restoration

A cry for encouragement…

OK friends help me here because I’m struggling.

I know that the enemy is working overtime against me, as I sit here at my children’s soccer games in my wife and her lover’s city of residence… I know that I’m struggling because I have to watch my kids cuddle with my now ex-wife, her lover, and his mother while I sit here, alone in a strange place. Either way, the spam from hell is rolling in. I know it’s lies, but I really need some encouragement. All I have here is discouragement. Even my closest friends and mentors have given up on my stand. I have recently had about five very mature brothers in Christ pretty much tell me that I am not going to be restored. One even told me that the Holy Spirit told him not to pray for restoration for me. I asked God for a sign of encouragement (Covenant Trucks), and He gave me the opposite sign (Payne Trucks) about 18 times in the last two months, and not one Covenant Truck.

Then, today, on the way to the soccer game, I see two Covenant Trucks, one of which is the painted over variety. I feel like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. I don’t want to be double minded. I want to be standing or not standing. The thing is, if I’m not going to be restored, I’m not going to stand just out of obedience and self-sacrifice. Unless God sends an angel into my bedroom to tell me I must stand in lieu of restoration to be a light in these dark times, I want to stop being lonely and miserable.

I’m an educator, and for better or worse, my whole life revolves around data. We don’t use a technique in the classroom unless the numbers back it up. So, here is my struggle. I can’t bring to mind one single testimony of a prodigal wife turning around without seeing her husband move on to someone else and becoming a stander herself or without contracting some terminal illness and coming home to die.

Seriously, if anyone has any data on this please reply here. Is my faithful stand doing a darn thing? Are there any numbers to suggest that women are not consumed with so much pride that they simply don’t come around without some drastically negative stimulus?

Help me out here peeps. I mean maybe I missed something. I did, after all, stop reading Saturday testimonies, from Rejoice Marriage Ministries about six months ago, when I started to realize that roughly .04% of testimonies were about wives actually coming home. A lot of times, I would see a man’s name and get excited, but it would just be something about how he was able to be a testimony or some such thing. It was never, “my wife came home and praise God, we’re restored and happy”. Perhaps men just don’t share testimonies. I can tell you that if God brought my wife home, I’d be shouting it from the mountain tops and glorifying His name in blogs, tweets, podcasts, profile updates, and everything I possibly could.

The thing is it’s been almost two years… I know, some of you have stood for much longer. Maybe you got a promise of restoration. I never did. Maybe you’re good at doing life alone. Maybe you don’t whither when you are are left without companionship for long periods of time. Maybe this wasn’t your one worst nightmare, the thing you told God you could never ever take, coming true. Maybe you’re just a bad ass and you can take severe emotional and spiritual punishment like a champ. I am not that strong, and the Holy Spirit has stopped providing my “strong-stand-juice”. The divorce is final. Everyone I know has stopped praying for my restoration. I can’t name one personal Christian mentor in my real-life circle (not online friends) that is not encouraging me to “move on” (A.k.a. find somebody else and stop being so darn miserable).

Come on peeps. Give me some encouragement. Flood the comments with stories of women who came home to their husbands without seeing their husband move on to someone else or contracting a terminal illness. Don’t bother if all you have to say is that I’m saving my wife from burning in hell (I’m a bit of a Calvinist, so that argument is meaningless), or that my stand is going to make my children better people, or that God is going to bless my obedience in the afterlife and be disappointed in me otherwise. I don’t need guilt. I need encouragement. If the only reasons to stand are negative ones, then what is the point?

I hate my life. I hate waking up. I hate going to bed. I hate eating. I hate silence. I hate music. I hate television. I hate reading. I hate everything I used to love. Hanging out with my kids is even bittersweet. Almost every moment and every conversation reminds me of her and how she was stolen by another man, with whom I am going to have to share those precious children for the rest of my life… I am tired. I am tired of hating everything. I am tired of living a life washed in gray. I am tired of not sleeping. I am tired of being tired. I have told God that I am willing to be willing to give this all to Him. I have asked for His help to let this all go. I have asked for Him to help me love Him so much that He is all I need. I don’t think He meant for me to live this way. So please, no pat answers or Bob Steinbeck quotes about how I need to suck it up for the sake of her soul. Send me some real testimonies. Give me some hard data. Give me some real encouragement that this does happen in the wild. I want to know that real wives do come home.

Someone help me.

The supernatural, the mundane, and relational strain

The supernatural…

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Some rights reserved by hickory hardscrabble

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.

Love is…

How many of us had 1 Corinthians 13 read at our overly-opulent, weddings? How many of us had any clue what those words actually meant while quick stepping through that first dance, shoving cake in each others faces, or preparing to leave for a ridiculously expensive honeymoon in a part of the world where the locals where barely scraping by?

When I said “I do”, I had no thoughts of real “1 Corinthians 13 love”.  I just wanted to have all of my adolescent romantic fantasies fulfilled and have the “security” of knowing that I would no longer have to fear being alone (Insert ironic chuckling here). Eventually, I learned all about 1 Corinthians 13 love, when my wife of 10 years left me for another man at her new job. That’s when I learned that…

 

Love is choosing to be alone when you want desperately to be with someone else just to ease the pain.

Love is spending your every last cent to put off signing a paper you know that God hates.

Love is waiting in obedience for a restoration that may never come.

Love is praying for the soul of someone who wishes you would just disappear.

 

Love is praying every night to be filled with love and forgiveness for the man your wife is in bed with at that moment.

Love is reading to your son and playing Legos when your doubled up in sickness and there’s no one around to care for you or back you up.

Love is choosing to get up and serve God today even He hasn’t brought your helpmate back.

Love is praying and longing for restoration with someone you don’t even know if you like anymore.

 

Love is crying yourself to sleep because you haven’t held your daughter in 6 days.

Love is hating your very life but refusing to quit because you live for God, your prodigal spouse and your kids.

Love is praying for your in-laws, who have turned on you without cause.

Love is walking two acres in the snow and wind to dig out your car and warm it up to take your son to school.

 

Love is living out the “better or worse ’til death do us part stuff” even when your spouse is not.

Love is smiling to your colleagues who think you are insane and saying “God’s got this” when you want break down sobbing.

Love is hanging on and hanging in when you want to run and hide.

Love is standing in gap.

 

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)

A Unique Breed

Based on a photo by gumption, Some Rights Reserved

We cry over trucks;

tears streaming over joyous laughter

at the sight of Covenant, Swift, or United.

 

We are spiritual juggernauts,

standing flint-faced in the gap

refusing to accept the world’s death sentence.

 

We know “happiness is not the truth”.

So, we embrace holiness and obedience,

taking the suffering that comes along.

 

The words, “but God”, cause our hearts

to stand to their feet, in fiero,

defiantly pumping fists to the air.

 

We call the circumstances circumspect,

living by faith not sight;

a unique breed for sure.

 

We’re misunderstood by many

and pitied by most…

“God bless your little heart…”

 

Call us crazy.

Call us stupid.

Call us what you want.

 

We’re waiting for further review

from a higher authority on the matter.

We’d appreciate your prayers, though.

 

We are a unique breed.

Stand strong, brothers and sisters.

He’s got this.

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…

Some rights reserved by elmada

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.

Vows, covenants, and sickness

I put our wedding pictures back up on the dresser today.

Some rights reserved by Hamed Saber

Some rights reserved by Hamed Saber

Interesting that you take them down when you stop by…

You feel that I’m unable to face reality… move on…

Your parents even encouraged me to do so.

It’s sad really; that God’s word means so little to so many.

 

I made some vows and I entered a covenant.

There was something in there about sickness and turns for the worse.

I meant those things, though I never pictured it quite like this.

I used to run scenarios in my mind… maybe I’m a bit strange.

I knew I wouldn’t leave if you lost your hair, face, limbs, or your ability for physical intimacy.

 

I was ready for tragic accidents…

I was ready for cancer of the body.

I never imagined cancer of the heart… the soul… the mind.

I never imagined the enemy would capture you.

Yet, it’s no different. I still stand by you.

 

I know you probably feel like I’m trying to trap you…

to keep you from “getting on with your life”.

You likely would think I’m mad if I told you.

He talks to me. The God of the universe speaks.

I’m standing, as long as He tells me to stand.

 

I know you don’t want to hear about “God and covenants”.

I know you could care less about my “feelings”.

Look, this has nothing to do with “feelings”.

I don’t feel like fighting this. It is exhausting.

I don’t feel like being lonely much of the time.

 

If you had gotten a terrible degenerative disease,

would you not expect me to stand by you and love you through it?

Here I stand.

If someone had kidnapped you, would you not expect me look for you?

Here I stand.

 

I know you don’t believe your heart will change.

You may not even think anything is wrong.

I believe in the God who stops the sun, raises the dead, and created you.

If He says He’s got this,

who am I to argue? You take it up with Him.

Why does my prodigal seem fine?

Some rights reserved by Another Pint Please...

Some rights reserved by Another Pint Please…

Does it ever seem like Job 33:14-22 is happening to you but not your prodigal? My prodigal seems so happy, and I am suffering terribly. How can he / she not feel any of this pain? A fellow stander said to me recently, “I think the most confusing part of it is how one person in the marriage can feel all the pain of separation but the other one seems to feel nothing. It seems like if you are ONE flesh…..it’d be equal pain.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way.

Yes, there are a lot of testimonies online of returned prodigals that testify to the idea that they do feel pain and conviction but are simply hiding it.

That’s nice to hear, but it doesn’t really answer the question. After all, many of us standers are trying to hide a good portion of our pain for our children or what have you. Still it’s hard to hide real heart pain and even harder to hide 30 some pounds of weight loss.

Leave & cleave / Sever & suffer

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

I left home. I moved four hours away. I intertwined my life with my spouse’s family, neighbors, hometown events, annual family vacation, and favorite restaurants; “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Now she is gone… and I’m still here with no “claim” to anything that has been my life for nearly 16 years… She can come and go as she pleases and still “fit in” because blood is thicker than water as they say. Meanwhile, I’m stuck in limbo. My job is here. My friends are here. My church is here. My kids are here… My wife is not. This is the case with many of us. We have not only lost our spouse but much of our day to day life experience. Meanwhile, the prodigal has replaced that experience with sin. We are left with void. Yes, we have God to fill that void, but it’s hard to go on vacation with God or take Him out to eat.

Sin feels good & this one is legal…

Our prodigals also have something to distract them, to fill the void. Sin feels really good. That’s why we sin. They have a non covenant partner to keep them busy, going on dates. They have a little false fantasy life and no real consequences yet. The sin is the prodigal’s, but so far all of the pain and consequences have managed to be shifted to the stander and, quite often, the kids. This is how the pain can be distributed unequally. Also, our legal system tends to favor the prodigal, rather than the stander, so you’re not likely to get any “justice” like victims of most other sins can hope for. You are left entirely to rely upon God. This is a good time to pray scriptures, like Hosea 2:6-7. Pray that God would stop your spouse from being fulfilled by his or her life of sin. Pray that it would be increasingly more empty and meaningless.

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:3-4)

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Take consolation

Throughout the Bible, marriage is an example of God and the human race, Christ and the church. Jesus suffered in ways we can’t imagine to take away our sin so we could be in a relationship with Him. Yet, people everywhere are just living their life, enjoying the pleasures of sin without realizing the hurt they cause Him by rejecting Him. Honestly, that’s how I’d been living before I got the wake up call of separation and divorce. Most of us would have to admit the same, I think. Now, we are living the ultimate example of Christ and the prodigal church right now.

Again, this isn’t very encouraging. I know that my life is serving as an example to others, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I really don’t enjoy folks telling me how others are watching my walk. Honestly, I’d rather have my wife back than be an example of Christ’s sufferings. Also, the enemy comes at me with doubt. What if she never comes home? What kind of example am I then? Hey everybody, look at me! I’m an example of how sometimes God lets us hanging… Again, that’s the enemy trying to steal my faith and my hope, but it’s there nonetheless. Meanwhile, our prodigals don’t know they are the ones really missing out on a deep, fulfilling relationship with God because they are deceived by the pleasures of sin. Also, as we’ve read earlier, there’s NO peace for Prodigals. I have to believe that, or I may lose faith. He is seeking them and longing to show them a real relationship. This is how we testify to our sphere of influence what God’s love is really like.

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. Further, in the end of the story, victory is only guaranteed to those who overcome (Revelation 2, Revelation 3). The key is to overcome. If we don’t overcome, we are overcome (Derek Prince). That brings me the the passages I despise above all others:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:6-11)

I really don’t like those.

Mowing the lawn & praying the Psalms

photo-2I’ve never been a guy who loves mowing the lawn. Over the last year, I’ve begun to take more pride in getting it done, though. Mainly because I was mowing the lawn of our family home, the place we were supposed to raise our kids and grow old together. We built it in a beautiful setting in the small town my wife grew up in. Now, every time I make another pass and turn back toward this house on the mower, my heart hurts a little bit more. I find myself crying out to God with each pass and soon tears are freely pouring from my eyes that have nothing to do with my allergies.

I find myself crying out loud from the mower, asking God to end the injustice of my circumstances, to rescue me quickly, to save me from being put to shame for my obedience, to give me some direction, to reveal the truth and to destroy the lies and illusions of the enemy. “Come quickly, God, and save me!” I cannot comprehend how the lover of my soul could allow the enemy to use my help mate, my one-flesh spouse, my best friend, and my covenant partner against me so openly and not stop it now…


As a modern Christian, I’ve often struggled with these feelings and how to express them in prayer. The writers of the Psalms did not have such hangups. Incidentally, much of the language I find myself using from the back of the old Wheelhorse, comes directly from the Psalms. If you’re feeling a bit put upon, abandoned, or neglected in your stand tonight. If you’re struggling with how to “get in God’s face” about your pain, your hurt, and your desperation, without sounding ungrateful or snarky, begin by praying the Psalms. Go grab the Message or, better yet, the Remix, and just get on your knees with a box of tissues and go for it.

 

May I recommend the following:
  • Psalm 42 (NIV / MSG)
  • Psalm 43 (NIV / MSG)
  • Psalm 69 (NIV / MSG) I recommend stopping at verse 20, unless you can visualize the real enemy… see below.
  • Psalm 38:9-22 (NIV / MSG)
  • Psalm 70 (NIV / MSG)
Remember, that if you are praying some of the imprecatory Psalms, such as Psalm 69, in their entirety, that your enemies are not your spouse and / or any non-covenant partners. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). If you can visualize the right enemy, go for it. 

Psalm 43 The Message (MSG)1-2 Clear my name, God; stick up for me
against these loveless, immoral people.
Get me out of here, away
from these lying degenerates.
I counted on you, God.
Why did you walk out on me?
Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands
over these outrageous people?

3-4 Give me your lantern and compass,
give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
to the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship,
meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp,
magnificent God, my God.

5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.

 

You will notice that in almost all of these Psalms, the writer recognizes at the end the God is still with him and continues to praise. Remember that. Even when it really sucks, and we can’t comprehend the delay, God is still worthy of praise… and probably doing a good deal more behind the scenes for us that we’ll ever know or comprehend.