Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Definition of Me (Part 4/10)

No matter how you look at it, 2007 was without a doubt the hardest year of my life. It began with the death of my much-loved grandmother just days before Matt was to begin a 15-month deployment to Iraq. In fact, my grandmother died on February 3rd, we buried her on February 7th and Matt deployed on February 8th. Saying two hard goodbyes in one was exceedingly tough.

Despit the goodbyes, that spring was actually a really joyful time for me. I enjoyed the quietness of rural Louisiana and watching the beautiful spring unfold along the river that flowed through my parents’ front yard. Joel learned to ride a bike. Nathan lost his first teeth. There was a family wedding and plenty of time for getting together with old friends. The kids and I enjoyed many happy picnics on the riverbank in my parents’ front yard … laying on a quilt, eating peanut butter sandwiches and reading aloud from a favorite book. For a few precious weeks, all seemed perfect in the world. Looking back, it was like the calm before the storm.

By early May I began to sense a difference in my relationship with Matt. I couldn’t figure out what exactly was going on, but deployments and military separations are so hard anyway that I figured it was just perhaps some of the effects of being apart and perhaps a little miscommunication. However, by early June there was no doubt that there was something big lurking beneath the surface of our marriage, and before the month was out everything was rapidly spinning out of control. It seemed that there was nothing I could do to stop the catastrophe.

There are truly no words to describe what I felt in the heat of that summer. I wanted to do nothing more than take to my bed, but I had these 3 children to look after. Honestly if it weren’t for my parents I don’t know how I could possibly have cared for my children. And the tears … oh, I cried so much! I cannot tell you the number of times that I woke to find that my cheeks and pillow was wet with tears …. tears that I didn’t even realize I had been crying. The pain was truly overwhelming and even took a physical toll on me as I cycled between being so nauseous that I was unable to eat and doing nothing but eating, being unable to sleep and doing nothing but sleeping, being unable to cry and doing nothing but crying. At some point, my normally straight hair became very curly, giving new meaning to the phrase “it will make your hair curl.”

I did everything I knew to do, but mostly I prayed. I spent hours at night on my knees next to my bed, pouring out my soul to God and begging Him to save my marriage. I asked for renewal and restoration and redemption. I cried out for His mercy. I trusted that God could heal us … even expected Him to heal us …

But He didn’t.

By October, my marriage was over. I can honestly say that prior to June 2007, I never knew my marriage was in such serious danger. And until Matt uttered those words “I want out. I want a divorce.” I never seriously considered that he might leave me and the children for what he thought would be greener pastures. To say that I was caught off-guard by the failure of my marriage would be the understatement of the century.

In the fall of 2007, I was filled with overwhelming grief, as well as embarrassment and confusion and desperation. But perhaps the most terrifying emotion of all the ones I felt during 2007 was the feeling that God hadn’t cared enough to answer my prayers. My soul cried over and over, asking “Where are you, God?! Have You not heard me? Will You not answer?”

Why didn’t He restore my marriage? I mean, isn’t the Bible pretty clear that God wants us to marry only once … to stay married in good times and in bad times? I trusted Him to heal us. I begged Him for a victory that could only glorify Him … a story that would be a testimony to the goodness of God. Why didn’t He answer me in the way I had prayed? It’s two years later, and, quite frankly, I still don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do know a lot more about God, about me and about the truth that sets us free.

If you have kept up with my blog at all during the past two years, you will know that I’ve written much on the story of my divorce and how God has spoken to me at various times in that journey. Even though God didn’t answer my prayers as I had hoped, He was never silent. There are so many things that God has whispered into my heart as I’ve walked down this road, but there is one in particular that I would like to share as I think it defines yet another part of who I am becoming.

This past spring I traveled with a group of ladies to a women’s conference in Baton Rouge. I was so excited to go because one of my favorite Christian authors, Angela Thomas, was among the speakers to present … as well as a concert by one of my favorite Christian artists, Mandisa. Being away from the responsibilities of regular life for 36 hours, while praising God with a group of great women … well, I went expecting to have a great time and hoping that maybe God would speak deeply to me, too.

The entire week before the conference God continually spoke to my heart about the importance of truth. Over and over and over that week … in situations at work, at home, with my kids, with my friends and even regarding a very brief dating relationship that had ended several weeks earlier. God kept speaking to me about the importance of truthfulness … how it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

Would you believe that the entire conference was about knowing the truth … not just any truth, but God’s truth? God had been preparing my heart all week long for the message He was going to give me at the conference. I heard it in Mandisa’s concert, and in the words of each of the speakers (Stormie O’Martian, Thelma Wells, Karen Kingsbury, Chonda Pierce, etc). Each and every one of the speakers had something to say about knowing and embracing God’s truth.

So by the time Angela Thomas took the stage as the very last speaker, my heart was already full to overflowing. Angela talked about how when we go through tough times, we often do not sense God is with us. We wonder why He has left us to go through the difficult situation alone. We cannot see Him working in our lives and feel that our prayers are not being heard or answered. Satan loves to convince us that God simply doesn't care or that He is too busy to deal with our problems, and we believe his lies over the truth that God wants us to hold dear.

Angela shared first a passage of Scripture from 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

As Angela shared God’s message, she said that when we accept Christ the veil is removed from our eyes, but so often we stand there with our eyes closed and wonder why we can’t see God. She challenged us to open our eyes and look for the glory of God at work in our lives …

God at work in my life? My first thought was "Yeah, well He certainly didn't answer that HUGE prayer I had about saving my marriage." But God asked me to search further and remember back ... and what I began to see was evidence of God being there for me.

Evidence like God answering my prayer for over 3 years for just one baby by blessing me with three wonderful babies in less than 3 ½ years.

Evidence like amazing protection in a wreck that should have sent every member of our family to the hospital and yet none of us had any kind of serious injury.

Evidence like God orchestrating a prayer chain for me and my marriage so that I was being prayed for round the clock (often people who didn’t even know me) during the worst days of 2007.

Evidence like God providing a job that simply landed in my lap when I had to return to work after being a stay-at-home mom for several years.

Yes, the evidence of God’s glory in my life is there. Even in the midst of that horrible divorce, God did a lot of restoring and healing. No, not in my marriage as I had prayed, but rather in my heart. That alone has made the heartache I’ve gone through worth the pain. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in the past two years is the God is with me all the time., even when I can't see Him. When I think He is hidden from my view, I only have to open my eyes and look for the evidence of Him at work in my life, for the veil has already been removed.

The best part is that when I open my eyes and my heart, and I see the glory of God working all around me, I realize what an amazing love my Heavenly Father has for me… and how even in the bad times He is so exceedingly good.

The fourth truth about me is that I am a woman who has not only had the veil removed from my face, but who is also learning to stand with eyes open wide to see God at work in my life as I choose to reject the lies the devil would have me believe and embrace the truth that truly sets me free.

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