January 2, 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

It is January 2nd, and I am just getting round to wishing my blog followers a very Happy New Year. I spent all day yesterday in bed -- literally -- sick in bed! UGH! What a way to start the new year, right? The good news is that I am feeling so much better today. Yes, whatever stomach bug hit me this week has finally made its way out of my system. I am tired and sore, but feeling more like my good old self. God is good, so very good to me!

So New Years 2015 arrived without much fanfare at my house. I was blessed to spend my evening and to ring in the new year with my special friend via the miracle of technology (phone and internet - what a blessing!) I have never been much of a party-er type person. I never did do the going out to celebrate with friends thing, even when I was younger and single. Most New Years were celebrated at home with family or occasionally, at a friends house. I am not a late-owl anymore so staying up to midnight is a chore for me. Still, I do enjoy the obligatory "New Year kiss" and the toast that goes along with ringing in the New Year.

Of course, it didn't help that I was so ill. I started to feel unwell on New Year's Eve day, and as the evening progressed, I found the symptoms becoming more pronounced. By the time I signed off and turned into bed, I was in full-throttle "stomach flu" mode. Yesterday was really a day of recovery for me. I got out of bed three times, but each session lasted less than an hour. Between the stomach ache and headache, I found myself unable to stand or to sit for any length of time. Thank goodness, the virus that attacked me was short-lived, and that after a violent start, it petered out pretty quickly. Like I said, today is a much better day. I feel worn out, but better able to resume my normal duties. Whew! I am glad to be at home today (my last day off work for a while) so that I can finish my class prep for next week, and start thinking about my own studies (two classes) at Regent.

Today is a good day, a very good day. I am starting to prepare for my semester, and as I look forward to my classes, I realize just how close I am to finishing my doctoral program and beginning my career as a full-time professor (somewhere). Yes, if I think about it, I am at the mid-point of a life-change (complete life change -- newly divorced, college educated, career focused, spiritually and ministry driven). It is hard to believe how much my life has changed, how I have moved from where I once was to where I am now. I know, I know -- I left a lot behind, and perhaps not everyone thinks I made the best choice, the best decisions regarding the path I took to get to this point. However, I see the change, the evolution, the movement -- and to me -- I see the blessing, the continued growth and development, and the movement toward fulfilling the Lord's will for my life. I cannot convince anyone of what I feel because it is what "I feel" that matters. I would hope that others would support my growth, but that is not always the case. In my heart and in my mind, I feel so good about what has transpired, about where I am today, and about where I am headed tomorrow. I am relieved, I am relaxed, and I am rested in the sense that my former life was chaotic, difficult, and consistently challenging (and not in a good way). My new life is calm, peaceful, and while still challenging, it is challenging in ways that develop my spiritual character, affirm my calling, and create within me new desires to serve and honor the Lord. In all, my new life seems to be moving toward a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord. My old life, while not completely foreign from that desire, restricted my forward movement. The best way to explain it is this way...as I attempted to move closer to the Lord, I was restrained from making any significant steps forward because my ex-spouse was not willing to walk with me. Let me explain...

When I married in 1984, my spouse and I were both Christians. In truth, I thought he was a much stronger, more devoted Christian than I was because he had been raised in an evangelical/missionary type life (his parents were missionaries). Moreover, he had attended Christian school and college, and he was active in ministry at our church (sports, mostly). I had been a Christian for a long time, but my growth was sporadic. I came to faith early as a child, but didn't commit to the Lord fully until I was a senior in High School. I was baptized as a young adult, and for the most part, spent the better part of those early years struggling to understand my calling. I was lost, for all intents and purposes. I wasn't spiritually lost, I was just lost in translation, as the saying goes. I was a young follower of Jesus Christ, but I had no one to spiritually guide me into maturity. I was faithful at church, and I served in Children's ministry, but no one served as my head, my guide, my mentor, to help me understand what I was feeling inside my heart, and to help me interpret what the Lord was asking me to do. I was an avid Bible reader back then, and I was constantly in prayer, but my doctrine was screwed up (thanks to a mish-mash of belief that came out of my childhood church experiences). I never had the gospel preached to me consistently so I believed some of the Word and some extra-biblical teaching that left me confused on how I was to live my life. I was a young girl seeking to follow the Lord, but without sure footing or wise counsel to help me make good life decisions.

When I met my spouse, I thought he would be the one to help me, after all, he seemed like a Godly young man, bent toward ministry and serving the Lord. He certainly appeared to be that way to me, and for a time, I was enamored by his presence and his life experience. In truth, I was enamored by his family and their years of ministry service. I had such a strong calling on my life toward ministry that I desired nothing else but serving the Lord. I thought my spouse wanted the same thing. I believe it was so because he said it was what he wanted as well. However, I was duped into believing that this was the case, and because I was naive and unlearned in "church ways," I didn't listen to the Holy Spirit tell me to be careful, to watch my step, and to walk away. Instead, I found myself drawn to him, wanting to be accepted by his family and his Christian friends. I so wanted to be valued, and to feel as though I belonged to these people.

In hindsight, I see it more clearly now. I had suffered a devastating break up (with a boy), and I was ostracized by my church youth group (people whom I thought were really my friends) about a year before I met my spouse. In my last year in high school, I had dumped the Pastor's son who took advantage of me, who treated me so badly, so casually, so wrong -- and in the process -- I lost all my so-called Christian friends. Moreover, as I entered college, I started that relationship again, hoping that the second time would prove different. The second experience was worse than the first, and I walked away only to find out that the young man who professed to love me and who proposed to me, had done the same thing with another woman (whom he eventually married). I found myself alone and lonely. I was confused about relationships in general, and I was struggling to understand how I could have allowed myself to be so mistreated by someone who was a "Christian."

Therefore, in my view, it was these two events coupled together by my new found desire to be with the Lord that served to create within me the intense desire to belong -- to belong to anyone, any group -- that would accept me. Thus, I threw myself into church and church activities, and I met a young man who appeared to be the answer to my prayers. Had I been more mature, more wise, and more cautious, I would have listened to my family and my true friends who warned me against this relationship. I should have said no and walked away at the first signs of manipulation and control. I should have recognized that the relationship was just like the previous one, only ramped up and at a higher octane. I should have resisted the temptation and stayed firmly grounded, waiting for the Lord to lead me and guide me in His way.

The gloss of Christianity can be persuasive, especially when young girls are taught to seek young men for marriage. In many fundamentalist churches, young girls are taught to seek mates early on. Fear is spread by suggesting that if they do not find their mate early, in high school, they will end up single and alone. Therefore, rituals are created to encourage the young to couple up and to work toward marriage. Parents, teachers, and family friends work together to create these relationships, and there is little reliance upon the Holy Spirit for true direction. Sure, the young couple is encouraged to seek the Lord, to follow Scripture in all their activities (especially in keeping pure), but there is no emphasis on waiting for God to ordain the relationship, for God to call two people together for His Name and His Honor.

I was dazzled by the thought of marrying a Godly man, of living the "Christian life," and of being a wife and a mother. I wanted these things so badly, and I was willing to give myself to anyone who would provide this kind of life to me. Granted, I wasn't out there throwing myself after every guy I saw, but I was keeping my eyes open. I was looking in my heart for the man whom God wanted me to marry. I was seeking the Lord's direction, but as I said, I didn't have wise counsel at home or at church, to help me tell the difference between a true "Godly" man and a pretender. I should say that it is wrong for me to lump my spouse as fully a pretender because I do believe he was/is saved, and that he did/does have desires to serve the Lord. However, I believe that because of the manipulative and controlling environment he grew up in and the way he related to his parents, he learned very early on how to "pretend" to be what they wanted. I believe that he did this to survive the difficult nature of his childhood. The problem, of course, was that he grew comfortable pretending, and over the course of our 26 year (30 total) marriage, he pretended to be a lot of different things, none of which accurately reflected who he was on the inside.

As I look back on my life, on those early decisions, I realize that I believed what I wanted to believe -- that I made choices based on what I hoped for and not on what was readily apparent to me.

I wish I had been coached back then to see the world as it really was and not through rose-colored glasses. I was an idealist and an optimist when it came to the world. I believed in fairy tales, in good triumphing over evil, and in true love. And when it came to relationships, I was a princess seeking desperately for her prince.

Zoom forward to 2014 -- 30 years have passed since I said "I do," and rather than experiencing the bliss of marital longevity, a deepening attraction to my mate, and a desire for mutual love and affection -- I found myself divorced, single, and searching for meaning, for understanding, and for knowledge as to what happened in between those years.

I have done a lot of soul-searching over the past 4-5 years. I have had to grow up, to mature, and to come to terms with my part in the ending of my marriage. I cannot blame my spouse and say that it was all his fault because it was not. I was complicit, I was complacent, and I was unwilling to confront the wrong, the sin, and the sickness that plagued our marriage from the start. I chose to hide my head in the sand for so many years, to settle for less than what I deserved in order to keep the peace, and in the end, I suffered internally because I had not followed the Lord, not waited for the "right" man, and not allowed the Holy Spirit to guide my desires toward a life devoted to the Lord.

In some ways, I have grown up and matured to the point where I see now that a healthy marriage begins with two people who place the Lord first and foremost in their lives. Each individual must have a rock-solid relationship with the Lord. They must have already done the work to get their house in order, so to speak. As with all relationships, once the Lord takes His rightful place on the throne of the heart, there is massive clean up to be done because of the stain and mark of sin. Yes, the Lord has to straighten up the house (heart and mind), clear away the clutter, heal the brokenness and the hurt, and repair and restore the spirit so that it can be "one" with the Lord BEFORE it can be "one" with another human being. This work takes time, and depending on the amount of life experience, it can take months or years before the individual is ready to enter into a relationship --> to be fully engaged in a relationship. I believe this is why we see so many damaged people marrying other damaged people only to find the habits and patterns repeated (as Joyce Meyer says "hurting people HURT people"). Time heals all wounds or so the saying goes -- but with the Lord -- there is a very good chance that the wounds can be healed if the individual allows the Holy Spirit the time needed to do the work.

For me, this means that I have realized the work needed to prepare my heart for a relationship with another person. My heart was badly damaged by several romantic relationships I had early in my life. Interestingly enough, two of the men I dated and was seriously involved with have passed away. The third, my ex-husband, is moving on with his life, is involved with another person, and is spending less time communicating with me and our son. This leads me to believe that the Lord is moving me further away from the past, and more and more into the future he has planned for me. Furthermore, I feel confident that the Lord is calling me into full-time ministry, to full-time teaching, and to living elsewhere (in another state). I also believe that my education and the career choice, teaching, are part and parcel with the Lord's desires for the second-half of my life. In a way, I see the Lord bringing to pass what He started in me way back when I was first born-again. The deep desire for ministry, the longing to serve the Lord fully and wholly, the need to belong to someone special in the Lord --> all of this seems to be happening now after all the years in between where I listed and languished in sorrow and in confusion. The Lord seems to have done the work in my heart and in my mind to prepare me for these next years, to create within me the desire and the need to be a part of something that He is preparing for me.  So while I don't live in the shadow of my former marriage, I do see it as a life lesson, a lesson in what can happen when you do not follow the Lord's leading in your life. I learned valuable lessons, hard and hurtful lessons, during the past 30 years. The person I am today is because of my experience in relationship and in life. I am a product of that experience and as such my life now reflects the scars and the wounds (healed, praise the Lord) of those choices.

2015 is a new year in so many ways. I am free to move about the country (borrowing Southwest Airline's tag line) as the Lord desires. I am free to become the person of His choosing. I am free to be myself, in all my failures and flaws. I am free to be real, to be honest, and to be purposeful -- intentional -- with everyone I met. I don't wear a mask anymore; I don't try to be someone I am not. I am who I am, and I am OK with the least and the best of my character. My hope is firmly fixed on the Lord, and my provision and rest is tied to Him. If the Lord chooses to bring me a life partner at this point in time, it will be because it pleased Him to do so. I am content to be single, and I am content to be married. I am content to live in Phoenix just as I am content to live in Buffalo. What matters most to me is to know that wherever I go, the Lord is already there. There is nothing I desire outside of His will, and there is nothing I seek but conformity to His will for my life. I live for Him, to do His work, to accomplish His will, and to bring His Name praise, honor and glory. Selah!

No comments: