“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
from Matthew 8:26
I feel like I am in the boat alone on rough waters. Health, job, marriage, finances, family, future and so on. Everything is unstable and has been for months. And, of course, the global pandemic and, as of late, riots all over the country I live in.
I was asking Jesus, “Where are You?” As I focused on that question, I thought about the disciples in the boat during the storm. They thought they were going to die.
“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'” Matthew 8:25
With all that is going on right now, it is not so far fetched to feel that death is a possibility. If we go back a few verses to Matthew 8:22, “Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now.'” He was addressing a disciple that asked to go bury his father before committing to following Jesus. Most Bibles label this set of verses “The Cost of Following Jesus.”
The very next verse, 8:23, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” We move from Jesus telling us the cost to follow Him to getting into the boat with Him.
There are two things to highlight. One, He just told us there is a cost to following Him, so why are we surprised when storms arrive?
Two, Jesus is IN the boat with us. He’s right here – do not feel the need to ask, “Where are You, Lord?” He is right here in the boat with us.
“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
from Matthew 14:22-23
Jesus “insisted” the disciples get in the boat while He went by Himself to pray. Keep in mind this encounter with the boat is not too long after the verses above that we just read in Matthew 8. The disciples had recently witnessed Jesus calm the storm when He was IN the boat.
While Jesus was praying by Himself, a storm came up, and “the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (from Matthew 14:24). The disciples cried out and Jesus came to where they were on the water.
In verse 27, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Take courage. I am here!” Jesus was not physically in the boat with them this time, but He was there. He knew where they were and how to get to them and, of course, had the power to once again calm the storm.
Jesus said to Peter in verse 31, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” In Matthew 8:26, Jesus had said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”
This is a message for us today. Jesus asks why are we afraid, why do we doubt Him? We must have faith. He has saved us every single time throughout our lives, for you and I have not drowned yet.
We cannot doubt Jesus is with us. He is right here – in the boat in the storm. He is stretching our faith.
The first time, He was in the boat, right there. The second time, we cannot see Him in the boat. So, we have to use our faith and not our sight. Ride out the storms knowing He is right there. Hand over everything to Him – your faith, your life, your today, and your tomorrow.
Don’t be someone to whom Jesus would say, “You have so little faith!” When fear creeps in, take it captive by praising Him. If doubt enters, pray. If loneliness clouds your mind, read Matthew chapters 8 and 14. Let the Word of God remind you that you are never alone. And there is a cost to following Him – complete and total faith.
I know that secular statistics say that money and communication are the causes for divorce. I propose another root cause that is based in Scripture. The failure of marriages can be traced back to the parties failing to fulfill their Biblical roles.
In this piece, I am going to step on toes. But, Snow and I have committed to be unfiltered here, no matter how controversial what we say may be. The goal is to challenge your perspective. Perspective is everything, but that is an entirely different post.
In the Bible:
“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 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. 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. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33
When either of the parties disobeys or chooses not to fulfill his or her Biblical role or is ignorant of it, the enemy reigns. These roles also apply to non-believers because God created marriage, so it is only by His playbook that a marriage will be in line with its design. While unsaved people can still have great marriages, anytime you do not follow the instruction manual, things will not be optimized.
What about if only one of the people is fulfilling his or her Biblical role in marriage? That is where we run the risk of stepping outside of God’s design. For example, if the wife respects her husband as he disobeys Scriptures, is she endorsing non-Biblical behavior?
We are called to obey God above everyone else.
What if the husband loves the wife, but she does not respect him? I suggest that it goes back to whether the husband is obedient to God. If he loves her, but disobeys Scriptures, I would offer that is human love, not Biblical love. As defined by the verses above, Biblical love is “as Jesus loves the church.”
So, when a husband loves his wife, but is disobedient to Scriptures, he is failing in his Biblical responsibilities.
It is mighty difficult to respect someone who claims to know Jesus as his Lord, yet refuses to obey most, if not all, of the Scriptures.
But what about those husbands who love their wives, but are disobedient occasionally (as we all are)? Then, as wives, we need to pray for our spouses and fast for them; wives are the “helpmates” (Genesis 2:18).
As wives, we are commanded to respect our husbands, not love them. There are a lot of thoughts that can be said about why that is, but the point of this post is the root cause of the failure of marriage. Wives are to respect and submit to their husbands as the husbands obey Scriptures. Notice how we go back to the obedience of the husband. Wives are not commanded to submit to a husband who is disobedient to God.
If there are issues in your marriage, it is certainly worth praying over these verses to see where is the breakdown. Is the husband obedient? If he is, is the wife respecting him? If not, the enemy is using your marriage as a playground.
The term “spiritual abuse” is not something I looked up on the Internet. I do not even know if such a phrase already exists. Here is how I am defining it: When someone you are under the authority of, per the Bible, fails to fulfill their Biblical responsibilities and instead creates an environment of disobedience to God.
I am the first person to say that nobody is perfect. This is not about a failure along the way or an error. This is about a spiritual authority that has a consistent pattern of being disobedient to the word of God, yet claiming they know Jesus. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know a little about my story.
God has recently laid it on my heart to go deeper with you and reveal more. My intent is to help just one person. Perhaps that one person is you. If so, I have been praying for you.
I have been married for 23 years; neither of us were saved when we got married. Eleven years ago, I was saved, and then two years after that, my husband was baptized. There are many responsibilities in the Bible that are given to governments, people in authority, and to husbands and wives. Ever since I was saved, God put on my heart the burden to give up my old life and be on the mission field full time. What an honor to serve Him full time.
My husband did not have the same call on his heart. We talked to the Senior Pastor, who told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” The problem with the pastor’s advice is that he never said to my husband, “Have you prayed about the burden on your wife’s heart? She is adamant this is what she has heard from the Lord.”
My husband does not pray, does not read the Bible, and never speaks the name “Jesus.” But, as a “good,” submissive wife, I thought that the pastor and my husband were right. God is not a God of confusion. For over a decade, then, I buried that burden deep within my heart. I went on mission trips each year. I prayed that God would reveal the same burden to my husband, but He did not or my husband never revealed He did. That burden is with me every day to this very day. But I replay what the pastor said, “God is not a God of confusion.”
Daily, I beg God for my husband to draw closer to Jesus. I beg for God to provide me with a husband who will read the Bible with me or pray with me or provide some example to our three kids of what a Christian husband and father might look like.
Morning after morning and night after night during my prayer time with God, I sob. I cry out to God. I have become an expert at stifling my sobs, as I do not want the kids to hear me. I have also become an expert at “cleaning up” my face should one of the kids enter the area where I am praying. I wipe the tears extremely quickly and slap a smile on my face. I even learned that a certain eye cream helps when I have cried too hard and my eyes get puffy.
I have become an expert at hiding my pain. I have become an expert at burying what I know God put on my heart: Full time missionary work. I tell myself that if God wanted me to be a full time missionary, He would burden my husband. So, maybe the timing is not just right yet. Keep stifling those sobs, keep using that eye cream, keep being submissive.
In March of this year, my best friend in the world passed away extremely unexpectedly. He was 46-years-old.
I was crushed.
I could not breathe.
The police were waiting for me to arrive. And there my best friend was, gone, laying on the floor, gone at age 46. I had to make decisions about cremation, funeral services, his finances, etc. I am his executor. I agreed to do this, yes, but not now. I thought when we were 90, maybe.
You left me. I felt alone and so hurt. Jesus quickly swooped in and reminded me that you were a child of God. You are now with Him and completely healed. Jesus reminded me that I will see you again. I still cling to that knowledge to help me get through the pain day-by-day. Praise Jesus for His promises.
The death of my best friend awoke in me a journey that I needed to go on. As I planned his funeral and cleaned out his home, I kept feeling him with me spiritually. I believe that when someone has crossed over, they are still with you, just in a different way. As the months passed, I felt my best friend sharing with me that he had no idea how much I cried and hid my tears and buried what I was created to be and denied what I heard from God.
I continued to cry out to God and continued to stifle my sobbing and hide my tears and deny who I was in Him.
A few months ago, God showed me examples in the Bible of people under ungodly authorities. In Exodus 1:15-16, Pharaoh tells the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys. Verse 17 notes, “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders.” In verses 20 and 21, it says, “So God was good to the midwives […]. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the midwives for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.
In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar requires all people to bow down and give worship to a statue. Three Jewish men refuse to obey the king. In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar says, “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue.” In verse 18, the men reply, “We want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” The king throws the men into a blazing furnace and God saves them. Then in verse 28, “They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” The three men were then promoted to even higher positions than before. It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the three men for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.
I am currently in a Bible study by a popular American preacher. He says that when the wife fulfills Biblical responsibilities that belong to the husband, everything gets turned upside-down and the family unit is exposed to the enemy. I believe that, but what does a wife do? Stand by and allow her kids not to be led at all because it is the husband’s role?
Years ago, I made a conscious decision to lead my children and, yes, I assumed Biblical responsibilities that my Christian husband refused to do. I never stopped praying for my husband to be the spiritual leader that God created him to be and for me to be the wife that he needed to fulfill that role. No progress. More sobbing. More hiding the pain.
I have been fasting and praying for years about how to reconcile the command to be submissive to my husband versus the call that I know God has placed on my life as well as me leading the children versus my husband. I am choosing to divorce my husband. There are many reasons why I made this choice: verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, and, most of all, spiritual abuse.
I am not saying this path is for everyone. You must pray and listen to God. I have peace with the path I am now on. I have bathed it in prayer and asked for forgiveness from my husband and from God. I will continue to cry out daily for my husband, even when he is no longer my husband. The most important thing in this world is Jesus. Luke 12:31 says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”
All I need is Jesus. I want to give Him my life, my every breath. I have denied for a decade what He created me to do. I will be judged by other believers for the path I am taking. But this is not about them. This is about many years of daily conversations with God and me obeying the commands He has placed on the lives of every believer.
As I was praying about my marriage, my husband, and the path I am going down, I felt led to read Genesis. Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, when Jacob just wanted to marry Rachel. In Genesis 31:1-16, conflict arises between Jacob and Laban. In verse 3, it says, “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there and I will be with you.'”
There will be occasions in our lives that God will use conflict to get us on a new path and, more importantly, He will use conflict to sever relationships that are not guiding us to God. If there is a relationship in your life that is causing you to move away from God, pray about severing it. Our command is to obey God, above all other authorities we are under: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
What I realized is that in choosing to submit to my husband, I was allowing myself and my kids to be led away from God. When I began to move toward God, conflicts arose. I realized that the marriage I am in is a mockery of God. There is nothing Biblical about this marriage other than two people in it who claim to know Jesus as Lord. I choose to no longer submit to a husband who refuses to pray, read the Bible, or speak the name above all names, Jesus.
Yes, I will be judged by people for filing for a divorce. But I have peace in knowing that I am not confused, and I will no longer be spiritually abused or abused in any other way.
I recently completed a 40 day fast for my marriage during which I performed at least one daily act to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. While Fireproof was an initial jumping off point, I created my own version to better fit my situation. I learned as I did mine and landed with the below.
Goal: Deepen your relationship with God. Notes: I recommend that you combine this with a daily food fast. When you crave the food(s) you have given up, it will remind you throughout the day of the fast. Due to its origins, the text of this fast assumes you are married. However, you could potentially replace “spouse” with any key person in your life. As I mentioned last time, this fast is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone. Prayer when craving the missing food(s) and during your daily quiet time: “Let today be the day I come to know You deeper than ever before.”
Day 1: Commit to reading the Bible daily for at least 15 minutes, if you do not already do so. Commit to praying daily for at least 10 minutes, if you do not already do so.
Day 2: Find a “Nathan” for this fast to hold you accountable. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, and tell you like it is.
Day 3: Ask how you can pray for your spouse. If he or she won’t/can’t answer, pray Deuteronomy 6:5 over them: “I pray [spouse’s name] will love the LORD our God with all [his/her] heart, all [his/her] soul, and all [his/her] strength.”
“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
Day 6: Commit to communicating to your spouse either a verse or a prayer every day during the fast.
Day 7: Forgive your spouse. Write a letter to give them or burn.
Day 8: Ask your spouse how the situation or circumstance he or she asked you to pray about is going. If a specific request was not provided, communicate to them, “I am praying for you daily.”
Day 9: Do something unexpected that your spouse will see as a kind gesture.
Day 10: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.
Day 11: Write our three positive things about your spouse. Leave it for him or her to find.
Day 12: Think of something you do that you know annoys your spouse. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t do this thing for the rest of the fast.
Day 13: Think of a conflict you and your spouse have that you can pray about and find a compromise. Try to put your spouse first.
Day 14: Be present with your spouse. No need to say or do anything. Just be present.
Day 15: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite dinner.
Day 16: Find a way to show respect to your spouse today.
Day 17: Pray to God to examine your heart and show you anything that offends Him.
Day 18: Pray for God to allow you to see your spouse through His eyes.
Day 19: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.
Day 20: Remove any temptation that may be in your life – a person, a thing; get help for an addiction, etc.
Day 21: Plan to worship with your spouse.
Day 22: See if your spouse will share with you anything for which you need to ask forgiveness. If so, ask forgiveness. If you don’t feel sorry, pray about it. Don’t just emptily apologize.
Day 23: Do an unexpected kind gesture.
Day 24: Leave your spouse an encouraging card with Scriptures.
Day 25: Find out your spouse’s love language. If you already know, fill him or her up.
Day 26: Pray with your spouse. If you can’t, tell him or her that you are praying for them.
Day 27: Recommend a Bible study to your spouse to read alone or together.
Day 28: Thank your spouse for a specific thing he or she recently did.
Day 29: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.
Day 30: Leave your spouse a handwritten letter of encouragement with verses.
Day 31: Do an unexpected kind gesture.
Day 32: Write what made you fall in love with your spouse. Give it to him or her, if you so choose.
Day 33: Create a “break” for your spouse. Do a chore, errand, or something else he or she would normally do.
Day 34: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite meal.
Day 35: Plan to worship with your spouse.
Day 36: Spend time with God. Ask Him to examine your heart. Listen.
Day 37: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.
Day 38: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.
Day 39: Determine what, if anything, you want to share with your spouse about the fast. Any letters written during it? Any insights?
Day 40: Write vows of commitment to God. What areas in your relationship with God need to be renewed? Strengthened?
In a future installment, I will share my renewed commitment to God from Day 40. Thank you for reading. I pray that if you choose to fast, you will find what you seek.
Today is the last day of the 40 day fast for my marriage. I completed at least one daily act of kindness for the past 40 days to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. Prior to this fast, I was frustrated with my spouse’s behaviors and saw him differently than I do now. Doing the acts of kindness had an opposite effect than I would have expected. My spouse ignored or rejected all of my acts of kindness and instead increased his negativity.
I have been praying hedges of protection with the blood of Jesus at least once a day around the kids and the house to protect us from the increased negativity. There is so much power in the name of Jesus!!
Before I go any further with this post, I feel burdened to say that the 40 day fast approach is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. Please get help. I learned over these 40 days that it takes 7 times for someone who is being abused to finally leave. More sobering than that, not everyone survives to their 7th attempt. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone. He sees you as His temple:
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
There are many other verses, but just know that you are loved by God Almighty, there is hope, and you ARE strong enough in Jesus to leave. I now know that.
I received so many insights during this 40 day fast. I mentioned one example of a fast in my last post, that one is for two married people who are both believers and one spouse does not hate the other. That is not my situation, as my husband has not spoken to me in many months and refuses to be in the same room with me, even though we currently live together. So, I modified the fast I used to better fit my situation, but still included Christ-like daily tasks. I will post the revised fast I created soon.
I recommend that if you create your own fast, daily pray and obey two sets of Scriptures. The first is:
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
The second set of verses is:
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
from Galatians 5:22-23
Pray that you will show the fruit of the Spirit daily to your spouse and to others as well.
Armed with daily prayers and an open heart, the insights began to flow over the 40 days:
Working to be more like Jesus ALWAYS hurts because as sinners, we are so far from Him.
Everyone needs a “Nathan” and should be a “Nathan” for someone. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, tell you like it is, and hold you accountable.
If your spouse is saved and does not pray with you, read with you, worship with you, or help you feel Jesus, get on your knees and pray about it. It is a problem. Galatians 5:7-8 states, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” These verses spoke volumes to me in my situation.
God never commanded us to obey someone in authority when they are leading us to rebel against God. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but I will note only one. From Daniel 6:6-10, “So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said [. . .] give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. [. . .] But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” We are never to rebel against God because someone in authority over us leads us that way. Never.
I had to realize the need for God to change my heart. Regardless of how my spouse acted. I needed to respond in a Christ-like manner and show my kids a healthy example of Jesus in marriage in my home. I needed to examine my own heart.
I must see my spouse as a child of God; Jesus died for my spouse. No matter how I feel about him or how he treats me, God loves my spouse. I prayed that God would help me to see my spouse as God sees him. Instead of frustration with my spouse, I began to feel deep pity. I then cried many mornings praying for my spouse as I saw how he is missing out on the incredible relationship that believers should have with Jesus. To be clear, my spouse says he is saved and has been baptized, but refuses to pray with me or the kids, I have never seen him read the Bible or heard him quote Scripture or say the name “Jesus.” It is not my place to judge his relationship with Jesus, all I know is I now pitied this person that used to frustrate me. I began to beg God daily that my spouse would come to know Jesus deeper that day then he ever had before. I will continue to pray this.
I asked my spouse, “How can I pray for you?” Note that I prayed for him daily already, but this was an opportunity for him to share with me, if he chose to, what his prayer needs were.
Share with your spouse that you pray for them daily. It is irrelevant if they care or acknowledge this. You never need anyone’s permission to pray for them.
Anytime you try to move your family to obedience, Satan will fight you hard. He wants the family out of alignment with God’s Word because the family is the foundation to everything.
I needed to find things for which to appreciate my spouse, such as, “Thank you for cutting the grass.”
I needed to acknowledge Christian things my spouse does, such as, “I am grateful that you were baptized.”
I wrote a letter to my spouse asking for forgiveness. As he has not spoken to me in many months, I still wanted to do this task, as I am sure I have hurt him over the years of our marriage. I did not want to write some generic letter, so I prayed about what to write that would be authentic and possibly heal my spouse. During my quiet time one morning, God showed me that I failed at Ephesians 5:22-24, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” As a wife, I did not always obey these verses. So, I apologized to my husband for not consistently obeying Ephesians 5.
As the hate and hurt flowed from my spouse, Pastor’s wife shared with me that it is the anguish in my spouse’s soul manifesting, which reinforced the pity I now feel.
I wrote vows to God on the last day of the fast. Pastor told me this fast was going to be more about me and less about my marriage. I admit I did not understand that in the beginning, but he was right.
If your spouse is not saved, I highly recommend Stormie Omartian‘s The Power of a Praying Wife Book of Prayers or The Power of a Praying Husband. I prayed through this book nine years ago, and my spouse made a profession of faith and was baptized as I completed the book. Also, please refer to 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.” I was in that boat for two years where I was the believer and my spouse was not. Again, I am not at all saying to stay with someone who abuses you. Please get help.
As for Snow, his unbelieving wife is divorcing him. This situation is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “If the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.”
As the 40 day fast concludes, I now see my spouse as someone to be pitied, and I cry out for him daily instead of the “mindless” prayers I used to pray for him. I now know that with Christ’s strength, I can respond to hate with love. I now trust God even more, for I was reminded that God has me and my kids; He always has. I now pray “Thy will be done” and mean it.
I thank God for this fast and pray that if you choose to enter a fast, you will receive the insights you seek.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
During a fast where one of the prayers was to hit me with a 4×4 of what to do in my marriage, I felt led by God to meet with two friends – a pastor and his wife. In previous posts, I have talked a little about my marriage and the struggles that exist in the church family and assumptions and so on. There was a lot going on in my mind, how do I know what is from God? I do know that “God hates divorce,” for I have heard that over and over.
My friends both had been married before; they each had different experiences. They were brutally honest with me, which I needed. I came in with a list of reasons why I needed a divorce – self-justification of why Malachi 2 did not apply. They said, of course God will forgive you if you choose to divorce your spouse. That is not the right attitude, though. Out of love, they called me out, and asked, did I want their permission to divorce, or did I want a path that would deepen my relationship with God as I proceeded?
Of course, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God! I had mentioned Snow to them, and they asked whether I was having an affair with him, and I said absolutely not. Which is the truth. I shared that we pray together and read together daily, that we fast together. That we have been on this journey together since June of 2018. They then said that I was having an emotional affair with Snow. I had not seen it that way, but there was a 4×4 I needed.
It is true that Snow did many things my spouse refused to do, such as speak to me, pray with me, read with me, serve with me, and fast with me.
In order to be fully emptied out and healed, they said I needed to fast for 40 days from Snow AND show Christ’s kindness to my spouse during those 40 days. Based on Fireproof, there are little tasks, like do an unexpected act of kindness. Things I was already doing for my spouse prior to the fast included, praying for him everyday, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I did not speak hurt or hate into his life, and I worked hard to never say a bad word about him to our kids. Those things continue.
This fast approach is to achieve two things:
Eliminate the enemy using Snow as a temptation.
Allow me to treat my spouse in a way that honors God.
Pastor and his wife had not left their previous marriages in healthy ways, and it caused them damage as individuals and brought baggage into their marriage to one another. They made it clear this fast was about ME and being emptied and healed and focusing on God and being fully dependent on God. I would come out stronger and closer to God.
I know that God used them to speak to me because I had been hearing whispers from God that I needed to fast from Snow (for both of us, not just me), but I would not listen because I did not want to do it. When it was mentioned by Pastor, I knew this was God, and I also knew that I would not be able to move forward without doing this. So, very unwillingly, I agreed to the 40-day covenant with God – broken only if my spouse left or a death occurred. Pastor then said not to tell my spouse or kids what I was doing.
I went to Snow’s place that very night and shared that I needed to fast from him for the next 40 days. That was harder than I thought, which only reinforced that I needed to do it. Fasts are supposed to be a sacrifice, that you give up a thing that is being placed above God or that is going to hurt to give up. Fasts are not supposed to be easy. They are supposed to have a cost assigned to them.
“David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. […] David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.'” 2 Samuel 12:16,22
I was still on the food fast about my marriage, so I maintained that fast and kicked off this new one. As mentioned, it is combined with being Christ-like, regardless of how my spouse acts. The goal is to demonstrate to the kids a healthier example and leave the marriage knowing I treated my spouse in a Christ-like manner. I was not always doing this before, for when spouse got on my nerves, I would tell Snow things he did – a “no-no.” I had not seen it that way, as Snow is also my best friend – but they were right, I was having an emotional affair. I would add that I was also having a spiritual affair. As they said, the fast is more about me than it is about my spouse.
Driving away that night from Snow’s place, I was struggling to breathe, let alone drive – I felt like I was hyperventilating. I felt sick to my stomach – how will I survive without praying with him, reading with him, being challenged by him as we read the Scriptures?
I have since learned that I do, in fact, feel Jesus through Snow. He is one way that I feel Jesus. I also feel Jesus on my own, of course, because I do have a personal relationship with Jesus, but I definitely grow in Jesus when we are studying or praying together. I learned just how much I love Snow and how spiritually entangled I am with him. So, yes, I definitely needed to fast from him.
I will not be leaving my marriage for a man, but instead leaving a marriage where I acted as Christ-like as I could and, yet, was ignored or rejected. Pastor said this was irreconcilable differences.
The first few days of this fast, God answered prayers left and right, and I started to trust Him more and more. He started to show visions in dreams and such of a future assignment. All the while, I was doing acts of kindness and my spouse was rejecting them at worst or ignoring them at best. This was exactly what I expected, but, again, this is about me and providing a Christ-like example to my kids and leaving this marriage knowing I acted as Christ-like as possible to my spouse.
We are now on the 14th day of the fast. Back on the 5th day, God wrote the following through me. I shot up out of bed and immediately started to write this poem. I don’t do poetry. It was flowing so fast, I could barely keep up, and the lines were being given to me out of order, so I was guessing where they would go. It just flowed, and I tried to keep up.
Praise You in this Fast
I will praise You in this fast.
I belong first in Your arms,
Healing me and sealing me from my past.
Blowing away life’s fiery storms,
I am being purified,
And I am being prepared.
I will testify!
Yes, this pain is more than I can bear,
In You, my salvation does lie.
Wash me clean,
Bend me, break me,
I must walk by faith, not by what I have seen.
You are my God!
I will raise my hands in praise!
Rip down any facade.
No matter how high the waves, You carry me and lift me above,
While this tears at my heart, I have never felt so close to Your love,
And now we know we are never truly apart.
I have learned incredible trust,
Work and purify and refine,
I did not want to do this, but now I see I must,
You are a jealous God and said “I want you both to be all Mine.”
With many tears, I obey,
Like clay, reshape my life.
Each day, You are showing me the Way.
At the end, I will be his wife.
I have learned I needed to forgive,
I needed to cleanse,
Being freed, I can truly live.
I needed to see through Your lens.
I have been ripped in two, my very soul,
This mourning has torn my heart,
Only You can fill this hole.
Now we will never be apart,
You have taught me to trust.
Love the Lord God with all your strength and mind,
Body, soul, spirit and might,
You are all I need to find,
You fill me with the strength to fight.
You fill me with confidence I will see him again,
It will be at the end of an aisle,
Though I don’t know exactly when.
At each thought of You and him, I smile,
I surrender all to You,
That is what this fast is about,
So the one can become two,
Removing each and every doubt.
I am Yours forever,
We will walk side by side always,
We belong together, wherever and however,
Never to be separated, not even by the end of days.
Our souls are intertwined with each other,
We are so buried in You,
We will never worship another,
This love is being purified and made true.
While we bend and break in Your hands,
Our love and bond in You grows,
May You always shield our marriage from life’s demands,
Running into Your arms is all we need to know.
Thank you, thank you for this fast!
While we lay shattered,
New clay molds are being cast.
Our bodies and souls will not remain battered,
You saw us in the womb,
Wove us together in history,
Freed by Jesus the second He left the tomb.
Drop these chains, release the hurt, you are now part of His story,
Who could ever fathom such love,
May we never forget the lessons of this fast,
Through life’s storms, we will keep our eyes on You above,
Our growth and trust, may it ever last,
Forged in pain and tears,
We will praise You in this fast,
As You gently wash away our fears.
I am going through a tremendous time of change in my life. While I met Jesus 11 years ago, I have not been fully surrendered to Him. What does that mean, “fully surrendered”?
The meaning I am applying here is that every corner of my life, every person in my life, every relationship in my life, AND my life itself belongs to Jesus. Saved people believe that, and we know it. How often do we live it, though?
I am sure there are times that we surrender situations to Jesus, ones that we know we cannot at all control – medical situations or other people’s behavior. But I am talking about even the corners of our lives that we believe we can control, such as where I want to work or where I want to go today.
For several months now, Snow and I have been working on fully surrendering our lives to Jesus and praying, “Bend me, break me to Your Will.” Within the past five months, we have both lost our jobs in the corporate world, we each lost someone incredibly dear to us to death (Praise God they both knew Jesus) and at least one marriage is ending.
For us, we daily give our worries to God, but we pick them right back up – sometimes within minutes. Daily questions we ask include:
“What is the plan, God?”
“What do You want me to do?”
“What is Your desired outcome so I can get there?”
I love clarity, and so there are times where I pray God would just tell me what to do: Where is the goal line? I will obey and move the ball down the field, but just tell me where You want me to wind up.
This is not how God works. I was studying Abram this week (before he became Abraham), and this man literally left all he knew for some place that God said He would show him at some point. WHAT??
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.'” Genesis 12:1
Notice that word “will.” Leave all that you know and are comfortable with for this completely unknown path that I am not ready yet to reveal to you.
As I studied this verse and Abram’s reaction, I thought to myself, could I do that? I say that I want to fully surrender all to Jesus, and I do believe that, but could I really do that? Leave all that I know and all that is comfortable for some unknown path? That is fully trusting God – wow.
Since Snow and I have been praying the “Bend me, break me” prayers for months, God has been removing toxic things from our lives. The work environments were extremely toxic. Certain relationships were and are extremely toxic. Both Snow and I were saved later in life, so we made stupid decisions before we were saved that are now being cleaned up, and God is at work in those corners of our lives, too.
All of that is an amazing blessing, but here is the issue: My heart.
Do I fully trust God with what He is doing in my life? Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the plan or the outcome?
The still, small voice reminds me of the following:
“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
As I think about this verse, I definitely love God. I do not always act like it because I am a sinner, but I do love Him. And I do believe that He has a plan for my life because of two specific verses, though there are others.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16
I believe in the Bible 100%, every word of it. So, based solely on these two example verses above, He has a plan, and the plan is for my ultimate good.
So why do I struggle with trusting Him? Has He ever let me down?
Yes, in my opinion, He did. Allow me to explain.
Two years ago, there was this sweet, amazing young girl that out of the blue got an aggressive cancer that began to ravage her body. The medical treatments were done, the surgeries occurred, etc. I believed in the power of prayer, and there were thousands of us praying for this sweet girl to be healed physically and remain in this world.
God chose to heal her a different way and ushered her into eternity. As a believer, I know that God knows best, and He loves her more than we can process, and I know He chose to call her Home, and it was the perfect response for her.
What about those of us who trusted God to heal her, though? There are several verses that talk about ask anything in My name and I will do it – so what happened here?
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.” Matthew 18:19
“Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:14
Jesus and Snow are going to help me heal and dive into these verses more. There will be a future post on this topic, so I will end that trail here for now.
For the purposes of today’s post, I must trust God. Things do not always make sense to me.
Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the end game? Oh, but I do know – Romans 8:28. Maybe this hurts, and it is messed up in my opinion, but He is at work, and I must trust Him. I will trust Him for a short time period, then start worrying again: How will this work? What about that?
It is a cycle of trust for me. I see it as a spiritual battle. The enemy does NOT want me to trust God and fully surrender to Him.
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” Romans 8:5-8
Note those words God uses, “always hostile to God,” “never” obeys, and “can never please God.”
“Always” and “never” are words that leave no room for lack of clarity. So, if I am listening to the enemy, dominated by the fear, the worry, I will never please God in that state of mind.
I am working on replacing worry with worship, for the enemy hates when we give glory to God (that is the whole reason Satan rebelled, to get glory).
I would like to say I have conquered this battle, but the cycle of trust continues: I trust Him, I worry, He reminds me of His love and promises, I trust Him, I worry.
The two things that I am focused on are:
Asking God to show me areas that I am not yet fully surrendered in and then listening to His response
Working hard to apply 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
I cannot control every thought that enters my mind, but I can control what I do with each thought once it is there. I compare it to Scripture and assess whether it is light and love. If it is, I engage God about it. If the thought is not edifying, pure, or anchored in the Truth, do I dwell on it and allow it to seep into my soul?
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
I see in the above verse, “Trust me.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I see in these verses God saying, “I got it, regardless of what you think based on what you see around you. I got it.”
There is a battle going on, brothers and sisters. Fully surrendering and unconditionally trusting in God is the way to disarm the enemy.
In a span of 1 hour and 49 minutes on Monday, July 22, I lost my job, signed away my house, and saw my wife for probably the last time. It may sound like a bad country song, but I would more appropriately compare it to joyful praise music. I thank Jesus for these tremendous changes. I give my life to Him.
I had been at the same workplace for 11 years. To say that the environment had become toxic recently is an understatement. The last 17 months there in particular have been extremely difficult.
Two Fridays before I was fired, I went to my favorite park for a morning walk before work. Through the Holy Spirit, I felt God with me as I walked a path that I had never been down before. I thanked Him for my blessings as I cried happy tears. He revealed to me that morning that I would soon be fired.
Losing my job was a concern to me, as I was on the verge of signing a lease on an apartment as the sale of my house concluded.
“Should I hold off on the apartment? Find some other arrangement?”
No, He told me. I was to proceed with the apartment. I was to trust Him, for He would provide. There would be a severance package to get me by for awhile.
As I finished the “new” path, I noticed that I had actually passed it dozens of times in the past. It had been there all along. At work, I began to tie up loose ends and make sure I saw those I wanted to see.
I signed the lease that Sunday. The Wednesday before I was fired, I moved into my new place – my new life. With JC’s help, what was once an empty apartment has been transformed into a warm home, full of love. Full of Him. I am so grateful to her. I am blessed she is on this journey with me.
On the Monday I was fired, I went to the park at lunchtime (at this point, I still had a job). At the park, I texted JC. Here are portions of our exchange:
Snow: I just hate that place so much now. JC: You know you don’t belong there – it’s just where you are now.
Later, back at work.
Snow: It is so hard to breathe here. JC: I love you.
While it is not unusual for JC to send me two or three verses a day, this particular Monday she was sending me one after another. Here is a sampling:
“And 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.” Romans 8:38
“Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4
“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
“I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King. I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:15-19
Not long after reading God was about to do something new, I was called down to HR and told that I was terminated effective immediately. During the proceeding, I was calm. I was at peace. I thanked and shook hands with those who told me the news. As God had promised, there was indeed a severance package. I walked out with head held high, chatting with the security chief about how our lives are in His hands.
Within nine minutes of the phone call to come down to HR, I was at my car. I left work for the last time and drove back to the park. It seemed fitting.
I soon had to leave, though, as I had to get to the closing on the sale of my house as part of separation and divorce proceedings with my spouse.
My main concern was finding the place and parking. There was only street parking available. While I have come a long way with overcoming anxiety when it comes to driving, parking is still a challenge to me. However, Jesus gave me a ridiculous amount of space to parallel park – not to mention stopping the traffic flow on an otherwise busy street so I could park without feeling like I was holding up everyone.
At the closing, my spouse was cold at best and on the verge of spitting on me at worst. I was peaceful, calm, and happy. Full of joy, actually. It took only 17 minutes to sign away the house I had lived in for 17 years – longer by far than any other. It, too, had become a toxic environment.
Spouse and I parted ways – likely not to see each other again, as attorneys will take care of the remaining details of undoing the mistake that was our marriage.
For King & Country has a powerful song called “Burn the Ships,” which we covered in a post last month. Ultimately, it is about letting go of the past in order to focus on the future.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have at least three or four ships ablaze in the harbor. Now, two or three of them are ashes floating down into the depths of the sea.
Losing my job is a tremendous opportunity. First, He is providing me a rest. And then He will move me along to wherever He wants me next. Downsizing my life into an apartment is allowing me to focus on my spiritual journey, for I have so much to learn about Jesus, life, and myself. The ending of my marriage is freeing me to become who He created me to be.
Maybe I should be afraid, but I’m not.
I’m a child of God. I trust Him.
He’s got me.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” John 6:35
Before I was saved, I knew a lot of “church people.” They dressed up pretty and went to church “religiously” every Sunday. I can’t tell you how they lived each moment of every day, but I remember they oozed with condemnation. I always felt they were completely unapproachable and extremely judgmental about anyone who didn’t talk, act, dress, or look like them. This club was exclusive and private.
Before I was saved, I cussed like a sailor. I dressed less than modest, and I certainly didn’t act like a Christian. I both felt judged and was judged. Now that I have been saved for 11 years, I realize how wrong this “church family” was. They were doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants us to do. We are to reach out to the undesirables, the untouchables, the “sinners.” Just read any part of the Gospels, and this is what you see our Master doing. He is the Savior saving the ones who need saving. We all need saving.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23
See those two words? “Everyone” and “all.” That means us, the church family, too.
This blog is all about raw truth, unfiltered. Anytime that Snow or I write anything, we bathe it in prayer first. We pour ourselves out as an offering, ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up, and just write. We pray that what is written helps just one soul – just one.
Here comes the raw truth about church families. We are judgmental to the point where we hurt each other. We practically chase each other away (sometimes do). Can you imagine how the lost or the visitors in our churches feel?
Let me give you an example I am living currently. I have been a member for over ten years at the same church. A few thousand people attend each week. The church is becoming more diverse, which I love and pray for. Only very recently have I reached out to a few dear friends about the hurts in my marriage. I have endured many things in the past 11 years. I have been married almost 25 years, and I have never talked to anyone about any of it.
I thought I was being submissive just like the Bible says. There are many, many verses on wives being submissive to their husbands.
“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” Titus 2:4-5
Ephesians 5:24 says, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Wow – everything? What if he is leading you and your children into disobedience? Clearly, the verse is using the model of Christ leading the church, and Christ is sinless, so the church should absolutely follow and submit fully to Christ.
Also, I am aware that no husband is sinless as Christ, so they are all going to make mistakes. But living a daily life of disobedience because that is what my “believer” husband is leading me and our kids to do? No, thank you! I will not disobey Jesus. He is my leader first.
Here is where the church family may want to take James 1:19 to heart, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
I confided in my best friend, who is church family. I had held the hurt in so long, I just needed to talk to someone I trusted. Sharing with someone that you are hurting and struggling in your marriage is not easy. Unfortunately, the judgment started immediately. I was swiftly quoted Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord.”
Here is where I am pleading with the global church family – please do not judge another’s hurts and wield Scripture without listening, without trying to understand the heart and motive of the other person. Or just pray with them first before offering your opinion. Listen for God’s guidance before quoting Scripture after two minutes of conversation and deciding the case to be closed.
Please do not misunderstand me, brothers and sisters, I use the Word for everything in my life.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16
“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” 1 John 4:1
I believe every single word of Scripture is God-breathed. I love the Word of God. All I am suggesting is that when fellow church family members come to you – please listen. Please pray with them. They may be in domestic violence situations or other abusive situations, and you quote Malachi 2:16 to them?
I know my friend was trying to be helpful. I know her response was intended to be loving and Word-based. I love her dearly for using the Word in her life daily. I refrained from going into any details that would potentially dishonor my husband. That is not what I feel led to do. Instead, I smiled at my friend and shared that I am aware of Malachi 2:16. I have studied it and prayed about it. I did not use the word “divorce,” and I may never, but instead I was seeking Godly counsel.
I shared that I know Jesus came to set us free, and He came so that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10). I also shared that I have been praying about this for 11 years. I also feel Jesus saying, “I did not free you to remain in chains.” I do not believe that God intends for His children to remain in abusive relationships. Yes, I am aware of the various verses that talk about divorce, yet I hold the belief I hold.
Does that make me a church family member to be judged or shamed? Maybe. But, maybe also the church family made assumptions. Maybe they judged without the facts or without prayer. Maybe. Just maybe. We should first hold the person that reached out, pray with them. Listen. Fast with them. Offer to pray for them daily and right there on the spot.
The final suggestion to consider, fellow believers, is the possibility that if a spouse is struggling in marriage, there is something deeper going on. There is more to the story than you may realize. There is more to the story than you are being told. If you are in a happy marriage, do not project your life onto this person in need. On the other hand, if you are miserable in your marriage, if you have had Malachi 2:16 wielded against you in the past, do not continue this cycle. Do not fall prey to “misery loves company.” Break the cycle.
None of us are perfect. If we were, Jesus would not have had to die for us on the cross. We are, each of us, flawed. We are humans. It is not for us to judge the personal decisions of church family members, especially those reaching out to you for help. That is between Jesus and them.
Who are we to even think we have the ability to judge? Compared to an all-knowing, all-loving, compassionate God? We can’t possibly fill His shoes.
Pray with your church family. Listen to them. Be there for them. Hold them. But until your own life is completely free of sin, do not judge them. Do not shame them. Just love them.
“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
From the outside, my life before Jesus seemed just fine. I seemingly had it all. A spouse. A good job. A nice house.
In reality, I had nothing. For I did not have Jesus. I did not have love. I did not have fulfillment.
It may have started as early as kindergarten, but it probably wasn’t until third grade that I really began in earnest the process of hiding away the real me. I was in a new school that year. I became friends with a few of the other boys in my class, but eventually distanced myself from two of them when I realized they weren’t very nice to others. Of course, this then made me a primary target.
They began teasing me. I was both the tallest and the widest kid in the class, so their moniker of choice was “Fat Boy.” Unfortunately, the main culprit sat next to me, so he was able to do this all day long. I asked the teacher to move my desk, but she refused. Now, in her defense, the likelihood is I did not fully communicate why I wanted my desk to be moved. She was probably just trying to prevent the entire class from requesting seat changes.
I eventually complained at home about what was happening. Home was always supportive, so it wasn’t until I went to school that I had witnessed anything like this. My mom suggested something out of the kindness of her heart that would have unintended consequences on me for years. “If you make fun of yourself first, then they won’t be able to tease you.”
Her advice made sense to me, so I followed it. I called myself all of the names they wanted to call me. I laughed at myself for eating too much and called myself fat. In so doing, I laid down an early brick in front of the real me. Inside, it still hurt, only now I was the one inflicting the pain.
Unfortunately, I continued the act of teasing myself throughout school and into adulthood. This produced many more bricks over the years. No one could hurt me, because I had already carved myself up better than they ever could. I knew exactly where to strike to inflict the most damage.
I also began to worry about how people perceived me. So, I would lay more bricks around the real me either by acting how I thought they wanted or simply by trying my best to fade as far away from their view as possible. Most often the latter. If invisibility had been offered to me as a superpower, I gladly would have taken it. In many ways, I mastered being invisible anyway.
There is more to my story, though. This blog is about raw truth. So here we go. The day I met (spouse) 20 years ago, I heard a voice say, “You will marry this woman.” Sounds romantic, right? Then, this same inner voice said, “And you will regret it.”
I had the urge to leave right then. Maybe I should have. But I didn’t. I stayed and started dating her.
I was coming off a relationship from the previous year where I fallen hard for a woman that was essentially my first girlfriend. After we broke up, I was sure no one could ever love me and that I would die alone.
So this new woman claimed to love me and seemed nice enough. I indeed ended up marrying her.
I never loved (spouse). But I thought no one else would ever love me. If the real me protested, “Wait for true love,” he was drowned out by the addition of another set of bricks.
In the months leading up to our wedding, (spouse) went through maids of honor like candy. (Spouse) claimed it was due to jealousy. Meanwhile, my family dropped out of giving a bridal shower for her due to some words exchanged. I was never clear on what happened, nor do I care, but it was also chalked up by (spouse) to jealousy.
I should note I supported (spouse) through all of this, taking her side despite not really having all of the facts.
The day of the wedding, during the reception, I began to doubt my choice. I accidentally stepped on the train of my spouse’s dress. I am not the most graceful guy. I shot her a smile and said I was sorry. What I got in return was daggers. If looks could kill, I would have been dead right there. “This is supposed to be the best day of your life,” I heard an inner voice say. I tried to act like it was. I even said it was. But it wasn’t.
During the traditional dances, my family and I watched my spouse dance with her father. When I danced with my mother, a moment that was important to me, I saw that my spouse was nowhere to be found. I remember looking around at first in disappointment before finally thinking, “Forget it and focus on Mom.” It turned out my spouse had been snatched away by her parents for photos with their family out in the hallway of the reception area. They soon demanded I drop everything and get in the pictures as well. I wanted to tell them no and leave, but I dutifully listened.
(Flash forward 16 years to the day. My spouse and I are unexpectedly visiting a crowded aquarium. For various reasons, I go into an anxiety attack. She leaves me standing there and runs off in a huff. A revealing moment. JC learns of this and begins finding methods to help me overcome my anxiety. A couple months later, she quietly comforts me in the midst of an attack. Also revealing.)
The point of all of this is to attempt to show some of the red flags I missed.
The first year of marriage went okay. The second year, all kinds of games began. I began to learn more about the silent treatment and other nonsense. All, in retrospect, to manipulate me to my spouse’s will.
“I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”
from Genesis 40:15
Already an issue, I began to lose even more confidence in myself. Already strong, the wall surrounding the real me from the outside world became a force to be reckoned with as more and more bricks were added.
By the time I met JC a few years ago, only small pieces of the real me could peek out. Last June, she led me to Christ. Then, Jesus saved me. I started looking at my life with fresh eyes. I found that my focus had been on the wrong things.
For instance, I was buying things to fill spiritual and emotional holes. No matter how much I bought, the holes were still there, though.
What did buying all of this stuff get me, then? Debt, lots of debt. And not just for my own useless stuff, for I also became a debt mule for my spouse’s overspending.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20
Feeling my life was empty and devoid of hope, I wished for death multiple times a day. With that goal in mind, I did not really plan for a future. By the way, the “I wish I was dead” financial plan is not one I recommend.
“And 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.” Romans 8:38
Yes, I have inspiration to live. I no longer dismiss the blessings of life. I am grateful for Him and His gifts.
All that debt is still there, though, so it is something I have started working on. I intend to pay it off and thereafter remain debt-free. As I learn and claw my way out, I also want to help others avoid or escape from such traps. I am also deep in the midst of decluttering my life.
As for that wall, JC began relentlessly to pound away at it once she realized it was there. Challenging me. Praying with me. Reading with me. Busting through layers upon layers of bricks with the power of Jesus. Protecting and rescuing the real me, yet always loving both the walled me and the exposed me.
As I move towards who He created me to be, I am in the process of making some significant changes to my life. Some of them are easy, some are difficult, and some are scary in their scale.
I am burning the ships of my past. I have at least three or four ablaze in the harbor. I am learning to move on from the comfortable and trust Jesus. He is my holy savior.
My thanks to JC for being an inspiration and providing editing assistance on this post. I literally would not be here without her. But that is a story for another day.
Thanks to all of you for reading.
May Jesus bless you.
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27