On the Other Side

I never thought we would get this far during those 2 horrific years. But, amazingly, and by the wonderful grace of Almighty God, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in September. It was a time for us to look back on all the things we have been through. All the ways God has been with us, even when we were at the brink of destruction. All of God’s favor and goodness to us, even when we most certainly did not deserve those things.

The past few years, our marriage has been better than ever. We have reached new depths of intimacy in every area of our relationship. We have rekindled the friendship we lost during his affair. We have shared our hopes and dreams, many of  which have been reborn. There are some things we have shared with each other that are just little glimpses of how well God knows us, the deepest, even the silliest, of our desires. For example, my husband told me that he had always liked my name (my first name) long before he met me. The cool thing is that his first wife was supposed to be named my name, but not long before she was born, her mother and father decided to name her something different. So, that little seemingly insignificant desire my husband had eventually came to pass, even though he had to go through some very hard times to see it fulfilled.

We have had lazy Saturdays where he have cuddled up in bed and watched movies or television and just talked about things, some important, but mostly just getting to know each other better. Those are the times that have really strengthened our relationship. Those are the conversations that have given us glimpses into who each other is and what our marriage can be as we move forward.

One night, my husband and I watched a movie on Amazon. The name of it was “The Song.” It is about a man whose father committed adultery, and it ruined his life and the life of his family. The man’s actions had a profound effect on his son, from whose perspective the story was told, and the son grew up desiring only one thing of God: wisdom. Like Solomon, he asked God for wisdom. I need to add that the narrator quoted parts of the book of Ecclesiastes throughout the movie. The man’s father had been a successful country singer, and the son struggled to overcome his father’s shadow. The son met a beautiful young lady, whom he married. She inspired him to write a song about her. The song catapulted the man to stardom. Unfortunately, success and fame did to the son what it did  to his father. He ended up cheating on his wife. As he pursued all the things Solomon mentions in Ecclesiastes, things that we pursue because we think they will fulfill us, those things dismantled and destroyed his life. I won’t tell you the rest of the story. You can watch the movie to see what became of the man and his life.

Needless to say, my husband could definitely identify with man. The movie sparked some conversation between us. One thing my husband revealed to me was that he knew when I told him I forgave him that I would not divorce him. I told him I did not know at that point that I would not divorce him, but he said he just knew. He then told me that he also realized at that point that if he wanted out, if he wanted to marry the other woman, he would have to divorce me, but he knew he could not do that. Although he was in sin, he understood that God would not bless that relationship, not even if he divorced me. Because in God’s eyes, he would still have been in adultery. He knew he could have had no peace in that relationship. He would have been miserable, not necessarily from the other woman, but from knowing deep down that it was wrong.

I am sharing these experiences with you to offer you hope. I do not wish the hell I went through on anyone, and I would not have chosen that path for myself. But, when I see where my marriage is now, how much my husband and I have grown as a couple, how we have grown individually, I can see enormous value in the experience. Painful though it was, it brought good things, but we had to be willing to confront our pain, our anger, deal with our issues, and engage in honest communication. We had to do some very painful work that at times seemed overwhelming and pointless, but it was worth the struggle.
None of us like suffering. We don’t like pain. We don’t like facing the truth. But suffering has a purpose. In those dark times, we learn lessons about ourselves, about life, about God, and those lessons remain with us long after the suffering ends. Those lessons change us; they help shape us. They give us a perspective we would have never had. They are stepping stones to a brighter future, a deeper relationship with God and with each, a better understanding of ourselves. If we are willing to press through. If we refuse to give up. If we are willing to do the work. Growth doesn’t come easily to most of us. Growth and healing cannot come as long as we refuse to be honest, as long as we run from the pain. As a song by Francesca Battistelli says, “The truth is harder than a lie” (from If We’re Honest). But the truth is what we need to acknowledge and embrace if we have any hope for positive change.

So, I am now on the other side of the darkest valley of my life. I’m on the other side of soul-baring, life-altering pain and struggle. I’m on the other side, and it is a wonderful, liberating, beautiful place to be. Some of you, maybe most of you, will not make it to the other side with your marriage intact. But all of you will make it to the other side, whether as single or married. What awaits you on the other side is largely dependent on you–on the choices you make now. On how willing you are to let go of the pain, anger, and disappointment. On how willing you are to forgive those who have hurt and wronged you. What do you want the other side to look like? What can you do to make the other side be a good place for you?

 

How BIG is the box?

Sometimes I look back on what has happened and I wonder how I ever survived. As a Christian, I know in my head that God is in control and that He can take any situation and work it together for my good (Romans 8:28). I’ve witnessed Him do it, yet in my heart, I still struggle sometimes to comprehend how big God is. I mean, Who else could have healed me, restored my marriage, and helped me walk in forgiveness, not to mention helped me let go of all the bitterness, anger, and pain I felt? Who else could have comforted me and given me such deep peace in the midst of such dark circumstances? Who else could have given me the strength to carry on and not give up? Only God can do what was done in my life and in my marriage. I make no apologies for that.

Yet, here I am, 8 years after the fact and I still struggle with keeping God in a box when He wants to totally bust through it. You would think I would never doubt how powerful and awesome God is; I would never question His ability to act on my behalf nor His ability to work miracles, but I do. I too frequently get my eyes off of God and put them on my circumstances, and then I start feeling anxious or worried. I know sometimes God must be shaking His head at me, wondering what it will take for me to trust Him in everything. I know this struggle is not unique to me, though.

I did have a revelation of sorts several weeks ago. I was talking to friend after church one Sunday and we were talking about Romans 8:28. For those of you who do not know that verse, it says: “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” (NLT). As I quoted this verse, I realized that God not only used that dark situation for my good, He also used it for the good of others, and He keeps using it. The purpose for the circumstances I walked through go far beyond me and my life. God always has a bigger picture in mind. He is always thinking of eternity. I had boxed God in–I realized that He worked all things together for my good, but I had not realized that He was using my trials and struggles to bless others and to help others; to work things together for the good of others. I also boxed God in on how he was using the struggle in my life. To this day, I am still discovering little bits of truth that God deposited in me in those two horrendously long years, and I know I have only begun to scratch the surface. God is telling me that He is so much bigger than I can possibly comprehend. I cannot contain His vastness.

He is the same God that spoke into nothing to create something. He spoke into the darkness and created light. He spoke the universe and everything in it into existence. The same God I often put in a neat little box is the same God that parted the Red Sea for His people to cross; the same God that appeared in fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; the same God who shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was in the lions’ den; the same God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush. I could go on…

The  apostle Paul in Colossians 1:15-17 explains the sovereignty and power of God this way: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (NLT).

In John 1, the apostle John writes: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.
 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:1-5, NLT). 

I say God is a big God, but I ask myself if I really believe that. If I believe that, my life should show it. Am I expecting big things of God? Do I believe He can do the impossible? Do I seek Him and believe He will do all He has promised? Do I expect Him to do miracles? I must ask myself these kinds of questions from time to time; they serve as a reality check. Inevitably, every time I consider these questions, God takes me back to those dark, lonely, painful nights when my husband was with another woman. He reminds me of how He spoke to me, carried me, strengthened me, and answered me. He reminds me that He is just as powerful and able now as He was then. He reminds me of the miracles He did then, of how He did things everyone else (myself included) thought impossible. I once again hear His still, small voice calling out to me, beckoning me to trust Him, to seek Him, to let Him out of the box I have put Him in. It is as if He is telling me to unleash Him, to let Him loose, so He can blow my mind with how awesome He is once again. He is limitless, yet I limit Him far too often. I need to get rid of the box…

My Whatever Moment

THE WHATEVER MOMENT

When I was 9 years old, I walked the aisle at a church and gave my heart to Jesus. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing. Nevertheless, I had the foundation laid in my life, and I held to the values and convictions my parents had instilled in me throughout my adolescent years and into my late twenties. When I was about 26 or 27 years old, I became very lonely, restless and dissatisfied with my life. In loneliness, I met men over the Internet and went out on a few dates. I desperately wanted a relationship because I felt so lonely. It was the kind of loneliness that physically hurts, and it didn’t let up. At times, it was so bad that I didn’t think I could stand it. I thought a relationship would bring me happiness and fulfillment, but with every new man I met and went out with, the feelings of loneliness, restlessness and dissatisfaction remained. I became jaded and disillusioned.

I had a master’s degree and was working in my chosen profession, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. These feelings plagued me for months, causing me to examine my life and myself. I began to wonder what my purpose was, what was I supposed to do with my life, and why I didn’t feel fulfilled. I started praying and seeking God and telling him about the storm of emotions inside me. I remember thinking there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing.

One night, out of exasperation, I knelt beside my bed and prayed what I now call a “whatever” prayer. I told Jesus I was his. If I never made a lot of money; if I never got married; if my dreams never came true. I was his whatever. There were no conditions attached. As I prayed, I began to feel so free, and peace like I had never known filled my heart. I had finally found what I had been missing. I had found the only One who could satisfy and fulfill me. I had found the One who could give my life purpose and meaning. I had discovered the One who is Life. I had found Jesus, and I counted the cost and realized that I wanted Jesus whatever it required and wherever it might lead.

Since that night, I have had many other whatever moments. Moments when I forgave deep wrongs when I wanted to hold on to the hate. Moments when I gave up something I really wanted because I knew it wasn’t what God wanted. Moments when I let go of my dreams to pursue God’s dreams for me. Moments when I did the right thing even when it cost me. God has led me to countless whatever moments. Those whatever moments have often been hard, uncomfortable and painful, but every one has been worth what God required of me. Maybe you call those moments surrender or dying to self or defining moments. But, no matter how you label those moments, the only answer God requires of you is “Whatever.”