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Emotional Abuse, Pain and suffering

The Two Types of Adulterers

The more I talk with people who have walked the dark path of adultery, the more I realize not all affairs are the same.

I have a dear friend who walked the dark, painful days of adultery with me. Her husband had been a pastor at a local church when he had an affair. Through many painful days and tearful nights, they worked hard to redeem their marriage. Today, nearly a decade later, they are madly in love with one another. She had to choose forgiveness; he had to choose repentance and the consequences of broken trust.

I received an email today from another man who committed adultery. He longs to have his wife back, tells of the pain he experiences daily facing his sin. He talks of the many consequences, from financial ruin to loss of everything he held dear. His tone to me is one of great anger, disdain, condescension.

“You say you’re a woman of God, a minister….Did he repent? … Would you take him back if he truly repented? … God allows you to divorce for his infidelities … but why would you do something Jesus despised? … all I need is one more chance…”

It’s obvious he is struggling with tremendous pain and anguish, the pain of the consequences for a sin he committed. He longs to make it all right again, and yet his wife has chosen to walk away.

Or there was the email I once received from a lady who made it clear I must have done something to push my husband into the arms of another man. She talked of her critical nature, of how she pushed her husband away by her negativity. Eventually, he found intimacy with another woman.

“You didn’t forgive. If you had forgiven, your marriage would have been saved. Your family would still be intact.

I kindly responded that I only wished my story had been like hers, an affair caused by lack of emotional support. I only wished my offer of forgiveness had been accepted and we had been a shining example of what God can do in a broken marriage. I only wished…

Yes, there are the adulterers who, for whatever reason, have a momentary lapse in judgement. They step away from their vows and immediately regret their actions. They understand the consequences, the broken trust, the pain they have caused their spouse and their children. If they could go back and change it, they would. They are broken over their sins and long to be right with God and their family, no matter the cost.

But…

There’s another kind of adulterer. The serial adulterer. The abusive adulterer. The addicted adulterer. The manipulative adulterer. The victim adulterer. The narcissistic adulterer.

I lump them all into one category, far different from the above adulterers. These cheaters are not the ones who regret what they did, who are willing to pay the consequences of their actions. They aren’t the ones who long to make things right.

These are the adulterers who twist the circumstances to make you think it’s all your fault, you were the cause of the problem. These are the adulterers whose minds are so twisted and warped by pornography that their “love” is truly just a lust, an attempt to get what they want no matter the cost. These adulterers are the ones who will promise never to do it again and yet get caught on an online dating site within a few short weeks. These are the adulterers whose rage controls you and keeps you in the marriage out of fear.

These are the adulterers who make your life a living hell whether you stay in the marriage or you leave.

“My husband’s addiction always put tremendous pressure on our relationship once he decided recovery was no longer for him…. He started having an affair with a coworker and left shortly after…”

“I lived for my husband. Today, with psychological help, I recognize that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I feel very emotionally tired…”

“I’m married 34 years and I want a divorce…I can no longer put up with his drinking…help!”

“I have … children and a successful career but am married to a man that is a cheater, pathological liar, and has an extreme anger problem. Just this morning he said he was leaving in front of the kids and called me [expletive], [expletive], and retarded as he has numerous times. He’s broken various objects, thrown things at me, and punched holes in walls…I can’t believe I’m in this position and fear the judgement from Church and family…”

I read stories like this daily. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Emotional abuse. Verbal abuse. Narcissism. Anger. Control.

Can this type of adulterer change? With God’s help, yes. Unfortunately, most see themselves as the victim, rationalize away their sins. Their minds are so warped, so deceived, they can’t see the truth. They’ve told so many lies they believe they truly are the victim. Most don’t have any desire to change.

Do they want to keep their family together? Yes! But, they also want to be allowed to continue their relationships on the side. They don’t want to face any consequences for their actions. They want to be able to continue with life and never face the truth of who they have become.

My heart aches when I hear of anyone walking through divorce because I know the pain, the heartache, the devastation. I know the far-reaching consequences of divorce.

But I also understand there are subtleties the outside world does not understand. Occasionally, I see the repentant adulterers walking through divorce…and it breaks my heart. I wish I could help their betrayed spouse understand their marriage can survive. I applaud the couples who take time to look deeply into their own lives, to evaluate their faults, and do the hard work of restoring broken trust. It’s a long, hard road, but it is worth the journey.

And then there’s the second type of adulterer. My heart aches for the victimized spouse, and I long to help him/her catch a glimpse of the vision God has for their future. I long to help him/her know the amazing work God can do in them and through them because of the pain. I long to help him/her understand that divorce may often be the only option, and that it can be a new beginning not an ending. I long to help him/her understand they cannot tolerate the sinful behavior of his/her spouse. I long for him/her to experience freedom in Christ!

I hope no one ever thinks I recommend divorce to anyone walking through adultery. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

But to those married to adulterer #2? Sometimes, it’s the only option….

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Emotional Abuse, Faith, Grace, Hope, Pain and suffering, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

An Open Letter to Lysa TerKeurst

Dear Lysa,

I read your blog Rejection, Heartache, and a Faithful God today. As I read the words, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

A decade ago, the tears I cried reading your words would have been tears of anger, disappointment. I would have been upset that yet another well-known ministry couple had succumbed to divorce rather than allowing God to fix a tough marriage. I would have written you off as a failure, determined never to read your words again.

But today, the tears were tears of compassion, of heartache, of empathy. They were tears of grief over the pain you and your family are experiencing. They were tears of guilt over my own pride, over my years of being a judgmental Christian who thought divorce was the chief of all sins. My tears were out of genuine love for you.

What changed? I, too, stand with you in the army of believers who love God fiercely, who seek to honor Him in all things, who are passionate about sharing His word…and who also happen to be divorced. I, too, stand with you as a fellow minister who is also the victim of unrepentant adultery. I, too, stand with you as one who fought a fierce battle for my marriage, spent untold hours in prayer, and still landed in divorce court.

I stand with you.

As I read your words, I wanted nothing more than to come alongside you, to wrap my arms around you, to remind you you are not alone. I wanted to be able to share the many lessons I have learned in the last decade of walking this journey ahead of you. I wanted to be able to share with you the joy of reaching the Promised Land, of seeing everything you lost repaid…and even more. I wanted to reflect on the incredible intimacy I built with my Father along the way.

While I can’t physically walk beside you, I can share some important thoughts with you. Maybe you will see them; maybe you won’t. But perhaps some other struggling soul will benefit from what I have to say to you.

Thank you for being honest about the reasons for your divorce. When I first learned of my husband’s adultery, I immediately began to question myself. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep my husband happy? Was I so ugly that he needed someone else? Why could I not succeed at the one thing I wanted more than anything else—a successful marriage?

Knowing that your spouse seeks fulfillment outside the bounds of marriage is one of the most painful experiences this life can hand us, a betrayal at the deepest levels. It causes you to doubt and question everything about yourself. Many people choose to hide the true facts of their failed marriage, maybe from shame, maybe humiliation. Or maybe it’s just a continuation of the enabling they have done throughout their marriage. It takes tremendous courage to utter the words, “He had an affair,” to our closest friends, let alone to a public audience.

Thank you for choosing not to hide behind a cloak of shame. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned that adultery only takes one hardened heart. It is not about the faithful spouse, what he/she did right or wrong, but it is about a heart that has chosen a path in opposition to the Father. It’s about a person who chooses to indulge in the works of the flesh rather than to walk in the Spirit.

It does not matter who you are, what you look like, how godly you are. Adultery is no respecter of persons.

Trust God as He carries you through. I love your words, “I am brokenhearted beyond what I can express. But I am more committed than ever to trusting God, His promises, and His plans, whatever they are from here.” Thank you for choosing to trust God in your pain. Thank you for standing firm on your convictions that God is good in all things.

I wish I had chosen the path you did, one of remaining faithful and believing God is still good. Instead, I blamed God for my husband’s infidelity. I couldn’t understand how a good God could reward my years of ministry, of faithfulness, with an unfaithful husband. I chose to run from God. I am so thankful He didn’t give up on me but instead pursued me relentlessly, chasing after me until I surrendered. I will always be grateful for His determination to come after me, the one lost sheep who wandered from the safety of the Shepherd.

Keep clinging to Him because, as you said, He is a faithful God…even in the midst of a failed marriage.

Walk in integrity. Divorce is so ugly. How can two people who pledged to love each other for better or worse disintegrate into the worst enemies? How can two people who once shared the deepest human connection find themselves bickering over worldly possessions?

I’ve been there. I spent the better part of the last decade trying to figure out how to co-parent with another human with drastically different desires. The non-stop disagreements drag you into a pit of despair that is not easily escaped. The once fierce love you shared dissolves into bitterness and hatred.

Always take the high road. Always seek to live above the level of reproach. Always choose to do what’s right regardless of what he says or does. Set the example for him, for your children, for all of the outsiders watching to see how you will handle this experience.

But, when you mess up, admit your mistake and move forward. We are human, and we will have those moments when we choose to stoop to their level.

Be a fierce voice for oppressed spouses. Oh, Lysa! There are so many men and women suffering abuse in their marriages! They endure mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse because it has been beat into their minds that divorce is never an option. They stay because they fear…fear God will turn against them, fear the church will reject them, fear they will forever wear a scarlet letter D.

While I understand the Church’s fierce defense of marriage, when did God elevate rules above people? As I read scripture, I see Christ extending grace to the most unworthy sinners. I see Him healing the sick and the blind. I see Him setting captives free.

Like you, I was captive in my marriage for years, without even realizing it. And, like you, I did everything I could to save my marriage. I forgave untold heartache and fought with every ounce of my being. And I believed God would restore our marriage and give us an incredible ministry of reconciliation.

Until I heard Him tell me enough is enough, that He was now setting me free.

Be prepared for unbelievable criticism. I wish I could tell you that everyone will come alongside you, love you, support you as you walk this incredibly difficult path. I can’t. And, the more outspoken you are about the realities of divorce, the more criticism you will face from God’s people.

I know you are no stranger to those who make human interpretations of scripture equal to the infallible Word of God. But when it involves divorce, there’s no shortage of harsh words. I promise you will be told you failed God. You will be told you must continue to pray for reconciliation, cling to your spouse until he repents. You will be told that you will be subject to hell if you entertain remarriage.

As you know, you live for an audience of the One. It matters not what man says to you; it only matters what God says to you. And He says you are a child of the King, worthy, forgiven, deeply loved. He says you are the apple of His eye, His treasured possession. Let the voices of the world clamoring to heap shame and guilt upon you fade into the darkness as you keep your eyes, heart, and ears focused securely on Him.

There are so many strange yet wonderful avenues of ministry opening before you. Forget about the past and be open to the incredible new thing He is doing in you and through you (Isaiah 43:19).

And know that you don’t walk this path alone.

With love,

Dena

Faith, Grace, Hope, Spiritual Growth, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

The Story of Our Scars

As a nurse, one of my primary duties is assessing patients. I need to know their current condition so I can catch subtle deviations, deviations that might indicate an impending deterioration.

I also need to know the medical history. Previous problems can provide important clues to what is happening with a patient. I gather the medical history by reading the physician’s history and physical (H&P). But, the H&P is only as accurate as the people giving and recording the information.

I often enter a patient room with an idea of a patient’s background. And then I see their skin and the tell-tale scars that tell a story of their own.

When I see a small, straight incision in the center of the lower back, I know the patient has back problems and has undergone some type of lumbar surgery.

A scar to the lower right abdomen usually indicates and appendectomy.

A patient who has a large, central abdominal scar has undergone some type of major abdominal surgery.

With the introduction of laparoscopic and robotic surgeries, a patient may have four small scars scattered across the abdomen. These could indicate gallbladder, hysterectomy, varicocelectomy, or any number of other surgeries.

Then there’s the sternal scar stretching from just below the neck to the abdomen. It’s a clear indication of open heart surgery.

When I was little, my mom had a large abdominal incision, the result of two c-section deliveries, a scar that is an indication of precious lives entering this world (including me!). Interestingly, in her scar she had some extra indentions. I always thought she had three belly buttons. They actually fixed her scar with her last abdominal surgery and she now has nothing but a normal scar.

I’m fascinated by the story told by someone’s scars. I’m amazed what I can learn about them simply by a quick assessment of their skin.

My physical scars are few and mostly faded. I have scars from four surgeries. I had all three of my children via c-section, all three children delivered through the same incision. Three surgeries, one scar that has faded drastically over the last 13 years. And last summer I had a laparoscopic surgery. Those small scars are still pretty red, fairly obvious to anyone looking at my abdomen.

But what about our emotional scars? What stories do they tell?

The last decade I have walked through many traumatic events. Adultery. Divorce. Financial ruin. Betrayal at many levels. Death. Rejection. The scars on my soul are many. The pain seared into my mind. The emotions often surfacing at the most inopportune times.

Some of the scars are old, faded now as the years separate me from the pain. Some are barely visible from the surface as they begin to blend in with the rest of my life.

Others are still fresh and red, in stark contrast to my life. They are obvious to anyone who knows me. They stand out, affect the way I think and act.

I’m often asked how I can be so open about all I have walked through. Many people are embarrassed to admit they were the victim of adultery; they remain buried beneath the shame and rejection. Others are afraid of the criticism they will face for speaking out as a divorced Christian, knowing they will be judged because they weren’t strong enough to stay, to keep praying for reconciliation in the face of untold emotional abuse. Many hide their scars, afraid to let the world see what they have walked through.

But I’ve learned my scars also tell the story of God’s faithfulness.

They tell the story of how God picked me up from the heap of garbage, cleaned me up, and made something beautiful from the pain of my past.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

My scars tell the story of redemption, of how all things have been made new in God’s time and in God’s way.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

My scars tell the story of hope, of bringing beauty from the ashes.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

My scars tell the story of one who overcomes.

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4

My scars tell the story of perseverance.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. Romans 5:3-5

My scars tell the story of resurrection from the death of adultery and divorce.

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “[This] sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4

My scars tell the story of a power that is greater than anything we could ever imagine.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Ultimately, I have no choice but to tell the world about my scars, about the pain and anguish I have survived because my scars tell the story of God’s goodness toward me. I have no choice but to let the world know what I have walked through because I want the world to know how God has blessed me. I have no choice but to tell my story because it’s the story of a God who has given me so much.

Our scars tell a story, a story that only God could write. Will you tell your story?

Faith, Grace, promises, Spiritual Growth

When Life is Too Busy for God

If I could sum up this season of my life in one word, I would probably choose busy.

Right now, I have three teenagers. They all have activities, are all headed in different directions. My oldest is entering his senior year of high school, a year that I have been told is incredibly busy. I have an amazing fiancé, and I love to spend time with him. But, it’s one more thing requiring proper time and attention to nurture the relationship. He also has two children of his own, including his special needs daughter who lives with him full-time. She demands a lot of time and attention of her own. There are other significant battles he is fighting, battles that I long to fight with him, to support him through.

Then, there’s my work commitments. I just took a new position within my company, a position that’s a blessing but it comes with an increased level of responsibility and stress (especially as I learn this new role). I find my mind returning to the challenges and questions throughout my day, even when I should be present with my family.

And, I have my blog, my writing and speaking ministry. You all are so precious to me, such an important part of my life. I am passionate about writing, about sharing the love of my Father. I long to shout His goodness and grace and faithfulness from the mountaintops. But, my writing also requires time and energy, something I seem to be very short of right now.

I look at all of the things and people clamoring for my attention, and it’s no wonder I sometimes feel as if I am slipping away, as if I am farther from my Heavenly Father than I have been in a long time.

I feel as if I am simply too busy for God.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize this as sin, and I long to have God as the center of my life. He is the One who gives me strength to get through each day. He is my guide to teach me how to walk. He is the One who rescued me from the pit of despair and helped me find beauty through my brokenness.

But I find my mind going a million miles all the time, and I struggle to settle down and hear His voice. The cares of this world seem to be choking out His presence, and I am fighting to regain the peace that comes from an intimate walk with Him.

I would love to be able to walk away from all the pressures and chaos clamoring for my attention. I would love to sit in solitude, soaking in the love of the Father, waiting for His precious words to speak to my soul. I would love to escape the pressures of this life for the quietness of time with my Father.

But I can’t.

Every precious thing draining my time and energy is actually a gift from God. My children. My fiancé. My job. My blog. I see His hand providing each of these things to me. And yet, they are the very things robbing me of time with Him.

So what do I do? How do I enjoy the gifts God has given me without neglecting my Father? How do I find the quietness of time with Him in the midst of the chaos? How do I make Him the center of my life when I barely find time to breathe?

Give Him the morning. I have discovered that if I don’t start my day with God, I will push Him aside. I almost never come back to the Word during my crazy, hectic days if I don’t start my days with the Word.

Each day, I awake and open my Bible to my reading plan. I have started getting up even earlier than normal, hoping I can connect with God before I exercise and get out the door to work.

Sometimes, I hear God loud and clear. Sometimes, I’m too tired to even comprehend what I am reading. It’s the complete truth. I wish I could tell you that my quiet times with God are always exciting, always full of the sweet whispers of my Savior. I would be lying if I told you that. But, I make it a point to give God my mornings, to quiet my soul before Him each day.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Focus. I am learning so much about focus right now. My mind is scrambling, rushing from work responsibilities to my children and their needs to Roy and his burdens to planning a wedding and getting our home prepared for three more people. When I pray, my mind wanders to the many things clamoring for my attention. I find myself thinking about work, trying to solve the problems presented to me, even when I’m off for the weekend or a holiday.

And as soon as I realize my mind is wandering, I am trying to bring it back into focus. To talk to God, tell Him I want Him to be the center of my life. I ask Him to help me focus, to bring my mind into alignment with the things of God. I try to put work aside and focus on the things of utmost importance, to create boundaries in my mind that keep work in its proper place.

It’s tough, and I fail daily. But I am trying, trying to focus my time and attention on things that bring glory to God.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Stay in constant communication. Throughout the day, I keep in contact with Roy through texting. We may talk in the morning and in the evening, but we text all day, every day.

That’s kind of how I see my relationship with God. I wake up in the morning and talk to Him. I talk to Him as I go to sleep at night. But throughout the day? I don’t have time to stop and spend 30 minutes in prayer, but I can certainly breathe a short word to Him here and there.

“Lord, I need wisdom.”

“Lord, I’m hurting.”

“Help me. I’m confused.”

“Take care of my children today.”

Short, simple prayers breathed throughout the day, lifted to the Father, allowing me to remain in constant communication with Him. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Slow down. Perhaps the hardest by far is to find moments of solitude, to slow down and put aside all of my responsibilities.

I love going for long walks in the morning, soaking in the morning air and enjoying the sun as it rises in the East. I love the quiet, the solitude, the time to simply be alone with my thoughts and with my Father. My morning walks are the best time to pray, to tell Him everything on my mind and to listen to His voice. It’s a time to quiet my soul, to put aside the cares of this world.

Even Jesus escaped the cares of the world to enjoy quiet and solitude. Maybe it’s time to tell the kids you are escaping, you just need some time alone. Maybe you need to step away from the work that will still be waiting for you when you return. Maybe you need an afternoon of pampering, some time just for yourself. Maybe you just need to slow down.

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10a

Lord Jesus, this world is so hard. We have so many responsibilities clamoring for our attention, and it’s so easy to allow this world to choke out your presence in our lives. Help us, Lord. Help us to give you our hearts, our best. Help us to stay in contact with you throughout our days. Help us to slow down and focus our hearts, our minds, on You, on Your word, on Your character. Honor our hearts that long to know you and walk in obedience. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Dating, Faith, Grace, Hope, marriage, promises

He Had Me at “Hello”

I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy.

I walked through the living room recently to see You’ve Got Mail on the television. It was nearly over, but I immediately got sucked in, stuck watching the end of the movie. As Joe Fox “tweaked” his project (i.e., pursued Kathleen Kelly knowing she was his email love interest), I couldn’t wait to see the final scene when Joe reveals the truth.

“Don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry,” says Joe as he wipes the tears from her face.

“I wanted it to be you,” Kathleen responds. “I wanted it to be you so badly.”

Or Sweet Home, Alabama.

Melanie Carmichael and Jake Perry, who had been childhood sweethearts, are caught in a love triangle. Melanie returns to her hometown to marry an up-and-coming politician, only to learn that she’s still legally married to Jake. While trying to finalize the divorce that was started years earlier, she realizes that Jake is her true love. She finally dumps her upscale politician for her small-town first love.

“The truth is I gave my heart away a long time ago, my whole heart, and I never really got it back,” Melanie says.

And then there’s the famous line from Jerry Maguire.

After a tumultuous relationship, Jerry Maguire returns home to profess his love to Dorothy Boyd.

Jerry: [babbling and struggling] I love you. You… you complete me. And I just…

Dorothy: Shut up, just shut up.

[Pause]

Dorothy: You had me at “hello”. You had me at “hello.”

Who can resist such perfect lines? Who doesn’t dream of having that moment, that one special line that sticks in your mind and solidifies your relationship? What woman doesn’t want a romantic comedy love story?

Let me tell you a little about my love story.

I have spent years seeking God since my divorce, begging God to bring that man who would love me as Christ loves the church. I’ve waited and cried and waited some more. I’ve believed and I’ve doubted.

I’ve lived by the Maya Angelou quote: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

And I’ve asked God to give me a man who would pursue His heart so he could find mine. I’ve told God I only wanted a relationship with someone who was willing to pursue God first and me second. I’ve clung to God, knowing He promised to bring me someone special.

Last year, shortly after we started dating, Roy (affectionately known as my Royfriend) looked at me and said, “I’ve spent the last two years pursuing God’s heart in hopes that one day I would be worthy of pursuing your heart.

I melted.

It was my, “You had me at hello” moment. Here was this man who had chosen to surrender everything to God knowing it was the best way to live and it was the only way to ever have a chance with me. It was truly a defining moment in our relationship.

And this weekend, we went one step further.

Roy and our children (my four (including my son’s girlfriend, Rebekah) and his two) had come together to surprise me. We were out back eating pizza. One of the kids asked me to go into the house to retrieve some water bottles. On the way back out, I decided to be ornery and throw ice cold water on the kids. I walked outside with water in hand and threw it on the kids…

And totally missed that Roy was down on one knee with a ring in his hand!

Yes, Friday night it became official. He poured out his heart to me, in front of our children, and asked me to marry him. He asked us to blend our two families into one large family that loves God and pursues Him wholeheartedly.

We knew from the beginning that neither of us wanted to date just to date. We were dating with marriage in mind.

And now we are one step closer to complete redemption of all we have walked through.

As we plan our future, we realize there’s a lot of work left to do. Blending two very different families is a daunting task. Add to that his special needs daughter who lives with him full-time and there’s no doubt we are in for an adventure.

But we know God is faithful. We know He has called us to this journey. We have seen His hand of provision, His hand of direction at every turn. We are committed to God, and we are committed to one another.

And we can’t wait to see what God brings out of this crazy adventure known as life.

Dating, Faith, friendship, Grace, Hope, promises

To Be Loved Like Christ Loves

Before you read the words below, I want to give you a little background. One year ago, I chose to go on an official date with a friend I’d known most of my life. I chose to open my heart, my mind, to the possibility this friendship might turn into something more. I chose to listen to my children and take a chance. In short, I chose to take a step of faith.

The morning after our first official date, I woke up with these words burning on my heart. My leap of faith led to God opening my eyes to the truth of who this man had been to me—the portrait of Christ in so many ways. Suddenly, everything came into focus.

Here we are a year later. A year of allowing walls to be broken down. A year of learning to love as Christ loved. A year of allowing God to work in our hearts and draw us closer to one another. A year of learning to blend our two very different families into one.

As we walk into our future together, we cling to the Father and to one another. We don’t know what God has planned for our future, but we are certain He has brought us together for His purpose.

****************

 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. Ephesians 5:25-30

These last months have been…overwhelming.

I entered this year expecting great things, believing 2016 would be the year of promises fulfilled. But, barely three months in, it seemed as if it was going to be another very difficult year.

When I received the news of my ex-husband’s unexpected death, I became single-minded: It’s all about my kids. Thoughts of God restoring my life by providing someone to love me were tossed aside, knowing that my kids would need my undivided attention to get them through their grief. They became my sole focus.

But sometimes God surprises us. His timing is definitely not our timing. His ways are definitely not our ways.

Less than a week after their dad’s death, two of my children told me it was time. Time for me to find love. Time for God to bring a father-figure into their lives. Time for me to think about myself. How’s that for some amazing kids?

Of course, I was surprised but also baffled. How was that going to happen? Between kids and jobs and ministry and mentoring programs, where would I make the time to meet someone?

But God…

What I didn’t understand is that God had been working…for years. What I didn’t know is that there was someone in my life…already. What I didn’t see is that he was right before my eyes.

He was the one bringing dinner only two nights after my ex-husband’s death…providing for our physical needs.

He was the one with his arm around my shoulder holding me up…when I couldn’t support myself.

He was the one wiping the tears streaming down my face when I was being treated horribly …reminding me of my worth in Christ.

He was the one who wanted to fight for my good name and my honor when horrible accusations were being thrown against me…stepping in to be my defender.

He was the one who reached out to my kids, loving them as his own in their grief…as a father to the fatherless.

He was the one who sacrificed so much to help me honor the memory of a man who hurt me deeply…putting himself aside because it meant so much to me.

He was the one who suffered through years of being relegated to friendship status…because he chose to trust God and His timing.

He was the one who spent the last few years focused on becoming the man God wanted him to become…because he wanted to be prepared when the time came to give himself to someone.

He was the one who stole my kids’ hearts long before he stole mine…simply by his kindness.

He was the one who looked me in the eyes after our first “real” date and said, “I’ve waited for this moment for nearly 30 years”…who pursued me relentlessly through good times and bad.

He was the one who fought for my affections despite my continued rejection…just as my Father does.

He’s the one who has been there all along…even when I couldn’t see him for who he is.

Yes, he has been the portrait of Christ in my life, loving me without anything in return. Caring for me in good times and bad. Stepping in to defend me. Being a friend and a comforter. Pursuing me relentlessly. Fighting for my heart. Suffering through my rejection and my short-sightedness. Seeking to become all God has called him to become.

Loving me and loving my kids.

Even when I told everyone around me he could chase me as long as he wanted, but he would never catch me (oh, how I’d like to eat those words right now)…he kept fighting for me.

And today, seven years after we reconnected through a chance encounter on Facebook. Seven years after he began his pursuit of my heart. Seven years after we both began a long journey filled with heart ache and despair and blessing untold. Seven years…

Perhaps I have finally found the one who truly loves me as Christ loved the church.

 

 

Faith, Hope, parenting, promises

Eleven Promises for the Single Mom, Part 2

(This is the second part in a series by my friend, Samantha Ferguson. If you missed the first part, click here .)

Here’s a quick recap of the first four promises for the single mom.

  1. You are honored.
  2. He cares about the details.
  3. His grace will fill in the gaps.
  4. You can’t do it all, but you don’t have to.

And now we pick up with the fifth promise.

5. You are protected.

 

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. Psalm 91

 

Whatever you are facing, He is protecting you. He promises to rescue us. We trust in His name, and He protects. When we call on Him, He promises to answer, whatever the situation.

 

  1. He collects every tear.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

 

This is a very tender promise to me. I can’t even begin to count the tears I have cried over my life, but God knows. He loves me so much He collects ALL of my tears and records them in a book. At night when I am weeping out to God for answers in my grief, He is right there collecting every single tear drop.

 

  1. He brings you others to hold your hands up.

 

When the Israelites were at war, Moses had his hands held up in battle. Every time his hands slipped down, the Israelites would start to lose and when he would raise his hands again, they would begin to win again. So Moses had to keep his hands up constantly so the Israelites would see victory. This story means so much to me. I feel like I constantly have to keep going or keep my hands raised without stopping for my family to have all we need but I cannot do this on my own. Even in the small tasks, doing the same thing over and over again will wear a person out. That is where God brings others in beside you to “hold your hands up” so you can win the battles. God is so faithful to bring friends to help you. I had one sweet acquaintance offer to fold all of my laundry!! Another friend is always willing to keep my children when I need someone. When my daughter was in the hospital, one friend stayed with me in the emergency room then took my son for the weekend. The entire hospital stay was filled with visitors who took care of us and “held my hands up” when I wanted to curl up and sleep under the pressure.

 

Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Exodus 17:12

 

  1. He is redeeming your story.

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

 

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoi have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 

I hear Romans 8:28 so often I can take it for granted. He says he will work ALL things for our good. ALL things, even awful, horrible, no good things…. When we love Him, He will turn them into a good experience for us. He uses it to teach us. He uses it so soften us. He uses it so show us how He is a BIG God. In Isaiah 61:3, we see a beautiful promise to cling to. I often feel like my life is in ashes and I am still in mourning and despair over what has been burnt away from my life, but He so beautifully says He will give us a crown, a joyous blessing, festive praise. We are planted for HIS glory. This is a promise I believe even though I haven’t seen it all come to pass.

 

  1. You are not alone.

 

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

 

I struggle with this the most. At night when all is quiet, on weekends when all of my friends seem to have plans with husbands or families, this is when I have to stand on this promise even when my feelings do not match up. He is holding us up. We are not alone, He is with us.

 

  1. You are strong and courageous.

 

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:6

 

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. Deuteronomy 20:1

 

You are stronger than you think you are with God on your side. You are so courageous to face the battles you face every day. When the battle seems bigger than you are, we are told not to be afraid. Instead, the same God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt will bring us out of whatever situation we are facing.

 

  1. You are beloved by God.

 

At first I thought God was saying to me “You are loved.” Yes, that is true but I hear it so much it is hard to really know what that means. Then I heard Him say to me…. BELOVED. I looked up what beloved meant and it brought so much comfort to my spirit. The dictionary defines Beloved as:  dearly loved:  dear to the heart, cherished, admired, treasured, dear, favorite, worthy of love.

 

Isaiah 43 is my life chapter from the Bible. I have a small tattoo on my wrist to remind me of the promises in the verse. He knows my name. I am HIS. I am honored in His sight. Others were given in exchange for me…. I am beloved by God.

 

 I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Isaiah 43

 

I finish with one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. Regardless of your circumstances, God is with us. It may look hopeless but the God of all HOPE loves us more than we could ever imagine.

 

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39