Sunday, April 7, 2013

God Blesses Those Who Suffer for Love

It is human nature to want to see the results of our decisions before we make them.  We want to know, 'What will be the outcome if I choose _______ versus if I choose ________."  It would be nice to be able to 'look into a crystal ball' and see the results of our decisions before we make them... but life doesn't work that way.  God doesn't work that way.

By faith I chose to stay with my husband.  By faith, I chose to honor the commitment I had made to him.  It was only after I made that that crucial decision that God rewarded me with blessing upon blessing.

One of the first blessings I was to receive after choosing to love came in a vivid dream.  I knew that choosing to love my husband after his infidelity would be extremely painful and difficult on our love life.  How could I be intimate with a man who had betrayed me and had been intimate with other women?  How would I overcome the mental torment of picturing him lying with others who were not his betrothed?  How could I heal from that?  I sought The Lord for help.  He answered me in a dream.

The evening of the night I made that choice to continue to love my husband, I found myself crying out for God's healing hand upon our marriage.  I knew that only He could heal our broken hearts.  Shortly after drifting off into sleep, the dream began.  I was walking through the halls of a hospital.  Everywhere I looked, there was white.  The walls were white, the floors were white, the doors were white... even the nurses were clothed in white.  I wasn't sure where I was going, but I knew what I was looking for... I was looking for my husband.  Somehow I knew that he was sick and that he was getting medical help in a room somewhere.  I had this pressing urge to find him as quickly as I could. Taking a deep breath, I approached a nurse and asked for my husband.  She pointed me to the Intensive Care Unit.  My heart sank... it was worse than I thought.

Mustering up what courage remained, I walked forward and opened the door.  I will never forget the sight that met my eyes.  The entire room was bathed in white.  The marble tile on the floor...bright white.  The billowy drapes hanging over the windows...bright white.  The sheets upon the bed...bright white.  The curtain dividing the room...bright white.  Then I looked up to the man lying in the bed.  He was naked from the waist up, with a white sheet carefully draping the lower half of his body.  The look upon his face was one of perfect peace.  It was my husband... Unlike I had ever seen him before.  He was changed.  He looked upon me with loving eyes and gently patted the bed beside him, beckoning me to his side.  A wave of joy shot through me.  I ran to him, sat down beside him, and laid my head on his chest.  I started to cry.  He rubbed my back and told me everything is going to be alright... He was where he needed to be... he was healing.

I woke up from my dream with so many emotions flooding through me.  The first was complete gratitude.  I was immediately  grateful that God had gifted me with such a dream.  It was complete affirmation of the choice I had made.  Right away, I knew what the dream meant.  The hospital was a place of recovery... My husband was in the road to recovery and redemption.  The nurses were God's angels ministering to us in our time of need.  The white obviously stood for  purity... God was healing my husband, making him pure.  He once was sick, but he was being healed. He once was blind, but he was starting to see.

That beautiful dream affirmed to me that day exactly what God was doing... Healing.  Ater all, our God is the God who heals.  In the months and years that have followed that dream, I think back upon it with awe and admiration.  God spoke to me that night.  He clearly showed me His plan for restoration and healing. The beauty is that He chose to do so after I made the choice to follow Him.  It wasn't until I took that step of faith to choose to love and stand by my husband that I was rewarded with such an affirming dream as that.  God asks for our obedience... before we can see the results of it.  But so often it is our obedience that will result in blessings beyond measure.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I Chose to Stay

Obedience isn't always easy.  In fact, it usually never is.  When God spoke to me through His word, He point-blank told me I was to remain fighting for my marriage.  My initial reaction was, 'Yes, Lord, I will do what you ask.'  My second thought was, 'How am I going to explain this?

Our marriage struggles were not private.  They were, and have been, exploited all over the media.  I can personally attest to the corruption and cruelty of today's media in exposing half-truths and lies as solid fact.  We experienced this first-hand, with no avenue to defend ourselves.  It has been a harsh, painful road that has left a bitter taste in my mouth for journalists and news media.

That said, the story that had been painted of me and my husband left my family and friends completely incredulous when I shared that I was going to fight for my marriage.  Everyone's first response, my pastor included, was that I had the Biblical and legal right to leave him.  How would I explain to friends, family and peers what God had so clearly revealed to me?  That, I soon discovered, was up to God.

My dad, who was extremely protective of me (as every loving father should be), immediately set up a meeting with two high-powered attorneys in the wake of the media exploitation.  Walking into the meeting, I assumed it was a formality to discuss what could be done to protect me financially (kinda silly since I didn't have much).

Nothing could have prepared me for the attorneys' first question: "So, are we filing divorce papers today?"

I remember the blood rushing up into my face.  Sitting around a mahogany conference table on the top floor of a Newport Beach attorney's office with three pairs of eyes staring at me was not where I wanted to be at that time.  I wanted to run.  God wanted me to stay.  I heard a voice inside my heart say, "Now.  Share now."

Awesome.  God sure has a sense of humor.  Here I was, a 30-something 5'3" small-framed woman sitting across this gigantic table from three giants of men - 2 high-power attorneys and my father, a respectable businessman and mayor... And God says, "Now."

Before I knew it, my mouth started moving.  I heard the words ringing in my ears before I had time to edit them.  I won't forget what I heard:

"No.  I believe in God.  I believe in the sanctity of marriage... And I will not give up on that.   I believe that God can restore and reconcile any marriage... And I believe He's going to do that with ours."


The men looked at each other and didn't really have any words.  God had spoken and it had left men dumbfounded.

I remember walking out of that office feeling like I was on cloud nine. (I'm sure the divorce attorney in the room didn't share my sentiments.)  After suffering the painful brutality of media, it was nothing short of a victory to me.  I had listened and obeyed God.  I had relayed the Truth.

Obedience is rarely easy... But it is rewarded.

Deuteronomy 11

13 And if you will diligently heed My commandments which I command you this day—to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being—25 There shall no man be able to stand before you; the Lord your God shall lay the fear and the dread of you upon all the land that you shall tread, as He has said to you.
26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse—
27 The blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day;
14 I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Am I Not Good Enough?

In the months that passed following my husband's betrayal, I set aside the time, money, and energy to better take care of myself.  The first thing I did was acquire a trusted and wise Christian counselor who could walk me through the turmoil.  This was crucial for my healing process.

My counselor helped me to see that in the years preceding the betrayal, I had not been respectfully treating myself as Jesus wanted me to be treated.  I had given myself the backseat to husband, kids, work, and everything/everyone around me.  She pointed out that I regarded myself with a low self-worth... That I believed I didn't deserve anything better than a cheating husband and an unfulfilling marriage.  It was time to turn that thinking around.

Through months and months of therapy, I learned the invaluable truth that I am God's child...valued more than rubies.  Proverbs 31:10 Amplified Bible (AMP) 10 "A capable, intelligent, and [a]virtuous woman—who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls."  This was a new concept to me... to think that I was more valuable to God than precious rubies or pearls!  The pure thought of it made me smile.  

A woman who has been betrayed by her husband will inevitably think, "I wasn't good enough... He went outside our marriage because I wasn't young enough, pretty enough, smart enough...etc., etc."  The list could go on forever, and it's devastatingly haunting.  Though these words are Satan's words, drummed up from the father of lies to tear women down, these words are indeed damaging.  If rehearsed and given any credence, they will be completely destructive to ourselves and our relationships.  Satan would love to get us to believe we aren't good enough, for then there would be no reason to stay in the fight for our marriage.  The only way to fight the lies is with the truth of the scriptures.

As part of my healing process, I chose to participate in a bit of 'retail therapy' in which I went out and purchased signs of scripture to put all around our home.  One of the signs simple says, "She knew she was worth more than rubies."  There are times that I have to literally I look at this sign and say the words out loud: 'She knew she was worth more than rubies.... She knew she was worth more than rubies... She knew she was worth more than rubies.'  I drill this truth into my head until I can again recognize my worth as a daughter of the King.  

Now, it's my husband who reminds me of this truth day by day.  He has been redeemed and made completely new in Christ Jesus.  He is a new creation... a mighty warrior for Jesus now who reminds me of who I am in Christ.  God has healed and restored our marriage in miraculous ways. By His amazing grace, we share a deeper, more fulfilling relationship than we ever thought imaginable.  My husband comforts me through my pain and I comfort him through his. The result is incredible intimacy... A oneness that is unimaginable.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Should I Threaten to Leave Him?

I have heard many women say, "My husband knows that if he ever did anything like that, I'd divorce in an instant."

Out of naiveté, I'll admit, there was a time when I actually thought this same thing.  Though I don't recall ever voicing it aloud to my husband, I do feel as if I had this unspoken understanding that if ever I caught him doing ______, he'd be outta there.

Unfortunately, this is conditional love.  It is love that states, "As long as you do this, I will love you and accept you... But as soon as you do that, you are no longer welcome to receive my love."

Putting myself in my husband's shoes, I can only imagine what this type of belief about love would do to a man.  If he struggles with anything that his wife threatened to leave him over, would he ever be so bold as go bring it out in the open?  Heck no.  He would do whatever he could to keep that secret struggle hidden, wanting to risk nothing that could possibly result in the repeal of her love.  So what happens?  The secrets live on... The husband cannot confide in his one true companion to get help, comfort, and encouragement... And so the secrets remain hidden.

I know this because I lived it.  My husband felt that he could not come to me for help in his sexual addiction.  He felt it would risk our entire marriage... Why would he come to a woman who might possibly shun him for the the very things he shared?  I failed to communicate an unconditional love towards him and he failed to communicate his struggles to me.

When a spouse communicates that they will withdraw their love from the other because of something they may or may not do, the other spouse will not feel safe in the relationship.  They will keep their struggles to themselves.  As a result, both partners remain isolated and the marriage is weakened.  I believe this is Satan's greatest ploy to bring down marriages today... The lie that we won't truly be loved if our spouse really knew our deepest struggles.   Satan loves this because it keeps the marriage from experiencing true intimacy.

God created marriage to be a one-ship...  Two people joined together as one.  My husband and I grow in intimacy when we share our struggles with each other, pray about them, and hold each other through it.  With each struggle we face comes a new chance to grow the intimacy in our marriage.  I firmly believe that our marriage is as strong as it is today because of the pain and struggles we have openly shared and loved each other through together.  This is love without condition.  It's the hardest way to love, but it is, by far, the most fulfilling.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Should I Divorce Him?

On a late February afternoon in 2011, I found myself curled up on a backyard patio chair, tears dripping down over my Bible as I contemplated divorce.  It was not a position I would ever have guessed to be in... not in a million years.  I knew God was not in favor of divorce... but I also knew that I had come to the end of my rope.  I couldn't take anymore lies, any more betrayal.  I was done.

I remember lifting my face up to the sky, my shoulders heaving with sobs, crying out, "What now, God? What do I do?  Divorce?  My heart can't take anymore.... Please, God, please.  Please help me."

At that moment, a gentle breeze picked up.  All was still except for the wind.  I watched as it gently flipped the pages of my Bible from right to left.  As quickly it had come, the breeze subsided.  I looked down to find that the pages had landed upon a highlighted verse.  I stared at the highlighted page in disbelief.  There, before me, were the words "What God has joined together, let man not separate" highlighted in bright yellow (Mark 10:9).  A chill went through my spine.  I looked again up at the sky and whispered, "Thank you, Father."  I had my answer.

It's one thing to recognize God's call... it's quite another to obey it.  At our house we have a sign hanging over our front door that reads, "God doesn't call the qualified... He qualifies the called."  I remember praying, "Lord, I am definitely not qualified for this... but I am willing.  Please work in me to qualify me to be the kind of wife You desire me to be."  God is so faithful.  He has answered that prayer over and over again, heaping blessing upon blessing in return.

I don't know where I'd be today had it not been for God's providence that late February afternoon.  I am grateful beyond measure for His voice that came in the wind.  I will continue to choose to head that voice.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Do I Forgive Him?

"Don't judge others, and God will not judge you.  Don't condemn others, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.  Give to others, and you will receive.  You will be given much.  It will be poured into your hands - more than you can hold.  You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap.  The way you give to others is the way God will give to you."
Luke 6:37-38 (ERV)

Choosing to love means choosing to forgive.  Often this is a difficult choice to make and an even more difficult task to execute.  I can't tell you how many times I have uttered the words, "Lord, I just can't.  How can I forgive this person after what they've done to me?  I can't, Lord... but I know that You can.  By Your power, please give me the grace to forgive."  

The blessed assurance I have is knowing that He will definitely grant the power and grace for me to forgive whomever has wronged me.  How do I know?  Because I know that when He commands me to do something, it in direct alignment with His will... And if it is in line with His will, He will give me the power of His Holy Spirit to do it.  ("For it is not by strength, nor by power, but by the Spirit.")

I have experienced blessing upon blessing after making the choice to forgive.  In choosing to forgive my husband, I have incurred the blessing of a more intimate marriage.  I continue to forgive the parts of him that he once kept hidden out of shame... And, because I do so, he now feels safe enough to come to me with his hurts and struggles instead of hiding them.  The more he experiences my forgiveness, the safer he feels to be honest and open with me.  As we choose to forgive each other, more has been given back unto us... More than we can hold.  ("It will be poured into your hands - more than you can hold.") We have been given a deeper, more intimate, relationship on account of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a choice.  It's not an easy one... But as Jesus tells us, it most definitely is a rewarding one.  No matter what the offense, we can choose to forgive.  And, should we make that courageous choice, we will be "given so much it will spill into our laps."  

("How many times must I forgive this person?... "Seventy-times-seven.")

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What is He Hiding From Me?

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God.  Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.  That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.  God is sheer being itself - Spirit.  Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
-John 4:23-24 (MSG)

We all have things that we's rather keep hidden. For me, it's my shopping and food addictions.  I love to shop and I love to eat.  If I'm having a crappy day, the first place I want to go to is the mall for a yummy treat and a new purchase.  Upon my return home, I do whatever I can to hide the evidence.  I make sure that I stash that Pottery Barn bag before my husband has a chance to see it... then I place my new purchase in a location where I pray he won't notice it, all the while rehearsing a response in my head should he do so: "Oh, that?  That's been there for some time."

For my husband, it's his sexual addiction.  Largely in part to the sexual abuse he incurred as a child, (not to mention the sexual images that are flashed before our eyes everywhere these days... but that's a whole other story.)  He struggles each day of his life with lust and provocative images.  If he's having a crappy day, the first thing he wants to do is escape.  Though he's come a long way in his addiction, he still struggles with the thoughts and images that flood his head.  Just like my shopping, he has to fight the desire to keep his struggle hidden.

Why do we hide these parts of us?  I think the answer lies in Scripture.  Why did Adam and Eve hide from God when first they realized that they had sinned?  They thought they wouldn't be fully loved when He discovered it.  I hide my shopping because I think my husband's disappointment will result in a withdrawal of his love for me.  Similarly, my husband hides his sexual temptations from me because he thinks that I will love him less if I knew the extent of his struggles.  The result? There remains this hidden part that we keep from one another... and that hidden part remains unloved.

My husband and I have been through a lot of extensive therapy from traumatic incidents we have experienced over the past few years.  One thing we have learned in our therapy is that we cannot keep these parts of us hidden.  If we do, not only are we are sabotaging the ability for our spouse to love us unconditionally, but we are surrendering the gift of being loved unconditionally.

When Jesus approached the woman at the well and asked her to fetch her husband, she could very well have kept hidden the fact that the man she was currently living with was not her husband.  She did not.  I believe she was one of the most courageous women in the Bible.  Why?  Because she chose not to hide.  The result?  Jesus offered her unconditional love.

That's the kind of love I want to feel from my Heavenly husband (Jesus) and my earthly husband.  In order to experience it, however, I have to be just as brave as the woman at the well.  No more hiding my Pottery Barn bags.  Exposing my struggles, I allow my husband to love me for me... all of me... even the parts of me that struggle and fail.  As for him, no more hiding his sexual struggles (he can't anymore!)... we talk about it and I love him through it.  My husband and I don't have it all figured out (duh!), but we are trying.  We are both working on openly sharing our struggles with one another.  It is far from easy... it takes a lot of courage, and I sometimes revert to old habits of hiding.  But here's what I do know... it is a sure-fire way to experience a deeper love... a more intimate, unconditional love.