I admit I’ve been duped. Whether I believed a lie told to me, or a lie that I told myself is a moot point. I have wasted the last 7.5 years living a lie that I had come to my wife as a sort of resting place until the good Lord took me home. I thought she was my hospice… just here long enough to comfort me until I died. But then the funniest thing happened: I didn’t die.
I’ve spent these last years in a waking limbo, filling my time with ministry and self improvement like a man trying to make himself more palatable to the loving God who would soon receive him, yet all the while I have neglected my wife. I took her for granted. I didn’t allow myself to become too “attached” to her since it would only hurt us both in the end. You see I had reached my pain threshold years ago, and felt that I did not have another gram of pain left in my ability to endure.
As I was disconnected and self absorbed, my wife was patiently (and not so patiently) waiting for her husband to sweep her off her feet. To be a husband and a father and complete our nuclear family as God had promised her I would.
Years went on like this. My wife waiting for her husband, and me waiting to die. It seems absurd as I write this all down, but I really could not fathom how a boy with such vivid dreams and confidence that everything in his life would work out to great success could end up where I was now, broken, defeated, wounded (I thought fatally), without any dreams, no gainful employment, lonely, and so distanced from God that I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
After the honeymoon stage of our marriage had ended we just sort of looked at each other with our hands in our pockets, thinking “What now?” Now began the waiting. While I was waiting to die, Sara was waiting for me to woo her. The more I failed to pursue her the more I noticed she was not making my transition into the next world very comfortable at all! Nit picking gave way to nagging, and nagging into fighting. Neither of us were meeting the other’s expectations at all.
To be fair every time we had a major blowout, I went to God to show me where I was wrong. As I got no immediate answers or revelation, I assumed the problem was all Sara’s, and my job was to extend her a little grace until she came around to seeing what a terrible wife she was being. Eventually she did come around, but still held that her feelings had valid motivations. I conceded that she had feelings. And now that we were “good” again, we stepped right back into the waiting for things to happen. Of course this cycle has gone on year after year ad nauseum, and little ever seemed to change except the arguments get a little bit more heated, and the anger lasts a little bit longer. One or two more years on this path and she will send me to the promised land herself!
The other night we attended a marriage class. Neither of us wanted to go. It was a long, crappy drive and neither of us were fond of the other person at that moment. I think the reason we went at all was because we thought the other person didn’t want to go. Yeah, we get mean like that. During one of the exercises we were to face one another and ask God where we had failed to properly honor our spouses, then ask forgiveness. At first I heard nothing, but then the answer came flooding to me as if it had been held back for far too long because of my inability to ask the right question. Suddenly, I was able to truly SEE my wife. She IS my helper, but she is not my caregiver. I didn’t entrust my heart to her because I did not properly see her for who she really was. Sara wasn’t here to see me to death. She was given to me to help restore my LIFE.
There is a future ahead for us. It could be a short one, or maybe even a long one. The mistakes I will make will occur out of careless repetition of past mistakes, or they will be new ones that I have yet to make. I hope I will not make the same mistakes twice. I was given a good wife. She is a good woman, and she is good for me. I will trust her as I should. All these years she has been playing this game without all of the information. How could she possibly succeed? I know we can’t go back. This is a fact that I have struggled with long and hard. But we can go forward. This time we can do that hand in hand rather than her hand at my back.
Life. Unborn. Is this the same as being undead? No? We really go out of our way to make things difficult. Labels and definitions when “yes” or “no” will suffice. But no. Up is down, left is right, boys are not boys unless they decide to be. Absolutes? Absolutely NOT!
Anyways, this is a story. MY story, actually, about an “Embrace Grace” moment I had back in 1990. In 1990, rock n roll was dead as we new it. Hair bands were trying to keep it alive with a slew of predictable chords and lyrics that just weren’t floating anyone’s boats, and it appeared that good music was gone for good. It was a desperate time in America, and as a man in his mid twenties it seemed almost appropriate that I was in the tail end of a failing marriage.
The missus and I were barely on speaking terms, but during this time we managed to conceive a child. This would be our second child between us. Our first born was blessing of light and truth and beauty embodied in the perfection that is my daughter, Arriana Rosaria. Admittedly, the timing of such happy news was not lost on us, and before I could offer a suggestion, my wife blurted, “I’m getting and abortion”.
Two things immediately came into sharp clarity:
A: This is MY child, and I won’t let her kill it.
B: In spite of our trouble, I still loved her. I still wanted to be there for her.
A week or so later we are driving to Seattle to “uncomplicate” our upcoming divorce. I pleaded with her one last time to simply deliver the child and let me keep it. She argued that carrying it for so long would cause her to want the child, and she didn’t want to want another baby. I was grieved, but if there was a chance reverse the destruction of our marriage, that chance was about to be killed forever.
Two hours later, we are circling the clinic looking for a place to park. My wife knew this clinic from before. At least three other times before. I used to think that they removed bits of her soul every time she walked in their doors. Bits I thought I could love back into life by the sheer force of my will. This, of course, never happened. Not because she was so hardened, but because I am insufficient. I parked the car, then gripped her hand tightly. I knew this was our day of divorce. The day everything ended for us. For good.
For the first time in our three hour trip, she looked up at me. Her face mirrored my own. She was lost, broken, and hurting. My eyes were stinging with grief and fear. “I can’t do this”, she said to me, her voice cracking in agony. I could have punched the air in exultation! I gave her hand a tight squeeze, and kissed it, rapidly jerked the wheel of my car out of its spot and back into traffic, racing for the ferry as if any delay could force a change of heart.
A few short months later my first son came into the world. He is the only one to share my blue eyes that I, in turn, inherited from my grandfather. In a family of of brown eyed people, this seemed significant to me
Our marriage did not survive another year, but there was never a regret to bring our son into the world. Even in our brokenness, his life was (and is)an unquestioned blessing. We had many regrets between the two of us, but our son was never one of them. We look forward in anticipation of the mark he will make on the world because of our “choice”.
I often ask myself why I continue to write stuff here. Is it to edify others? Or perhaps I write to give order to my jumbled thoughts. Or maybe it’s just cathartic to exorcise one’s inner demons in the presence of one’s peers. Whatever my true motivations, it should be clear that my writing must not be construed as any attempt to educate other human beings, except maybe to serve a cautionary tale.
I follow a lot of amazing people here on the interwebz… bright and charming souls brimming with intellect and charisma. Those I admire greatest are those who have a thirst for God and hunger for a greater understanding how to live practically in right relationship with him. While God is a respecter of no persons, I find myself in awe of quite a few people.
I am most fortunate to belong to the greatest church in the history of ever. The leadership does not shy away from incendiary topics such as giving, sex, politics, responsibility, and accountability. The worship is professional caliber and, by design, crafted to lead us into a deeper communion with the Father. Throughout most of the year there is a plethora of classes to equip us with greater spiritual tools to live in the full, authentic power of a spirit filled Christian.
At home I am the head of a nuclear family of an amazing wife and two sons who serve as daily object lessons of God’s own love for me. On the left coast, I have three other object lessons to the consequences of exerting one’s own free will. They are my soul, none the less. They all keep my prayer life at a premium.
At the center of it all is Jesus. He accomplished it all so that I do not have to work harder for it, but simply believe in His finished work. Talk about a free pass. Obviously, I am not without responsibility, but it is a labor of love to serve a father who loves you more dearly than His own life. There is no pressure to be perfect, and the river of true grace is deep and wide, and fresh daily.
It’s amazing to me that a man who loves God so deeply can be so weighted by the chains of bondage. None of us are immune. From birth, the enemy is looking for a foothold (read stronghold) in our lives for the purpose of inhibiting our relationship with God… just one little thing that we can be condemned for, even if only in our own minds.
Most of our struggles are obvious to us. We know what the source of our bondage is even if we feel powerless to stop it. Think unforgiveness. Other issues are more obfuscated, such as the bondage of addiction. An alcoholic may blame alcohol for his bondage, when his real struggle is an issue of idolatry (for example). Some areas of bondage appear, outwardly, to be completely counter to our experience. For example, a wealthy man can struggle with a spirit of poverty. Bondage, like a spirit of poverty can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit. Our natural minds can’t even fathom it.
As I contend for the health of my body, I am led to the spiritual elements that brought me here. Since moving to the SW some six years ago I have amassed a lot of extra weight. One can easily assess that my sedentary life style coupled with excessive caloric intake has led me to the inescapable conclusion that is my current condition. But a deeper look into into the “whys” reveal and underpinning truth that have struggled with a spirit of poverty, a spirit of rejection, and an orphan spirit.
It is a spirit of poverty that tells you that you never have enough. It tells you that you better eat what you can, because there won’t be any tomorrow. Let’s add to the mix a spirit of rejection, and an orphan spirit, and you have the unique little cocktail that makes up my spiritual condition. The spirit of rejection tells you that no one will accept you. You are not worthy of acceptance. A person in bondage to the spirit of rejection often goes out of their way to reject people before they, themselves, are rejected. It’s a defense mechanism. The orphan spirit is a little trickier. It would be real easy to pinpoint if I never had or met my own father. But I know my dad. I know where he lives. He left my mother, baby brother, and me when I was just four years old. My brother was a newborn. I remember him trying to explain to me why he was moving away, but I couldn’t grasp the permanence of it. As he drove off down our long dusty driveway, I chased his blue Chevy truck as fast as my little legs could run, until he was gone.
My formative years were fatherless for the most part. We had two or three occasions a year where we saw our dad. Each reunion reinforced further rejection. I was not dressed well enough. I did not have noble enough character. I was a clown. There have been two or three occasions where my dad outright refused to acknowledge me at all. I am currently in the middle of just such a “daddy drought”. I am not aware of the reasons (as if reasons can be given), but I am persona non grata with the man who sired me into the world.
Being a Christian means becoming whole. Leastways if you’re doing it right, that’s what it means. I have a heavenly Father who not only does not reject me, but He created me the way I am. My many quirks and personality traits, are of His design. I have been given all the things that were previously withheld from me by my earthly father: an identity. Acceptance. Love. A purpose. An inheritance. I’ve also learned how to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that my father wounds never happened, it simply means that I have given up my claim to hold my dad accountable for his wrongs against me which, in the end, benefits me greatly.
Having a relationship with a loving God, worshiping a risen Savior, forgiving, and being forgiven goes a long way towards restoration of one’s life, however until we’ve dealt with our areas of bondage, we can experience a variety of ground hog’s days of resurfacing issues. I say this not for your education, but to show you where I am at currently. I try to eat, love, breathe, and have relationships all that I can have in one sitting in preparation for the drought ahead. My experience has told me this is what I can expect.
During my last fast, the Lord told me that He can’t call me into greater abundance because I have not yet learned how to deny myself. I countered, “but Lord, I don’t HAVE anything!” He said that He wont give me the things I want as long I am trying to supply it for myself. What a revelation! Because I do not deny myself the things I want, God wont provide them! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a life blessed of God than one insufficiently provided by my own hands.
As if to emphasize this, a Facebook friend of mine posted this on her page:
“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God’s store of grace from day to day as we need it.” – D. L. Moody
Powerful is the little finger that one gets wrapped around. Every connection is meaningful. Intimate.
I am shelling pistachios on my chest and staring into his wide, dark brown eyes. He is faithful to feed me one in ten. The significance of this is not lost on me. The continuous and steady flow of shelled snacks hits a peak where I am feasting on one of every three, and between each one I am given a hug and/or kiss. This would be more significant to you if you knew what an act of divinity it is that this child stop for anything, let alone anything so inconsequential as his own father.
To say that my son is proof of God, would be to deny the esteem in which God holds me. It would be more accurate to say that he is proof that God loves me. Every touch, look, and interaction is an intimate connection bonding us ever tighter.
He has his mother in him. His sleepy eyes. His pink lips. The contour of his ears. The way he pretends not to hear me, or rolls his eyes when I speak.
Today we begin our day at the table. Me with my coffee and laptop. He with his own laptop, a sippy cup of milk, and scrambled eggs. After breakfast we moved on to picking up all of the refrigerator magnets from the floor, and consolidated his building blocks into one box. We sit opposite each other with our legs spread out to form a lopsided diamond, but moment by moment and inch by inch he moves closer and closer until he is sitting between my legs, and our architecture is erected before us. First a castle with hits many turrets, then a single, giant spire containing every single piece from the set. That is until Mothra destroyed it like Tokyo. He is his daddy’s son, too, after all.
Nothing more profound than this. Just really love being a dad.
I’m heading north on I35 at a casual warp 4, blaring some classic rock and singing at the top of my lungs. “Rocket man! Burning out his fuse up here alone!”
Once a month I have to make the trek up north with my step son so he can visit his father. The drive is mundane and featureless, and if the truth be known, I detest the trip outright. In order to combat the tedium I put myself in auto-pilot by cranking up the music, and locking the cruise control at 80. I’ve done this every month for five yeas without incident.
I am startled out of my driver’s coma by the sight of brake lights directly in front of me. Seeing no one in the other lane, I swerve over in hopes to maintain speed and direction with minimal mental intrusion. I don’t even see it til I am passing it: A patrol car. Its occupant staring at me while quickly strapping his seat belt across his shoulders. I’m hosed.
Pleasantries over, I merge back into traffic, the proud new owner of a speeding ticket for $209. And just in time for Christmas, too! Of course I’m steaming about it. Me and many traffic laws just don’t see eye to eye.
I’m a bible believing Christian. I am a total Jesus freak and I believe that the bible is the unerring word of God Himself. If I ever find myself in opposition to any tenet I assume that the error is mine and adjust my thinking accordingly. I say all this in preface to a longstanding disagreement to the interpretation of Romans 13:1
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. – NASB
I won’t go into my argument, but I assure you that it is well thought out and even Supreme Court lawyers couldn’t refute my logic (I’m just that good). Suffice it to say, I have continued on in my observance of the scripture based on my interpretation for many years.
Lately, I have been really pursuing God’s heart for my life. I am serving at my church and beyond. I am taking continuing educational classes to better enhance my knowledge and love of my Father in heaven. Whatever else is said of me, I hope that the most oft repeated phrase is, “He loved God”.
On my return trip from the purgatory that is Oklahoma, I found myself in conversation with God. “Since I have your attention”, He begins. “All your logic and reason for civil disobedience ignores one glaring fact. You disobey ME.”
“Forget your contentions with safety laws and those who enforce them (I am well aware of your complaints). You disobey ME. How can I trust you to be obedient in greater things when you won’t be obedient in smaller things?”
I would have fallen to my face and immediately repented right there if it weren’t for the whole new set of traffic laws I’d be breaking. It was all so much clearer to me. This heart issue was not about me and my long standing feud with the law, but about my willingness to be obedient because it pleased my God.
I made a vow right then and there, that I would be a traffic law obeying driver from here on out. I may have to sell something to pay for this ticket, but I built an altar in my heart at that moment. I sacrificed my reasonings, my lofty arguments, and vain imaginings on that altar to invest in something pleasing to my God. I want to be trusted. I want to be used of God for greater things. $209 for a heart change and happy Father? Yes, please!
I’ve been asking myself lately, what possible reason should someone listen to me in regards to their eternal souls. What credentials do I lend that might qualify me to speak into a person’s spiritual life in the name of an almighty God?
I have many friends who are doctors and masters in their various fields. Their education and titles give them varying degrees of credibility and authority to officially have something to say on pretty much every subject. One particular friend of mine is a doctor in human sexuality and I trust his opinion absolutely regarding issues of faith. Perhaps it’s not the title that commands my respect, but without having a personal relationship with him I can garner from his degree or title alone that he is a man who knows a thing or two about a thing or two.
So who am I that you should listen to me? I’ll tell you why: I got a G.E.D. and a give ’em hell attitude.
Okay, I might have a little bit more than that. I have a baker’s dozen years in working out my salvation with fear and trembling. I also have a metric crap ton of experience of dealing with the dark side of the force. To paraphrase John Wimber, when I was serving the devil I got to do all the devil’s things. I lied, cheated, stole, played with the occult, and convinced others into doing same. Once I got saved, I now get to do God’s things. That includes healing people, reaching the lost, resurrecting the dead (haven’t done that one yet), and casting out demons.
Unlike wisdom, experience doesn’t always take a lot of time to attain. Because of my past, I brought to the table a great deal of knowledge about spiritual warfare that the average baby Christian didn’t have. I knew that the satanic bible is a joke, but ouija boards are bad juju. I knew that drinking blood does not a vampire make, but spiritual ties are formed from the sharing of bodily fluids. I also surrounded myself with wizened veterans empowered by the Holy Spirit to help temper my knowledge with wisdom.
Picture, if you will, the many gifted leaders in AA, NA, and other such groups. These people do not necessarily have a masters in human behavior and psychology that guide them when reaching an addict. They were once addicts themselves. They’ve been there. They know where you are, where you been, and more importantly, where you are going.
Too many times I have seen people with a real heart to reach people, but they get caught up in their lack of credentials, believing themselves to be without sufficient authority to speak effectively into other people’s lives. It seems to me that the best person to speak about good marriages is the person who has been in a bad one. The best person to speak on moral purity is the guy who struggled with a porn addiction. The right person to speak on good parenting is the person who came from a dysfunctional, single parent home.
Time and time again we see that people treat their past as if they carry an infectious disease. “I used to go to strip clubs, so how can I lead a small group for young couples?” or “I’ve been married four times. Why would anyone listen to my take on the sanctity of marriage?”
The truth is that everyone’s past is littered with a history of sin and bondage issues. If you have been delivered from these ties, those past areas of bondage are not infection at all. They are battle scars. These are your credentials. It is by your overcoming of these obstacles that you have something valuable to say. Listen to God and say it with authority.