fear

The games people play

An open letter to Christians dating (especially the ladies),
I wrote the post below last night, hit publish, and continued to play the game until I fell fitfully asleep regretting it:

So, I just got off FaceTime with my kids. They are at “the other house” this week. I keep going over the last few years of my marriage and the things my wife said to me the night she left. 2913052110_86f6b014a2_z

It seems like the biggest mistakes that I made in my relationship, the ones that ultimately drove my wife into the arms of another man and out of our marriage were:

  1. Being too available. I gave up a lot of hobbies and a second job to be at home with her and the kids and to help with the kids / housekeeping etc.
  2. Letting her know regularly how much I loved her. I bought cards just because. I wrote little notes. I sent texts. I bought flowers. I bought gifts. I never wanted her to doubt how I felt about her.
  3. I shared my feelings, concerns and weaknesses in a transparent and vulnerable manner.

No, I am not being sarcastic in the least. I know that those seem like the qualities that we’re all told to have as Godly men. Those are touted as positive characteristics that all Godly women are seeking. The night my wife told me she was leaving she shared all of the things she couldn’t stand about me and why she just had to “get out”. They included:

  1. You’re always around. You have no hobbies. Your whole life is me and the kids. That’s really pathetic.
  2. I feel like you care for me and love me far more than I do you. That’s not fair, and I can’t stand to look at that “I love you” look on your face anymore.
  3. I don’t feel like you’re a real man. See, you’re crying right now. You’re kind of a big baby.

Wow. This feeds into everything the male relationship gurus say about how we have to “play games” and pretend to be indifferent, disconnected, and unavailable to get a girl. Apparently this also applies to keeping a girl, even one you’re married to.

So, here we are, two years later. This girl I really like, who really seems to like me (we call or text every evening) hasn’t contacted me all day, and I haven’t contacted her. I’ve had plenty of opportunities. I’ve thought about her several times. I feel as though I initiate conversation too often though, so I am painfully letting the silence hang and waiting to see if she will contact me. How ridiculous is that? I really want to call her or text her, but I feel like if I do, I’m setting myself up to “lose the game”. I feel like I have to play the game. I hate feeling like that. I hate it.

I don’t want her to think I’m clingy. I don’t want her to think I’m too devoted. I don’t want to look like “a big baby”. That phrase will never leave my head. Thank you, prodigal spouse.

I also can’t help but think this is unbiblical or wrong, but it’s become a part of the courtship process because of the fall and I just have to live with it.

I hate this.

 

So, I regret playing games. I pray that I’ve done no lasting damage to my relationship with this amazing woman. All I managed to do, I think, was miss an opportunity to talk with her, but perhaps she enjoyed the break.GAMEFREE-2

Either way, I think if we have to play games, maybe the relationship isn’t worth it. My end goal is marriage, and I think the worse-case-scenario is not that I’ll lose the girl. That’s happened to me already in the worst way possible. I think that the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll end up married to someone I have to play the game with. I’ll end up with someone with whom I cannot:

  • Serve
  • Love
  • Honor
  • Cherish
  • Be transparent with
  • Love as Christ loved the church.

I don’t want that. So, this girl, as amazing as she is. This girl that I’m willing to wait for even though she is really busy, deserves more than to be played with. That said, if she wants to feel the need for “a chase” or desires a guy who is aloof, unavailable, and disengaged, then maybe she isn’t as awesome as I think she is and I’m better off without her. I will allow God to be my anchor, and no human relationship, no matter how much I desire it. I need to look to Him to hold this fast if it is His will. If it isn’t, then I’m better off without it. It’s just hard to see that sometimes, particularly when I’m down & feeling insecure.

Christian ladies, go read the dating advice websites. See what is being said about women and what they want. If you ever want a relationship that lifts you up instead of tearing you down. If you ever want to have a real spiritual leader in your home, you can begin by stopping with the games. If you’re getting a text every hour, yes, he may be a clingy-stalker-psycho. If you’re getting a nice text or call every day, he just might care for you, which I would think is what you want. If you’re seeing someone, and you don’t want him to second guess your feelings and whether or not he’s constantly being “tested”, don’t assume he knows. The social media marketing is intense. Every single or divorced guy’s Twitter and Facebook feed is filled with invasive intense marketing by these guys who say YOU WANT US TO TOY WITH YOU! Go ahead, send your man a text right now. Tell him you don’t need him to play hard to get. Tell him you appreciate his transparency and authenticity… that is, if you really do.

Blessings.

J.


 

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.

The supernatural, the mundane, and relational strain

The supernatural…

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My relationship with God has been under a lot of strain lately. I know this is common to man in general, but the last month or so has been a doozy. I told God that I need restoration soon or some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. I have to trust that there is some purpose to this mess and that it is not just random pointless pain and suffering at the whims of Satan and his minions, entirely out of God’s control to stop. I have to believe that He cares. I have to believe that he is at work. The truth is, I’m starting to hate myself, so I really need to know that He loves me… I really need to know that, even if I’m not sure that I really love Him… The thing is, that we’re commanded to love him. Further, a friend recently had me watch this brief talk by Brennan Manning, where he espouses the need to believe that God, in fact, loves us. Honestly, I want to believe that. I know it, intellectually, but I just don’t believe it. Manning points out that this is likely a function of my gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred, and despair, which in the context of my circumstances is understandable.

So, my regular readers will know that I struggle a lot with this whole Baptism of the Holy Spirit / Gifts of the Spirit thing, often wondering if I am missing something in my faith and my walk. Perhaps I listen to too much Derek Prince and Jim Cymbala. The problem is, I keep hearing preacher after preacher and scholar after scholar, men for whom I have great respect, say that this is for every believer and that God will freely give it.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

So does the fact that I’m not “filled with the Holy Spirit”, as in I’m not displaying the overflow in any manifestations of the spiritual whatsoever a sign that…

  • I am not really a child of God?
  • I am deficient in some serious way?
  • I am in the midst of some sever disobedience that is blocking the Spirit’s work?
  • my life is still under a curse that is blocking me from receiving the blessing?
  • this is not true, not really Biblical or has somehow been grossly misinterpreted?

The mundane…

Honestly, God shows up in my life a lot. An old friend bought tires for my car recently. I find myself put in numerous situations to extend the love of Christ, from my many chance encounters at Walmart to old ladies along the road to broken down cars in the library parking lot. I constantly have opportunity to share and I receive the most astonishing reactions. A friend and mentor of mine pointed out recently that perhaps I am missing the fact that I am more likely to experience God in the “mundane” than in the “supernatural”. Okay, I get that. I understand that most of my life is made up of the mundane. Yet, I am supposed to live and walk in the spirit, to keep my eyes on the things above, and to live according to the Spirit. Further, I am supposed to be serving a dead-raising, sun-stopping, sea-parting, multitude-feeding, heart-softening, never-changing God. If He doesn’t change, then, presumably, He’s still working through supernatural power today, just as he was in the Bible.

When I focus on the mundane, on that which I perceive through my senses, then all I have is the flesh. The mundane is my court-appointed co-parenting workshop, whose underlying message or theme, which can be summed up in the following statements, two of which were overtly stated and the others frequently implied.

  • Your spouse is never coming back.
  • Emotionally mature people grieve the loss and get someone new.
  • You need to detach from your spouse as quickly as possible because they’re never coming back.
  • Divorce can be very positive if you would just accept it and move on.
  • This is no one’s fault and is very normal.

In the mundane, I feel totally beaten down, rejected, and unworthy. I desperately need the supernatural. That’s why I am here, in the sheepfold. I didn’t sign up for this gig to have friendly folks to hang out with on a Sunday morning.

I can’t seem to get my eyes off of the mundane, lately. There was a time, when this all started, that I could see the big picture from God’s perspective. In October, I was providing encouragement, embracing the radical nature of my stand, and focusing past my discomfort. Now, I feel lonely, tired, rejected, lonely, attacked, abandoned, and lonely. Did I mention lonely? Further, thanks to this dry spell in terms of the Spirit, or the supernatural if you will, I feel not only rejected by my spouse but also by the God of the universe. I begin questioning whether or not I am destined to be used for the purposes of God by simply being a tragic footnote in the pages of history, like Esau or Jonah… someone who should be after God’s heart but is just missing it in some profound way.

In the mundane, I’m starting to loathe and fear the woman my wife has become. This person I’m standing for, out of obedience to God and love for her, is beginning to become a stumbling block to my daily walk. As I receive more and more attacks and the attorney fees mound beyond what I can hope to pay, I have to expend more and more emotional and spiritual energy every day, on my knees before God, praying for help to forgive, to love, and to cherish. Every event for our children becomes an additional turn of the screw as my prodigal spouse tries to push me further out of their lives. My spirit cries out in excruciating pain when I see the OM embrace our children as though they were his, when they tell me that mommy said they could call him “daddy”, and when I see my whole extended family sitting with them while I sit off somewhere else on my own.

The bottom line is, if God doesn’t show up in the supernatural soon and I am left with only the mundane to sustain me, then I cannot stand. I cannot do this in the flesh. This is not possible in the mundane. A friend of mine often says that the enemy wants us dead, insane, or incarcerated, and I can see those as viable possibilities in the life of a stander without some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. Let’s be honest, do this is not natural, and it certainly is not mundane.

Relationship strain

So, as I said earlier, my relationship with God has been under a lot of strain lately. I know that I need to navigate this valley in obedience to Him, open to what He is trying to teach me. I know He is with me. I know that He loves me and wants the “best” for me. I “know” these things, but left to the mundane, it is difficult to feel these truths through the pain, struggle, and exhaustion of daily life. Maintaining a long obedience through this valley in the absence of supernatural strength and the promised “peace that passes understanding“, is tiring to say the least.

I find myself walking through the store, looking at every woman in my age range, not wearing a wedding ring and thinking, “Father, why am I doing this for a woman who has rejected me?” On the weekend when my whole family is with the other man, and I have no one, I find myself alone and often end up turning to an online game for community… I have struggled with this… a lot. I have deleted this game three or four times and repented of even liking it. I have given it up, reinstalled it, and gone whole weekends doing nothing else. I feel like a failure and a fake. I feel like I’m supposed to be stronger than this. I feel like I was never a real Christ follower to begin with.

If I really loved and trusted my Lord, I wouldn’t be so caught up in what I lack, paralyzed by the fear of my “lonely” future, or so self-focused in general. I wouldn’t be upset that I haven’t seen a covenant truck in two months. I want to be focused, serving, obedient, and serene, like Paul was, but I feel like this valley is causing me to regress rather than grow. I just want to throw a childish temper tantrum at the foot of the cross. There’s a ridiculous image for you. I know that this distance and this strain is my fault, but I don’t know how to get beyond it without some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. Simply pulling myself up by my bootstraps isn’t working.

Somebody pray for me.

Identity Crisis pt. 2: Dreams, schemes, and recurring themes

Back in June, I posted a poem, called Identity Crisis. I am certainly in a different place now than I was then, but the first stanza still applies to my life to a certain extent:

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to act.

Honestly, I don’t know who to be.

Dreams

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Dreams, hopes, aspirations, or one’s calling tend to be one of the primary motivating factors in one’s life. It is our “dreams” that keep us going, that help us get out of bed in the morning, and keep us out of Pilgrim’s slough of despond. As standers, I would guess that most of us, like myself, were cruising along in life near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We were thinking about our career and family goals or perhaps even seeking God about how He intended to use us in a bigger way. Then it hit, like an atomic bomb or category 5 hurricane, wrecking our life and knocking us down to the middle or bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Our one-flesh partner said, “I don’t love you anymore” and went to live with someone else. Maybe they filed for divorce and are even going after the children and their half of all you own. At best we’re now operating somewhere between belonging and esteem, but we’re most likely between safety and belonging. This is true particularly if you face financial difficulties and / or a custody battle.

Maybe it’s wrong or shallow, but I’ve been crying out to God for something with which to replace my dreams. I just feel so despondent. I’m not excited about life anymore. There is so much monotony and the things I used to really look forward to about this time of year are all wrecked and demolished and mired in intrigue and scheming and satanic machinations. I spent more than half of my life wanting to escape reality. The last six years I have loved my life. I have embraced reality, and have for that brief season been very very happy. Now I find nothing but the desire to escape again. I just want some positive goals… something more than survive, hope for restoration, avoid losing my children, and avoid financial ruin.

I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), but I’ve lost sight of the goal. What is the goal? What is my goal? This is so simple yet so elusive. I am trying desperately to, as Paul says in Romans 12 to offer my body as a living sacrifice, so I may be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will… the goal to win the prize…

Schemes

My life is no longer proactive, but rather reactive. I find myself spending every day wondering when the next email or text message is going to come in that I must react to. Not only is the enemy keeping my wife in the far country with another man, but he’s actively using her as a tool to reap further destruction. Daily I face a new scheme to separate me from our children, give me some new legal of financial hoop to jump through, or complain that I have not met some expectation or responsibility that she arbitrarily made up for me to do.

Is this what my life is to be about, Lord? Am I to live in a constant state of reaction to negative situations? How long can I keep this up? Not long without Your strength. I need my daily bread, Lord. I need you to show up and help me. I’m being beaten into the floor over here. HELP ME!

Recurring Themes

So, I find myself mired in recurring themes, or as the Bible would call them, curses. My dad committed suicide when I was in elementary school, and I grew up with challenge after challenge. Even Christmas, a magical time for many children was bittersweet and somewhat empty. By the time I was getting beyond that, I received the gift of a step-father who wanted nothing to do with me and caused me to live in constant fear and rejection until I left home at 18.

Now I get to feel those feelings of rejection and inadequacy surrounding the Holidays all over again from my one-flesh partner, who has essentially said, “I wish you were dead”. I also get to watch my children struggle to understand what is going on. One of my favorite pastors to watch on Youtube, Derek Prince, describes this phenomenon both here and in his book, Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose, as:

a long, evil arm stretched out from the past. It rests upon you with a dark, oppressive force that inhibits the full expression of your personality. You never feel completely free to be yourself. You sense that you have potential within you that is never fully developed. You always expect more of yourself than you are able to achieve. Or again, that long, evil arm may have the effect of tripping you up as you walk. Your way seems clear before you, but from time to time you stumble—yet you cannot see what it was you stumbled over. For some uncanny reason, the moments at which you stumble are those when you are within reach of attaining some long-sought goal. Yet your goal eludes you.

What to do?

So the solution is both simple and miserably difficult at the same time. Seeking a stronger relationship with God, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him will ultimately:

  1. become a goal to focus on and cause me to thirst for more.
  2. strengthen me to face many trials.
  3. give me hope and increase my faith.
  4. give me confidence and power to rebuke the spirits of fear, despair, and heaviness.
  5. help me to trust God to take away the curse.

Great! We solved the problem. Problem solved! WRONG!

It’s not so easy to cultivate a stronger relationship with God, seeking Him, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him in prayer, reading the Word, and just sitting in His presence. It takes time and strength and discipline and perseverance. I’ve also found that no matter how often I ask, He won’t just give me warm squishy feelings for Him. I would love to be able to wake up with that “I’m in love” feeling again. It would be even better from God, who will never leave me nor forsake me. Unfortunately, a thirst for God requires cultivation. He won’t just give me a thirst for Him.

Instead, I wake up feeling rejected and empty. I go to do a job that I really love, working with people I really love, while being constantly haunted by empty the feeling that I am ultimately rejected by the one person for whom I care more than any other in the world. Meanwhile, I spend my day in fear of the next text message or the next email and what it will mean I have to do, face, or fight. That’s the enemy’s plan. Keep me focused on the circumstances… keep me reacting… keep me in despair and fear.

Fighting Back

So, I imagine that I can choose to fight back or give up. The enemy wants me to give up, and as attractive as that looks right now, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. So, how do I fight back? I feel like I spend nearly all of my spare time, listening to or reading the Bible, listening to audio and video sermons, and praying through. I quote scriptures to the enemy, I proclaim scriptures to my empty house, and I remind God of his promises in scripture. I fast and pray. Still I struggle. What must I do?

I guess I need to crucify my flesh. I need to give up on searching for any fulfillment outside of Him, and I need to give up on the distractions that come my way. I need to make the hard decisions that it’s not okay to spend an inordinate amount of time playing video games, watching movies, practicing martial arts or thinking about any things that do not edify me. I need to force myself to open my mail. I need to reach out to the people who will really pray for me and let them know that I am not a spiritual giant. I am struggling. I am drowning. I need to be lifted up. I need to be ministered to. Maybe I need to fast and pray for God to open my heart, reveal Himself more, and help me to hear and know Him, rather than fasting for a laundry list of needs.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I just need to relax, trust, and obey. All I know is this is getting more heavy by the day, and I need more of Him.

Encouragement for the hurting Stander

Are you literally sick of life?

Do you practically hate everything?

Are you sick of crying your eyes out?

Burned out on prayer and seeking God?

Buck up, Cupcake?

bootstrappyNo, this is not going to be a shallow, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, Romans 8:28 pep rally. You are hurting. I know that I can tell you that God keeps His promises. I can tell you that Christ paid the ultimate price so that you you will not ever have a “Gethsemane”. I can even talk to you about how loved you really are by the God of the universe. I know that none of that matters right now. You are hurting. Like me, you probably go from being encouraged by great testimonies of marriage restoration, to being devastated and depressed by stories of long dismal unresolved stands. Sometimes, even restoration stories are frankly disheartening at best. Dennis Wingfield, for example probably wouldn’t trade his testimony for anything, but I find it to be the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.

You are lonely. You have been rejected by your one-flesh partner. The person you have been the most vulnerable with in the whole world is playing house with someone else, and often acting like God is okay with that. You may even be questioning whether or not God is okay with that. After all, He sure isn’t doing a darn thing about it! Maybe you have had enough “false hope” moments to know God doesn’t always come through.

Be Encouraged… no really.

Okay, maybe He won’t come through. Maybe your spouse’s heart his becoming harder and harder. Maybe. I do know a few things that may encourage you, though.

First, God is NOT okay with this. God definitely does not condone everything He tolerates. Your one-flesh partner is on the highway to hell, but be encouraged. You are not, and you can pray. Pray your lonely, rejected, broken little behind off for your spouse because he or she needs it. There’s no such thing as “fire insurance” Christianity. Even casual, lukewarm Christians make God want to vomit. Imagine how He must feel about those who profess his name and live in abject rebellion to His teaching? Your spouse may not “want” you right now, but he or she “needs” you. If you haven’t organized an elite strike force of prayer warriors to stand in the gap for your spouse’s soul, maybe you should work on that. That’ll give you something to occupy your mind to push out the thoughts of that non-covenant partner who is snuggling with your children like they helped bring them into the world.

…do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:4-11)

Second, you are ultimately responsible for you. Seriously, it may not be the most encouraging thought on the surface that someday “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). I don’t know about you, but that scares the crap out of me. It is good to develop a healthy fear of the Lord. I was talking about this on GHO one night with my friend and fellow stander, Ben. Ben noted that his mom used to say that “God is your friend but He is not your pal”. Someday, we’re all going to stand before God… okay, I really don’t see myself standing unless supernaturally held up. Honestly, I think I’ll be face down before Him, shaking uncontrollably, kneeling in a puddle of my own urine. Put yourself in that spot. At that point, will it matter whether your spouse ever came home or not? No. All that will matter is how faithful you were to whatever God called you to do in the circumstances you found yourself in. Imagine how shallow and pathetic our own words would sound when we say, “but, Lord, I just wanted to be happy… I thought I deserved to be happy.”

Your life has epic meaning…

No really. This one is a little deep, but stay with me on this one. You have been chosen for a special mission of great significance that will save the lives of many others. No, this is not a fantasy novel or an MMORPG. This is what you signed up for when you crossed the line of faith. You want to be a Christian? Welcome to the war. By the way, now that the enemy has attacked your marriage, you can choose to be among the elite who will actually fight, or you can join the other side. It all depends on where your treasure is. This won’t help you most days, particularly when you’re feeling very alone, but there are times, driving in your car when this will hit you… when you think about someday hearing “well done, good and faithful servant”, that this will carry you to new heights that you never thought imaginable.

Now, tame that tongue… and put it to work.

I am tired. I am physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. I am spent. I am struggling to forgive the other man. I’m even struggling to be near him without fantasies of physically harming him consuming my thoughts. I have to see him regularly, now, holding hands with my wife and touching my children. I am flooded with legal, financial, and relational circumstances. Amidst this daunting context, I am frequently asked, “How is it going?” or “How is everything?” How tempting it is to just unload on whoever asks that question. After all, it’s therapeutic to get it off my chest right? WRONG!

Even if you’ve taken no encouragement from this post… Even if you forget everything I’ve said so far, remember this one thing: Our words have power… so much power. Honestly, I thought my friend Bill was a little over-the-top-happy-feel-good when he first said this to me, but the more I read the Bible… the more I learn about the Power of our words, the more I realize this is true. It is not pop-psychology. It is not foolish optimism. It is power. Speak life over everything. This is a war… a serious serious battle. We are fighting for our lives, our very souls, and those of our spouse… Our mouth holds the Power to give life and fight off the enemy, through praise, proclamation, and scripture… speaking the Word. Let’s use it that way! Are you testifying to God’s glory or His impotence and Satan’s power? What is your mouth doing to you? What is the picture you are giving others of your Lord?

I have come to realize that my enemy’s #1 form of attack is to get me to focus on my circumstances and his #1 weapon is my own mouth… I constantly catch myself giving bad reports to those who ask what is happening and I have to go shut myself in my office and repent, proclaim some imprecatory Psalms, and go try to do better in my next conversation… A fellow stander of mine recently noted that when she opened her mouth with negativity, she was also helping hand over valuable strategic intelligence to the enemy camp.

I really started to see that I was giving Satan step by step instructions on how to hurt me. One day I said- no more! No matter how afraid I am sometimes, I will not give him any power over me. It has made a big difference in my life and my stand (C).

We need to commit to overcoming the enemy with the word of our testimony. We need to commit to making our mouth work for us. I have found that the best thing I can do in bed in the morning when I wake, in bed in the evening before I sleep, in the car, and anytime I’m alone is to proclaim the Word of God. I learned the power of proclamation from Derek Prince, and so far I have to say that he is right on.

So, I leave you with some verses to proclaim today. Please add your own in the comments. I need more.

25 The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze,

and your strength will equal your days.

26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,

who rides across the heavens to help you

and on the clouds in his majesty.

27 The eternal God is your refuge,

and underneath are the everlasting arms.

He will drive out your enemies before you,

saying, ‘Destroy them!’ (Deuteronomy 33 25-27)

7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. (Deuteronomy 28:7)

8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’ (Ezekiel 36:33-36)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 31b, 37-39)

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. (Isaiah 45:2 NIV)

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14 NIV)

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10, 11 NIV)

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18 NIV)

no weapon forged against you will prevail,

and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,

and this is their vindication from me,”

declares the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)

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…

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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.

Love, Faith, Fear, and the Eraser

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭18‬ NIV)

Some rights reserved by KristinNador

Some rights reserved by KristinNador

I’ve noted before, on this blog, that God does not save us from the fire, but stands with us in it. The question is, will we get burned, and how does one quantify the burn? Todd White raises an interesting and frightening point when he says, “if it’s about you, you will get eaten and you will get burned” (Todd White). That’s frightening. I am in a divorce, one of the most painful ordeals of anyone’s life and am expected to make Godly and wise decisions concerning my children in the midst of that ordeal. Every day, I question, how much of my reactions, thoughts, and feelings are about me and how many are about God and my kids? Then, the enemy is constantly involved, framing the messages of my spouse in such a way to make me look selfish and unreasonable if I disagree at all. How much truth and how much manipulation exists in those arguments? How do I know when to die to self and when to stand against something? What am I supposed to do? It’s difficult to think clearly in the heat of battle. That still small voice is hard enough to discern when one is at peace.

Today, it really sunk in that my family is going to the beach in three days with a counterfeit in my place. That is EVIL and no one is standing up against it. I want to just scream at them all! It feels so wrong and unjust and unfair and every one just seems to wish I would “go away” or “disappear” so they could get on with their lives and pretend nothing happened. It so much more difficult to die to self when those around you actually wish you where dead. That’s not pessimism or depression. That’s just an observation. My wife, my in laws, and my neighbor’s lives would be made much more convenient if they could simply erase me from the picture. Then, the little fantasy that everything is okay, and nothing is amiss would have no interruptions. Unfortunately, I am here, asking for things like being able to see our children on a pretty regular basis, to have a say in where they’ll live and where they’ll go to school.

So, I ask Him to give me my daily bread, equipping me for each battle as it comes up. I cry out to Him daily and do my best to trust Him to care for me and speak on my behalf.

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause. (Psalm 25:1-3)