church

7 out of 18 ain’t bad… well it is bad…

I recently re-read Bob Stienkamp’s devotional entitled “18 Signs that something is happening“. Turns out, I’m currently rocking seven out of 18 to some degree or another. That should be encouraging or uplifting, but it’s not. In fact, I’ve felt like it’s been 11:59 for about two months now, and I’m really starting to run backwards, rather than even crawl forwards.7out18

You feel like giving up. The enemy will make you think nothing is happening and nothing will ever change.

I am certainly here. More than any of these other signs, this one is manifesting itself powerfully in my life. I feel like my hopes and dreams for a better future have shriveled up and died inside me and my heart is becoming harder and more cold and lifeless each day. I am still standing, but it’s like a routine. I’m going through the motions, but on the inside I have retired. I’ve stopped praying for miracles and have started to simply plead for relief from the daily onslaught of fresh attacks. I know that as Christians we have the freedom that comes with not having to fear death, but I fear life. I fear loneliness. I fear years of perpetual pain, rejection, and isolation. I haven’t even seen a Covenant truck in months. I feel like its just over for me, like I missed some turn I was supposed to take and I’ll never leave this valley. So I just need to find a half decent place to settle down here, while my Shepard steps out to tend the rest of the flock.

People are constantly reminding you about your mate’s free will and how you have grounds for divorce.

As my prodigal finds new ways to attack me every month, legally, financially, and through custody challenges, my friends not only remind me that I can sign the divorce paper any day, but also that I can counter sue for fault divorce. After all, they say, she left you for another man, and now she is taking you to the cleaners. After all, I am the wronged party. They want to know why I am continuing to allow her to have the upper hand.

People tell you God wants you to be “happy.” In truth, God is a lot more concerned about your holiness than He is about your happiness. He also cares about your mate’s lost condition.

Everyone has someone for me. They’re sick of watching the slow train wreck that is my life without doing anything to improve my circumstances. I am desperately lonely and worse I have a strong spirit of rejection hanging from my neck like a leech. I don’t want a mate near as much as I want someone to want me, to like me, or just to not hate me and treat me like dirt. My own rebellious heart is telling me that God wants you to be “happy”, during my better moments. During my worse moments, it tells me that God wants me to be “miserable,” so I can be more like Christ, and I despise Him for it.

You can see no way out of specific circumstances, such as financial problems. Remember, God works best when nothing else will.

I’m literally being destroyed. My prodigal is making sure that I am financially beaten down in every way. I can no longer see a means out of the hole that I am in, other than a miracle of God. At one point, I was standing for restoration. I was standing for my wife’s soul. I was standing for the family of our children. I was standing for the Glory of God’s name. Now I’m standing for survival. I’m standing because when it’s all said and done I want to know: Does obedience really bring blessing, or is His Word as fallible as everyone says it is? Is He omnipotent or impotent? I have no other hope left. If God isn’t who He says He is, then I am doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness.

You are tempted to take off your wedding ring.

This is happening a lot more lately… Okay, it’s happening every day. I feel like Frodo, buckling under the weight of it. I cannot stand up under any more legal fees. I do not understand why my wife, my helpmate for so many years wants to destroy me so badly. She left me for another, and I am suffering the consequences. I cannot face this vast army. I no longer have the mental, emotional, or financial capacity to defend myself. If God does not show up now in a big way, I will be financially ruined. I’m not sure I will have a place to live next month. So, do I feel a great desire to proclaim my devotion to a covenant with someone who wants to destroy me? My human nature wants to fight back. My flesh wants to run into the arms of anyone who will love me and tell me it will be okay. I shouldn’t need a woman for that, but my comforter is apparently on vacation this year. So, I find myself wanting to pocket this ring every time I find myself in a room containing available females who might make me feel like a person if they came up and spoke to me.

You mistakenly start to view your local church as a hindrance to restoration. Satan may give you fear over how your returned prodigal would fit in. Your pastor may come out against marriage restoration. The returned spouse and their church relationship is one of the many areas that God can and does heal for restoring families. Right now, you need the love and support of a church family.

Since I began my stand, despite support from my head pastor, my spiritual director, and most of those closest to me, I have at times seen my church as an apostate, seeker sensitive Sunday Show, serving up cool aid Christianity to the myriad adulterous couples seated around me. My spouse said she never felt connected or accepted there when she left me. I have visited the local AOG church in hopes of finding more “spirit filled” believers. I have made friends at a local Mennonite church in hopes of finding a smaller, closer community of believers, but my church is my church. If I cut ties with that community, what do I have left?

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat was able to proclaim a fast for all of Judah. I do not have Judah. I have my church. I have my friends to call on. In a lot of ways, I have found that my church, the body of Christ for me is actually my immediate circle of brothers, mostly from my church, but some not, who hold me up, support me, keep me accountable, and love me through listening and helping with the mundane tasks of my life.

Prayer partners may be removed. There came a time in Charlyne’s stand, near the day of our remarriage and before the Internet, when my wife’s personal prayer partner moved out-of-state. God was telling my wife that she needed to depend on Him, not others.

Everyone has a life, and it seems like everyone’s life has them right now. My strongest prayer partners will stand with me for a season and be removed by tragedy, other interests, bouts with depression, and even trials and temptations. It seems I am constantly reaching out to someone new to stand with me and relying on people from many different parts of my life. Prayer partners burn out. Honestly, I feel like a lot of folks are still praying for me, but many have stopped praying for my prodigal. Despite supporting my stand, they’ve given up on her. Many of them say to “give her over”. They don’t realize that despite the hurt and the pain and daily attacks coming in from her, saying, “give her over” is like telling the spouse of someone with cancer to “just shoot her and put her out of her misery.” They mean well, but… “give her over to her sin and let Satan have her?”

You are tempted to make major changes in your own life. It could be reclaiming your maiden name or changing the door locks on your home for no reason. Whatever you are considering doing, it would say to your prodigal spouse, “It’s over!”

In some ways, I don’t have a choice. I have to move. I have to give up our marital home because I cannot afford to buy my prodigal spouse out of it.

Honestly, I’m ready to sign. I know that is a choice. I’m tired of being hurt with something new every week. Despite what I said above, I’m a little bit ready to “give her over”. I am such a contrary mess. What it all comes down to, is in my selfishness, I want a companion. I want a partner to hold me and tell me it is going to be okay. I want to be loved not hurt. I want to be wanted not hated and despised. I want to be valued and cherished and desired.

You sense a certain uneasiness in your spirit. Where you had once started growing in the Lord as a stander, you now feel something indescribable in your life. Some people confuse God wanting them to intensify their stand with Him, with God wanting them to give up on their stand for a healed home.

How about, I feel spiritually dead. I know that God brings growth and wisdom through pain and suffering. I know that he is looking for my complete surrender. At some point though pruning turns into cutting and eventually destroying. I’ve experienced so much growth over this last year and now it’s turned 180°. Now rather than growing me the pain is killing me. Each day for the last month I’ve become a more hardhearted rebellious and despicable person.

Is that an uneasiness in spirit? I hate my life, and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m tired of proclaiming His greatness when He wont be my genie and give me what I want!

I’d like to stop at seven…

I don’t think I can take any more. Honestly, I could totally go for:

Satan sends a counterfeit into your life. Just when things are the bleakest, Mr. Right or Miss Perfect arrives. Some standers make the mistake of thinking, “This must be of God because we are so perfectly suited for each other.” Counterfeits always look better than the real thing.

Of course, that won’t be the card I’ll pull. I’m not even going to say out loud the one that would destroy me. Everything else I’ve ever told God I could never take He has done to me in the space of a year and a half. I really don’t need any more. I can barely convince myself that getting out of bed in the morning is a good idea. Honestly, I cry out to God every morning to give me the strength to get up and face the day because I don’t want to do it any more.

The 11th hour…

I know that His timing is perfect and He’s known for coming in the 11th hour and changing everything in an instant. Well, it feels like 11:59 for me. Something has to give before I do.

Pray for me.

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Is it “not good”???

If you’re reading this for the usual dose of encouragement and insight, STOP. Hit the back button and leave. I am not having a good Spring. April and May have been hard on me. This is a post of emotional vomit, lamentation, and hard hard questions, many of which aren’t even rational in light of my previous posts. This is a post of pure simple irrational pain. If you’re feeling strong, self-confident, and ready to speak into my pain, read on…

20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Job 3:20-26

So, as this stand of mine goes on day after day with no end or resolution in sight. The wise, sagely Christ followers in my life are reassuring me that I am growing so much in my walk of faith. I am told that God is “wooing” me right now and that I need to “abide in His love”. I have to be honest, though. Despite frequent miracles, unmistakable signs, and divine appointments out the wazoo, I am still really really struggling… I get the whole, “I am loved by the God of the Universe” thing, but I really don’t. I’m still working on getting His love from my head to my heart. It’s the spirit of rejection blinding me. I know it is, but I still struggle.

You see, I read the book “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts“, with my wife, several years ago. It was obvious right away that my love language is physical touch.  A friend recently pointed out that it is “a little difficult to get a hug from your heavenly father.” No crap! I keep asking Him for a hug… I tell Him I need to feel love with skin on… If it weren’t for my kids and their constant affection, I believe I would have withered long ago. Standing is so hard for touch people. You can get just about every other love language from your friends, but a short awkward hug from “a bro” just isn’t the same. I want to be held and cry my guts out! I am so sick of not being held! I think this is why I am struggling so much right now… I just have all of this bottled up hurt and no satisfactory way to release it. Due to our screwed up legal system, custody rules and expectations, I am not even allowed to cry in the presence of my children, let alone cry when I am holding them.

I told God that I need restoration soon or some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power, or I am going to crack and go find someone to hold me. I know that is not good stander etiquette, but there it is. No time table (Don’t put God on a time table… Satan will use that against you… ~says everyone from the stander community)… Just a cry for help. My flesh can’t do this anymore. Restore me, kill me, or change my freaking love language! You designed me this way, God. You know how much this hurts! What the heck??

Somehow I’ve made it a whole year without needing to cuddle a pillow to go to sleep… So He has provided some supernatural grace there somewhere. Still I wish I could feel really loved by God in the absence of a person through which I feel that love and favor. I keep asking Him for that. Every day, I ask for that. I think that emotionally I still feel like my rejection by my wife is a rejection by God because I only ever felt loved and favored by Him through the “blessing” of her… Which is of course a slippery slope to idolatry… or is it? God did design us male and female and created us to live in this community.

So, I have some questions… some hard questions for God and for the standing community as a whole.

  1. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that man should be alone…” It certainly isn’t. How long am I supposed to suffer for my spouse’s sin? How long am I to do life without a help-mate while she enjoys all the privileges and support of having a non-covenant partner, the support of society, the support of friends, and the support of family?
  2. Where is the body of Christ on the weekend when my whole family is with the other man, and I have no one? “I’ll call you brother.” “We’ll get together and do something.” Father, You know how many people said that last week… The weekend rolled around, and I, alone, ended up turning to an online game for community…
  3.  How long am I supposed to believe for restoration, and when am I supposed just start believing that God will graciously keep me alive until I die, this life will suck and be increasingly more painful every day, and then I get to go to be with Him and live happily ever after?
  4. If God hardens and softens hearts throughout the scriptures, according to His plans and whims, then why when our hearts and our prodigal’s hearts harden is it, “just free will”? Where is the the scripture that says, “God touched hearts throughout these scriptures, but from this point forward, you’re all on your own. Good luck. Enjoy your free will.”?

I know that this is not a positive or uplifting message. I know that this is bordering on blasphemy. I am not trying to make anyone stumble. I’m just crying out for encouragement. I’m looking for someone to speak into my pain and confusion and help me transcend my flesh because it is crying so much more loudly than my spirit right now. This year of starving my flesh and feeding the spirit should have made this easier, but apparently it hasn’t. I feel like Frodo, buckling under the weight of this ring, and my friends have their lives to live. I am making the long and lonely journey with only the Holy Spirit as my companion, and He has been a piss poor companion lately, giving me the silent treatment, letting in all manner of attacks from my prodigal, and basically leaving me to my own devices.

So, help me, my community… my brothers and sisters… give some words of encouragement. Pray for me. Tell me that everything I have said is so wrong and mislead and that I am missing something huge and obvious and clear. Pray that God would grab me by the collar and shake me around and wake me up because the eyes and ears of my heart are flooded in darkness and despair.

God, Father, Daddy, please help me!!!!!

Expectations, Walmart, and The God of the Universe

I arrived home this evening from work, and I was immediately struggling. I was struggling with depression, anxiety, and obedience. I did not want to be struggling, and I did not want to give in. So, presently, I decided to “move”. I have found that if I stay in one place when struggling, I’ll continue to struggle until I fail in some profound way, sometimes even lashing out at God. I called a friend, and he invited me to a bar to play pool. I turned him down. I’m convinced that a bar, even with Christian friends is no place for a stander.

Some rights reserved by Paul L Dineen

Some rights reserved by Paul L Dineen

I decided to do one of my least favorite activities and go to Walmart. It has been a year since my wife left me to live with her non-covenant partner. So, when I have my kids on Resurrection Sunday, I will not be invited to the in-laws, two minutes down the road, because they have chosen to stand against my stand and side with the adulterous relationship. The result, is that we will not have Easter with Nana and Popop, as usual… Instead, a loving and generous colleague from my place of work and her husband has invited us for dinner. She even sewed pillows for our kids and is making them Easter baskets. Incidentally, I am responsible for crackers and cheese as well as stuffing some eggs. Ergo, off to Walmart.

I hate Walmart… I have nothing against the store itself these days. I hate being in Walmart, seeing couples and families shopping, knowing I am coming home to an empty house. I hate the fact that I used to complain about going to Walmart with my wife. I would like to go back in time and punch myself in the face for that. So, here I am, in Walmart, and I’m struggling still. I’m not getting along with the Holy Spirit particularly well. It has been a year. I have stood. I have prayed. I have fasted from food, media, secular music, and numerous other things. I’ve given up playing video games in obedience. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. Countless friends have prayed and had their friends pray and had their churches pray, and my wife still cannot see beyond that demonic squid on her face. I still love my wife. I still want our family healed. I want to be restored because I don’t want to see her live in sin and rebellion, but honestly, I am not feeling a lot of warm fuzzies for her right now. In fact, I was struggling a few moments in Walmart with the thought of taking my ring off. I never struggle with that. Tonight, I did. I just wanted someone to look at me like I am interesting or worthy of affection. I know that is ridiculous, but there it is.

Standing in the shoe section, picking out some shoes for my daughter, I said under my breath, “No! I am standing! Father, forgive me. Father help me get through this.” That was my expectation. I wanted to survive my trip to the store. Lately, when entering any store, I ask God to put me in “the right place at the right time” and to use me. I did no such thing tonight. I simply wanted to survive until I could become unconscious at home.

Well, God got me through. I finished my shopping. I got in line, and I did not begin to freak out like I normally do in line. There’s a stillness, waiting in line at Walmart. No one is talking to you. You can try to fidget with your phone or look around, but the fact is you are stuck there, with nothing to occupy your mind, facing whatever reality you have found yourself in. I hate going to Walmart, but I despise standing in line there thinking about the life I am living presently… So I pray… Practicing the presence keeps the demons away. I had chosen a line with a tall kid in his early twenties. He looked unhappy. I thought, that’s my line. I don’t know why I thought this… It just was there. When it was my turn, I broke protocol by preempting the his hello with, “how are you?” I don’t know why I said this. I didn’t particularly care how he was at the moment.

He said, “well, I am alive and breathing, so I suppose that that beats the alternative..”

I, being so self-absorbed in my pity party, cleverly responded with, “Well, that is debatable. I often think I would quite prefer the alternative.”

“Well”, he said, “I’m not so sure. I’d like to think there might be something on the other side, but I really have no idea.”

At this point, I am screaming at God, on the inside. Father, I’m not ready for this!! I didn’t ask to be used tonight! How on earth did I fall into a conversation about this cashier’s eternal life??? What are you doing, God? I feel like a bumbling idiot here! On the outside, I am fumbling desperately with a response. While sliding my card in the kiosk, I pick the conversation back up with, “well I know that there is something in store for me that beats the heck out of my current circumstances.”

“Well”, he said, “That sounds promising, but if there isn’t, though, I’m okay with that. That will be 64 dollars and 98 cents.”

So, I left. I apologized to God profusely for doing such an insanely poor job of representing Him. I asked the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on that man despite my poor performance. I put my groceries in the trunk of my car and went around to the front seat. There, on top of my prayer journal were two tickets to the local Assembly of God Church’s Easter service. This was one of those moments when there was no point in arguing. Sometimes the Spirit speaks to your heart. Sometimes, though, it just gives your heart that look… that look that says, you know what to do, and if you make me spell it out I’m gonna slap you. So back in, I went, tickets in hand. He was very busy with other customers, but he turned my direction as I walked up. I said nothing profound or clever. I simply handed him the tickets and said, “These, sir, are for you.” I turned and walked out. I am no evangelist, but I am trusting that the Holy Spirit can work even in the context of my ineptitude.

So, once again, God exceeded my expectations. He used me despite of myself, and I left Walmart crying and feeling awestruck, foolish, and overwhelmed with His mercy, grace and goodness.

I have to know…

I just came in from my back yard and my father-in-law’s field where I was on my knees crying my guts out to my heavenly Father. When was the last time you cried your guts out before the Lord? This is when you cry so hard that you can barely breathe and you begin heaving… I wasn’t crying my guts out over my prodigal spouse or my legal fight to keep my children. I was crying my guts out because I’m afraid I’m missing something. I was crying my guts out because I want to know Him better. I was crying my guts out because I have to know…

I have to know. Is there something I’m missing in my relationship with God? I have to know… Is there a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, Acts 1:8, and  1 Corinthians 12:1-31? Am I called to something more? Is this pentecostal stuff a bunch of spiritualist mumbo jumbo bandied about by prosperity charlatans, or is this just another truth of the Word of God that we cast off in the seeker sensitive mega church because it’s uncomfortable and scares the cappuccino sipping yuppies away? I honestly don’t know, but I have to know…

So, tomorrow, I’m going to our local AOG Church instead of my usual place of worship. Honestly, I feel dry and thirsty. I want to be surrounded by people who believe God is real and not a nice idea to go along with all the LED screens, professional production, and trendy coffee bar furniture. I want to be around people who don’t think I’m crazy for standing, who don’t think the idea that my wife is under demonic influence is crazy and irrational, and who are willing to entertain the fact that God just might restore my marriage… I have to know… So tomorrow, I will try something new. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Radical Extremists are not P.C.

Some rights reserved by Jordon

Some rights reserved by Jordon

Sometimes I can’t even believe what I’m saying to people… I’m normally very reserved about this stuff, and I’ve always been leery of those crazy snake-handling charismatic types, but… well, I’ve decided the Bible is either true or it isn’t.

Jesus was pretty radical. Seriously, you don’t become the enemy of the entire religious establishment of your own people by being politically correct. Jesus was a religious extremist. He said crazy things, like.

9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:9)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

Standing is turning me into a radical extremist. Where once I used to be, pretty PC, an NPR-listening yuppie hipster, and generally laid back, I am now understanding that there is such a thing as truth, it is not relative, and the Bible does not make suggestions.

The Seeker Friendly Movement, Cheap Grace, and The Truth

Many churches, mine included, are trying desperately to reach as many lost and hurting people as possible and to be a light in the community.The danger, here, is that it is very easy to slide down a slope from acceptance, lack of judgement, and grace extended to non-believers to a place where your congregation of believers are not expected to live any different as Christ followers than they did when they were not.

Are we not going to fail and sin, even as Christians? Yes, of course we are. Will we not still receive Gods’ grace? Of course! We just have to be careful not to cheapen His grace by saying, “I know that this is sin, but it makes me happy. I’m going to keep doing it because He will grant me grace and forgiveness.” That is not Christianity. That is urinating at the foot of the cross. Remember, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:31-32)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

Paul warned that a time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). However, with over 70% of adults under the age 25 thinking all beliefs are equally valid (according to Barna Research), sound doctrine is exactly what is needed. It is the Word of God that plants the seed for the new birth (1 Peter 1:23), and the Word must be taught for the purpose of “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and for taking the true message out into the world (Matthew 28:19-20) (Got Questions).

So do we need Christ’s church to be a grace-filled community? YES! We cannot, however let sound doctrine be discarded. We can’t just look the other way, while a brother or sister is in open unrepentant rebellion against God. It’s bad for us and it’s bad for them. What is more judgmental, confronting them in love to bring them back onto the right path or considering them lost and gossiping about them behind their back?

I said all of that to say this. You should watch these videos. Then you should start reading your Bible and see what it really says. Then decide whether you really want to do this or not. Stop playing Christian.

 

 

 

 

Discomfort and the Happiness Police

I’ve had a lot of conversations with fellow standers lately about how those around us react to our stand. If you’re a stander, perhaps you’ll relate to this.If you’re a prodigal spouse, stop running and go home. You will never regret obeying God… never. If you are in Christian community with a couple going through a divorce, this post is largely for you. Yes, I’m addressing the stander directly, but I intend you to overhear our conversation… It is for your benefit. If you know a stander, perhaps you’ll take note of what you are doing and stop some of this “helpful” behavior.

You make everyone uncomfortable…

Some rights reserved by FaceMePLS

You are now that guy on the corner with a megaphone, pointing out the sins of others, just by standing. You needn’t say a word. Some rights reserved by FaceMePLS

You are a victim. Divorce is a cruel and violent act. Your spouse has rejected you, he or she had an affair, left you to live with another, and is divorcing you. By all accounts, you should be able to count on the support of those around you as you navigate this painful place. You can count on that support as long as you remain a lost and broken victim, willing to deal with your situation in a worldly way. If you stay hurt, fight with your beloved, and find someone else to ease your pain (move on, as it were), everyone will understand and give you a lot of helpful encouraging words. As soon as you make a stand on the Word of God and fight for your marriage, you mark your self as a source of discomfort for everyone. You are now that guy on the corner with a megaphone, pointing out the sins of others, just by standing. You needn’t say a word.  The specific discomfort is a bit different for each faction, but let’s look at some of the more common ones.

Home towns, blood, water, and the thickness of it all

As the stander, many of us face the daily pain of rejection from our prodigal spouse. If we’ve moved to our spouse’s childhood home community, we often also face the rejection of our in-laws, neighbors, and friends. Sometimes these people are vaguely supportive for the first few weeks after our spouse leaves. Then, they begin to encourage us, often in little ways, to move on. Perhaps they suggest moving from our marital home or finding someone else. Our very stand creates a feeling of discomfort because it points to the sin of your spouse. If you are the outsider, even if you’ve been accepted and loved for 10 or more years, your spouse is the person whom the community has known and loved all their lives. Your stand and your refusal to go away shines an uncomfortable spotlight on their fall. You need to go away soon so that your in-laws, neighbors, and friends can get on with the “new normal” and pretend everything is okay and you never existed.

Friends and fellow believers

Our best friends, even if they are fellow believers, are often very uncomfortable with our stand. For starters we’re going through pain, and as our friend, they do not like to see that. They want to spare us as much discomfort as possible. They try to come up with things that might help us. They encourage us to destroy our prodigal spouse in court or ruin their career. They try to introduce us to single friends, who often have also been through what you’ve been through… so they “understand”. Even those closest to us can be a tool of the enemy, much like Jesus’ closest friends.

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Not only do they not want to see you suffer, but also they don’t know how to talk to you with this uncomfortable elephant stomping about the room. Again, if you’ll only stay hurt, fight with your beloved, and speak death and insults over your estranged spouse, then the whole thing would make more sense and be more “normal”. It’s hard to say “get behind me, Satan” when talking to a good friend, but sometimes I say it anyway (in my mind, of course).

The failure of the church

The church, honestly, is just a bunch of broken people living in community with each other, trying to follow Jesus. I really do not like church bashing, but lately I’ve been getting really hung up on the whole following Jesus part. There is a lot of apostasy going on, particularly in the area of marriage and divorce. Our seeker-sensitive model is killing us in this area more than any other, which is ironic since marriage is a metaphor for Christ and the church. I’ve said more about this in other posts, but today, I want to share the words of a fellow stander, Cortney, who said:

I put myself on a mission to find a church to back me… truly I did… I found none. I gave up. I think churches love their numbers too… they like their membership numbers and they don’t want to scare away potential people with the truth, so they cushioned it… then just withheld parts of it during sermons… then altered a little and so on. How many church goers even know the Bible… the truth? “Wait on the Lord”, apparently only means for a very short time until you aren’t happy. I think we are missing a fear of God too… I so often hear it preached that God forgives if you just ask. That’s true, but what happened to the part about repentance and dying to self!!

Believe me, trying to get so much as a prayer out of people for your marriage is close to impossible once a divorce goes through. If they think you’re nuts before the divorce, then after you just become stupid.

And the divorce care and support groups make me gag too… no marriage restoration groups running in every church, but divorce help is everywhere in the church… And often paired with the singles ministry and advice to “find” someone. I can’t tell you my shock in finding these groups to be bashing their spouses, giving divorce advice, praying to move on, and encouraging dating asap (even before divorce). (Cortney S. Fellow stander)

I’m not sure I can put it much better than that. Thank you Cortney.

Our way is not the world’s way

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:16)

Okay, so it all comes down to this. Jesus called us to be weird. Really, we’re supposed to be salt. We’re supposed to stand out. We are set apart. We are not supposed to be normal or cool. Before my wife left, I was not set apart. Sure, I went to church, and I played on the worship team. Other than that, my life didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. I was trying hard to be a Christian hipster, and ended up a middle class yuppie. I was extremely comfortable. I was so comfortable that I didn’t notice my spouse’s discomfort or her falling into sin. I was not being the spiritual head of my home. Our world likes comfort, particularly the “western world”, as it is often called. Happiness is our religion. Our ceremonies include shopping for more stuff we don’t need, eating out, and posting well-polished photos of our manufactured happy moments on social media for our non-present friends to see and envy.  No wonder so many of our prodigal spouses have said that God wants them to be happy, so they left to pursue happiness with someone else. We have countless pop culture gurus to thank for the pervasive believe that our feelings are paramount and that we can live without sacrifice, self-denial, or discomfort. We just need to focus on what makes us happy.

Standing is extremely uncomfortable. For the first time in many of our adult lives, we face extreme economic hardship, devastating relational rejection, and legal attack. Ironically, despite standing in obedience to God, you will find that the law is not on your side (the courts want you divorced as quickly as possible), your prodigal spouse has the financial support of their non-covenant partner (you are alone in your stand), and now your friends and relatives are sick of your “holy” routine and just want you to “get on with your life”.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

Jesus never told us we would not suffer for our obedience to the Father. In fact, He often said the opposite. We are marked people. Now that we stand for marriage restoration, we are simply more aware of it.

A word about Noah’s neighbors…

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Some rights reserved by elmada

Noah was a complete loser in the world’s eyes. I bet that a lot of Noah’s friends and neighbors used their ancient-world equivalent of the phrase, “bless your little heart” a lot.  I’m sure they thought he was a little over-zealous and a bit too into his religious thing. Imagine the awkwardness of running into Noah at the grocery store. Noah’s very stand was like a signpost, pointing to the impending doom of all of those around him.

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; (Matthew 24:38)

The people around Noah were going about their lives, and I’m sure it bothered them that he was not. Imagine if he had given into his friends and relatives and neighbors. Imagine if he had decided that all of that lumber would be better put to use in expanding his game room. Imagine if he had decided he was sick of being lumped together with the crazy cat lady down the street because of all his exotic pets.

For whatever reason, you are a stander. God has shown you the truth of His word and asked you to wait. It is not fun. Your spouse is re-living their newlywed puppy-love years all over again with someone else, while you fight for custody of your children, go to bed lonely, and eat a lot of take out meals by yourself. In the end, though, when we are face-down, before our Lord, with a puddle under our knees, we will not have to hear how shallow and pathetic our own words sound when we say, “but, Lord, I just wanted to be happy.”

God bless. Good luck. Stand strong.

The surreal side of standing…

surrealMy life is surreal… there’s simply no other way to describe it. I just spent the holiday weekend with my kids, playing Trouble, having tea parties, doing laundry, attending picnics, and going to church. Basically, I continue to live life as though nothing has changed, providing stability the best I can. I mowed some lawn. I ran the weed eater. I cooked. I did dishes. I read the Word and I prayed. I read and prayed some more. Last evening, my wife came to take the kids for an overnight. I gathered some things for her and reminded the kids to “be good for mommy”. She reminded me that I would have them back in two days for a reason that essentially translated to, “I have a date with the other man.” I said okay, she drove away, and I cleaned up the toys in the yard, praying for her. I should be angry. I should burn with malice, but I don’t. I hurt deeply. I am lonely. I am tired. I am unsure where this is going or how long I must endure. Still, I am called to love. Loving her is easy, despite the pain. I married her. Loving the other man and praying for him is not so easy. Loving her new friends and co-workers and leaders who let this stand and call themselves “Christians” is even more difficult.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48).

My good friend stopped by two minutes later. I baked cookies. We talked and prayed until 9:30. We talked of forgiveness. We talked about love. We talked about when the Bible tells us to fight, when it tells us to flee, and when it tells us to stand. As my friend says, too many of us mix those up. That’s why I have so many well-intentioned brothers and sisters telling me that my wife is the enemy, that I need to look to my own happiness and safety, and that I need to flee this whole situation.

  • We are to fight the devil and the war he wages on our thought life.
  • We are to flee from temptation.
  • For all else, we are to stand.
Some rights reserved by ginnerobot

Some rights reserved by ginnerobot

Somewhere along the line we’ve allowed the proverbs of Oprah to blend in with the Proverbs of Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel. Somewhere we’ve become convinced that God is as worried about our happiness and He is our holiness. Somewhere we’ve been convinced that we should fight for our happiness and flee those who we believe drain us and stand for our rights to happiness. We come first! That’s a load of crap. The Biblical truth is that we’re to put our enemies before ourselves, let alone our family and our spouse! That’s what happened to so many our prodigal spouses!! Satan convinced them that God wanted them to be “more happy” and the key to that happiness was to escape their covenant marriage. My spouse even tried to convince me that I would be more happy with someone else! She sat in our bed and gave me all of the reasons that I would be happier with someone else. That’s a nice fantasy, but it is not Biblical in the least. God said I can’t marry someone else! I married her! She is my covenant spouse. Look in Malachi. Look in Mark. Look in Luke.

Therefore, I continue my surreal existence. My friend and I pray for my spouse’s heart and that she would turn back to God. We pray for her lover, that he would be convicted, converted, and blessed in his own ministry and in a right relationship with a woman who is perfect for him (and not in a covenant relationship with someone else). That’s right, I find myself praying blessings on the other man. God’s marching orders are all upside down feeling. That’s surreal! I will read and pray and read an pray. Many of my brothers and sisters will continue to ask me if I’ve received some kind of special instructions from God. No I haven’t. I am only following the standing orders found in 1 Corinthians. I can either stand and pray for restoration, I can live my life single and bitter, or I can fall into sin myself by marrying someone else.

I have been blessed with a lot of support through this. I still do not know how many people are praying for my marriage. Still, a local community of support would be nice. I have been invited to a lot of Divorce care groups. I do not want Divorce care. I want a marriage restoration ministry. I want like minded believers to gather with in prayer, to join hands, and lift up our covenant spouses. One should not have to join an exclusive online message board or drive to Florida in order to gather with people seeking marriage restoration. I’m praying for revival. I’m praying that our churches would stop accepting the demise of our marriages and Satan’s victory in our homes. I don’t know if God wants to use me in this or not, but I am willing.

  • Pray for me and all standers today.
  • Pray for my spouse and all prodigal spouses right now. Stop reading this and pray for their Damascus road…
  • Pray for our kids. They are not okay.
  • Good, thank you. Now, pray for the church & its leaders.
  • Pray for a revival in this land.

Honestly, I need strength. We all do. No one can do this surreal standing thing on his or her own without slowly going insane. We need God to be our refuge. We need support and we need prayer. Holiday weekends are a great reminder of how lonely and deeply painful this journey is. God bless. May He be with you.

If you’ve just started standing and have stumbled upon this blog, go to Rejoice Marriage Ministries. Get over the web design. It’s 100% Biblical. The resources are great. The people are genuine. Everything you find there, other than printed books and CD media, is free. They’re not after your money. They exist to help. I read the daily and weekly devotionals. I listen to the podcasts.

There are a lot of great resources at Faith and Marriage Ministries. I have not paid to join.

Start reading your Bible. Grab a free Bible app and listen to it in the car and as you fall asleep at night. Pray scriptures for your spouse and yourself, daily. Embrace your insanity.