doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  God says, “Don’t sin in your anger.”

It isn’t a bad emotion, it’s a valid emotion God gave us to signal that something is wrong…something needs to be dealt with.

God gets angry…and I am made in His image.

What about the Old Testament?  God has some righteous anger at Israel…it’s justified and often acted upon but always with the purpose of drawing His people back to Him.   Responding to my anger with the purpose of just simply punishing is wrong, but taking my anger to God and asking Him to give me wise ways to deal with it…that’s good.

I have read back through my blogs and I don’t see that I’m sinning in my anger at my ex-husband.  I admit I have anger towards him at times…again, human.  But I truly am trying to not sin in my anger.

The amazing thing is that God uses my anger to draw me closer to Him.  He’s cool that way.  He uses everything in our lives – if we will let Him – to draw us closer to Him.  He sanctifies us in the most amazing ways.

So despite what some people say or think, I do think I’m in a good place.  I’m forgiven and I’m learning to continually forgive…so far I think I’m on step 659… 🙂

Father, guard us against being prideful, bitter, and angry.  Soften our hearts, “renew a right spirit” within us, and give us compassion for our ex-spouses (Psalm 51:10).  Please help us be like Christ.  It seems impossible at times, but You tell us that we “can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13), and we ask that You would give us strength to forgive 70×7 times because forgiveness gives us the ability to move forward and enables us to be used by You.  God, help us give our children the gift of a forgiving, loving parent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Prayer adapted from When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting by me 🙂

What Happens Afterwards?

ImageIt’s been a weird week or so.  Do you know what I mean?

I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s been a little off.

I think I know part of the reason and it’s quite surprising to me.  Particularly because I thought I was kinda past all this stuff.

You know all healed up and such.

But lately, I’m spittin’ mad…angry…frustrated….even a little bit bitter.

And even more than all of those…I’m surprised.

I thought I was over all those awful emotions.

I thought I was past that place

…outta that pit.

But I think there is still some climbing, crawling and running that needs to happen.

Still some growing

learning

and trusting…

I’ve had friends tell me that I need to not use my husband’s adultery, abandonment, and our subsequent divorce as such a huge reference point in my life.

My answer has always been, “????????”

‘Cause it’s pretty much feels like one of the biggest things to happen in my life…and it’s the most recent biggest thing…and it impacted so much and so many and so deeply.

You know those big events like salvation, marriage, children…those things you build upon.

They are all the beginning of something wonderful.

Divorce, it’s just the end.

There isn’t much to build upon there…

in fact, what IS there, is nothing you’d want to build upon anyway, right?

Sadness, regret, anger, betrayal, crisis, etc.

Someone recently said to me, “Divorce can be the beginning of something better.”

I guess so.

But it isn’t because divorce is a great beginning; it’s what God can do afterwards.

But after what?

After divorce?  After a while?  After the stages of grief have all been cycled through…again?

Please don’t get me wrong I’m not asking that in a rotten way…I’m pondering.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  Psalm 119:15

I guess I should tell you a bit more about my situation…well, my thoughts on my situation.

Those feelings of anger, frustration and bitterness are toward my ex-husband…and he absolutely deserves it BUT it isn’t right and it isn’t good and it isn’t what I want to be feeling.

 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.  Proverbs 14:29

I forgave him for what he did to me, to our children and to our family.  And although I know forgiveness is a process (sometimes a long process), I thought I had finished the process.  I thought I was on the other side.

There have been many things to forgive since the original hurt, and those things have indeed been forgiven.

  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? 

As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

But, honestly, I’ve been thinking all along that much of what I’ve struggled with in the past 5 plus years has been anger and frustration at those continued dumb things the man does.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Maybe I underestimated the whole forgiveness thing.  Maybe I didn’t understand completely how forgiveness needs to be a “completely” thing.

Forgiveness is definitely something I have offered and done.  I know I have…without a doubt.

I guess this is where the whole faith thing comes in.

The thing with forgiveness is…well, it doesn’t necessarily make all the hurt go away.  I forgave and I still hurt. ..a lot.

And maybe that hurt won’t ever completely go away…it’s pretty deep…but does that mean I haven’t really forgiven?

And if I have forgiven, can I still feel angry at the offending person?

Yes, yes I can.

But should I?

I don’t believe so.

The best thing I can do for ME is forgive and move forward.

The answer is to let go of the anger, frustration, and bitterness.

And I’m thinking I need to go read the chapter on anger and bitterness in my book, because maybe I can remind myself of how I got through this before…  I wish I was kidding.

I definitely don’t want to feel fussy forever.

I want to be able to move forward without anger and bitterness.  I want to not give that burden to my children.  I just want to give my burdens to the Lord – He can handle them.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you, He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Part of being in this funky place has been that I haven’t been able to hide from my children my thoughts and feelings about their dad.  I apologized to my oldest daughter the other night.

She said, “Yeah, it’s been weird.  But it’s ok Mom.”

Well, I guess I can take one positive think from that – I have done pretty well with it for over 5 years!

But I don’t want to be a mom who weighs down my children with my baggage.

So what am I going to do about it?

1st I’m going to pray.  (I’m noticing a theme in my life – pray first!!!)

Pray for God to give me His perspective on things.

What is His perspective on things?  Well, one thing that has helped in the past is to see my husband as a broken, sinful man in need of a Savior…just like I’m a sinful woman in need of my Savior.  To recognize where he is…and that like David in Psalm 51, his sin is against God.  God will handle it.  I don’t need to.

Pray for God to give me the strength to control my tongue..

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.  1 Peter 3:10-11

Oh golly, is this gonna be a big prayer request!  I’ve struggled so much lately with my comments and my facial expressions.  I can’t seem to keep my thoughts to myself…my angry thoughts that is.  And the sad part is that those angry thoughts don’t serve any purpose but to wound innocent people around me, particularly my children.

That’s the dumb part about anger and bitterness – it really doesn’t impact the offender very much, if at all.  It just hurts you…and me.  It just hurts the people we most want to protect from further hurt.  Our beautiful children.

So, friends, I’m gonna do something about this angry, bitter woman I see sometimes in the mirror.

She is not welcome anymore.

I don’t think I can just make a decision in this post and change myself instantaneously, but I can start the process…golly another process…maybe I should rephrase that…I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to start the process in me.

I know that only God can make this better in me.  I know that only God can change the hurt, anger, and bitterness into something much better.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:1-3

My part…my part is to pray, to seek Him, to read His love letter to me, to counsel with friends, and to fight for a better attitude.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Psalm 105:4

 

I lift my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121