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My head was whirling and drawing in oxygen was growing more difficult with each breath. Did what I just witness actually happen or am I trapped in someone else’s nightmare? How did I end up here sitting on this bus stop bench in Tucson, Arizona next to a complete stranger who is also somehow my husband?

A few minutes ago, a taxi cab pulled up in front of us and a beautiful brunette stepped out wearing a form-fitting business blazer, pencil skirt, and black high heels. I will never forget how she briskly came clickety-clacking up to us in a tizzy. “Excuse me,” she gushed. “I just moved here from Connecticut three days ago and I’m in dire need of some crack rock. Do you know where I might be able to find a dealer?”

I was torn between being excited that I have just met a fellow who is also from Connecticut and feeling pity for this woman who is so addicted to illegal drugs that she risked admitting her sin to the lot of us bus-riding folk, any one of whom could have been an undercover police officer ready to arrest her for the confession. But of course we are simply good citizens who just want to get to work and certainly don’t know anything about…

“Just a moment,” the man who looked exactly like my husband replied. He whipped out a pocket-sized notebook and pen and began jotting down a name and number from memory. He swiftly ripped the piece of paper from the pad and handed it to the well-dressed woman who clutched it to her breast like she had just won the lottery. With tears welling in her eyes, she profusely thanked the man who I thought was my husband only a moment ago. “No problem!” He called out as if he were a knight in shining armor who just saved the day. She stepped back into the taxi and drove off.

Everything was spinning. My own husband, who used to teach Wednesday night Bible study at my church back in Connecticut only two years ago, knows a crack rock dealer’s phone number by heart. Is this real life? Certainly I have wandered onto the set of the wrong movie because I didn’t know my lines or even my part. Wait a minute, who am I?

Now let me see, I know my name is Dannielle and I come from a small conservative farming town in Connecticut where the neighbors are your friends and you can leave your bicycle out in your yard without worrying that someone might steal it. I was raised since infancy in an evangelical Christian church where we were so close I called people Mimi and Uncle who were not my Mimi and Uncle. I was the girl who was saving my first kiss for marriage. I was the girl who, at six years old, knew who would be my bridesmaids and what color they were going to wear as I waltzed down the aisle holding a bouquet of fragrant stargazer lilies which represent purity. I know who I am, but who is my groom? This man, who now appears much thinner to me, is not the man I married.

The man I married wouldn’t have stopped going to church right after the honeymoon. The man I married wouldn’t have hit me six months after the wedding in the truck on the way to Ohio. The man I married wouldn’t have continued hitting me or sat me down and told me he no longer believed in the Bible or Jesus. The man I married wouldn’t have stayed out late at night lying about where he was and who he was with and what he was doing. Things started making sense in my mind as I pieced together the puzzle. The man I married wouldn’t have told me he’s moving to Arizona with or without me… but yet he did. I only followed him here because I was desperately trying to save my marriage. I was in denial about who I married and I was just now seeing clearly.

You see, I come from a community where divorce is not a word in our vocabulary. Divorce was what other people did, not us. When things are broken, you fix them. You don’t throw them away. I had been trying to “fix” my husband for four years and I was just now realizing that it’s impossible to fix people. My loving pastor, in his limited human wisdom, gave me the best biblical advice he knew how at the time: He gave me 1 Peter 3:1 which tells the wife of a husband who is disobedient to God’s Word to win him over without a word by her chaste behavior. I clung to that verse like a life preserver in the middle of a stormy ocean. It was that verse that kept me going when my husband choked me, threw me down the stairs, and even when one night he put a knife to my throat. I knew I could endure the suffering because one day it would all be worth it when I won my husband back to Christ and we both lived happily ever after and rode off into the sunset on white stallions. It was also the verse that allowed me to forgive my husband when he told me he no longer believed I was his soul mate and I found out he had been at another woman’s apartment at 2 am.

I don’t tell you these things to hurt my ex-husband in any way. I wish no ill upon him. I still deeply love him as a human being and I still pray for him. I tell you these things because it’s my story, too, and I have a right to tell it. Yes, he is my ex-husband now because shortly after that day when I discovered he was doing drugs he packed up his belongings and he drove away from me. I had begged him to stay. I had pleaded with him that we could work things out. He could go to drug rehab. We could get marriage counseling. But he didn’t want to fix anything, he just wanted to continue doing drugs without my nagging for him to stop.

That was seven years ago. It feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago, but also like it was just yesterday. I was willing to reconcile with him and I wish a reconciliation were the end of my story, but it’s not. For reconciliation to happen, both people have to be willing to make sacrifices. My husband called about three months after he left and said he’d be willing to reconcile if I would give up the Bible. I really wish I were making this up, but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. “You’re brainwashed by the church,” he told me. “If you burn your Bible, then I will know you really love me.” It sounds so ridiculous, like a line from a cheesy Christian movie they threw out because no one would believe anyone would actually say it. I told him that while I loved him and wanted to reconcile, I loved God more and I would not be burning my Bible. If he wanted to reconcile with me, he would have to repent of his sins and walk with Jesus Christ again as I believe he once had. Again, I really wish I were making this up, but one time when my dad was organizing some boxes my ex-husband left in my parents’ basement, he found a dark book among his belongings about mind control and manipulation techniques. It could very well be that he was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing the whole time.

For many years, my identity was wrapped around being a wife. So much of my purpose in life was centered on supporting my husband, helping him get better, and “winning him over without a word.” When he left me, I didn’t know what to do with myself or even who I was anymore. I blamed myself for not loving him good enough to win him over to Christ. But you know what? I am not defined by what happened to me and his choices were not my fault. I am a beloved daughter of the one true God, created for good works that He prepared beforehand. Even if my husband changed into a man I didn’t recognize, I still serve a God who never changes and who is always faithful to provide a way of escape. Not a sparrow falls from the sky without His knowing it.

The only time the heroine wins the monster over is in fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast. I learned that I can’t change someone else’s behavior, but I can change how I respond. The blood of Jesus Christ alone has the transforming power to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

Idols of the Heart

Golden Calf
The story of the Golden Calf is found in Exodus 32:1–6.

Recently, I re-read the story in the Bible when the children of Israel, after having seen the astounding power of God through several miraculous signs and miracles, fashion a golden calf and bow down and worship it. WHY?! Why, after seeing with their own eyes how God delivered them from the ten plagues (which only affected the Egyptians) and then experiencing the marvelous wonder that was the parting of the Red Sea, walking across dry land, and watching Pharaoh’s army drown beneath the waves? How could they turn their back on God and turn to a god of their own making?

Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God. He was gone for 40 days. Meanwhile, the Israelites were lowkey freaking out because they thought that Moses had deserted them or maybe even died. They hadn’t seen the power of God in a while and maybe they thought God had left them, too. They began to worry what would happen to them without Moses leading them so in their anxiousness, they made a god they could see. That was comfortable for them and familiar to them since they were accustomed to having visual representations of gods when they were in bondage in Egypt for the last 200 years.

Idols of the Heart

We may not physically worship a golden idol in 2020, but how many of us have lost trust in God’s provision and committed the sin of worry just like the Israelites did? Right now, everyone is totally freaking out that they will starve to death or have nothing to wipe their bums because neither toilet paper, napkins, diaper wipes, nor tissues can be found in any store near or far. #CoronaVirus

There is another story in the Bible about a beautiful, elegant woman who gained favor wherever she went due to her extravagant beauty. Her beauty was her power and a man named Jacob fell in love with her at first sight.

Rachel Hides the Idols

The story of Rachel stealing the idols can be found in Genesis 31.

One day, Jacob told Rachel that they were leaving to a far off place. Rachel began to worry about what that might mean. She was moving away from where she grew up, leaving behind her family and everything she knew. She began to panic. What did she do? She went through a lot of trouble to secretly steal her father’s household idols. Then she lied about it and hid them. What does this reveal about Rachel’s heart? She didn’t trust Yahweh to protect and provide for her away from home. She felt she needed the comfort that her father’s idols brought.

Rachel longed with all her being to be a mother. Back then, women did not have much use except to give birth to sons. Rachel had been used to being the favorite her entire life, but now she saw that her sister Leah was gaining all the favor. She said to Jacob, “GIVE ME CHILDREN OR ELSE I’LL DIE!” (As if Jacob were the one in control of her womb.) Jacob’s response was, “What, am I God?” He knew that it was God and only God who opens and closes the womb. Rachel began to feel worthless and her barrenness was an ugliness she could not bear. She sank into deep depression and allowed her desire for motherhood to twist her thinking. She complained and pouted and felt, “Woah is me, it’s not fair.” But even in the midst of her unbelief, God graciously opened Rachel’s womb and gave her a son. Was Rachel thankful?

She named her son Joseph which means “May Jehovah increase.” She wanted MORE. She wasn’t satisfied. Isn’t that the root of idolatry? We aren’t content with what we have. We always want MORE MORE MORE. Rachel thought that having children would bring her the joy she so desperately craved, but once God ended her infertility, she still wasn’t happy.

What Rachel thought would bring her blessing and favor eventually ended up bringing her death. She did end up having another son, but she died in the process of childbirth. Right before she gave up she spirit, she named her son Benoni which means “Son of my Sorrow.” (Jacob ended up changing his name to Benjamin meaning “Son of my Right Hand.”)

rachelbirth

What idols are lurking in the dark corners of my heart? An idol is anything that my heart longs for in order to make my life seem meaningful and happy. An idol is anything I desire other than God that allows me to seem like I am doing alright and everything is going to be okay. An idol is anything I trust in outside of God to give me what I need. An idol is anything that I am willing to sin in order to obtain or anything I do as an act of pouting because I can’t have my way or anything that I seek to bring me which only God can supply. An idol is anything that absorbs my affections and imaginations more than God. An idol is anything I invest my identity in.  For Rachel, her identity was in having children, and she ultimately died for want of it.

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

-Tim Keller

How often I find myself utterly frustrated because I haven’t found a job in months. I have experienced rejection after rejection and it’s so easy to apply those rejections to my self-worth and feel less than. I have believed that if I just keep working hard enough, applying to as many positions as I can, then eventually I will reap the benefits of my hard work and finally gain employment. That has not been the case. If I’m operating out of fear or believing that I have the power to manipulate outcomes, then I am not trusting in God alone to provide for my needs. I am making having a job an idol in my heart.

Another idol in my heart is the intense yearning to be a wife and mother. I know that this is supposed to be my sabbatical year, but I have often caught myself saying something like, “If I am never to be married, I hope that I die young, because this cruel life will be too much to bear without someone to love.” It’s all I’ve ever really wanted anyway. I never dreamed of a fancy career, that was always my sister, not me. I just wanted to be a stay-at-home mama and homeschool my kids. I have even turned down perfectly nice gentlemen because they didn’t want a wife who homeschooled.

How can I stop worrying that I’ll never get married? The scarcity of single Christian men is sometimes all I can think about. Worry is TOXIC. It just keeps you busy doing absolutely NOTHING. It blinds us to what God has done for us and how He is working and what He will do in the future… all because we are focusing on our problem and how we are going to solve it. Self-sufficiency disables trust. The Bible says to focus our thoughts above and to seek Him first. Whenever we dwell on a thought, the more we focus on it, and the more it takes over real estate in our brain. We have to replace negative thoughts with truth. Essentially, whatever I am worrying about today is an idol that I must tear down and confess.

Father God, expose the idols in my life that are lying to me and telling me what I need to feel secure and fulfilled. I renounce all covetousness and envy of what other people have. Cut down any idols in my life. Help me not to give my fears and concerns permission to discourage me. You are the Sovereign Lord in control of all things and you have given me every tool to fight against that which tries to steal my peace. I lay down all my burdens at Your feet and I ask You Lord to give me sweet rest. Forgive me for trying to handle things on my own and help me to see my life through Your perspective, not my own. Enable me to be content with the way things are… but I also pray You grant me the desires of my heart. I ask that you conform my desires to what You want for me in this moment. Help me to take this life day by day.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Abuse is NOT Your Fault

Yesterday, I came across an ad on Facebook promising to detoxify your unhealthy relationship “practically overnight” with six secrets to “eradicate emotional abuse in your marriage” “even if your spouse doesn’t want to go to counseling.” I followed the Facebook ad to this free webinar.

The way the advertisement was worded was very triggering and angering.

You see, the very first time my husband ever hit me he said afterwards, “Look what you made me do… you made me punch you and I’ve never struck a woman in my life.”

I’ve spent the last five years of my life learning that the abuse that happened in my marriage was NOT my fault.

Now, I do not want to say anything negative against Deborah Watts of “HoneyBee You Authentic Living” because I watched her hour-long master class, took notes vigorously, and was very impressed with what she had to say. I even talked to her on the phone and she seems like an extremely genuine person who sincerely desires to help women in crisis. However, I felt that the words she chose to drive traffic to her Facebook page and website were misleading and drawing the wrong crowd. Granted, in the actual video she expressed that her message was NOT for anyone who was in any hint of physical danger. “Stop watching this right now and go get safe,” she explained. However, you had to watch the actual video to hear her say that. For the record, Watts DOES NOT advocate that you can change your abusive spouse, but sometimes messages permeate our culture that seem to imply just that.

If you’ve ever been in a violent situation in the past, I hope you know that  you did nothing to deserve someone hurting you and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent that person from abusing you outside of removing yourself from that dysfunctional atmosphere. Staying in a physically abusive relationship enables the person who is hurting you to continue hurting you without consequences.  If you continue hoping this person will change their behavior, you risk your safety by staying.

If you’ve never stayed in an abusive relationship, you might be wondering how it is possible for a person to endure four years of this. I received biblical counsel from a pastor when I was going through the physical abuse. I was told that if my husband didn’t believe the Word of God, I was to “win him over by my chaste behavior” (1 Peter 3:1). But this verse was misapplied to my situation because it was never meant to include women who were being beaten. I was also told I shouldn’t leave my husband because if I became separated from him, it would most likely be the first step towards a divorce and I didn’t want a divorce, did I? According to 1 Corinthians 7:13, if my husband was willing to live with me, I “must not divorce him.” So I felt that, according to the Bible, I was stuck in an abusive relationship and there was nothing I could do but suffer through it like a good Christian martyr for the love of Jesus. (I want to add that the pastor who quoted these verses to me meant well and had pure intentions, but I feel these verses were completely taken out of context and used to further the abuse that could have ended a lot sooner than it did.) Even though I knew deep down the abuse in my marriage was very, very wrong, I had to suppress my inner voice that told me “get safe” for the sake of staying in the relationship as I was instructed a godly wife would do.

Every time my husband hit me, I blamed myself for my actions that I felt propelled him to hit me. I chastised myself and became more determined than ever that I was going to be the best wife in the world so that I could “win him over.” In my eyes, the “best wife” was someone who massaged her husband, made him home-cooked meals, spoke lovingly and sweetly to him even when he was angry, and initiated love-making multiple times a day. The more and more I did these things, the farther away he drifted from me. He began spending less time with me and the abuse was getting worse. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting better if I was doing all the “right things.”

I stayed in my abusive marriage for four long years because I truly believed that if I just kept loving my husband, eventually he would change. Newsflash: That only happens in fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and 50 Shades of Gray. If there’s one thing I learned in my healing it’s that you CAN NOT change a person. (I actually read that on a free pamphlet about co-dependency at the drug rehab my husband checked in to.) They were the most magical words to me in that moment and the catalyst of my healing.

Anyone who promises you that you can somehow transform another person by your behavior is lying. If you are the recipient of abuse, know that it is never your fault and you aren’t doing anything to garner that.

We are in charge of our own thoughts, emotions, attitudes, mindsets, and actions. We alone own our values, beliefs, and viewpoints from which our attitudes and actions stem from. People can influence us for better or worse, but our behavior is our choice and no one else’s. 

You can’t change someone else’s choices, but you can change how you respond to them.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
-Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor.

When We Feel Empty

It wasn’t even a full three days since I posted “Singleness is NOT a Punishment!” when my dear, sweet friend sent me this through Facebook message:

princess_warrior

If you have ever seen this or something like this, I want to just help erase any of the damage that it may have done to your heart.

warrior

First of all, who else saw Xena the Warrior Princess when you first starting reading that? Ha! But I digress. Let’s respond to the letter from the anonymous internet person to the Princess Warrior. (Which is supposed to be a letter from God the Father to me, His beloved daughter.)

First of all, I look nothing like sexy Xena the Warrior Princess nor do I feel like her, even though I do know I am a daughter of the King and in His army.  Second of all, I would have to honestly say that, for the most part, I desire the approval of God alone. When I was young I sought the approval of my parents and my teachers and now that I’m an adult I seek the approval of my boss. There is a certain crush of mine who I highly admire and respect and from time to time I will find myself desiring his approval but it’s only because I hold him in such high regard. I don’t think validation should come from anywhere but from above as we are complete in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9-10) but I don’t think the desire to feel accepted and supported is wrong. In fact, that’s not only normal but God designed it that way. Allow me to explain:

The letter goes on to say, “I designed you to desire Me and Me alone.”

I challenge you to find a passage in the Bible that says that. You will be hard-pressed to find such a verse because I guarentee it is not there.

Have you ever been in a crowded room, yet felt completely isolated? It’s not a good feeling at all, is it? Loneliness has never been part of God’s plan for his children. After all, in the beginning when God created the Heavens, the earth, the water, trees, flowers, birds, fish, and animals, He looked over each day of creation and declared it to be good. However, upon creating man, God stopped and for the very first time declared something as “not good.” He said, “It is NOT GOOD that man should be alone.”

Adam had God by his side and yet God still said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Not until after God created Eve did God say, “…and it was VERY good.” All this is to say that we need each other and to deny that is to deny God’s design. Yes, we were designed to desire God, but He also designed us to yearn for a helpmate in life. We are sexual beings and our bodies are naturally created with a longing to be intimate and to be fruitful and multiply. Is it a sin that we desire these things? NO!

Some Christians might tell you that desiring sex is a sin but that is not biblical. The distinction comes from the OBJECT of our desire. If our desires are fixating on something evil (i.e. adultery, fornication, etc) then the desire itself is evil (Matthew 5:28, Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). If our desire fixates on something good (i.e. marriage, companionship) then the desire itself is good (Proverbs 5:18-19, Song of Solomon 2:5-7, Proverbs 18:22, Ephesians 5:28). Sexual desire is wholesome, honorable, and right when it is enjoyed within the boundaries of holy matrimony.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” -Philippians 4:8

We have become a generation with a distorted view of marriage.  When we try to convince singles that we shouldn’t desire sexual intimacy or that longing for marriage is somehow unholy then we are giving Satan the credit for God’s beautiful design.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Psalm 37:4 is NOT an equation.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4

If Psalm 37:4 were an equation, then I’m pretty sure I would have a husband and children by now. Don’t believe for one second that if you’re still waiting on the Lord for this blessing that you must not be doing something you’re supposed to be doing.  Though it certainly feels like a curse, singleness is very much a blessing.  I know that it hurts, especially when you’re lying awake at night in your empty bed with nothing but pillows to squeeze for comfort.

Now let’s take a look at another passage in the letter:

“When you choose to live for Me, you will never again be thirsty for attention…”

Is that really true? What kind of a message does that send to people who struggle with depression? With aching emptiness and longing? With grief and loss associated with divorce? Just because we’ve given our lives to Jesus and chosen to live for Him doesn’t mean that we don’t still struggle with the pain of an empty womb or the longing to share our lives with a companion by our side. Telling a woman that she’ll never thirst for attention if she chooses to live for God… Do you see how that could be detrimental to her spirit? “Oh, I am still thirsty for love and affection…” She thinks. “I must not be fully living for God.” 

In the wise words of one of my favorite authors Alyssa Joy Bethke: “God is good and everything that happens is for our good. Not necessarily for our happiness but for our holiness. God’s goal is to make us more like His son, and often that involves trials and pain. But those difficulties are opportunities to rely on our Savior, to run into His arms, to nestle ourselves in His embrace and to walk with Him.”

Emptiness is that feeling left over after you give something your absolute all and it still doesn’t turn out the way you worked so hard for it to. You’re exhausted of energy, depleated of hope, and disappointed that it didn’t work out. Perhaps you have some unfulfilled dreams or a place in your heart that aches because your beloved didn’t return your love. Perhaps, like me, you fought hard to save your marriage and did everything possible to redeem it but it still fell apart in your hands.

God’s Word offers some promises to combat the emptiness and find fulfillment in Christ.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

“I ask God from the wealth of His glory to give you power through His Spirit to be strong in your inner selves,  and I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts through faith as you open the door and invite Him in.  I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love—although it can never be fully known—and be so completely filled with the very nature of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19

Just because we’ve completely given our lives to God doesn’t mean the longings He’s plsb10065339i-001aced there will completely go away. I believe they are from Him and they aren’t sinful. I mean, not all of us are called to be nuns!!! On the plane home from my sister’s wedding last weeekend I saw a nun. I immediately was drawn to her because of her calm, elegant beauty and of course the curiousity of what made her decide to live under the vows of poverty and chastity but especially the latter. Perhaps she doesn’t have those desires? I can’t imagine not having those desires. If she DOES have those desires then I applaud her for her strength and uncompromising commitment to purity.  She is SO KICK-BUTT! Wish I would have had the courage to ask her my questions. Again, I digress.

It’s healthy to recognize that sometimes the longings we feel aren’t for anything Earth can provide. Psalmist cries out to God, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). Just like the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for Living Water, God put a longing in our heart that was intended to lead us back to Him. There is an emptiness that ONLY HE can fill. There is a deep thirst that ONLY HE can quench. If His love doesn’t fill you up, then nothing else will.

“Now let me ask you again, My beloved daughter: Whom do you seek?”

If you’re like me, you’re COMPLETELY honest with yourself and if your desires are the same as mine then you’re seeking a husband. The Bible says, But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” -Matthew 6:33. It never says it’s wrong to seek a husband, but make sure God is first in your heart.

As for me, I’m allowing God to use this loneliness and emptiness to teach me what it means to depend upon His strength and love every day. I know that having a husband won’t satisfy the craving that only God can fill. When you allow yourself to be controlled by Christ’s love you have the indwelling of God’s presence and are closer to unity and maturity. I don’t think we can ever experience the whole measure of the perfection that is found in Christ (Ephesians 4:13) this side of Heaven, but I do believe we can experience joy and fullness here on Earth. I pray this for us both, dear reader, that we would be filled with His love and be content in our single season.

A Letter

To the man who promised me forever:

I forgive you.

I remember the black and white checkered pattern of the hospital floor, pacing back and forth that day you were in detox, pondering hopefully, as I am oft-inclined to do, that our situation can only look up from rock bottom. I had never loved you more than in that moment when I thought I would lose you forever. I loved you more than life itself and I would have done almost anything to stay by your side and help you through your darkest hour… but you left me… your faithful wife who only wanted to support you.

I thought my heart would always belong to you and I would never get it back. I thought I might never heal from that intense pain. I thought the aching emptiness might never go away.

But I forgive you.

There has been more than one man who won’t date me because I am your “left overs.” You chewed me up and spit me out and now no one seems to want me. I feel like Hester Prynne with a giant scarlet letter on my chest warning everyone to stay far away because I’m unable to keep a marriage together.

I finally met a God-fearing man who doesn’t mind that I’m divorced. “It’s your past but it doesn’t define who you are,” he assured me. But he thinks that his family won’t understand. He thinks they won’t accept me, at least not right away. He asked me not to tell them just yet.

Tears fought to spill from the corners of my eyes. I thought I had worked through my guilt. I accepted my truth and learned to love myself even when I wanted to despise myself. The harsh reality is that I may have moved on from mourning but people may continue to judge me (as I had once judged others in my situation) and that judgment may stir up the regret and sorrow I thought I had buried and finished grieving. Every time a man I hope to date rejects me for being divorced I feel the grief once again.

But I get it. I really do. If I’m honest with myself, I’d rather not date someone who has been divorced, either.

Whether I like it or not, you’re part of me and you always will be. You’re part of my love story because you’re the first man I ever passionately loved; the first man I would have laid down my life for because I loved you that much. You taught me how to love unconditionally… Not because you showed me what that was but because I learned to love you despite you not loving me. My world revolved around you. I was infatuated with the spell you cast on me. Even when you were absolutely horrible to me I couldn’t see anyone but you.

I won’t deny that you were once the most important thing to me on Earth.

After you left I tried desperately to win you back. I must have been plumb crazy. But that’s how I know I am a fool when I am in love and I will make someone an amazing wife one day because of you.

So thank you.

When God Speaks

When we are praying, how can we know a message is from God or just our own thoughts telling us what we want to hear? There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia.

The featured image for this post comes from the Bible story in Samuel 3 when Samuel’s name is repeatedly being called in the night and he finally answers the third time, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

I do not doubt that God speaks to us today as He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Job, and Samuel, I just think it’s a rare occurrence (even though according to to a Gallup poll, 23% of Americans reported hearing a voice or seeing a vision as a response to prayer.) I can only think of one time in my life that I believe a message was truly from God and it was when I was at rock bottom at 16, feeling like I didn’t want to live anymore and God whispered to me, “I have big plans for you.”

Recently my crush told me that God said “no” to dating me.

If God said “no” then God said “no” and so that’s the end of the story. God didn’t give a reason but as my crush so eloquently and firmly declared, “We have some serious problems if that’s not enough,” which was so damn sexy because SPIRITUAL LEADER PUTTING HIS FOOT DOWN. *RAWR.*

Once upon a time a man told me that God told him he would spend the rest of his life with me. I was speechless. Here was a man who I believed at the time to be a righteous and God-fearing follower of Christ. Surely if God told him he would marry me then never mind the fact that God didn’t give me the same message. Who am I to argue with God?

As it turns out, that man was wrong because if God had really meant for me to spend the rest of my life with him, he never would have abandoned me. Right? So forgive me if I’m a teeny bit skeptical of when people tell me God told them something, especially if it involves me.

I always ask this married couple at my church to tell me their love story because I love hearing it over and over. I can see God’s hand in every aspect of their relationship and one can almost be certain God meant for these two to be united as husband and wife. The husband was madly in love with an unbeliever. He kept asking God to take away his desire for her but every day he only loved her more. He couldn’t understand why he felt so strongly because women who smoked, cussed and were hardcore atheists were the most unattractive women to him and yet here was a woman he couldn’t stop daydreaming about. He had a nasty past before he became a believer and one day he was crying out to God and demanding to know why He wouldn’t save this woman. “You forgave my sins and they were even worse than hers. Why won’t you forgive hers?” Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, he kept seeing an image of himself pulling an index card out of a cup of Bible verses in the middle of the table and so he pulled one out. It was Isaiah 43:25 which says “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Except this verse was in Spanish and it could be read in the third person as “her” instead of “your.”) He fell to his knees and sobbed. Was it a coincidence that this exact verse was written by his mother on chalk board in the kitchen earlier that day? Eventually, his wife did realize her need for a Savior. She describes her conversation as an irresistible pull on her heart that made her see the love and grace of Jesus Christ and she couldn’t refuse. 

Another story involves my friend who recently had a dream where God revealed her future husband to her. Whenever she tells someone about the dream she had she says the Holy Spirit jumps inside her. She asked her pastor whether he believed the dream was from God and he confirmed that the man in question had been speaking fondly of her to him. I don’t know whether this dream came from God or was just a product of brain activity during a normal REM cycle, but I guess we’ll find out in time.

TIME. That really is the answer, isn’t it? True love requires committing time to really know a person. Two people have to feel comfortable enough to be openly honest with one another, vulnerable enough to expose themselves to one another, and after knowing all their dark and beautiful  idiosyncrasies, accepting them and choosing to love.

So I will just keep praying for peace about God’s decision and keep asking God to take away the feelings that shouldn’t be there because it isn’t God’s will. After all, I can’t move forward in any relationships with anyone else when my heart is all wrapped up in someone I can’t have.  Because of the nature of my work, I have very little free time to spend with others and so I need to be careful about which ones I give my time to. I’ve already eliminated many possibilities due to red flags such as a lack of respect for Hebrews 10:25 and Hebrews 13:4 and even a disagreement with “happy wife, happy life.” (Deuteronomy 24:5 supports that saying by the way!)

I guess since God is being silent about the matter the only thing I really have to go on at this point is feelings. I believe feelings are neither good nor bad, they are simply our response to information and personal experience. Feelings are legitimate and must be acknowledged and understood so that they can be expressed in healthy ways. While no one is ever wrong to feel a certain way, the information one is reacting to may not be accurate or their interpretation of information may be a misunderstanding. Therefore, before a feeling is shared with others, it must be balanced against the Truth of scripture and be in harmony with facts.

My feelings tell me nothing right now except obey God and focus on being the best foster mother I can be.

Wednesday night Bible study is going to focus on God’s will and how we can know it so I’m pumped for next week!

The Truth Will Set You Free

The truth is a gift. The truth will set you free. No matter how hard and scary it is to speak the truth, you must find the courage to get beyond your vulnerability to reveal how you honestly feel. Speak the truth as kindly and gently as possible, but never hide the whole truth. It is the key to living an authentic life that honors God and honors yourself as well.

The truth?

Mathew wants to get back together with me. He has written e-mails stating thus. However, my pastor has talked to him and does not feel that Mathew wants to be reconciled with the right reasons. He feels Mathew only wants a roommate, but not a wife.

The truth?

I am completely open to the possibility of reconciliation, but it can only happen if my husband does a complete 180° in the direction of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He must totally surrender his life to Him and follow Him with all his heart, submitting to the Lord’s headship as the ultimate authority. I care so very deeply for my husband and it hurts that he wants nothing to do with Jesus. A marriage simply cannot work if he is unwilling to yield to God. God is number one in my life and I have nothing in common with a man who does not trust in God. I was willing to try to make it work for years and years, but when he finally abandoned me, it gave me the courage to move on from what was a very abusive marriage in which I was unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

The truth?

I drove to the courthouse to file the papers. The whole way there I listened to Christian music. It was a very difficult road and I almost turned around and went home twice, thinking that I love my husband very much and maybe I could give him one more chance to make some positive changes in his life. When the song by Casting Crowns based on Psalm 103:12 came on the radio, tears streamed down my face during the lyrics “You know just how far the east is from the west… from one scarred hand to the other.” In His great love and grace, Jesus sacrificed his life to remove my sin as far as the east is from the west. He remembers it no more. His compassion and mercy gave me the freedom to continue on the journey to the courthouse and file the papers that have been signed and sitting in my house for months when I did not yet have the bravery to stamp them officially.

It took me another couple months to actually have the papers served to my husband. This morning they were served. I felt a mixture of relief that it is finally done and a little bit of grief that it’s over.

This is my story: I am getting a divorce. I, who am a daughter of the most High King and who hates divorce, yes, I am divorcing my husband. In a way, he already divorced me in his heart two years ago and I’m simply just making it legal.

I never thought this would be my story. I am a stronger woman because of the pain that I’ve experienced and the grace that has set me free. I trust God with my future and I can’t wait to see where He leads me next. I am totally open to Him and ready to go where He guides me.