My apologies for the silence last week. I have had something on my heart but have not had the opportunity, or the desire, honestly, to talk about it.
I have mentioned before, albeit in passing, that I am involved with BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). We are currently studying the Acts of the Apostles, which centers around the book of Acts while detouring at times to the letters Paul wrote to the new Christian churches. Last week we took such a road over to 1 Thessalonians and, while I loved the reading and questions, the Lord convicted me of something I am struggling to accept.
1 Thessalonians is all about how to live, and how to love, as a follower of Christ. Specifically, how you external actions and reactions should reflect the internal, living love and grace of God.
The amazing thing about God’s Word is that it is alive; He speaks to us through the Bible while the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts with His message for us. It was surprising and hard to have my ex-husband brought to mind every time the following verses/translations were read:
13-15Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part […] Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other's nerves you don't snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. (MSG)
13-15 […] Live in peace with each other. […] help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (NLT)
13-15 […] live peacefully with each other. […] Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. (NIV)
It is hard, so very hard, for me to show the love and grace of God to my ex-husband. My words and responses to him tend to be kind and calming, but the noise inside my head when we interact is deafening. The hurt and pain and betrayal bubble right up to the surface, and I feel incapable of letting it go. To release these responses to God means I need to forgive him and I fight the very idea of forgiveness in this situation. Not our social “I forgive you” but real forgiveness, which:
keeps no record of wrongs, ceases to demand punishment or restitution, stops feeling angry or resentful, “grants free pardon and gives up all claim on account of an offense,” given without expectation of restorative justice or response on the part of the offender.
That kind of forgiveness is on the other side of an entire ocean of emotions that I cannot begin to fathom putting behind me. A journey may begin with a single step and elephants may be eaten one bite at a time, but I don’t want to start. The truth is, even as I hate my fears, I love them. They have been with me for so long that they have become comfortable and routine, like changing into my yoga pants as soon as I get home from work. Everyone is supposed to hate their ex, right?
I am afraid that, if I start accepting and living God’s call in verses 13-15, I will either:
2) Become more angry.
3) Open a Pandora’s Box of emotions that will break me.
4) That I will actually succeed and have to believe that he is capable of change.
When I honestly consider our marriage, all I can see is my own failure. I failed to make a positive impact in our relationship while we were married. I failed to communicate my needs and expectations in a way that brought about loving change in our relationship. I failed to release my own desires and actions to God, which ultimately brought about our separation. I failed to make changes on my part to heal or restore our marriage relationship. I consider the fact that I am a divorcee to be the greatest failure of my life to date and do not want to fail again.
2) Become more angry.
I am angry that I am divorced. I am angry that my needs and expectations went unmet during our marriage. I am angry that I and our family time was not valued more. I am angry that I perceived myself as second-rate or an after thought in his life. I am angry that my requests for change were met with promises that went unfulfilled or with anger.
I am angry that the only public portion of our divorce painted me as the bad guy. I am angry that I was judged so harshly by others. I am angry that friends and family took his side without speaking to me. I am angry that, even those who eventually relented and came back to me, never apologized for their initial rejection.
I am angry that I still have connection to him. I am angry that he continues to manipulate me and break promises.
I am angry that my daughter has a different last name than me. I am angry that he continues to badmouth me and R to her. I am angry that this process has hurt her and will impact her life forever.
3) Open a Pandora’s Box of emotions that will break me.
I am good at holding these feelings of failure and anger in check. I have managed to compartmentalize my divorce, putting it away where I do not have to deal with it on a daily basis. This is how I managed to survive my hurt during our marriage, the divorce process, my life as a single mother, my move and remarriage, and the months when Little K is in
. I am afraid that, if I deal with these feelings, I will become a broken, sobbing mess who is unable to cope with the demands of parenting, marriage, or work. I am afraid that these emotions will consume me and send me into depression. I am afraid that I will not be able to handle these emotions in a healthy, Christian way and instead become more broken and more angry. I am afraid that the upcoming summer break will be more painful if these emotions are not resolved before school lets out. I am afraid that dealing with these emotions will cause me to act out toward my ex-husband. I am afraid that dealing with these emotions will cause me to say unkind things about him within Little K’s hearing. Florida
4) I will actually succeed and have to believe that he is capable of change.
I spent the middle three years of my marriage believing that things would change. My disappointment led to betrayal, which led to anger, which led to my actions, which led to our divorce, which led to my feelings of failure, which led to more anger… If change could not take place while we were married, I find it impossible that change will happen now that we are divorced. I spent years being disappointed and don’t want to face that again.
I prayed again and again for change during our marriage only to find things stayed the same. My disappointment over the lack of change led me to act out in destructive ways. I have finally found my way back into an active and growing relationship with God and am afraid that more disappointment will drive me away again.
The fear in all of this is that, by forgiving my ex-husband, I am accepting blame in some way or releasing him from his actions during our marriage. In reality, I have already stated my wrongs and accepted the consequences of my actions during our marriage. I am also not the one to hold him accountable for his actions during our marriage; his brokenness and restoration is not my responsibility but God’s. My allowing of these fears to continue in me does not empower me in any way; instead, they allow him to have power over me and for the Enemy to continually undermine God’s promises of grace and new life.
When I consider the journey of forgiveness that God is calling me to, one piece of good news is found in verses 23-24:
23-24May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole - spirit, soul, and body - and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it! (MSG)
23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NIV)
23-24 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. (NLT)
For He who calls me is faithful. He will empower me to do it because He is the one who is asking.
And He will use this process to sanctify me: to set apart for special use or purpose, to make holy, pure and free from sin, to make productive, to convey spiritual blessing.
The Lord God is asking me to release my feelings of failure and my anger, and to trust Him with managing my emotions. He is also calling me to release my ex-husband from my expectations for change or apology.
It is hard. So hard… The idea exhausts me and brings tears to my eyes. But I am not asked to do this for my ex; he has his own battles and brokenness to overcome. The One who loves me, who sees the grander picture, who has my best at heart and who aches to have me draw closer to wholeness and to Him, has asked me to release my fears to Him and trust Him with the result.
Lord, give me the strength and desire to take the first step. Amen.