When Someone Joins this Journey

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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.

 

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Me, The Hermit, and a Molasses Cookie

Cookies Fresh Out of the Oven

I’ve become a hermit.

Hermit\ adj., living in the desert. 1 a: one that retires from society and lives in solitude esp. for religious reasons: RECLUSE 2 : a spiced molasses cookie

When I started this blog I was meaning more the recluse definition but I think I’m going to go with “a spiced molasses cookie”…I LOVE molasses cookies J!

Since the dictionary was open I decided to look up molasses too.

Molasses\ 1: the thick dark to light brown syrup that is separated from raw sugar in sugar manufacture 2: a syrup made from boiling down sweet vegetable or fruit juice

Something made from boiling. Hmmmm…I definitely feel like I’m in hot water a lot.  Maybe God is making me into something sweet and syrupy…

ehhh, probably not. 

Although I did have a friend say after 10 years of friendship, “You know when I first met you I thought you were too sweet. Now I know better.”

It was a compliment…of sorts.  Actually I know she meant it that way.  I’m drawn to strong, opinionated women who speak their mind…although I wouldn’t say that I’m one.  I mean in the traditional definition. 

I’m strong but in a mushy sorta way. I’m opinionated but not given to sharing my opinion…silently opinionated. 🙂 

Good grief…what was I talking about in the first place?

Oh yeah…being a hermit…or a cookie…or both.

In all seriousness I’ve been a bit of a recluse lately.  Or wanted to be. 

If I could be I’d be one.  I find myself not writing a lot, not texting a lot, not calling a lot, not answer phones a lot, not wanting to visit a lot…see, recluse.

Although I’m not lonely.  And that is a blessing.

When my husband left I didn’t feel this way.  In fact I was probably the exact opposite.  I mean, I didn’t feel like I wanted to hide away or miss phone calls or texts.  In fact, I had to work on NOT answering every phone call or text…I wanted to talk to people.  And I was terribly lonely.

What changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  But I think part of it is the complexity of life…and death.

My father passed away last month.  It wasn’t a surprise but it still rocked my world.  It hasn’t impacted how I live a normal day but it has impacted how I feel about some things.

I believe my father’s death was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The past few years have been fanny kickers.  Seriously.  Fanny kickers. 

You know that hot water thing I mentioned…I think I got pushed into it.  And I’m having a heck of a time getting out of it.  I’m getting there…slowly but surely.

But it seems like the water temperature keeps increasing and sometimes the sides of the pool are a bit slippery.  But I have to admit that I‘ve not felt lonely…I’ve not felt abandoned or forsaken.  I know that God is with me even though my life feels overwhelming and difficult.

Maybe being a bit hermit-ish isn’t so bad.  It’s given me some time to think.  It’s given me some time to focus.  I can’t say I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of things done apart from parenting and homeschooling and a tiny bit of writing, but I’ve been blessed to do some wonderful Bible studies, read a great book*, and hang out with some dear people in my life, especially my children. 

I guess what I want to write is that it’s okay to rest in our relationships a bit.   It’s okay to be still.  In fact as I was writing this a kind friend sent me an email reminding me of Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

I love how God does stuff like that.

Being still.  Being quiet.  Those are good things.  In moderation of course.  It’s not like my life is ever truly still or quiet…unless I’m asleep and that’s rare in and of itself.  BUT I believe resting in God is good.  And allowing ourselves time to deal with all that life has thrown our way can be a very good thing too.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28

 

So to all my sweet friends who have suffered my lame-friendness…please forgive me.  I’m praying that God will renew my energy and heal all my broken places.

I’m praying for all of us to know that God is our peace, our strength, and our hope in our busy lives whether they are loud or quiet. 

Thus says the LORD:  “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16    

*The great book is Jesus+Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian    

Little Boxes…annoying little boxes

Recently it seems I have had to fill out a ridiculous number of forms that all require me to write down my status…single, married, divorced, widowed…  It’s amazing how much I want to deny my actual status.  Who would have thought I’d ever wish I could check any box but divorced?  Just being honest.  I feel as though I have a giant D plastered to my front, my back, my forehead and everywhere in between.  As a Christian, it’s particularly difficult to come to terms with this life status.  It is an epic failure.  I’m getting used to it…I guess.

In the past several weeks I’ve been to more medical/dental appointments than I thought possible. And at each one those blasted clip boards with those horrid forms are handed to me.  And each time I have to reaffirm that I am divorced.  And each time I want to add a posted note with the circumstances of my divorce.  “Divorced due to the adulterous actions of my husband…blah blah blah.”  But why?  It doesn’t really matter anymore.  I have forgiven him and I don’t want to malign him any more than his actions already have.  I have peace in my heart about what God is doing in my life. And yet, I cannot deny that it feels crummy being a divorcee.

No matter how many of us there are out there, it stills feels like a tragic life circumstance with a definite negative stigma attached.   But in all honesty, that crummy feeling is because I’m trying to find my identity in something that isn’t ultimately going to give me any peace or even a good perspective.  My relationship status – married, single, separated, divorced, widowed – none of those truly are who I am at the core.  Does that make sense?  It is a circumstance in my life not me at my most defining point.  Although even as I write that I know that there is more to it than that. There is a depth to marriage that makes it so much more than just my relationship status…maybe that’s why divorce feels so shattering.  As much as I want it simply to be a box I check or don’t check…it feels like so much more.  Married is how I have wanted to describe myself since I was a little girl. It was my most anticipated adjective.  I had it for a long while and then, in what felt like an instance, it was gone…my adjective was replaced with one I really don’t like much at all, but I have long ago accepted this new adjective to describe me…not happily or without a bit of fussing.

But today I have decided to focus on other things that I prefer much more.  I bet a bunch of them describe you too.  I made this list in preparation for a talk I did at a ladies’ retreat…it blessed me to be reminded of who I am in Christ…I pray it blesses you too.

Beloved Daughter of the King

Cherished Bride of Christ

Precious Child of God

A new creation

God’s workmanship

Free from condemnation

Forgiven

Not forsaken

Lavishly and Unconditionally Loved

Worth Far More than Sparrows

Never alone

Never separated from the Love of God

Blessed with every spiritual blessing

With reason to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful

Filled with the Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Afflicted in every way, but not crushed

Perplexed but not driven to despair

Persecuted but not forsaken

Struck down but not destroyed

Saved by grace

Reconciled to God

More than conquerors

Ambassadors

Free

Have grace

Have love

Have purpose

Have eternal hope

Each one of those descriptions speaks to my heart and mind…reminds me of who I am and Whose I am.  There is always hope.

Dearest, you are loved beyond measure. 

Nothing can change that fact.  

And certainly not a little box on a form.