Have you ever done something humiliating out of complete innocence? Embarrassed yourself because of your own naiveté? Kept that mistake buried for years? When the secret came out, you had to live with the humiliation for the rest of your life?
I’ve made two such mistakes. The two biggest mistakes of my life (well, maybe not, but certainly two I will never live down).
The first mistake was made before I went to college. I’ll tell you that story shortly.
The second was confessing said mistake to my dear Oklahoma Baptist University friends Merka Man and McCrary. (You can read more about them in my OBU post back in the November archives. They have so kindly recruited a whole host of friends to join in their harassment of me!)
So, here’s the first big mistake: the story of the blue bow tie.
The summer before I went to college, an Olive Garden restaurant had just opened in Oklahoma City. I applied for and got a job as a hostess for the summer before I moved off to college. It was really the first time I left my sheltered little world, and I was introduced to a whole host of new people and experiences.
There was one rather good-looking college student who seemed to take an interest in me. We developed a little friendship. We flirted here and there. And, I always looked forward to working on the days he was there.
One evening, I was working and he was not. But, to my surprise, he walked through the door shortly before closing. As he came in, he slipped something into my hand: a blue bow tie. Around the neck of the bow tie was a matchbook. Inside the matchbook, he had written a simple, “Would you go out with me sometime?”
Stop laughing!! I know some of you get it!! I was clueless!!
I thought the blue bow tie was just a creative way of asking me out. I was flattered. I was excited. I had never really dated because I had committed to never date until I found someone that made God number one in his life.
Now I know the laughter is rolling! I can hear you!
So, I decided to accept the invitation for a date. He planned a fun little evening at the Myriad Gardens where we went and fed the ducks. It was a low-key, low-stress date. He was an absolute gentleman!
And then I found out the story behind the bow tie and matchbook.
You see, the Olive Garden was not his only job. He had a second job. That job required that he wear a blue bow tie. And remove most of the rest of his clothing.
He was a male stripper! An exotic dancer! The bow tie was a prop from one of his shows!
And, NO!!! I had no clue!!
This innocent little Christian girl who had committed her life to ministry, was headed to a Baptist college, and wanted nothing more than a godly man in her life DATED A MALE STRIPPER! (Ok… only one date… never went out with him again.)
And, before someone asks (in case your juvenile humor takes you there): HE KEPT ALL HIS CLOTHES ON DURING OUR DATE!!
So now you know my dirty little secret. Now my parents know my dirty little secret! I just confessed to the world that my innocence caused me to do something totally out of character for me.
You have to admit, it is pretty darn funny.
But, since I confessed to my dear friends Merka Man and McCrary, I might as well tell the whole world; otherwise, they are going to do it for me! (Caveat: If anyone asks the story of the blue bow tie, I might deny the truth and use the story that Merka Man and McCrary have asked to be buried wearing a blue bow tie to fulfill their life-long dreams of becoming male strippers.)
You know, I could choose to beat myself up for being so stupid that I didn’t understand (or ask) about a bow tie and a matchbook. But what good would that do? It’s a whole lot more fun to laugh about my innocent mistake and give everyone else a good laugh.
But, I know there are some of you out there hurting because of “mistakes” you have made. Some of you are beating yourselves up for your “failures.”
Some of you are believing the lie that it takes two to destroy a marriage.
Yes, we can all point to things that we could have done better in our marriage. We all have moments when we are not as encouraging as we should be, where our frustrations get taken out on the wrong people.
For me, I was an enabler: I enabled my ex-husband to continue on his destructive path. Honestly, though, I didn’t know what else to do. My enabling was out of a sheer drive for survival. I had to do so much to keep our family afloat. But, I did enable him.
Outside of enabling, though, I was an encourager. I was a help mate. I was supportive. I was a good wife and a good mom. I was many things to many people.
And it has taken years for me to realize that I was not the problem in my marriage.
God has had to do a mighty work of rebuilding me, of rebuilding my self-esteem. He has had to show me the beauty deep within and show me the great purposes he has for me. He has had to reveal to me the encouraging heart he has placed within me because I had been torn down so far.
My marriage did not fail because of me. My marriage failed because my husband became hard-hearted and determined to follow his own path rather than the one God laid out for us.
I don’t say that to disparage my ex-husband. I say that because there is someone out there who is fighting the battle of their lives. There is someone feeling like a miserable failure because his/her marriage failed. There is someone out there beating himself/herself up because of a divorce.
Perhaps, like my story of the bow tie, you need to take a few minutes and listen to the Savior. Perhaps he is whispering to you, “You did not fail. Your divorce is not your fault. It was your purity, your innocence, that allowed you to be used by someone who became hard-hearted.”
Don’t let the enemy falsely heap shame and guilt upon you if you were an innocent victim. And, if you shared equally in the divorce, remember that there’s grace. There is no reason to let a divorce destroy your life. God still has great plans for you—plans that might even exceed what he was going to do with the two of you together! He has a beautiful future! He will take this one failure (an event, not a person) and use it to make something beautiful.
You just have to choose to surrender to his plan. Let him reveal the true condition of your heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23 NLT