It is evening. My body is exhausted from sorting and packing. My mind is tired from thinking.
I reach for my Bible to see if I can find some verses to bring me peace. I open my Bible and start reading . . . Suddenly, I read a verse that stops me in surprise. I look at the verse again, and the words hit me and dig in deep.
….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 5:20
I shake my head in disbelief. How many times have I read this verse? But it never hit me like it is now.
I thought that forgiveness is a challenge? Even as I’m learning to forgive out of obedience, not emotion, and beginning to see some changes in my attitudes.
But this? Thank God, and praise Him, for all the tears and hurts? Thank Him for my husband being unfaithful? Thank God for the betrayal of a woman I’d thought of as my friend?
ohhh, I know Romans 8:28 says …in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. . .
but to thank Himforthings that are wrong? How in this world can I dothat? This is too much!
I turn back to the two passages I had just read.
1 Thess. 5:16-18 “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” and
Phil. 4:8-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
OK … I ponder over these verses again.
Be joyful always does not mean be happy always. Happiness comes and goes. It’s a surface emotion. Joy is something deep inside me. I can have a quiet joy, even when things are wrong. because I know that God is with me.
Pray continually. My God knows I’m talking with Him all the time. I couldn’t make it without Him.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Thank Him in all circumstances is God’s will for me as I follow Christ Jesus. I can see that. I am to trust Him and know that all things work together for my good. And His Will is that I do this . It’s difficult, but I can learn how to do this.
Rejoice in the Lord…again, there is the joy – and Paul says it two times, so he is extra serious on this one!
Now why did He say: Let your gentleness be evident to all. Perhaps, because if I follow these instructions, I won’t be full of anger and rancor, and can actually be gentle in my approach with people, not wanting to hit them over the head? hmmm maybe I wouldn’t want to hit them over the head if I obeyed these instructions? Good thought!
The Lord is near. I am so thankful for that! To know that He is here, near me! That helps!
Do not be anxious about anything That definitely goes against my personal tendencies. I worry about and for my kids, and their kids. I sorrow over the hurts of others, their losses. My heart sorrows about so many things… and Paul continues with his thought. . .
but in everything,, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Paul is telling me to take all my worries and frustrations to the Lord and turn them into words, and present them to God. But, look, here he says that when we do this, we are also to thank and praise Him. Thanking and praising God are very important to Him – which means they should be important to me.
The promised blessing when I do this? the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
OK God, I think I get this. It’s sinking in – and in whatever situation I am in, I can obey this and have peace. . . and if I don’t have peace about something, then I need to take it to you in prayer, with thanksgiving.
It’s going to take work – and I see the logic.
But what about Eph 5:20
….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I do not get this one. I see no logic in it? Thanking youfor things that are totally against Your will?
This post is a little different. I start out by describing a scene of hurt, then attempt to apply what we learn from it.
It’s now the correct time to unpack your imagination. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Imagine a wide staircase. You and a friend are standing together on one of the steps, relaxed and talking. You say something. Unexpectedly, your friend turns on you and begins spewing out verbal garbage about you, at the same time jabbing at you.
You’re in shock. You don’t believe it, even as it is happening! You almost stumble, then grab onto an arm and hit back, yelling above that voice you used to enjoy hearing The two of you stumble and go down one step, then another step; hanging onto each other.
STOP! FREEZE THE FRAME RIGHT THERE!
Look at the scene. Both mouths are wide open yelling
The body language is aggression!
Can we identify with this scene in our daily lives?? . . . People we love turn on us or fail us? Or we are with people who are hurting, have become bitter, and then cut at us? What can we do?
There are the countless daily irritations, plus emotional betrayals, crooked business deals, family problems – with spouses, children, and more. The thing in common for each item? Each one tightens up our bodies in anger or fear.
How can we live in peace and forgiveness when all this wrong stuff bombards us daily? That’s what we’re going to talk about.
First, let’s go back to that scene and let it roll. It can end in several different ways.
Today, we’ll look at a couple of them, one at a time.
Two friends, one creates an offense (a form of betrayal) , the second uses offense in self-defense. They stumble to a lower step. If this continues to go as it is right now, they will continue pulling each other down, from one level to another, until they part in anger and bitterness.
The frightening thing about this situation is that even after walking away from each other,they are still connected emotionally in a negative way. Words were uttered along with actions that will continue to fester and create an inner moldy substance. Regardless of distance or time, they will be linked emotionally until at least one of them learns how to be freed from the yoke of bitterness, which keeps increasing in weight with each passing year, destroying whoever carries it in their heart, as well as all others with whom they come into contact.
Bitterness is an ugly root that can entwine itself around our emotions, twisting how we see the world around us. If we let it, it will completely take over our personalities, poisoning us on the inside: affecting our emotions, our health, our families, and our world. I am not being too dramatic about it; that is what bitterness is.
Hebrews 12:15Amplified Bible (AMP)
15 Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it—
I’ve watched bitterness destroy others: I had my own personal battle with it in my 20’s over a very unimportant incident. I learned I never want it in my life again. Bitterness is horrible; it strangles the life out of one. But if I want things my way, and am not willing to let go of “my rights”, I open myself to resentment and bitterness. I painfully learned that nothing is worth hanging onto if it opens the door to self-destruction.
The second result of this scene is a little more complicated to explain, but I will try.
I want to stress this is an opinion – something I have thought about – but I am not teaching this as a theological truth.
Here we go . . .
There is mystery in God’s Word…
God does not exist within a time frame, right? But something that happens here on earth (for example Christ dying on the cross for all of our sins), is, for us who are living now within the frame of time, an event that happened a couple of thousand years ago.
But, if it’s placed in the frame of eternity, where there is no time, is it still happening?
In one sense, I think the answer may be “yes.” If Christ died for every one of our sins from the beginning to the end of time, and I live within that time frame, then don’t the sins I commit today give Him a heavier burden of sin and pain on the cross.?
If I mistreat others, does it all continue increasing on the balance scale in eternity? Is this the outcome I want in my life, causing more pain to Christ on the cross? Or do I want the load of pain upon my Lord to be less.
Is it possible that a simple unforgiven offense can reap untold sorrow and pain down throughout the centuries?
How long will this momentl from this scene be frozen in the universe, even as these two walk away from each other in anger? How can this negative bondage be broken? Is forgiveness absolutely necessary here? Who forgives whom? And when?
Matt 6: 14-15 The Message
Jesus said: “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”
Let’s examine forgiveness a little more closely. A definition I read the other day about forgiveness: it is releasing my right to demand justice and revenge against a person. Ouch!
Can I trust God to carry through with my protection in this situation? Will He defend me from wrong if I release my rights? Do I really believe it when He says He is my fortress?
This is the decision each one of us faces, Daily. In all circumstances. We have to work it through in our minds. Then, if or when, I decide that I want to forgive, how do I do it?
Now is when we can go back to that scene when you were attacked verbally and/or physically by the person you thought was a friend. However it was expressed, it was a betrayal of trust.
This time we’re going to put our Lord in the midst of the scene (and He IS always there,we just don’t think of His presence.
You are standing there; your “friend” becomes your enemy, hurting you deeply. You respond in self-defense. The two of you are standing, yoked together by your hands on each other’s bodies, each one with the purpose of hurting the other. Awareness hits, you remember what the Lord teaches us about forgiveness. You pull your hand away, giving up your right for revenge and justice; instead, you give your enemy to God for Him to handle.
When you do this, God removes your enemy’s hand from you, holding his hand away from you. You are free to walk away, free from the yoke of bondage to that person. You may be hurting, in sorrow and confusion. But, you are free! Free to heal. Free to learn. Free to be blessed.
One important thing: Each time the sorrow, hurt and confusion begin to move into your mind, go yhrough the process we just went through. Visually think of standing on those steps, and forgiving, giving that person to God. Then able to turn and walk away free.
Why did I place this scene on the steps? Look at what happened. Your enemy wanted to degrade you. But what happens when you forgive?” God lifts you one or two steps above the person who tried to “put you down.”
We choose on a daily basis.
a) I can be a slave to my emotions of anger and bitterness, which then lead to a constant downward spiral or, b) I can forgive, and forgiveness frees me. I do not have to crawl in the dirt of anger and horrid memories of when people purposefully hurt me.
When I look at it like this, I wonder: Why do I sometimes hesitate before forgiving? A good question.
A thought to take with you:
Following our Father God’s instructions, He begins giving wings to my spirit, along with His peace, and teaching me how to fly.
I like that. How about you?
For more on why I’m writing this blog, please read ABOUT ME .
I sit on the train looking out the big windows at the landscape slipping past me: tall evergreen trees interspersed with the lacework of leafless trees thrusting their branches against the grey sky, all anchored in a natural forest undergrowth. Raindrops splashing and runnng down in small riveluts, causing the landscape to blur in front of my eyes…. or is it tears in my eyes? Maybe both..
I’m returning to Portland, OR, from Bellingham, WA, close to the Canadian border where my parents live . They’re in their late 80’s, and becoming fragile. I did some food prep for them and put it in the freezer; things they enjoy. It’s strange to be at their comfy trailer home and me do the cooking. All my life, my mom’s cooking is a highlight in our home. . . and now the roles are reversed.
I leave Bellingham early this morn. a train change in Seatlle WA, arriving in Portland OR. around dusk. It’s early afternoon: I won’t know that without my watch, the sky is dark with clouds. We just went through an area that I know well, where my former husband was raised. So many wonderful, crazy memories of two kids who fall in love and planning their marriage. Driving in a blizzard near Tacoma WA., going to a huge state fair in Puyallup WA, , canoing on Greenlake (near the University) in Seattle, a stolen kiss riding in the rumble seat of a friend’s car… (rumble seat: that may be another word you will need to look up. Believe me, it’s unforgettable!)
MEMORIES! MEMORIES! flowing though my brain on my mind’s screen. My Lord and Father God. What happened over the years to change all of that? What did we do wrong? What did I do wrong?
Too many questions with no answers…Will I ever have any answers?
I continue to look out the window. I should be seeing palm trees, clear blue sky, rolling hills at times with sharp peaks… and why am I hearing English instead of Portuguese?
I pull my warm sweater more tightly around me (I need to go to a thrift store and look for more warm sweaters.) and reach for my Amplified Bible. I haven’t yet read today’s Proverbs. Let me see: today is December 3, 1987. So it’s Proverbs 3. I open my Bible and read.
Proverbs 3 Amplified Bible (AMP)
1 My son, forget not my law or teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; 2 For length of days and years of a life [worth living] and tranquility [inward and outward and continuing through old age till death], these shall
shall they add unto you..
3 Let not mercy and kindness [shutting out all hatred and selfishness] and truth [shutting out all deliberate hypocrisy or falsehood] forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them upon the tablet of your heart. 4 So shall you find favor, good understanding, and high esteem in the sight [or judgment] of God and man.
5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. 6 In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil. 8 It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones.
I stopped reading. Wow. I know I’ve read this before, many times, but this afternoon, it is exactly what I need.
I let my body relax and more memories of these past months come as a flood when I open the dam restraining them.
I look out the window,without seeing the trees and rain.
Scenes of slowly packing and closing the house in Belo Horizonte and the day I give the keys to the realtor. Him telling me how sorry he is for all that is happening, also sharing with me other things he knows of that my husband had done.
Getting on the plane; flying to São Paulo where my younger son is serving as an interpreter for a Jimmy Swaggert Gospel Campaign: going to the soccer stadium filled with 20,000 or more Brazilians. Thankfulness to see my son there on stage, translating. The absolute joy as hundreds stream from the surrounding stands to come to the Lord! Then flying to Rio de Janeiro for the second campaign: experiencing the same awe of what God is doing! My kids attempting to convince me I should stay in Brazil until after their baby is born.
The DIFFICULT flight from Rio de Janeiro to Portland, Oregon. Looking out the window at the ground miles below; wondering if I would ever get to “come home” again.
Arriving from Brazil, stepping off the plane in Portland, Oregon, wondering what is reality? The only reality I have is I know I can trust is God’s promises and what He is teaching me about forgiveness, thankfulness and blessing my enemies. I still have much to learn!
My teenage daughter and I are in a small two bedroom apartment, our mattresses on the floor. We are on the second floor of an older building with the laundry in the basement. (Good exercise!) We have a small kitchen, living/dining room with a gas fireplace, inexpensive carpeting, and two bathrooms. (Important!)
We are near the Columbia River, so the frigid wind from eastern Oregon comes whistling down the gorge. Many nights I lay awake, warmly snuggling under a pile of blankets, listening to the whining of the wind around the building as it battered against the windows, sometimes managing to come in through an ill-fitting casing. I lay there, warm, thanking God for His protection, my daughter and I are safe and there is peace in our little apartment. No fighting. No drama. Peace.
At this time, I have no idea how we will make it financially, but my mind is too “washed out” to think straight or try to find work. I don’t think I even have skills to find work. My pastor did a psychological test on me: he was shocked when he saw my score on self esteem – zero!
My Father knows exactly where we are, and what we need, and He provides for us. In a “strange land,” the apartment begins to feel like home. We shop garage sales and thrift stores: I’m amazed at what we find and how it all fits together. I am proud of my daughter. This is also being tough on her!
Proverbs 3, Psalms 23, Psalms 91, Psalms 139… They all take on new depth and meaning, and I thank God.
I thank Him . . . and wait to be able to walk through the dark tunnel I’m now in. I hope it won’t be long before my mind and emotions are out of this dark tunnel, and out – once again – into the light and warmth of day.
I awaken out of my thoughts as the train begins to slow down, the conductor coming through the car calling out, “Portland! Portland”.
I gather up my Bible and the papers I’ve been writing on, hurriedly put them into my carry- on bag, run my hand through my hair, and prepare to step off the train, wondering who will be there to meet me.
I lift my head, my cheeks still wet with tears, looking around the room. It is the same: piles of sorted materials waiting to be put in open boxes, a large black garbage bag gaping open, waiting for more trash. Behind the closet doors and in the drawers are hours of work waiting for me.
However, something has happened. Some of the defenses I erected because I thought I need to be strong have fallen. I’m now reminded that I don’t have to be the strong one. God told Paul that His strength was sufficient for Paul to lean upon. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delightin weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Tonight, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the same promises. I am not in this alone. I can lean upon my Lord’s strength if I follow His instructions.
I do not want to be a turkey, stuck to the ground. I want to be as an eagle and soar.
I do not want those who betrayed me to continue to control me. I want to be free and soar! I keep thinking. It was the word “forgive” that opened the floodgates. I need to understand that word better for, right now, I am incapable of forgiving. I’m too hurt. This whole thing is too wrong!
I pick up my Bible that is full of notes written in the margins, turn off the overhead lights so I don’t see as much of the mess surrounding me, sit propped up on the bed and open it to Matthew 6, where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven ([e]left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have [f]given up resentment against) our debtors. 13 And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
hmmm forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors, forgive my trespasses (wrongs) as I forgive those who have trespassed against me (wronged me.) Ouch! that is strong! but wait, what does the Lord say immediately after?
14 “For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins,[h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”
I re-read those words. If I don’t forgive my former husband and all the people he was involved with or still is, my Father will not forgive me?
God knows I can’t survive without His forgiveness? Besides unforgiveness leads to bitterness; it is a “luxury I cannot afford!” I need God’s forgiveness!
I am agitated. I get up and start pacing the floor, arguing with God. I don’t understand! Father, how can I forgive? I am numb and confused and tired. How can I forgive when I have no emotion left except for tears? and anger. I have nothing left inside of me with which to forgive!
How do I obey you? I can’t! I want to, but I don’t know how!
I keep pacing, thinking, questioning. Gradually a thought comes to me.
Ok, I don’t have anything inside of me with which to forgive. But, the Lord tells me if I want His forgiveness, I have to forgive others.
So, what if I tell Him this? Out of obedience to Him I forgive them, and He will have to take care of my emotions?
I stop my pacing, and do exactly that.Lord, I love You, Lord, and desire to obey You. But I am doing this with no emotion, no compassion for them.
I forgive …….. for doing ……., I ask You to take care of my emotions.
That night I begin on the long list of hurt and betrayal. I want to clean my inner house and do it well.
Those of you who have cleaned out cupboards, closets, cars and garages understand how the process works. . . and how, the more we clean, the more junk we discover hidden in the corners and other items. So it is, with forgiveness.
Also, just like dust balls can multiply under a bed after we have vacuumed the space clean, so the wounds may have to be cleansed repeatedly with forgiveness. This is a process that takes time, and is not a smooth, constantly improving progress.
Tears, despair, longing for what I’d hoped and prayed for, the battle to trust God, hanging onto scriptures, reading and re-reading them, sometimes reading them out loud.
Verses like: Psalms 37:3-8 Amplified 3 Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness,andtruly you shall be fed. 4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desiresandsecret petitions of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass. 6 And He will make your uprightnessandright standing with God go forth as the light, and your justiceandright as [the shining sun of] the noonday. 7 Be stillandrest in the Lord; wait for Himandpatiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself—it tends only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers shall be cut off. . .
Lord, these promises I need! Help me! I will delight in You: You are the only One whom I can totally trust! And you tell me if I do that, You will give me the desires of my heart… so I need to figure out what are the deepest desires in my heart. Please open my eyes to see what they are.
And, if I understand You, You are telling me that if I give my cares to You and trust You, You will resolve where I will live when I return to the states, how I will be able to work and have enough to take care of myself and my daughter. . . that YOU will bring it all to pass… Father, I HAVE to trust You. I have no way to resolve these things! Please, keep teaching me.
I discover I can’t read books, fiction nor non-fiction. Whenever I try to read them, I burst into tears. It’s crazy! The Bible is the only place where I find strength. I stick to reading God’s Word, like a burr sticks to clothing. I hang onto it – and onto God’s promises, even when they make no logic in what I’m walking through.
Isa 41:11-13 Amplified Bible (AMP) 10 Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. 11 Behold, all they who are enraged and inflamed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; they who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. 12 You shall seek those who contend with you but shall not find them; they who war against you shall be as nothing, as nothing at all. 13 For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you! Hang onto His hand? No way am I going to let go!!!
Day after day. Some days crying more, some days less. I am frustrated for I can’t control the tears, they come at such unexpected moments. . . Yet, in the midst of the emotional wreckage, closing up the house, as well as closing that phase of my life in Brazil, I am learning little things each day that will change my life.
For example: After a several days of inner housecleaning, I asked the Holy Spirit to show me if I’d missed anything to forgive. The next morning when I awakened, I was angry and upset, really upset. That surprised me, for I’d asked God to protect me from false accusations. As I puzzled over it, I began to smile.
Hadn’t I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what other things I needed to forgive? He was doing what I’d requested… It was a simple and direct answer to one of my prayers… showing me that God’s Spirit is listening. He showed me. Now I go to work on it. I began checking out with myself what things were bothering me, and started forgiving them.. not pleasant, at times painful. I’d buried emotions, year after year; now it was time to deal with them.
Another important lesson: awareness of the presence of Jesus in my life. I learned a specific application of this as follows
Some of the memories of different incidents troubled me like pointed spikes digging into my skin. I remember one in particular, something small, unimportant. It was a supposedly simple phone call; only now, I realize I looked like an utter fool to my former husband and his friend. It rankled and hurt, I couldn’t forget it. How they must have laughed at me. . . until, one day, I purposely remembered the scene in my mind, visually placing Jesus there with His arms around me, protecting me. . . and I had peace. I know He was protecting me all of these years, but I’d never visualized Him there. What a difference that made!
I still do this with memories. This may be something that could help you?
During those days, I have a surplus of things to think about and talk over with the Lord as I clean, sort, pack and toss – a myriad of physical decisions while I constantly discover more things I need to forgive to clean my inner house. I want no touch of the poison of bitterness; therefore, I have to clean well!
Even though I am unaware of it, I’m slowly gaining a new control in my life and the Lord is preparing me for the next lessons.
Next post: More stuff: Forgiveness 102 -How forgiveness liberates us from emotional chains with the past and the present! Plus . . .
Question: Do any of these thoughts help you where you are?
Do you have horrendous griefs you are trying to deal with? or is it dust balls under the bed? Either of these can lead to bitterness if we don’t clean them out. And bitterness is a dank and dark prison that can consume us .
Remember: if you check the box to receive these posts in your email, I don’t have to worry about getting the info to you. Sounds good for both of us. 🙂
Tonight I’m in Portland, Oregon, looking out the window at the sky as the sun disappears behind the horizon, and darkness creeps up from the west into the bowl of the sky overhead.
I stand here, remembering the emotional anguish, confusion, and desperation for normalcy I was living in as the structure of family was in the process of demolition from a storm that destroyed my home’s very foundations.
May 1987 One week after the life I knew ended.
I am standing in the master bedroom. My husband …(My mind reminds me I must quit calling him that. I am still legally married, but the marriage has ended. It’s time to face up to reality)… okay.. my former husband left for the states three days ago at the request of our mission board.
It is night. My youngest daughter is asleep in her bedroom down the hall, but the rest of the house is empty of life. My body and mind are weary.
The view of the room from where I am standing causes overwhelming anguish.
There is the old king size bed: that foam mattress was packed onto the ship when we moved to Brazil 20 plus years earlier, and it’s accompanied us in each move since. It’s been on such a wide variety of bed frames; one apartment we lived in we couldn’t get the bed frame up the narrow stairway, so just the mattress went up and was on the floor without a frame. (I smile as I remember how I had to get on my knees to make that bed on the floor.)
On each side of the bed are wicker shelves filled with books and papers and the night lamps for reading in bed – which I love to do! There is a comfortable chair in the corner, beside the Dutch door to the walkway outside. (Dutch door – another word to google?)
Some old rugs scattered on the rustic tile floor. A room that is/was a hideaway for me. Now, it is mocking me with memories.
I look at the pile of objects my former husband left on his shelves. I’d better start sorting and boxing his things. I have to start somewhere. .. but I think I’ll listen to some sermons from the states while I work. That will help keep my mind from going in these endless circles, like it’s in a trap, trying to escape.
I found the tapes, popped one into the tape player, and started sorting.
Listening to Pr. Ted Roberts teaching about Moses, my hands and mind were busy, and I was accomplishing something. I filled a couple of small boxes with articles for my “former”husband. But, Lord, I don’t want him to be that: I want my home and my life! I was weary; there is still the closet to clean out.
I’ve got to listen more closely to the tape. My mind is starting to go in circles again. Unexpectedly, I hear the word “forgiveness” applied in a way I’d not thought of before. I stopped to listen; then, with tears streaming down my face, I gropingly found the recorder and turned off the tape. Weeping uncontrollably, I dropped to my knees on one of the old rugs beside the bed; put my head in my arms on top of that ancient king mattress covered with a quilt, and started crying out to God.
The sorting could wait. I had more important work to do as I started down this road of forgiveness, learning lessons which would forever change my life.
Next post soon: HOW do I forgive – when I don’t want to??? And WHY SHOULD I? What advantages does it give to me?
Hi! I’ll be continuing this story out of my life, posting 2 or 3 times a week.
Along with some detours.
My suggestion? Check the box below so you can receive these posts in your email. In that way, you’ll receive them automatically. Easier for all of us.
Looking forward to meeting here again. Some big Brazilian hugs, Voni P.
It is mid-morning…Bright sunshine along with a refreshing breeze filters into the living room through the open wooden sliding doors. The rustic room is cool, partially in the shadows. The mood is somber.
Those present are: my husband of 37 years, myself, three of our children, a son-in-law, plus an American pastor and his wife who are visiting us.
A tragic life-changing conversation is in progress. . .
My son is speaking, with tears in his eyes: “Dad, you didn’t only betray Mom; you betrayed all of us six kids.”
This horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach keeps worsening, it won’t stop. I know my world has just now forever changed. I was hanging onto my sanity, even as I wanted to run screaming from the room, shouting NO, no, no. . .
I was in total shock as I looked at my husband. I had no words. I knew our relationship had serious problems. But this?
My adult children had discovered their father had other children outside of our marriage, with a woman I knew well whom had been a friend. Their relationship started over 12 years earlier. As my children and our friends spoke with my husband, they discovered my husband had been involved with even more women as well, at least two of them whom I knew and loved.
I was speechless and sick. How could this be possible? What do I do now? God, help me please. How could this have happened? What is wrong with me? Am I stupid?
“Oh God! Now what?”
Is there a difference between a one time and a life style?
I had struggled with my husband’s infidelity at the beginning of our marriage. I loved him. He had such a storehouse of talents. He could sing, lead people, and preach. He had a charismatic personality which covered the inner problems he battled of sarcasm and anger. We had been married for just a few years when the infidelity happened for the first and, I thought, the last time.
We had three small children five and under. For about three years, we were constantly with one other couple. Camping. Game nights. Movies. Our children played well together. One small incident happened on one of our camping trips that had made me uneasy. I talked with my husband about it, and was reassured.
One sunny morning in August, soon after my husband left for his business, the phone rang. I picked it up quickly before it awakened my small crew. It was the husband of the other couple and he had difficulty speaking. “Voni, your husband and my wife have been having an affair for over two years. I found a note last night.”
Three months without knowing what was going to happen…I forgave him and then had to wait for him to work out releasing the other relationship, for it was OVER. I was determined to keep my marriage. The day before our oldest child’s 6th birthday, my husband released the past and turned toward our future. He asked forgiveness.
We moved to Texas, with our three small children.
It was rough. I learned the necessity to continue forgiving, and we began re-building our marriage. I also learned to pay attention when I felt that little twinge of a red flag when he was around some specific woman, and would warn him to be careful. He listened.
We had some good years. Challenging and good. Our relationship strengthened, and we were working together. He was running a business, and started studying at a college when he was 30. We moved to a small oil town in Oklahoma (one stoplight where the main street crossed the “highway”) and he began preaching at a small church. Wow, the things I learned!
(Did you know if you bring your clothes frozen off the line, they are perfect for ironing. No steam iron necessary?) (Did you know that when people in the congregation get upset with the preacher, they usually start talking badly about his wife or kids?) I learned how to type the bulletin and run it off on the mimeograph machine. –look that up on Google. Our family spent many hours in a friend’s storm cellar, as tornadoes passed over. Those – and many other valuable life lessons. I got to study Greek – and loved it. I got undulant fever (brucellosis) from bad milk. (Another one to Google.) … and more.
We moved to Oregon, where my husband preached at a larger congregation. Loved those people! More life lessons.
In 1967, we moved to Brazil to serve as missionaries. By that time, we had five children, from 15 years old down. (Our sixth child was born in Brazil.) I painfully learned life lessons of culture shock . . . and the “red flag” started flying. I didn’t understand what and why, but my husband changed.
I sensed there might be other women . . . but there was nothing concrete. I continued loving him, learning, caring for our children, bonding into the culture. Our home was filled with our children, their friends, others who came to talk, learn English, and learn more about our Lord. Life was full, with adventure after adventure as the years went by.
We started a language school as a tool for income (which we needed), and a way to reach into the community. Inner loneliness was a part of my life. We were busy: our lives were full. But the relationship I desired with my husband was not there: it was gone. Although no one knew it, I was living in anguish.
Looking back, I realize my husband “set me up”, asking me to teach an intensive language class with a CEO of a large firm, who was a womanizer. I didn’t know that fact; my husband did. Classes five days a week, three hours each day. In our English classes I was able to share about Christ and what He meant to me, and my student and I became friends. The day came when I realized the loneliness in my life was making me vulnerable to the possibility of emotional involvement. I entered into a battle with myself I’d never thought was possible. It was God Who gave me the strength to pull out of the situation and kept me safe. But I learned a new humility and understanding that I’ve never forgotten
More years passed. A young woman, whom I’d loved, sat on my lap, weeping, asking my forgiveness for an affair she’d had with my husband. She was the age of one of our daughters, and this had almost destroyed her. I was angry and heartsick. I told my husband if this happened again, I was leaving, and he knew I meant it.
Over the years, I had spent hours and hours studying Bible scriptures about marriage.
I knew them well.
e.g.How the attitude of both should be toward
one another. And if he doesn’t treat me with love and honor,
God will not listen to his prayers. (I like that one!) Check it out
here:1 Peter 3 The Message (MSG)Cultivate Inner Beauty3 1-4 The same goes for you wives:
Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs
. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words
about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty.
What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of
your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—
but your inner disposition. 4-6 Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that
God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful
before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their
husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham,
would address him as “my dear husband.”
You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same,
unanxious and unintimidated.7 The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your
wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women
they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life
of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground” [italics mine]
Next question: How do I know my husband (or anyone else) really loves God, and therefore I can trust them when they say they love me?
The Only Way to Know We’re in Him
1 John 2 The Message (MSG)
2-3 Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments.
4-6If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.
9-11 Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.
I asked myself, what is hate?
Not walking in God’s love, not keeping His commandments – can that lead to hate?
If someone goes against His commandments, can I believe anything they say?
In reality, God’s commandments generally go against our own selfish nature.
Our tendency is to put ourselves, our desires and our needs, as the first priority in our lives. If we haven’t established God’s boundaries in our lives, we will ignore the God-given rights of others. Therefore, what was my husband’s real attitude towards me? Obviously, not one of love.
God heard the vows my husband and I made together – yet, my husband broke them when he put his own desires ahead of his family. When he stopped caring for, protecting and serving those whom he had promised to care for, although he said he loved God and loved us, his life turned into a lie. But we – his family- didn’t know this, and many things happened we didn’t understand.
Obviously, this wasn’t a one-time action. It had happened only one time in the states. I have no idea what happened when we moved to our new country?
But that morning in our living room, I learned he’s had a lifestyle with different women, over many years; all of this while we were in public “ministry” together: singing, teaching the Bible, and recording cd’s with our band. I loved those young men who worked with us over the years. I loved the children’s group I was working with: we’d presented Kid’s Praise before thousands, and made CD’s that were selling all over the country. How could we have betrayed the people like this? (Logically, I knew it wasn’t me but, in these situations, many years may go by before the other spouse is free of the feeling of guilt for the failure.)
I know you may think I’m crazy: I should have left him long before? By American logic, maybe. However, we were living in a foreign country. In the culture we were living in, divorce was not legalized until 1977. Infidelity was a common problem in that culture, usually on the part of the husband. And, though I suspected, I had no proof before that young woman crawled into my lap a year and a half earlier. To protect her, although I spoke plainly with my husband, I didn’t talk with others. She needed protection, and I gave it to her. Ethically I felt I had no choice.
I made the right decision. She has grown and matured, helping many others, and I thank God for His goodness!
Some good friends of mine had chosen not to separate from their husbands. I learned to respect and honor these women. They stayed to maintain their homes. It wasn’t because of economics, but was based upon a choice of what would be best for all. I gleaned from their experiences. (Yes, the positive and negative factors are open for debate, and each case needs to be individually assessed. If you wish, we can discuss this aspect later.) A huge difference between them and I was their husbands were not looked at as leaders in any church.
One thing I want to emphasize: over the years, I did the best I knew how to do before the Lord, based upon the knowledge I had. Whether others agree with our decisions or not, we walk in the wisdom we have at the time, making choices step by step.
In this new situation I faced, I now knew my husband’s betrayal was far greater than anything I could have imagined, and I accepted in my heart that I had to separate myself from him. We were leaders – I had learned we were not living what we were teaching. The very thing I’d fought against for years, the destruction of our family, I was living in the midst of it, walking down a path with no idea of where it would lead. All I could do was hang onto God’s hand!!! Isaiah 41: 10,13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.
13 For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!
We had many friends scattered over the country where we lived, besides those in the US. This was a mass betrayal, so many people hurt. Worst of all, the message about following Jesus Christ that we’d shared for over 20 years was sullied! I was shocked – and ashamed. How could I have been so stupidly blind?????
In the next post, I will begin sharing some of the things I learned from God and His Word that continued changing my life, gradually relieved the anguish, took away the despair, gave me hope – and I began to laugh again. It’s quite a mixture.
If you desire to follow this path with me (with a few detours along the way), click on the box and request to receive these posts in your email.