Saturday 25 November 2017

4 Lessons I Learned By Walking Where Humans Dare to Tread

In my last post I shared how God redeemed our marriage from a drug addiction, and near divorce.
As I reflect on that time of my life and what is cost me to stay, I can also say I learned a ton from my experience. Since we are celebrating the four year anniversary of God saving our marriage, I wanted to share four brief lessons I have learned by staying and trusting God instead of walking away.

1.  Staying is not the easy route.

Walking away may seem like the easy thing to do, but our marriage vows don’t say, “for better or for kind of difficult circumstances." They said, “for better or for worse," and for worse is really, REALLY horrible for some of us. It is a trial of our faith to stand our ground and make the choice to stay. It will require you to walk by faith not by sight as you wander through what seems to be the enemy’s camp. 

2.  Staying meant I had to change too.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It was no wonder I had lost my hope in my marriage. I allowed the pangs of hurt to determine my outlook instead of trust in God. As a result, instead of fruits of the Spirit, I had rotting, stinky fruit of destruction and wrath. 

If my husband and I were going to move forward I needed to change too. It would not have been fair for him to work so hard to change only for me to change nothing. I spent time in repentance, laying down my hurts and wounds. I asked God to soften my heart again, and to trust that God could fully handle all of the mess. It wasn't instant, it took time, but God heard and answered my prayers. 

3.  Never downplay your testimony

This is a lesson that took time. Initially neither my husband nor I were ready to share what we had gone through. We had shared our trial with a few close friends while we were going through it, but it took time before we were ready to share it with the world. Once we felt ready we both knew we needed to share every hurtful detail. 

We recognized two reasons why we need to share those details in that moment. The first was that if we did/ thought something, there are others experiencing the same things and need to know they are not alone. It eases the torment of the circumstance to know you are experiencing what others have survived. The second thing we both recognize is that to share anything less would have been to downplay the work God did in our lives. 

Imagine for a moment that the only recorded account of the moments leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection went something like this: He was killed, and then he rose again. What if we took out all the graphic details of the betrayal of a friend, the mockery of the crown of the thorns for the “King of the Jews”, the naked display of sweat, blood, and death that Jesus endured? The scale to which God works in is downplayed when we narrow the boundaries of evil by eliminating the grim details. 

God is not fluffy. He does not just repair the surface, he repairs foundations. How will others trust his mighty ability to move and shift our lives if we only share what was on the superficial layer?

4. Staying provided the biggest witness to the type of relationship God has with the world.

This was a lesson I learned by seeing the reaction of others, and not by anything I thought I was doing. In a world where people pack up and leave at the first sign of offence, I had no idea that staying would paint a different picture. It became a portrait of God’s ability to forgive those who repent and turn from sin. It was an image of the grace and mercy He pours out on those who don’t deserve it. It was a statement that even when we mess up horribly, He not only doesn’t give up on us, but He makes straight our paths for us to return back to the safety and comforts of His embrace.

Even to those who have heard our story, but not known intimacy with God, it confused their logic. I've seen countless confused faces who were baffled by our story. "How could you stay through that?" I've been asked. Frankly, it was less of me and more of a reflection of the One who lives in me. 

When we stay through the trial (however graceful or clumsy we may feel) we give the world an example of a God of grace and mercy. Not by my own doing, but by His hand was I able to stay in the dark crevasse where the depth of despair is so deep that nothing but the love of God can reach it. We walked where humans dare tread, but we walked it with a God who fears nothing!

Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels 

Saturday 18 November 2017

Before You File for Divorce

drug addiction in marriage

Your hand is on the door, you’re ready to call to it quits. The tear stains on your pillow are the unspoken evidence of sleepless nights as your heart stung with the loss of what you had hoped your marriage would be. You were sad, then angry, then sad again, and now you are just numb. 

You are trying to look ahead to life without your husband, and on one hand you feel relief that it is almost over and you can forge ahead with a new life. On the other hand, you heart grieves with every beat the loss of the man you thought would hold your heart forever, and now he is no longer there to even offer a sympathetic hug in the most anguishing trial you have ever had to face.

If you’re really being honest with yourself, in the quiet of your heart and beyond the built-up resentment there is a restlessness. You are trying to not pay attention to it because the new-found numbness feels better. Even still, it is there. 

Let me tell you our story before you file for divorce…

It was 4 years ago that God worked a miracle and salvaged the unsalvageable. We had been married for 9 years and our marriage looked nothing like what I had imagined. My husband was a drug addict, addicted to pain medication he had begun taking in the days of his youth. At first, it wasn’t noticeable. He used them seldom and, quite frankly, marital bliss let me see everything through swooning young love eyes. 

But soon came kids, one and then two, then he could no longer hold down jobs as his addiction was taking over. Soon the pressure of work landed on me. I was working, raising kids, maintaining a household, and taking care of an often mentally-absent husband. After years of working at that speed while watching my husband check out of reality my heart began to callous. I was worn out, and worked to the bone. I had started taking heart medication as I was not handling the stress well. I blamed him for my failing health. 

This was not a man worth loving. This was not a man I wanted to grow old with. This was not the man for me.

We argued. I yelled...a lot. I grew angry, bitter, and fed up. I stopped internalizing my feelings and started letting everything out at the expense of my husband’s feelings. I didn’t care. He was hurting me and I was giving it all I could to throw hurt and pain back on him. I hated who I was becoming. But again, I blamed him for that too.

The extremely small few who knew our story told me to get out. They told me he would never change, and that I deserved better. 

And yet, through it all, whenever I prayed I never felt at peace about leaving oddly enough, and I hated that part! Though I certainly fantasized about life without him, or life with a man who had it pulled together. I daydreamed of a life with a spouse who was a companion not just a drugged out shell of a man wearing a hole in the couch.

I could not understand why I didn’t feel released to go. I certainly wanted to with every last morsel of my mind and body. So I did the only thing I knew how to do…I prayed.

 After a year of what I would call the worst of it I cried out my final prayer to God. 

“This is all I can take! No more! Save me! Am I not worth more to you than this?! Why won’t you give me peace to leave?”. I trembled and sobbed uncontrollably. It was just too much. It was that night that I asked God that he would either let my husband die from overdose, or let me just not wake up. 

I had been sleeping in my daughter’s room for about 2 years at that point, and the following morning he came stumbling into the bedroom before I had even woken up. He let out a loud wail and collapsed on the floor. The dramatic awakening reminded me that God had not answered my plea. Both of us had woken up.

What happened next was a series of actions that moved quickly. I kicked him out. He moved in with his parents. 

I began to final speak about this quiet hell that I had been living in with a set of good friends for the first time. They assured me that my husband needed help and that they would rally behind us. We prayed long and hard! My heart was racing and sleep was elusive as we moved through this phase of the journey.

A few days later I called him home and gave him an ultimatum. Get help, or get out--permanently. 

This decision did not come from me genuinely wanting a divorce. In spite of it, this was the man I once chose to make a lifelong commitment to. It was in this moment that I realized that I could not save this marriage on my own accord. I was keenly aware of the risks involved. My husband could have said "no" to help and walked away from me and the kids. He also could have said "no" and found a great lawyer and taken the kids for himself leaving me with nothing. 

It was in this moment that I let go of the white knuckled grip on my marriage and placed it in the hands of God. He was the only hope I had, and for the first time in years deep down inside a small glimmer of peace began to brew.

After much anger and name calling to me he left to rehab. Unbeknownst to me, he had every intention of completing the program with the intent of coming home sober just long enough to divorce me and take the kids. The very fear I feared the most.

Everyday came phone calls from him while he was in rehab. Each time I picked up came badgering words. 

One day I was laying on the couch to exhausted to move when the phone rang. It was him. I didn’t want to pick up, but something in me caused me to reach for the phone before I knew what I was doing. 

“Hello Beautiful,” he said to me.

Was he high? Who had snuck drugs into this man in a locked up facility?! 

We had been praying for him in our prayer group the night before and that morning. He knew about these prayers but had simply told me to, “Shove it.” He wanted nothing to do with God, and didn’t think prayer was of any use. He told me regularly that praying for him would be a waste of time. Nevertheless, we prayed. 

What he told me next was nothing short of a miracle. He told me he was sitting there that morning when a wave of peace and joy washed over him. He felt new, like he had never felt before. In that moment, and from that moment on he was washed clean from the desire to do drugs. He was filled with God’s presence in a tangible way. 

Tears rolled down my face and I knew that God had answered all our poured out prayers.

He came on Christmas Eve (best Christmas present ever!). Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was not an instant happily-ever-after story. It has taken work to rebuild trust. He has had to live openly and honestly with me when I ask him questions about his health. And I have had to relearn how to put the filter back on my thoughts. He is not the man he was, and I cannot treat him like it. It has been tremendous effort on both our parts to come together again, but it has come with sweetness and joy as we pursue the marriage we originally hoped for. Truly this victory is God’s!

It has been 4 years ago to the day that he took his final pill. I now have a new husband. He is truly the man I had hoped to marry many years ago. I am completely in love with him, and he with me. I want with all my heart to grow old with this man. 

My dear, sweet reader, have hope. Your marriage is not lost, your grip on it is just too tight. Place your marriage in the stable, steady hand of God and then grip his mighty hand as he works in ways you cannot see today. He will hear your cries.

First and foremost, pray for your own heart that it would not callous over to the man you pledged your love too, but that it would stay warm to the idea of marriage to him. Pray for your spouse that his heart would soften. That the chains of his past would be broken and new bonds would be made. 

Pray that God would work miracles. And be willing to speak, move, push, and (the hardest of all) be still and be silent as He leads.

May I leave you with a verse that helped me in my trials.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (Hebrew  12:12-15)

If you are stuck, please send me a prayer request. It was by the hand of God at work, and the prayers of a loving community that got us through. I would love to return the favour to those in need.


Sarah (and The Mr.)

(Disclaimer: in all our years of marriage my husband never abused me. Our circumstances crushed my spirit, but never my bones. If you are in an abusive relationship you need to get help and remove yourself danger.)

photo credit: Annie Spratt @ and George Becker from Pexels 

Wednesday 15 November 2017

A Characteristic of God Hidden in Every Woman

Tucked away inside the the very first chapter of the Bible is the rich treasure of biblical womanhood. A high calling on every woman in every walk of life separate and uniquely distinct from biblical manhood.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

The word “man” in Genesis 1:26 is actually from a Hebrew word that means “mankind.” Because God made mankind in His image the theological implication is that God made humans to have companionship with Him. He did not create abstract beings, He created people with likeness to Him.

Man had animals, and land, and everything he needed, but he was very much alone. God recognized that man needed companionship, so God made another version of mankind in Eve, a woman. 

Against the religious backdrop at the time that Genesis was written, it was unheard of that a god would want relationship with humans. In fact, these very writings in Genesis were a direct assault on the mythological religions of the time where humans were created to be slaves to lazy gods who didn’t want to work. Contradictory, we have this picture of a perfect God, who has no need for mankind, but who decides to create and enter into a loving, intimate relationship with mankind solely for the purpose of companionship.

God’s great call on women is seen within the order of creation. God wanted to make mankind in his image, first came Adam. Eve was not made until after Adam gave witness and name to every animal and does not see his match. In the same way God made Adam to be relational to him, He made Eve as that very reflection of intimacy to Adam.

This is not to say Eve is less than, or resembles less of God. No! In fact she is made in the image of the character of God that reflects his relational nature. This is separate and distinct from the character and reflection of God found in man. 

It is in the very nature of every woman to be relational. We may be introverts, or extroverts, but at the heart of every woman we care about our friendships.

What an astounding role for women to walk out inside creation: to be the image bearers of God’s desire for relationship to the people around us.

Though this call is seen more clearly inside the role of marriage in contrast to the roles of man, it is not overlooked beyond the boundaries of the marital bond. This high calling at the very foundation of womanhood is for all women in all stages of life!

Young women, you have opportunity to reach out to your sphere of influence to reflect this type of relationship. To humble yourself and pour out compassion on those around you as God has done for you. 

Married women, you have the opportunity to reflect this relationship with your spouse. Even, and especially, in those moments when your relationship is rocky. Humble yourself and work to protect the bond that God has joined together as the full reflection of His image is found when man and woman are united.

Women, you are all created uniquely and with distinctive attributes of our loving God. You are made with unique purpose separate from our male counterpart. I encourage you to honour your high calling bestowed upon you as walk daily as the image bearers of a relational God.