A Biblical Love Triangle

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites….However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. … Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5

The story of David and Bathsheba has always been an interesting one to me. Here’s a man selected by God himself because of his heart. He was anointed long before he took the throne. He was known as a man after God’s own heart, and he was promised that he would always have a son on the throne. Through his family line came the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

And yet, he was full of humanity. Here we see that King David chose not to go to war as was the duty of the king. As he was outside on the roof of the palace for some unknown reason, he saw her. She was beautiful. He had to have her. His lust took over, and he called for her. He even involved his messengers in his little plan to get what he wanted.

Why did Bathsheba respond to his call? He was the king, and it was very risky to disobey the king’s orders. Perhaps she feared she would be put to death if she chose to disobey. Perhaps she was flattered that the king—someone like that—would be interested in her. Perhaps she was simply lonely because her husband, Uriah, was off fighting a war. We don’t really know why, but we do know that she went, that she willingly participated in the adultery.

We will never know that side of the story. I suppose God didn’t consider it important for whatever reasons. But, we do learn more of the story. Bathsheba became pregnant, and David panicked. What now? How does he cover up his sin? Uriah is out fighting a war, and Bathsheba is pregnant? How can he convince Uriah that he is the father? If it was obvious that Bathsheba had been unfaithful, she would be put to death…and she might implicate him. His reputation would be tarnished. How could he stop the consequences?

So he called Uriah home from the battle. He tried to convince Uriah to go home to Bathsheba, to sleep with her so he would think the baby was his.

But Uriah was loyal. He was committed. He lived with purpose. When asked why he didn’t go home to Bathsheba, he responded:

 “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”
2 Samuel 11:11

So, David tried again. This time, he got Uriah drunk, hoping that he would go home to Bathsheba in a drunken stupor. But, Uriah still would not go home to Bathsheba. He was a man of loyalty, responsibility, commitment. He would not indulge and satisfy his own selfish desires until his commitment to God and his fellow warriors was fulfilled.

Have you ever really thought about it from Uriah’s perspective? We don’t know a whole lot about this man. David and Bathsheba become the central characters. But we can surmise a lot about Uriah.

Let’s start with his faithfulness. He obviously had a true sense of responsibility. Yes, he was out of town for work, and perhaps Bathsheba became lonely. It might have been a difficult season in their marriage, but I have to believe that his character before King David speaks of every area of his life. He’s the type of man that any woman would be lucky to have.

But…his wife still had an affair. Despite the fact Uriah was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing, standing strong with an amazing sense of responsibility and commitment…and Bathsheba still walked away into sin.

How many times have you heard others say that it takes two to make a marriage work and two to make a marriage fail? I certainly believed that all of my life. No one would walk away from a kind, loving, faithful spouse. Spouses who have affairs choose that path because their needs aren’t getting met at home. The faithful spouse must be critical, angry, resentful, nagging. Perhaps he/she isn’t meeting the spouse’s physical needs. The faithful spouse must be failing somewhere.

And yet, that’s not what we see with Uriah and Bathsheba. Sure, Uriah was on a business trip. But, Bathsheba chose to walk away from a loving, faithful spouse. There is no indication that Uriah was doing anything other than exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

I have learned that there are many, many faithful spouses doing their best to be the loving, committed husband/wife. And, despite their best efforts, their spouse chooses to walk away in the hardness of his/her heart. Adultery and divorce do not always result because both spouses have chosen to neglect the marriage; many times, adultery and divorce result from a choice—a selfish, greedy decision on the part of one spouse to get what he/she wants regardless of the cost, regardless of the pain.

I have heard stories of those who did everything right: dated with family approval, remained pure until married, committed their families to Christ. And, at some point later, one spouse chooses to harden his/her heart and selfishly walk into sin.

We think that if we follow the right formula, that is we marry the one we are certain God has called us to marry, we will somehow be insulated from the pain of adultery and divorce.

Unfortunately, God gave all humans free will, the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

How many times have I made poor decisions based on what I wanted, on what felt good at the moment? How many times have I found myself in a season where I wasn’t abiding in Christ and I was quenching the Spirit? How many times have I found myself walking down a path that was taking me farther from my Savior?

We all have those times. We can only pray that we are sensitive enough to the voice of God that we wake up from our stupor and change our course before we make a life-altering decision that impact those around us.

But what happens when one spouse continues on that path without altering the course?

There will be consequences. In the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah ended up murdered. David and Bathsheba lost their child. Can you imagine the guilt that they had to live with for the rest of their lives?

In many situations, consciences are seared, and hard-hearts refuse to repent. Offers of forgiveness are trampled. Families are ripped apart. Children lose their security. Hearts are broken. Words can’t even begin to describe the devastation.

And yet God…

God pours out his extravagant love, grace, and forgiveness. This story doesn’t end well for the innocent party. That breaks my heart. I wish that we could see Uriah alive, well, and thriving after walking through the pain of adultery. We don’t.

But, we do see a God of forgiveness and redemption. We see a man and woman caught in the deepest, darkest deception, a couple who eventually turns their hearts back to God. We see consequences. We see repentance: true, heartfelt, gut-wrenching honesty about the sin (see Psalm 51). And, amazingly, we see a God who restores and blesses a marriage that began in sin.

If God can redeem this marriage, I am certain that he can also resurrect my life as the victim of adultery. If God can bless this marriage, I am certain that his grace and mercy can bless any marriage. If God can take an adulterous relationship that results in murder and make something good, then there is no doubt that he can take the ugly mess that I was given and make something greater than I could ever ask or imagine.

And, he can do the same for you!

 

 

 

 

I Write Because…of You

Several years ago, I was dealing with the fresh pain of my divorce. The wounds were still gaping, and pain was my constant companion.

One Sunday, I went to church. I was blessed that “our” church continued to love on me and support me (for the most part). What happened on this particular Sunday, however, is seared into my memory.

As I sat through the sermon, I tried to focus on the message. I tried to listen to the words, hoping they would be balm to my soul dying within me. And then it happened…

The pastor made a comment about “divorced people.”

Somehow, as the knives dug deep into my heart and tears stung my eyes, I found myself stereotyped. I was one of “those” people. I was one of the condemned. From the pastor’s wife of the church, to a complete loser. From a pillar of the church to the lowest of the sinners. From minister to disqualified and disgraced.

I walked out of the church that day more damaged than when I entered. The very place that should have embraced me, loved me, helped me return to a place of health and wholeness had turned on me, left me deeper in mire and mud than I had already been. The church had heaped condemnation upon me when I was already drowning in guilt and shame.

I have always been thankful that I had a solid foundation with my Savior. I had been raised in a Christian home and had spent my entire life seeking his face. He was already my rock. He was already my everything.

But, I began to wonder. What if I didn’t have a solid foundation? What if I had been a hurting soul trying to make sense of the devastation in my life? What if I had come to church that morning desperately seeking God, desperately needing to know that I was loved and accepted despite my divorce? What if it had been the very last straw at which I was grasping?

I would have never stepped foot in a church building again.

That’s right. If I had been someone trying God as a last resort, I would have decided in that moment that this God-thing was exactly what I thought: a bunch of hypocritical, judgmental people who called themselves Christians so that they could take my sins and failures and throw them back in my face.

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to encourage others facing the pain of divorce. I knew that I wanted to counteract the spiteful, judgmental attitudes of others. I wanted to be an extension of God’s grace and love.

This past week has been absolutely overwhelming! I wrote an article for Crosswalk, expressing my understanding of the pain anyone walking through divorce is experiencing. I expressed that God’s grace is great enough to cover all sins, including divorce. I expressed my belief that God hates divorce more because he hates to see his children hurting than because it is some great sin. I wanted every single divorced Christian to know that God’s love and grace is poured out extravagantly upon them.

As I expected, there were many emails and comments that left me in tears. So many people sharing their stories, thanking me for my words of grace and understanding. So many broken souls, sharing the release they felt. So much sadness given new hope through my words.

However, as I also expected, there were so many evil, ugly, judgmental words. Accusations of taking scripture out of context. Accusations of heretical teaching. Words of condemnation. Daggers to be stuck deep within an already hurting soul.

I have been told (many times) that I am obviously very prideful and arrogant in my stance. I have been told that I am obviously still hurting and need to let God heal my own heart. I have been told that I am looking for loopholes to match my own situation.

And, I am told that I must remain single or reconcile with my husband or risk eternal damnation.

While I am strong enough to withstand the attacks, my heart broke again for those who are not. My entire goal in writing is to encourage those dealing with the pain, to help them trust God to restore their broken hearts and lives. I want to comfort others with the comfort I have received from God himself.

There is a righteous anger burning within me! It is the very anger that Christ Jesus himself exhibited when he over-turned the tables in the temple. It is a righteous anger that wants to protect those who are perhaps not as strong in their faith as I am, not as far along in this journey. It’s an anger that cries out to share the love of God, to prevent others from turning away from the only one who can actually help them out of the pit.

I will be the first to say that I don’t have full knowledge of the scriptures this side of heaven. Perhaps one day when I meet my Savior, he will tell me the areas in which my understanding was not complete. Perhaps he will pull me aside and tell me that I misunderstood certain commands, that I failed to live up to certain areas of scripture.

God has entrusted me with a story, one that I never wanted and never dreamed would be mine. But, as long as I can point others back to the grace and love of my Savior, I will travel this journey to the best of my ability. I will use my words to encourage others, to point them to the Great I Am. I will do my best to be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to my master, prepared for every good work.

I will do my best to show the same extravagant love and grace to others that my Savior has so freely lavished upon me.

 

An Extravagant Response

How is a Christian to respond?

This week, videos surfaced of students from a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing sickening, racially-motivated lyrics. The racial slurs were painful to hear, and the video should offend everyone who sees it. Racial tensions in our country are at an all-time high, at least in my lifetime. To add fuel to the fire in such a manner only deepens the divide.

I recently learned that a friend of mine is a lesbian. She married her partner here in Oklahoma after the courts struck down the ban on same-sex marriages. I’ve known her for years, and I have often wondered if she was a lesbian. However, I never inquired and she never shared. Perhaps she didn’t share because she was afraid that I, as a Christian, might reject her.

Some time ago, yet another friend of mine got into some legal trouble. He was going through a very difficult period in his life, and he made some poor choices. Those choices are completely out of character for him, and yet he is still paying the consequences of his decision. He lives in fear of judgment and condemnation.

In some very, very small way, I can understand how it feels to be rejected for sin. Since I began openly sharing about my divorce, I receive some extremely hurtful and condemning comments and emails from Christians. I am reminded frequently that divorce is a sin, that God hates divorce. I am told that I need to seek reconciliation with my ex-husband regardless of the circumstances surrounding my divorce. I am told that if I remarry, I will be living in adultery and condemned to hell.

However, as I study scripture, I find myself asking how Christ would respond to these situations.

To the Samaritan woman at the well, he acknowledged her worth despite her race and gender (John 4). He offered her living water.

To the woman caught in adultery, Christ extended mercy and gave the exhortation, “Go and sin no more,” (John 8). He told her accusers to look at their own sin, first.

To Zacchaeus, the tax collector, Jesus went to his house for fellowship (Luke 19). His love brought about true change in the life of a sinner.

To the sinful woman who anointed his feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair, he forgave her sins (Luke 7). Because her sins were many, she had a tremendous debt of gratitude for the forgiveness extended to her.

But to the hypocrites, those who pray publicly and loudly, making a show of their superior spirituality, Christ said they had received their reward in full (Matthew 6). He reserved his harshest words for those who felt compelled to point out the sins and shortcomings of others.

How often does God extend grace and mercy to me in the midst of my poor choices? How often do I fall at the feet of Jesus in gratitude for the debt of sin he has canceled for me? How often does he fellowship with me despite my status as a lowly sinner?

And yet, so often I let my pride get in the way of people. My first response to another’s sin is often one of self-righteousness indignation. How could that person do something so awful?

And then, if I choose to hear him, I hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit reminding me of my own sin. Perhaps it’s my own poor choices when my life fell apart. Perhaps it’s my own pride that blinds me to my sin while keeping me focused on the sins of others. Perhaps it’s my daily failures to walk in total and complete obedience to my Savior, to live completely abandoned to the one who died for me.

How, then, should we respond to sin?  I would argue that we should respond with extravagant love! We should seek reconciliation with those who feel rejected and condemned. We should love unashamedly those walking counter to scripture. We should allow mercy and grace to pour through our lives to those dealing with the consequences of sin. We should remember that it is only by God’s grace that we are where we are today.

Throughout scripture, we find passages exhorting us to love:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Did you catch that? It is our love that will show others we belong to Christ! It’s not how much scripture we know. It’s not how well we can exegete Greek. And it’s certainly not how well we can point out others’ sins. It is our love for others that will set us apart.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

Above all else we must put on love. It’s not optional. It’s not just a suggestion. It’s not just a portion of our Christian wardrobe. It is the most essential part of our wardrobe. Love is the one thing we must never forget. It binds us in unity, showing a lost world that there is a better way.

What if we were all keenly aware of our own sins, of our own failures, of our own need for grace and forgiveness? Would it make us more compassionate with others? Would it remind us of how great the price paid for our own sins? Would it make us put down our stones of judgment and condemnation? Would we learn to make allowance for each other’s fault if we allowed ourselves to live in constant recognition of our own sins?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Gifts and prophecies are great. The spiritual gifts are essential. Understanding great truths about God is a blessing. And yet, without love, all these things amount to nothing. They are rubbish in the sight of God if we choose not to love.

How, then, should a Christian respond to racism? To homosexuality? To poor choices? To divorce?

A Christian should respond with love. With extravagant love. With love that could only come from the one who is love himself.

I pray that I will have opportunity to show that the color of one’s skin is irrelevant to me. My care and concern for my friend who is a lesbian will not change. I will continue to love her with the love of God. My friend paying consequences for poor choices will know that I see the situation through the eyes of grace, as an opportunity to have a greater understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. I pray that others will look beyond the divorce attached to my name and see that the worst thing this world has given me has been the greatest motivator to draw closer to Christ. To God be the glory in all things!

I pray that we, as Christians, will be so busy examining our own hearts that we don’t have time to pick at the speck in others’ eyes. I pray that we, as Christians, will understand that the first and greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love others. I pray that we, as Christians, will spend so much time looking for opportunities to shower others with extravagant love and grace that the world will step up and take notice.

I pray that we, as Christians, will become known for our love in all circumstances.

 

 

From Miracles to Manna

These last few years have been an amazing journey with God! I have seen his hand move, enjoyed unbelievable intimacy with my Savior. I have heard amazing promises, seen my faith grow in ways I never dreamed possible. What a joy to know his voice, to hear his sweet whispers each and every day!

I have seen glimpses of the future he has planned for me, heard promises of how he will use me. I have seen him open doors in ways only he could, reminding me that he has my future all planned out. I have reached a place of believing that I don’t have to worry about how it will happen; I only have to believe that he will make it happen in his time and in his way.

But, about six months ago, it was as if God went silent. No more shows of his mighty power. No big promises to which I can cling. No insightful words upon which to meditate. My spiritual life seemed dry and weary, as if wandering in a desert.

In the last few weeks, however, I have found myself thinking about these dry days. Interestingly, I have begun to see a shift in my perspective, a shift that I am certain could only come from God.

Prior to this dry season, I was writing prolifically. I had file after file, just waiting to be published. The inspiration came at me non-stop, always something to write about. The words just flowed out, never a moment of writer’s block.

But now, it is a struggle to find inspiration, to find the words to convey what I am thinking. I ran out of written articles months ago, and I am now forced to write just in time. I am constantly thinking about what to write for the week, searching for the time to sit down and put words on paper. I often wonder if I will be able to continue with my writing.

And yet, I have begun to see how God continues to work. Every week, without fail, a topic comes to my mind. I begin to meditate on it, think about how my life has been impacted. Every week, I find a little time to sit down and put some words on paper. They may not flow quickly. It may take more work than it used to. But, he always gives me something to say.

God continues to be faithful. He gives me the words, exactly when I need them. He formulates thoughts in my mind, just in time to put together an article.

It’s as if he is providing me the daily manna that I need to continue this journey he has begun.

From miracles to manna. From big, exciting moments to daily faithfulness. From huge steps of growth to blind steps of faith. From big glimpses of the future to daily direction from the pillar of fire.

As I began to see this shift in my thinking, I reflected on the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt. Wasn’t their experience similar to what I am seeing?

In the early days, God assured the Israelites that he had come to rescue them, to set them free from their bondage. He swept in with mighty miracles: the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of the Egyptians. He built their faith, giving them experiences to which they could cling, memories of his power to sustain them for the 40 years they would wander in the wilderness.

Then, when their faith was strong, when he had shown his mighty power and his glory, his methods became much more subtle. He didn’t show them the full plan. He revealed it day by day, step by step. He led them by a pillar of fire at night, a cloud by day. He taught them to rely on him moment by moment to provide for their daily needs. He gave them only what they needed for the moment, never more, never less.

Sure, there were still moments of power and might: enough quail to feed the Israelites for a month, water from the rock. But, for the most part, the Israelites were forced to hold onto the mighty displays of the past as reminders that he would be faithful to meet their needs each and every day.

Do you remember how the Israelites responded?

The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.  Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord. Psalm 106:24-25 NLT

They whined about their leaders. They became convinced that their lives were over. They were convinced that God brought them out of Egypt so they could all die.

Isn’t that how we act so often?  We look for the mighty acts of God, but we miss the daily provisions. We want to experience power and might, and yet we overlook the daily guidance. We think God has gone silent when in reality he is taking us to deeper levels of dependence on him.

I know that I have mistaken this period in so many ways. I have wondered what sin I had in my life, where I had taken a wrong turn. I have been so frustrated with God for going silent.

And yet, as I begin to see things from God’s perspective, I am realizing how my faith continues to grow. I am finding that I am learning to follow his lead day by day without any hint of what the future holds. I am learning to trust that he will provide for my daily needs in ways I can’t even comprehend, that I never have to worry about where my provision and inspiration will come from.

I am learning that we are simply transitioning from miracles to manna.

Thank you, Father, for my daily provisions. Thank you for taking me to deeper levels of dependence on you. Help me to see my life from your perspective, to recognize the daily manna that you so faithfully provide. Help me enjoy your mighty power, but to live in your daily presence.

Are You a Nabal or an Abigail?

There was a man in Maon who did business in Carmel. He was a very important man and owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats…. The man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and attractive woman, but her husband was a hard man who did evil things… 1 Samuel 25:2-3 (CEB)

1 Samuel 25 recounts the story of Abigail and Nabal.

Abigail was an attractive, intelligent woman who was married to a cruel man.

The story begins to unfold as we read further in the chapter. David and his men were on the run from King Saul who was trying to kill David. Over the course of their travels, the men encountered Nabal and his servants. David’s men extended a special kindness to Nabal’s servants, protecting them and their flocks, making sure that nothing was ever missing.

As David and his troops moved toward Carmel, they decided to ask Nabal to return the kindness they had shown to his men. They asked for some food and supplies.

But Nabal answered David’s servants… “Why should I take my bread, my water, and the meat I’ve butchered for my shearers and give it to people who came here from who knows where?”  1 Samuel 25:10-11 (CEB)

Nabal had a greedy, me first attitude. He was concerned with one person: himself. He was looking out for his #1 priority.

Nabal’s servants were horrified at his response! They quickly went to Abigail, asking her to intervene. They knew that David and his men were mighty warriors and that all of their lives were in danger. Somehow, they needed to appease David’s anger, to somehow cover Nabal’s self-centeredness.

When Abigail heard what her husband had done, she flew into action! She began baking cakes and bread, gathering sheep and wine. She prepared a feast and loaded it all on donkeys. She set out to meet David and his men. But, she didn’t tell Nabal what she was doing.

Finally, Abigail meets up with David. She jumps off her donkey, and falls at his feet.

“Put the blame on me, my master! …  Here is a gift, which your servant has brought to my master. …Please forgive any offense by your servant. When the Lord has done good things for my master, please remember your servant.” 1 Samuel 25:24-31 (CEB)

Abigail is willing to take the blame for her husband’s sins, for his evil, for his failure to meet the basic needs of another. She takes the blame for actions that she was completely unaware of at first, actions that would have had dire consequences for her and her entire household.

David said to Abigail, “Bless the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! And bless you and your good judgment for preventing me from shedding blood and taking vengeance into my own hands today! …  Then David accepted everything she had brought for him. “Return home in peace,” he told her. “Be assured that I’ve heard your request and have agreed to it.” 1 Samuel 25:32-35 CEB

The more I write, the more Abigails and Nabals I encounter.

So many marriages pair up a kind, intelligent individual with a spouse who is difficult and does evil things. The “Abigail” can be the husband or the wife. The “Nabal” can be male or female.

The Abigail is often trusting to a fault, easily taken advantage of. Her kindness is often used to cover for the offending spouse, making sure that the reputation of the family is protected. The Nabal is frequently controlling, dominating, manipulative. He quickly finds fault with Abigail, and often blames every problem on her. He is concerned with self…and very little else.

It is an unhealthy situation. It is a dysfunctional relationship. It is an abusive marriage.

Perhaps the Abigail doesn’t recognize the extreme dysfunction. Perhaps she doesn’t recognize Nabal’s behaviors as abuse because it is not physical abuse. Perhaps she has begun to believe that it’s all her fault, that she is the problem in the marriage. Perhaps Nabal lords it over Abigail by using Ephesians 5:22 to remind her that he is the king and she must submit to him.

Often, the Nabal is an expert at outward appearances. He maintains a stellar reputation in the community. He treats his Abigail well…in public. But, only the Abigail knows what Nabal is like behind closed doors.

God never intended for marriage to be like the Nabals and Abigails of this world. In fact, in Old Testament times, women were a piece of property. They could be purchased and sold. However, Christ came and elevated women to an equal, required that men have a reason for divorce (unfaithfulness), not just because they are dissatisfied with their wives. In Galatians 3, Paul makes women equal with men by declaring there is no longer male nor female. The entire point of these passages is to elevate women to more than second-class citizens.

Unfortunately, the Nabals of this world want to continue to control their Abigails.

What can we learn from the story of Abigail and Nabal?

Abigail’s reputation was separate from her husband. One of the first thoughts I had when I found out about my husband’s divorce was a horror that somehow people might think that I had deceived them along with my husband. I eventually learned that no one blamed me, that my reputation withstood the onslaught of my husband’s poor choices. If you are an Abigail, people see you as separate from Nabal. They recognize your beauty, your heart. They recognize that you are not responsible for Nabal’s choices. Don’t beat yourself up with shame and guilt, believing that others blame you for your spouse’s behaviors.

Abigails become conditioned to take the blame. When Abigail approached David, she immediately took the blame for Nabal. I don’t know if she was trying to protect Nabal. I do know that she took action to protect herself and her entire household. She went into survival mode automatically. Nabals tend to blame all of their problems on someone else, rarely taking personal responsibility for their actions.

I completely understand Abigail’s response. To this day, the failure of my marriage is all my fault according to my ex-husband. I have heard the stories of how I just woke up one morning and decided I no longer loved him. Everything that went wrong in our 17 year marriage was somehow my fault. It wasn’t until I got away from the situation that I gained clarity and began to understand that 1) it wasn’t my fault, and 2) I was often in survival mode, fighting to protect myself and my entire household.

God protected Abigail in spite of her husband. David not only accepted Abigail’s gift, but he blessed her. When she returned home, she waited until the appropriate time to tell Nabal what she did. When she told him about her encounter with David, he collapsed and died of heart failure (1 Samuel 25:37). But, Abigail was not left alone. You see, David swept in and married the beautiful young widow, securing her future as the king’s wife.

How many times have I seen God’s protective hand? How many times have I seen his provision in unbelievable ways? How many times have I seen him step in and be my defender? God has always protected me in spite of what my husband. He has given me rewards greater than I ever dreamed, blessed me far beyond what I could ever ask or imagine

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. Ephesians 5:21-28 (The Message)

As I read this passage, I see Abigail all throughout it. However, I don’t find Nabal anywhere. God never intended for one spouse to lord it over another. Marriage should make both spouses better, stronger. Marriage should bring out the best in both people.

Are you living with a Nabal? You do not have to subject yourself to his cruel treatment. You have a right—even a responsibility—to stand up to Nabal. Your words, your actions, can be exactly what sets you free. What will freedom look like? Perhaps God will get a hold of your Nabal and set him free, restore your marriage. No matter what the outcome, one thing is certain: God will protect you, provide for you. He will restore your life. He will give you clarity to see things from his perspective. He will step in and provide blessings you never dreamed possible.

Maybe you were married to a Nabal and you are still taking responsibility for his actions. Recognize that it is not your fault! Your Nabal was responsible for his decisions. Your Nabal was controlling, abusive. Your Nabal beat you into submission by keeping you afraid, isolating you from family and friends. Forgive yourself. Forgive him. Recognize the truth because the truth will set you free! (John 8:32)

 

 

 

The Hurting Child

Divorce hurts.

Divorce hurts everyone involved. I have spent the last two years talking about the pain I have experienced, about how I have come through the pain to find the joy of Christ. I have shared how God has redeemed my life, brought me back from the death of divorce and given me an abundant life. I have shared the excitement about my future—a future that God is preparing for me that will be far greater than anything I could ever ask or imagine.

But, I’ve spent very little time talking about the pain that divorce inflicts on children.

I think there are a number of reasons for not talking about the pain children experience. One, I don’t understand that pain. My parents have been married for 51 years. My grandparents were married for nearly 72 years. I have never experienced the pain of divorce as a child of divorce. Two, my kids have grown and become so much stronger through this experience. They are so much healthier and happier today than they were five years ago. I think because they are such amazing kids, I don’t always recognize the pain they still experience. Three, this blog is about what God has done in me through the trials and tribulations of this life. I don’t want to disparage my ex-husband. And, I certainly don’t want to share private struggles of my children and betray their trust.

Having said all of that, I have been contemplating the deep devastation that this divorce has had on my children. I know the scars are there. I know there are ongoing battles that they are fighting. I know that despite their happy exterior, they bear deep injuries that are just beginning to surface.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting with a friend who now understands divorce from both angles: his parents divorced when he was 14, and he has recently gone through a divorce of his own. Listening to him talk about some of his struggles following his parents’ divorce really helped me understand what my kids are going through, the internal struggle that they battle each and every day. Some of these battles have been shared with me; some have been buried deep within my kids’ souls. But, even today—more than five years after the divorce—the battle rages on.

Each of my three kids is fighting the same battle, and yet it looks completely different for each child. Each one has chosen to wage this war and cope with the pain in a different way. Some of those coping methods are healthy; some are not.

I wish that I was one of the few that has been able to maintain a great, working relationship with my ex-spouse. Unfortunately, that is not my story. You see, I had to set some extreme boundaries years ago to protect myself mentally and emotionally. I reached a point where I knew that I could no longer subject myself to some of the unhealthy situations that continued even after the divorce. I drew a firm line, and continue to enforce the boundaries—an absolutely essential step for me to become healthy.

However, that firm line means that there is very little collaboration when it comes to the children. We live two very different, very separate lives in different parts of the state. And, it’s our children who are forced to constantly bounce between two vastly different worlds.

When parents divorce, children are torn between those two worlds. They have an intense desire to love and be loved by both parents. Ideally, both parents recognize this need and give the kids what they need. Ideally, both parents look at the situation and modify their expectations based upon what the kids need and want. Ideally, both parents are looking out for the best interests of the children regardless of what the court order decrees.

Realistically, that is not always the situation.

When one or both parents are selfishly looking out for their own interests instead of the interests of their children, resentment builds within the kids. They are placed in unhealthy situations. They lose their childhood.

There are some common themes that I see throughout my interactions with children of divorce. One is the overwhelming protective nature of the oldest boy when it comes to his mother. I have seen this nature in my oldest son. Only days after separating from my husband, my oldest looked me in the eye and said, “Well, I guess I’m the man of the house now.” The child was only ten years old! He had no business taking that burden upon himself, and yet that was exactly how he felt. Even now, he still battles with how to handle the situation because of his intense desire to protect me and his younger siblings. He feels responsible to be the protector of the family.

That desire to protect is innate to his character. It is an honorable trait, one that will take him far in this life. And yet, he is still a child. Balancing his protection of those around him with setting healthy boundaries for himself is an on-going struggle, one for which we have yet to find the delicate balance that is needed.

My middle child calls himself the “neglected middle child.” Although it is often said in a joking manner, I know that he truly feels that way at times. He seems to live in the shadow of his older brother. He is this passionate bundle of compassion with a heart the size of Texas. And yet, he struggles with self-confidence, struggles with figuring out who he is.

Over the years, I think he has tried to find comfort in various ways. He has stuffed his hurt deep down within his soul, tried to bury it. It has only been recently that he has begun to open up to me, to share the struggles that he has. It’s only recently that he has begun to tell me of the deep-seated hurt, the rejection that he often feels. It’s only been recently that he has begun to share with me the anger that is constantly bubbling below the surface.

And then there’s my angel. When I first separated, I noticed that she immediately began to gravitate toward men. Fortunately, I am blessed with some amazing men in my family who have gladly stepped in and provided that male father-figure for her. She is her Grandpa’s girl! And, despite the fact that she argues incessantly with her brothers, they are her heroes who would fight to the death for her.

She, too, struggles. She longs for the love and acceptance of a father in her life each and every day. She wants desperately to be Daddy’s little girl, to have a constant in her life who will be her protector and her prince charming. She wants a man to shower her with unconditional love and acceptance.

And, they are all fighting to accept that their childhood has a huge void, that it’s broken and incomplete.

I don’t have all the answers—not really sure I have any answers. I know I don’t have any concept of the pain their little hearts bear, even though we are all very happy with our lives today. But, I know there are a few things that I will continue to do.

Encourage my children to honor their father. According to scripture, we are to honor our parents. I struggle with helping my children understand what honor truly means. I expect that my children will treat their father with respect, that they will never seek to defame or humiliate him. However, honor does not mean that children need to be a doormat. It does not mean that they must submit to verbal or emotional abuse. Perhaps honor involves standing up in a respectful manner and establishing boundaries for their own well-being. Perhaps by refusing to be treated disrespectfully, they are doing one of the most honoring things they can.

I know that for many years I allowed myself to be treated disrespectfully because I thought that it was my duty to submit. I now realize that if I don’t have honor and respect for myself, I can’t honor and respect others. I can respectfully refuse to allow others to treat me in a way that disrespects me.

Maintain open communication with my kids. My kids know that they are always welcome to talk to me. Many nights, I have a child in my room after everyone else is in bed. When one of the kids comes to my room, I know it’s going to be a late night (I’ve had two such visitors tonight even as I attempt to write). I also know that it’s essential that I am available. No topic is off-limits. I want them to know that regardless of their struggle, they have an unconditional love and acceptance with me.

My kids don’t always agree with me. Sometimes they want to seek another opinion. I always welcome them to talk to trusted advisors. I always encourage them to take their concerns to God in prayer. I always tell them that I will stand with them 100%.

Ask God to parent through you. I was reading the story of Samson this week when I came across Judges 13:8:

Manoah asked the Lord, “Please, my Lord,” he said, “let the man of God whom you sent come back to us once more, so he can teach us how we should treat the boy who is to be born.” CEB

How often do I call out to God, begging him to teach me how to handle the difficult things with my kids! He is my endless supply of wisdom. He is my direction. He is the Father to my fatherless children. He is my co-parent—the one I trust to parent through me.

I know that I have made many mistakes with my kids, and I know that I will make many more. But, I also know that the One who has called me will also enable me. I know that in my weakness, his grace is sufficient. I know that he is working all these things together for good for my precious children and for me.

Lord Jesus, my heart breaks for the broken hearts within my children. I pray that you, the healer, would step in and knit their hearts back together again. I pray that you would give them wisdom to know how to honor their parents even while setting healthy boundaries. I pray that you would set them free from the constant pain and brokenness of their lives. Restore their joy, and use this pain to make them into your image. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Fear Factor

It’s funny how different kids with the same parents, raised in the same environment can be.

My oldest, Blake, was a very timid child. He was scared to take risks. In his defense, we discovered when he was three that his vision was very poor. He saw two of everything until we put him in contacts at the age of four. It made a dramatic difference, but his personality is simply cautious and analytical.

When he received his first bike without training wheels, I tried to teach him to ride it. He wanted no part of it. Finally, I forced him to learn. We went to the church parking lot, and I ran beside him balancing the bike as he rode. Around and around the parking lot we went. He would waver and want off. I would be running beside him, refusing to let him off.

“You can do this,” I would yell. “God didn’t give you a spirit of fear! You WILL NOT stop!”

Finally, after countless trips around the parking lot and who knows how many miles of running for me, he finally mastered the bike. I have never been so relieved.

Counter that with my younger son, Cole. Cole was about five when he was ready to take the training wheels off his bike. I grabbed the wrench and began removing the training wheels. I turned my back to put the tools and the wheels down, and when I turned back around he was half-way down the road! I began running after him, trying to catch up with him. He was my no fear, no hesitation child.

Doesn’t that describe so many of us as we walk this life? Some of us are timid, scared. We want to analyze every situation, determine if the benefits will outweigh the risks. Others just take off, no fear, no caution.

I’m not sure either method is 100% correct. But, as I look back on my life, I realize that my greatest regrets are chances that I was too scared to take. I don’t know how many times I have been asked if I was a cheerleader growing up. My personality (once you get to know me) is just the cheerleader type. I learned, however, at a very young age that I was not an athlete. Because I had failed at sports as a young child, I was always too scared to take the risk of trying out for cheerleader. If I could go back and change things, I would take the risk.

Over the last few years as I have analyzed my life, I have come to realize that fear has been a controlling factor in my life. I failed to take risks growing up. I probably missed out on a lot of fun and incredible experiences by being afraid of failure.

Then, when I was married, I lived in fear of my husband’s temper. My moves were often calculated to avoid an angry outburst. And, I saw my children being limited by their fears, unwilling to take risks for fear of disappointing those they loved, for fear of failure, for fear of angry outbursts.

Since my divorce, one of the things I have sought to do is to expose my children to activities outside their comfort zone, to give them opportunities to face and conquer their fears. I remind them frequently that the biggest failure in life is the failure to try. I want them to live life to the fullest. I do not want them to be controlled by fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

God called us to live an abundant life (John 10:10), but I see so many people paralyzed by fear. We weight the “what ifs” of a situation and determine our course of action based on a worst case scenario, a scenario that will most likely never come to fruition. It’s important that we measure the risks, but it’s also important that we aren’t limited by fear.

As someone who has walked through the horrors of adultery and divorce, I see more each and every day just how difficult it is to completely pick up the pieces and put the past behind me. I’ve been contemplating my future a lot lately. It’s no secret that I would like to be married again one day, that I would like to find a man that I could entrust with my heart. I would like to find someone who would step into my life and multiply the joys and share the sorrows. I would like to have someone who would walk this faith journey with me, growing in grace and love.

And then the anxiety enters.

I can sometimes almost feel myself hyperventilating as I think about giving my heart away again. I can sense the fear creeping in, wondering if the next man will cheat on me too. I don’t think my heart could bear to be trampled and betrayed again. I did it God’s way the first time; what’s the guarantee it won’t happen again?

It’s in those moments that I have to step back and remind myself that I may never trust a man again. But, my Savior has proven himself completely trustworthy. I can trust God in a man. I have to remember that God has great plans for me, and I can trust him wherever he leads. I have to remember that there are no guarantees in this life except that God will see me through whatever comes my way. I have to remember that even when life falls apart—and it will!—that God will be faithful to make something beautiful come out of it.

I have a choice: I can live in fear and miss out on the amazing blessings my savior has planned for me. Or, I can choose to walk forward in boldness and courage. I can choose to limit my life by letting fear control me or I can trust the only one who is fully trustworthy. I can choose to walk by fear or I can choose to walk by faith and experience the abundant future he has planned for me.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT

When Cole was two, we were at my brother’s house. I walked in the room to find him standing on the arm of the couch, eyes fixed on the seat about three feet away. He was perched high atop the edge, swinging his arms back and forth.

“It’s kinda scawry, but I can doo it!” he said.

And with those words, he took a flying leap across the room, safely landing on the other seat he had been eyeing.

Isn’t that how God wants us to live this life of faith? When he calls us to do something—even if it’s out of our comfort zone—he wants us to take that flying leap. We can admit that’s it’s scary to take a leap of faith, but he doesn’t want us paralyzed by fear. He wants us to remember that he is there to catch us, that he will carry us through. He wants us to be willing to move when he calls us because that’s how he builds our faith.

We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers. We will never insult God with small thinking or safe living. (Craig Groeschel, pastor, Lifechurch.tv)

Our faith cannot grow if it’s not tested and stretched. It can’t be tested if we aren’t willing to push the limits. It’s time to quit small, safe living. It’s time to take a risk.

Will you join me?