My Sabbatical Year

I got married on June 7th, 2009. 2020 marks seven years since my husband left me.

Seven is an important number to God and is the most frequent number mentioned in His Word. In fact, the Bible returns 483 results for seven, seventh, sevenfold, etc. (I just realized I am writing this on the seventh day of the month.)

seven

Seven is thought to represent “completion” as the Lord created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. I am thinking about this idea of completion and I am hoping that several things in my life will be completed. One thing that I hope will be completed is my anxiety over my singleness.

ANXIETY

For years I have fretted over the lack of single Christian men and the very real statistical probability that I will end up dying alone because of the sheer lack of marriageable Christian men in church. But what does God say about anxiety?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 4:6-7

My anxiety stems from a lack of trust in God. If God wants to give me a husband then He will. He is a God who is not only able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) but as our Father who loves us, He desires to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). I guess I’ve been struggling to really internalize this truth.

Another important instance where the number seven shows up in the Bible is when God tells the Israelites to fallow the fields every seven years. The land needs to rest and be left alone to rejuvenate itself. This is so that the fields can produce a better harvest and also so that the poor people would be provided for.


“But on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

-Exodus 23:11

The phrase “year you shall let it rest” is all one Hebrew word. The word is “shamat” and Blue Letter Bible tells me that the KJV translates it in several different ways including: release, throw down, discontinue, and let rest. I think 2020 is the year that I plow and harrow the soil of my heart, but do not sow seeds in it in order to restore the fertility. There has been so much exhausting toiling to find a husband: joining every dating site I can find online, participating in speed dating events, church hopping and joining Bible studies from different churches, and joining single Christian groups on Facebook. I am doing a lot of planting, but I am not harvesting anything except bitter disappointment and envy that others have what I long for. I hope this will be the year that all my striving ceases, I cast my cares on the Lord, and take up His yoke.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:30

DEBT

When my husband left me, I went into a tailspin of financial crisis. He left me with a mountain of debt that I couldn’t begin to pay off with my minimum wage job. I had to downsize to a smaller apartment that I could afford which was stressful because I had to let go of many of my belongings in order to fit into my cramped little home. I struggled living paycheck to paycheck for years and had to count pennies and live with a bare bones budget that did not allow for any entertainment whatsoever.

Leviticus 25 not only talks about the sabbatical year of resting the dirt, but it also talks about the year of Jubilee which takes place in the 50th year (after seven times seven years). In the year of Jubilee, slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, and property that has been taken is restored to the rightful owner’s family. So this year, I pray that I will work hard to pay off all that I owe and be freed from that burden. This year, I hope, is the year my debt will be completed.

SLAVERY

I have been a slave to my emotions for years. I was finally done grieving the loss of my marriage and the future I imagined for us together after about two years, but I am still to this day grieving who I used to be before I got married and the future I could have had if I never married him. I left everything I loved behind when I moved to Arizona in a last ditch effort to save my crumbling marriage: my job, the masters degree I was working toward, my family and my church family I loved. I had to start all over in a new place with no support.

Whereas I never before struggled with lust, sexual temptation became a part of my daily struggles after my husband left me. Whereas I never used to be an envious person, I frequently find envy creeping into my heart when I see happy married couples, especially those with children. I felt angry at God for allowing me to be abused for so many years and I felt disconnected from Him for allowing me to get into that situation in the first place since He knew what would ultimately happen and could have prevented it. As each year that goes by and I am still alone, loneliness threatens to choke me to death. Fears that I will always be alone keep me up late at night crying into my pillow. Resentment at God for letting this happen and for not providing someone else I can be a “helper suitable” to loom over my head and make me feel guilty, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop these feelings from growing more and more out of control like pesky weeds.

Ruth got a kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4:13-14 ) and Job was given twice of what he had before (Job 42:10). The people of Israel were restored to them the years that the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). Maybe 2020 is the year that I let go of my impatience and anger and I am freed from the chains of resentment, self pity, bitterness, and depression. I need to count my blessings every day and hold on to hope that something beautiful is in my future.

The Seven Steps to Resolving Unbiblical Thoughts and Bad Feelings

1. Confess the sin as I recognize it

– 1 John 1:9

2. Commit to follow Jesus

– Luke 9:23-24

3. Judge myself biblically

– Matthew 7:1-5

4. Love God and love others

– Matthew 22:37-39

5. Practice forgiveness

– Ephesians 4:32

6. Count trials as joy

– James 1:2

7. Pray unceasingly

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

Beauty, Loneliness, & Eternity

I never feel more lonely than when I’m surrounded by absolute breathtaking beauty such as gazing at the sunset over the Sonoran Desert from the top Mount Lemmon. Beauty has a way of reminding us of the Eden that we have never known but somehow always knew we were meant for.

“Every experience of beauty points to eternity.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar

I know it’s not as lovely as hearing it in person, but if you’ve never heard the haunting, melancholy wail of a loon, please listen to this video clip.

Laying awake at night in the cabin on Bear Lake in Waterford, Maine where I spent every summer with my family, I would be startled by this long, wistful howl that awakened a mournful longing within me. Sometimes the beauty was so great it stirred me to tears and made me feel desperately lonely.

A deep pang of painful yearning similar to my experience in Maine has been pulling on my heartstrings as of late. I could not name the empty place inside me until I picked up the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, a birthday present from my sister.

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

-Ann Voskamp

Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been feeling. Instead of being thankful for all I’ve been blessed with, I start to believe the serpent’s hissing lie whispering in my ear that God must not love me enough because He’s withholding good things from me. I try to fill the emptiness by putting on my dancing shoes as often as possible, devouring poetry, and crafting pretty things but always, always I feel the ache.

It’s not really my fault though, is it? The gaping hole in my soul will always be there until I am restored to glory and present with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were never meant for this dark, lonely world. We were created for a loving relationship with God.

Strangely enough, there is one person with whom I feel at peace. One person who makes the hole seem less cavernous. When I am in his presence, the hollowness melts away and I feel safe and able to rest. His company is inviting, nourishing, and comforting. I never want to say “good bye” but I am not allowed to be with him forever. It seems unfair that God would tease me with everything I’ve always wanted so close I could touch it but hold it just out of my grasp.

I think the grief I feel over this is natural and healthy. The sadness I feel because I am alone is due to living in a sinful, broken world where people don’t keep their vows and abandon their spouses. The sadness I feel because I am unwanted and rejected means I know my worth.

The wound of grief says, “This is not the way life is supposed to be. You were created to be dearly loved and cherished. You were never meant to be alone.” And the beauty in the world points me to hope. The loon’s cry sings, “There is still beauty in this lonely world.” It is an echo of what once was before sin spoiled its perfection. It is a mere shadow of the glorious beauty that will one day be revealed to us when Christ returns for His bride.

I am looking forward to that marvelous day.

“The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves…”

I was re-reading “Memoirs of a Geisha” this morning on my day off. The first time I read it was about six years ago when I was engaged to my husband. Today, for the first time, I saw a little bit of myself in the character of Sayuri and also in her mentor Mameha as they must not allow themselves to truly open themselves up to love because the jealousy of the other women their danna was with would destroy them. I came across a quote by Mameha to her protégé as she tried to teach her not to dream too big. To be practical and detached. To keep her passion under control or it would control her. “Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things, Sayuri. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.” After reading this passage, I put the book down and felt hopelessness over my whole situation. I wondered if I’d ever be able to have the kind of teamwork that my sister and her husband have if I am to do my duty as a Christian wife and wait to reconcile with the prodigal husband. I was hopeful for a while there that I might have a biblical reason to divorce him and find someone who will truly love me as Christ loves the church. But now I just feel empty with despair at the thought of him coming back and having to live day after day in a divided house. Jesus said “a house divided cannot stand” (Luke 11:17). I felt so lazy the rest of the day like I couldn’t do anything.133067363960558541_Tu6eZOaB_f Have you ever been debilitated by your feelings? Sometimes I feel like I’m shackled ball and chain to my feelings, incapacitated by their burden, and completely at their mercy. I don’t think feelings are necessarily good or bad but the thoughts we harbor and choices we make based on them are what either honor God or dishonor Him. I love the saying, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.” In other words, if a feeling passes overhead, you can choose to let it fly by or allow it to take up permanent residence in your mind, giving it free reign over your actions. But it seems hopelessness likes to keep haunting me. My whole life has always been filled up with hopes and dreams. I was the one at birthday parties who, when everyone else was playing games like Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven, I was in another room of the house reading a book because my kisses were for my future husband. I wanted to give him and only him every part of me, including my first kiss.  Part of me wished to be included in the revelry and not feel left out but another part of me realized that this kind of intimacy with boys was cheap and superficial. I didn’t want to have insincere make-out sessions with boys who were meaningless to me. I wanted to be tenderly kissed by someone I deeply cared about who was as passionately devoted to me as I was to him. I saved that first kiss for years and years and gave it to my husband six months after we were engaged. I had hoped he would be not only my first kiss, but my last and my only. Is my destiny for my husband to return to me? If so, I must not ever love him too passionately or I will die a slow and painful death once more if he should choose to leave me again. If he did return, our relationship would never be the same again. It would take eons for my husband to gain back my trust.

Trust

My husband texted me yesterday that he misses me and that he was thinking of revoking the previous ultimatum that I need to give up my faith in Jesus Christ. His most recent correspondence was that maybe we can agree to disagree. I don’t like the idea of living with a man who doesn’t submit to the headship of our Savior because there are so many problems that come from a marriage where one member of the team yields to the leadership of Christ and the other does things his own way however he sees fit, ignoring the instructions from the Bible. I lived like this for three and a half years and I guess I could go back to it, but I know I’d be miserable. I could continue to try to “win my husband over with my chaste conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2). This is what the church elders from my home church back in Connecticut advised me to do as they suppose my husband to be a believer. But what harmony can there be between us when I answer to my Father’s Word and my other half doesn’t? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) It wasn’t working then so why would it work now? My most recent text from my husband says, “I can at least consider another go at it…” Consider. Getting back together is not definite but now, after a full year, he’s finally reevaluating his decision to leave me. If his decision had come months ago I would have been overjoyed but now I can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss for what I might have had with someone else: a godly man. I must not let myself feel so disappointed, but instead fulfill my obligation as a faithful wife and try to make the marriage work.  My pastor from Tucson thinks I should not rush back into a relationship with my husband (especially if he only wants to come back because he wants to use me a sex object.) He told me to wait for him to prove himself that he can hold down a job, stay clean, and not lay a finger on me. broken_rings I know I ought to respond with a renewed mind that aligns itself with God’s will. I can either accept these negative thoughts that come into my mind or I can refuse them. New thoughts come from new perspectives. If anything exalts itself against the knowledge of God I have to bring that thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I do not need to be helf hostage by negative, unbiblical thoughts but instead, capture those thoughts that go against God’s Word and bring them into submission to Him. I can’t control what happens to me anymore than I can control the weather but what I can control is how I respond to these feelings. I believe there is a potential good in every situation and when I choose to dwell on God’s Sovereignty rather than a seemingly hopeless situation, I choose to rest in His grip instead of losing my grip. God has called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The devil wants me to live in futility of thinking, embracing the darkness and all of its attitudes, perceptions presuppositions, and expectations. But those who walk in darkness are separated from God with hardened hearts, living in all kinds of impurity with a continual lust for more sin. However, as believers, we are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1) and we are urged to live a life worthy of our calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Unbridled emotions can can be so powerful as to paralyze us with fear and rob us of peace and joy. Our thoughts directly affect our emotions but we ought not to let them manage our decisions. Feelings cannot be depended on and they don’t always tell the truth. We need to always compare our feelings with what God’s Word says. Train your feelings to serve you so you don’t become their slave.