Josh and Ashley

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

There she is.  A woman, at her most vulnerable, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  There is a large crowd and the people just keep coming.  They are in the temple courts and the crowd is larger than normal.  She won’t look up at Him or make eye contact with anyone in the crowd.  Her family stands in the background, she cannot see them but she knows they are there.  The commotion is hard to overlook.  A woman, naked, in front of the savior of the world.  But this woman did not willingly take a seat at Jesus’ feet.  No, this woman, let’s call her Ashley Madison… this woman was dragged, against her will to the feet of Jesus. 

Minutes prior to this scene, Ashley was in bed.  Was it her bed?  We don’t know, but what we do know is that she was in a bed with a man who was not her husband.  She and this man were involved in something so intimate that God designed it to be shared between only a husband and a wife.  They were involved in something that has the power to heal and the power to destroy lives.  They were having sex.  The man, maybe his name was Joshua, and Ashley were not married to one another but were engaged in sexual intimacy and they’d been caught.  More notably, she’d been caught. 

So many theories as to how and why exactly Ashley got caught, but we know that she found herself at the feet of Jesus, naked, ashamed and prepared to be judged and condemned.  There was no turning back or denying her sin.

The only reason that makes sense in my mind is that God cared so much for Ashley’s heart that he had to sacrifice her reputation and comfort.  He could not allow her to continue walking in sin and away from Him.  He had been calling her name for quite some time.  It started off as just a soft voice, a small twinge of guilt in the quiet. She knew it was there though. She knew and she chose to ignore it.  Then the guilt started to weigh heavily, but Ashley did not listen.  God started calling her name louder.  Maybe there were some close calls prior to really getting caught.  Maybe Joshua wasn’t the only man and the indiscretions with the other man/men had already been made known to a small few.  It isn’t really clear the progression of her sin, but what I do know is that when we are choosing to walk in sin, God is not silent.  He calls out our name day in and day out.  He gives us so many opportunities to turn away from our flesh and walk back into his loving arms.  It is impossible to look back and not see the opportunities.  Ashley likely had been given those opportunities.  Joshua had been given those opportunities.  God was saying, I want you to repent and I want to be able to save you from the destruction that is coming.  I want to give YOU the opportunity to make this right before you are forced into it, because it will be made right.  Ashley didn’t listen.  She didn’t take her chance and that is why she was there in front of the crowd, naked and at the feet of Jesus.

She no longer had a choice in the matter.  Her sin was made public.  She could no longer go to her husband and tell him of her indiscretions and deal with the consequences privately.  It was unfair and the people who brought her in front of Jesus did not have her best interest in mind, but God did.  He allowed Ashley to be used by those men to teach them a lesson and to remind her of His love and grace.  God needed Ashley to understand that his desire is for a relationship with her.  He needed her to know his love and she was not going to be able to fully do that while she continued to sleep with men who were not her husband.  He was willing to sacrifice her reputation, her marriage, her everything in order to get the attention of her heart.
I can only imagine the shame Ashley would have felt while on the ground in front of Jesus.  On display and without any hope of recovering.  The men, attempting to catch Jesus, suggested the punishment Ashley was sure to have known was coming.  Death.  She would have known the consequences for being an adulteress.  She would have been anticipating it from the time the door to the tent flew open and she was caught.

The amazing thing, though, is that Jesus did not condemn her.  Jesus requested that the person in the crowd who had never sinned throw the first stone and not surprisingly, no one was able to throw a stone.  In the end, Ashley stood there alone.  Just her and Jesus and Jesus let her go free.  He rescued her from the punishment that she had surely earned.

That wasn’t the end of the story, either.  Yes, Ashley’s sin was made public and her life was spared, but Jesus sent her away with a command.  He added responsibility to the grace that she had received.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  His concern was not for her comfort, her peace of mind or anything else.  He was solely focused on her heart.  To leave a life of sin is not to live a perfect life.  It is to live a life focused on loving Jesus.  A life that reflects God’s love.  A life that has experienced and knows grace abundantly.  It is to know that there is responsibility with grace.  That we are not saved simply so that we can continue to sin but so that we can have eternal life, a relationship with Christ and point others to Him.

My heart aches at the news of Josh Dugger and his unfaithfulness to his wife Anna.  Based on what we have learned about Josh in the last couple of months, it is clear to me that he fell into sexual sin at a very young age and never fully dealt with it.  I’m not him, but I am willing to guess at what his life has been like, because I have lived it.  I still live it.  The guilt is overwhelming.  The safeguards work but are not foolproof.  Purity of heart and body is something that is easy to champion because it is something you want so badly for yourself, even in the midst of your own failure.  I can almost guarantee that he had chance after chance to repent and make things right.  He could have told Anna every single day and I doubt there was a day that went by that he was not prompted to do so.  There were probably days where the prompting was so strong that his body was physically rejecting the idea of coming clean.  I remember the last time I had to admit to one of my BIG lies.  For weeks, I was sick to my stomach.  My skin crawled.  I broke out into sweats.  I knew what I had to do, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I would bet money that Josh experienced these things too.  That he had set his mind to confessing several times, that he heard the cry of the Lord in his heart and then eventually backed down before actually telling his secrets.  The opportunities were there.  He didn’t take them.  And now, he is sitting at the feet of Jesus in the temple courts, naked and ashamed.  His wife and family are in the background, heartbroken, stunned and wondering how they could have been so blind.  Josh, like Ashley, knows what he deserves.  Also like Ashley, though, Jesus has offered him grace and the responsibility of “go now and leave your life of sin.”

So here is to you, my friends who are naked and ashamed.  My friends whose sin has been made public and you are terrified of what will happen next. Know that Jesus offers you the same grace he offered the adulteress woman, the same grace he has offered me and has offered Josh Dugger.  My friends who have been caught, know that it is not too late to go and leave your life of sin.  And to you, my friends who are ignoring the whisperings, or maybe the shouts, of the holy spirit, please follow His prompting before you end up naked in front of the crowd.  It will happen.  He loves you too much to let you settle in where you are.  You will not be able to keep up the charade.  Find someone you trust and begin the process of coming clean because that sweet, unending grace is for you too.  As someone who daily struggles with these exact things but has been redeemed and saved, my heart longs for the same for you.  Every day, I am critically aware of the fact that I am just one bad decision away from my own scandal. My friends, His grace is enough! 

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The Struggle

“Worn”– Tenth Avenue North

I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

To caution all drivers on the road in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, if this song comes on when I am driving I simply cannot control my reaction, which I am sure causes me to be one of the most unsafe drivers on the north coast.  I can do nothing but cry, lift my hands in surrender and thank Jesus that someone else gets it; that someone put words to the state of my heart and therefore I can express my heart through my favorite art form.  I didn’t have the words before hearing this song to express the tiredness of my heart.  I bought the lie again that I was alone and that no one could possibly understand what is like to walk around feeling like the life has been sucked right out of you and feeling like you should be able to fix it.

Anyone who has ever dealt with addictive sin knows what I am talking about.  You know that feeling of hopelessness.  That feeling that you are the one to blame and that if only you were better at controlling yourself, life would be perfect.  You know how the cycle goes.  Things are great for a while; you are succeeding in your battle and life feels good.  Things begin to fall into place and you start to believe that maybe this is the time that you will completely overcome.  Then life happens.  You get arrogant or stressed or whatever is your trigger and you say, “just this once” except just this once turns into one more time and one more time and before you know it, you are completely out of control and right back where you said you would never be again.  For some people their addiction is obvious to those around them and the impact of the sin is not at all subtle.  For others like myself, addiction is easily hidden and the impact, while present and painful, isn’t quite as obvious.  It takes months and months for me to begin to connect the dots between just how out of control my sin is with my tired heart, tired relationships and general dissatisfaction with life.  Im-So-Tired

You would think that connecting the dots would be enough to stop, but it isn’t.  Justification, by this point is so deep in my veins that my heart is hardened to the idea of stopping.  I begin to ask God why He doesn’t just take it from me.  He knows how hard I’ve tried in the past.  He knows how tired I am.  He knows how much I desire to be used by Him but feel held back by my inability to stop.  One of my dreams is to speak on the Women of Faith stage someday, but I can’t even begin to fathom working toward that when I feel like a hypocrite and don’t have anything redeeming to share.  I hear the stories of other survivors, of people who have overcome their battle and they get to stand there and talk about the goodness of God and how there is this HUGE change in their life because of Jesus’ saving grace… that isn’t my life.  It is exhausting.  It hurts and is devastating to try and understand how God could put this desire in my heart and not free me from my addiction.  I want to know that what has died in me, because of my own choices, can be revived.  I want so desperately to be who God created me to be, yet I know that I’m holding myself back.  I don’t understand how the passions, gifts and dreams God has given me can be fulfilled when I keep giving into sin.  I want to see redemption win and I want others to see it in me, but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t feel like it ever will.

This is typically when I begin to doubt my own salvation.  My heart is burdened with the idea of not being good enough, of not really repenting.  True repentance is followed by change.  That is what I’ve always known and believed.  I’ve heard it in a thousand sermons… in fact, I just heard it again a couple of weeks ago.  Godly sorrow doesn’t leave you in mourning but spurs you toward change.  If these things are true, then clearly I haven’t repented.  Clearly I’m not sorry and I probably never will be.  These are the lies that invade my heart and build even more walls between myself and my God.  I stop talking to Him at all because I am so ashamed, so frustrated and frankly, mad.  I’ve said I was sorry so many times and failed to change.  I’ve asked for help and begged Him to free me from it.  I’ve asked why and I’ve, at times, asked for help from other people.  It never works and it hurts.  I feel abandoned by a God that I profess to love and follow and at the same time, I desperately worry that I’ve allowed my heart to harden so far that even if He was trying to help, I’d wouldn’t know it.  Someone once told me that the fact that I question these things and fret about them are proof that my heart isn’t as hardened as I assume, but even this doesn’t take away my doubt.

There is another song on the radio right now that completely makes my heart ache.  If I didn’t already hate myself for not being able to overcome, even with the help of a God who, deep down, I know loves me, the first two lines just pour on the guilt even more.  The song says, “Who can stand apart from your presence? Once we have tasted, the goodness of Your love.”  My sin, my decision to partake in sin requires that I stand apart from the presence of God.  The more I give in, the further I get from Him.  According to this song, I wouldn’t be able to make that decision if I had truthfully tasted the goodness of God.  I HAVE tasted to goodness of His love.  I have experienced His love and lived sweetly in it.  But I’m still human and this thorn in my flesh has not come out despite my best efforts.  photolibrary_rf_photo_of_exhausted_man

I heard, on the radio, the lead singer from Tenth Avenue North explaining why he wrote this song and while his feelings of being worn are so far from my feelings of being worn, he said something that really resonated with me.  He said that “sometimes God redeems us from the struggle and sometimes God redeems us through the struggle.”  I’ve heard something like this before.  Someone I know who struggles with addiction as well once told a sanctuary full of people that once while she was begging God to take her struggle from her, He asked if she believed He could.  She said yes and His response was, “would you still trust me knowing I could take it, even if I didn’t take it from you?’  She had to really wrestle with this idea that maybe God’s plan for her life was for her to struggle and that he might not ever fully redeem her FROM the struggle.  As someone who is tired and worn, these are not encouraging words to me.  I want to be redeemed FROM the struggle.  I want to be able to share my redemption story and have it be meaningful and encouraging.  I am TIRED of being redeemed through the struggle; it doesn’t feel redeeming.

Accepting that God may redeem me THROUGH the struggle seems like a risky decision.  It feels like an open door to give up… to stop trying… to simply give into to every whim and desire associated with sex and justify it to myself.  If God is redeeming me through the struggle, do I really have a responsibility to fight against the addiction?  Does it matter whether or not I try to rid my life of this destructive and painful sin if I know I’m never going to overcome it?  Of course it matters; I know this (Romans 6:1).  However, my fear is that accepting that I, like Paul, must maintain the thorn in my flesh for a lifetime, feels like an easy justification when I am tired of the fight.  I don’t even want to begin to imagine what my life will be like if I stop fighting to get better… fighting to recover.

If you’ve read any of my other  blogs, you know that one of my favorite artists is JJ Heller.  Her music resonates with my heart in deep, powerful ways that I cannot put words to.  Her newest single, Who You Are, is no exception.  In this song, JJ sings about dreams not met.  She sings of a woman who has begged for a child of her own but has not been given a child.  She sings of a father who loses a child unexpectedly.  She sings of hurt and pain and unmet expectations.  JJ also sings of the Father’s love, though.  She sings of His love that is found in these unmet expectations.  She says, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.”  I actually was typing those words right as I was listening to them be sung and it brought tears to my eyes.  What an amazingly bold statement of faith.

I have spoken in the past about learning to be okay with living in the tension.  The idea of living in the tension deals with accepting the mystery of God as something that is beautiful and romantic, not something that turns us away from Him.  I think this is exactly what JJ’s new song is saying; just because I don’t know everything that is happening, everything about You, the one I love and follow, doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW you or KNOW your character and what you have promised me.

I have absolutely NO idea what God is doing in my life when it comes to this struggle.  I don’t know how it will be used or if my dreams will ever be fulfilled.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to say “I used to struggle” instead of “I do struggle.”  I don’t know if a song will rise out of these ashes or if my tired heart will be restored.  What I do know is that my God loves me.  I know that He is love.  I know that there is purpose.  I know that He will not give me anything I cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I know that redemption has ultimately won and that one day, this too shall pass.  I know that my God hears and cares for my aching heart and that He has not left my side.  I know WHO my God is and just because I don’t know what He is doing doesn’t make Him any less loving, compassionate or tender.  Because I know who my God is, I have hope.

Grey? What is Grey?

In the middle of a conversation the other day, I made fun of myself.  I’m only able to do this because of years and years of becoming aware of myself, my thoughts and my behaviors.

Me: “What?  Why didn’t I get invited?  I would have wanted to go.  I didn’t see it in the bulletin or anything and no one mentioned it to me.  No one wanted me to go, huh?”

Gavin: “Babe, I don’t know.  Maybe they already had sign ups and everything before we even got here, so it wasn’t an option for you to go.”

Me: “No, it doesn’t matter.” Here is where I began to realize that I was saying and decided to make fun of myself. “No one likes me.  That is why I didn’t get invited.  Well you know what, I don’t like any of them!  I’m not their friend anymore.  Everything I said about being excited to get to know these people… not anymore.  They are dead to me.”

The sad truth about what I said is that I have actually said these things in seriousness before.  I am a pretty black and white kind of person.  There is no in between for me.  This is true for friendships, feelings, productivity… basically everything in my life. I really struggle with accepting things that are in the grey area and I really struggle to relate to people who live their lives in the grey area.

Fortunately, I’ve been really hurt by living this way and have learned quite a bit from it.  I’m not saying that I am cured, but I am very much aware of this default in me and I try very hard to make sure that it does not impair my life and my relationships like it has done so easily in the past.

Unfortunately, I still really struggle with this when it comes to people being wrong.  My sense of right and wrong is still stuck in the it’s either right or it’s wrong type of thinking that I have lost out on more relationships than I can count.  This, coupled with my sense of justice (I’m working on writing something about this very issue… but it is too big for my mind and heart right now), makes it very difficult for me to not be very upset and hurt when someone does something that they know is wrong or that is CLEARLY wrong whether they know it or not.  My expectations that the person will right their wrong and that others will join me in making sure that it happens often leads to disappointment and bitterness on my end.

I see this bitterness take root in my heart most frequently when it comes to ministry.  In the six years that Gavin and I have been together, we have done ministry together at five different churches, including the one where are currently are.  Of the four churches that we have left, we only left one of them on super good terms and based on our own decision.  The other three churches have acted unjustly.  There isn’t a fiber of my being that does not take responsibility for our part in the separations, please do not misunderstand me.  All I am saying here, is that I have felt slighted by people I thought we could trust and that should have acted justly and should been held accountable to a higher standard.

I like to tell myself that I have forgiven these people and that the only reason I don’t have them in my life right now is because I have created these amazingly awesome and beautiful boundaries (as any good therapist in waiting should), but if I’m honest, this really isn’t the case with most people.  I have never done my part in these relationships.  I have never gone to them and told them that I felt wronged and I have never apologized for wronging them.  I have just held onto this pain and bitterness that has led me to have to FIGHT to trust people in church leadership wherever I go.

You see, that is the terrible thing about holding onto all of this pain.  Not only do I have pain that I refuse to deal with (some of it, I truly believe is too raw right now… but others, I am 100% responsible for not handling it by now), but that pain interferes with my ability to trust others and move into new place and new relationships with an open heart and a willingness to be vulnerable.  I question everything that is said to me and I allow anxiety over something that isn’t mine to deal with consume me.  I find myself living out the motto of Danielle from Big Brother; “fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me… fool me three times, I’m [stupid].”

Losin’- Tenth Avenue North

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong?

Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love. This is hate.
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

It’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times

Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.
This is love. This is hate.
We’ve got a choice to make

Oh, Father, won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’ (oh no)

Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up, but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and them it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Mercy and Your Grace, Father, send Your angels down (singin’)

Oh, Father, won’t you forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doing (oh, no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing
I feel like I’ve been losing

Oh Father won’t you forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’
I feel like I’ve been losing

Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

I couldn’t even listen to this song all the way through when it first came out.  It was too convicting.  I hadn’t even considered the fact that hearing those that have wronged me take responsibility wouldn’t make things better for me.  There is a large possibility that even if every single person came to me and said, “you know what, I’m sorry.  I was wrong.” I would still be dealing with my own pain.  I hate the idea of turning a blind eye, like the song says, because that isn’t just and my heart aches for justice.  But then again, if my heart truly ached for justice, I’d want to be held just as accountable as I hold all of those people.  And, like the song says, how can I even begin to think of holding someone else accountable for their sin when, because of Christ, I’m free from the death that should come from my own sin.

This, I believe is harder to overcome for someone like me.  When you live your life in the black and white only, pain inflicted by someone else as well as the solution to the problem is clear.  Also, outright wrongdoings and lowered standards feel completely unacceptable and unjustifiable; so much so that they can consume my thoughts and discussions.  Living in the black and white, though isn’t beneficial and it isn’t an excuse to hold onto pain and to hold others accountable in my heart.  That isn’t God’s design for me as a person… or anyone for that matter.  There is nothing about any of the situations that I have described that bring glory and honor to God, yet that is my greatest desire for my life.

Sometimes I find myself frustrated with God.  I mean, after all, HE created me this way, didn’t He?  So, why do I have to suffer because of His creation.  Then I am reminded that there are good things about living in the black and white.  I love hard.  I give with every ounce of my being.  I pursue my God-given passion for people and their health with all that I have.  There are so many good things about living in the black and white.  It is because I live in a fallen world that living in the black and white is also a stronghold for the one who seeps life out of me.

I speak frequently on my blog about freedom that comes from living in Christ.  I discuss openly that what a lot of people view as rules and regulations are in fact God’s love in action for us.  When we aren’t in communion with Him and when we are not being accountable for the responsibility we have in our relationship with him, we are unable to view God’s guidelines for our lives as His love in action.  We aren’t able to see the freedom that comes from following those guidelines.

I bring this up because I find it ironic.  Freedom in Christ is something I preach.  It is something about which I am passionate and want everyone to understand, but in reality, I’m not fully living it.  I don’t feel restrained by my relationship with Christ, but I do feel restrained by my inability to trust that God will handle this and that I don’t need to find justice in order to let it go.  God calls us to forgiveness and He calls us to let it go.  He tells us to trust Him when He says that He will handle it.  Those actions lead to freedom.  The actions of living in the black and white when it comes to forgiveness aren’t leading me to freedom.  I am completely chained down and cannot live life abundantly as promised.

I rarely leave my blogs open-ended like this.  I like to end them with some kind of conclusion… something to encourage you.  Unfortunately, today, that is not the case.  I have nothing for you.  My “here’s to you my friends…” is a little different today.  My “here’s to you my friend…” goes something like this.  Here’s to you my friends who are in the same boat.  Let’s fight this together.  Let’s get out of the black and white and trust God to allow us to live in the grey (what I like to refer to as living in the tension).  Let’s forgive and uproot any bitterness that is or has been growing in our hearts.  Let’s live and love fully.  Let’s fight this together.

If you REALLY Loved Jesus

Have you ever felt in your heart that dread that follows sin?  You know that feeling you get when you have just given in to an addictive/habitual sin (and often it is within hours, even minutes, of pledging to never do it again)?  That voice that you hear loud and clear that says, “if you really were a Christian, if you REALLY LOVED JESUS, then this wouldn’t be an issue.”

I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you have felt this or if you even are feeling it right this very moment, that you are not alone.  The reason I can say this with such certainty is that I feel it.  I have felt it.  And, guess what, just the other day, I heard a room full of people talking about how they feel it.  Oh how freeing it was to hear that I wasn’t alone in my feelings, to realize that the enemy is predictable and therefore defeat-able.

As I have mentioned before, I have struggled with just about every aspect of sexual sin since, truthfully, before I can remember.  Still as an adult, a married woman, the battle is fought daily.  Old habits die hard and desire can be like an all consuming fire when it is not within God’s design.  And to make matters worse, I constantly hear the words of the enemy when he says that I can’t possibly be saved because if I was, I for sure wouldn’t be dealing with this anymore.

These thoughts, however, are tools of the oppressor.  They are used by the evil one against us to keep us from living freely.  Scripture states clearly that we are not alone in our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Jesus himself fought every battle we fight.  Just because He was God did not make him any less human and therefore any less susceptible to temptation.  In the same verse that tells us that we are not alone in our temptation, God promises us that He will provide a way out for us.  He will provide a way for you to endure it.  I’ve read that in the original text the meaning of “endure” has to do with a word picture of someone being able to stand under a heavy weight.  The weight is still there.  The verse says nothing about God taking the temptation away from me.  He simply says that I do not have to fail and that HE will provide me the strength to stand under it.

You see, it really has nothing to do with my love for Christ or not.  Despite what the enemy may tell me, my failure does not represent a lack of relationship.  I fail every day at being the wife I was created to be but that doesn’t mean I am no longer my husband’s wife or that I do not love him (and I do not think that anyone would accuse me of either of those offenses).  It simply means that I failed that day and that I am going to pick myself up and try to do a better job tomorrow.  It is the same thing with my relationship with Christ.  When I remember that He died for me, even thought He knew who I would be and what I would do, I am also reminded that His love is enough.  His death was the price that was paid and I don’t have to worry about how often I fail.  His grace is enough.  He decided before the day He thought me into existence that I was worth dying for and I have to just accept that as fact and move on.  Dwelling on my constant failure is not what He intends for me and it is not what He intends for you either.  Yes, there is responsibility in relationship.  Let us not forget our responsibility.  However, there is also grace and we get to freely accept it and then turn around and freely give it and live it.

“Worth Dying For” – MikesChair

You might be the wife,
Waiting up at night
You might be the man,
Struggling to provide
Feeling like it’s hopeless

Maybe you’re the son,
Who chose a broken road
Maybe you’re the girl,
Thinking you’ll end up alone
Praying God can you hear me?
Oh God are you listening?

Am I more than flesh and bone?
Am I really something beautiful?
Yeah, I wanna believe, I wanna believe that
I’m not just some wandering soul
That you don’t see and you don’t know
Yeah I wanna believe, Jesus help me believe that I
Am someone worth dying for

I know you’ve heard the truth that God has set you free
But you think you’re the one that grace could never reach
So you just keep asking, what everybody’s asking

Am I more than flesh and bone?
Am I really something beautiful?
Yeah, I wanna believe, I wanna believe that
I’m not just some wandering soul
That you don’t see and you don’t know
Yeah I wanna believe, Jesus help me believe that I
Am someone worth dying for

You’re worth it, you can’t earn it
Yeah the Cross has proven
That you’re sacred and blameless
Your life has purpose

You are more than flesh and bone
Can’t you see you’re something beautiful
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe
He wants you to see, He wants you to see
That you’re not just some wandering soul
That can’t be seen and can’t be known
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe that you
Are someone worth dying for

You’re someone worth dying for
You’re someone worth dying for

Rules, rules, rules!

Something I hear often is that Christians have too many rules and that Christians can’t have any fun. In high school, I had one particular friend who had no experience with Christians other than the fact that they were boring. I tried very hard to explain to him that we aren’t boring and can have fun, and tried to show him that my church friends and I could have fun. I wanted him to know that just because we didn’t cross the border to get drunk and do who knows what every Friday didn’t mean that my friends and I didn’t have a good time together; it was just a different kind of fun than he was used to. He was often surprised at the good times my friends and I had without doing anything illegal and staying completely sober.

In high school, I couldn’t communicate this issue to my friend very well. It has taken a long time for me to understand it and I think it is something a lot of people still struggle with. It isn’t about the rules. God doesn’t create a lot of rules simply to make our lives boring and to watch us fail. God gives us guidelines for or lives because he loves us. He has created these guidelines to enhance our lives; to give us freedom. He knows what is best for us and wants the best for us. The guidelines he places in our individual lives are so that we can live freely, without the pains and burdens that are of this world.

It is when I’m not in communion with the Father that these guidelines begin to feel restrictive and more like pointless rules than guidelines that lead me to freedom. I know when my relationship with God is not where it should be because the things of the world become appetizing and the fact that I can’t partake feels unfair and restrictive. It isn’t about me following rules or not, it is a heart issue; where am I in my walk with my God? Am I in an active and healthy relationship with him or am I separated from him because of my sin, guilt, shame, etc.?

I think there is a spectrum in the way we view God’s guidelines. On one side, we view them as restrictive rules that don’t bring freedom and peace. We resent them, refuse to acknowledge them and resist anyone who tries to call us to the table when we aren’t following them. At times on this spectrum, we are afraid to tell anyone about them because we see them as a negative in our own lives. We don’t see the freedom and therefore we don’t feel there is anything positive to share. We hate the guidelines and can’t understand their propose. This is a heart issue. On the other side of the spectrum, we focus on guidelines so much that we can’t live life. We tell everybody about the guidelines and turn people off because we aren’t focused on the outcome, but rather the guideline itself. We live a life that is restrictive and speak of our martyrdom; we resist anyone who speaks of freedom. The difference on this side is that we acknowledge the rules, and make them a huge part of our lives. However, the similarity is that we aren’t living in communion with God because if we were, we wouldn’t be on either end of the spectrum. There would be a healthy understanding of the guidelines and an inward and outward gratitude for the freedom the bring. Neither of these ends of the spectrum are healthy our what God has intended. As I said before, God intends these guidelines to bring freedom and enhance our lives. It is an issue of the heart and maturity when we find ourselves not in the middle of the spectrum, which is in a committed relationship with Christ.

As a parent (not only do I have my little man these days, but we also have a beautifully and wonderfully made 13 year old in our home), I understand this concept more and more fully.  I know that when I tell Micah, “not for babies” and I use a stern voice tone he is going to look at me and push his bottom lip out and then cry a little and I am going to have to kiss him and give him something that is for babies because that is what is best for him.  He doesn’t know it yet, but touching the hot oven rack will hurt him and my guidelines for his life are truly for his good.  In the same vein, when I tell our 13 year old that she cannot go to Taco Bell without an adult, I know that she is going to be disappointed and not understand, but I also know that my guidelines are for her own good.  If she were to go by herself, she could get abducted (and I don’t even want to think of what would happen after that), or something else could happen that could be prevented if she were with a responsible adult.  I am willing to deal with the pouty lip from Micah and the silent treatment from the teenager because I love them that much.  My hope is that one day my children will love their children enough to have these guidelines as well.  That will tell me that they understand and that they no longer view those guidelines as restrictive but have matured and know that those guidelines were for their own good.  And in the example of Micah, my hope is that when he is an adult and can freely touch the hot oven rack, he will decide not to because he knows it isn’t going to be good for him.

God likens Himself to a parent frequently in the Bible and I love that about Him.  Putting it in that perspective has helped me understand Him, especially when it comes to guidelines and freedom.  I appreciate that He has put guidelines in my life because I know that He loves me enough to do so.  I know that I am loved enough that someone cares to look ahead and say, “that isn’t going to be good for you, so I’m going to say no right now.”  I am romanced by that idea.  As a woman, I want to be in a loving relationship with someone who wants to protect me through His love.  As a child, I want a parent who is strong enough to be firm through His love.  It is only when I am not where I need to be in my relationship with God that ungratefulness seeps in.  That ungratefulness is supposed to act as a compass, though.  I am not supposed to stay ungrateful and bitter.  I am supposed to look at that ungratefulness and say, “something is not right” and fix it.

With relationship comes responsibility. When God created man, He created relationship and when He created relationship, He created responsibility.  Man walked away from that responsibility and there were consequences.  Nothing has changed.  Relationship between man and God, between Creator and creation, still exists and therefore responsibility in relationship still exists.  God created the institution of marriage to be the closest earthly representation of His relationship with His people and I do not think anyone would deny the fact that there is responsibility within a marriage relationship, so why do we fight against responsibility within our relationship with the creator of all things good?  Again, it is a heart issue.  So evaluate.  Where are you on the spectrum?  If you aren’t in the middle, grateful for the guidelines that God has given you and basking in the freedom those guidelines bring, I encourage you to evaluate your heart.  Know that holding up on your end of responsibility results in a beautifully masterminded freedom that cannot be recreated elsewhere.  And take heart my friends who live in the middle… you are right where you need to be despite any persecution that may come of it.

“Cry In My Heart”– Starfield

There’s a cry in my heart
For Your glory to fall
For Your presence to fill up my senses
There’s a yearning again
A thirst for discipline
A hunger for things that are deeper

Could You take me beyond?
Could You carry me through?
If I open my heart?
Could I go there with You?
For I’ve been here before
But I know there’s still more
Oh, Lord, I need to know You

For what do I have
If I don’t have You, Jesus?
What in this life
Could mean any more?
You are my rock
You are my glory
You are the lifter
Of my head
Lifter of this head

It’s Over Already (Part 2)?

Kim Kardashian posted a note to her fans today on her website and it struck a chord with me.

… First and foremost I married for love. I can’t believe I even have to defend this…Everyone knows I am a hopeless romantic! I love with all of my heart and soul. I want a family and babies and a real life so badly that maybe I rushed into something too soon. I believe in love and the dream of what I wanted so badly. I felt like I was on a fast roller coaster and couldn’t get off when now I know I probably should have. I got caught up in the hoopla and the filming of the TV show that when I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and I didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people… I’m being honest here and I hope you respect my courage because this isn’t ready to go through. But I do know that I have to follow my heart. I never had the intention of hurting anybody and I accept full responsibility for my actions and decisions, and for taking everyone on this journey with me. It just didn’t turn out to be the fairy tale I had so badly hoped for… I’m sorry if I hurt anyone, but my dad always told me to follow my heart and I believe now that I really am.

I do not have first hand experience with what she said, but my husband does, so I wanted to share a little bit about his story.
Back in 2002, my husband thought he had found the girl of his dreams. Physically, she was everything he had ever wanted. Emotionally, they clicked. Spiritually, she was a beautiful reflection of Christ and His love. So, a couple months after entering into a relationship with her, my husband asked his dream girl to marry him. She said yes and they spent a little over a year planning an extravagant and fairy tale like wedding.

Just three months after pledging to spend their lives together, my husband was devastated by his bride’s decision to leave the marriage. He begged and pleaded, offered to go to counseling and even got desperate and dramatic, but her mind was made up. She had to “follow her heart.” She gave a lot of different reasons to my husband and her friends and acquaintances, but in the end, I believe it was just as Kim said. You get caught up and then can’t find a way to end it.

Almost all little girls dream about our wedding day. We think about the dress we will wear and the flowers we will hold. We imagine the perfect man waiting for us at the alter, but, in our imaginations, we rarely go beyond that special moment. We don’t dream about blending our life with the life of another human being. We don’t fantasize about morning breath or toe nail clippings. We love the idea of being swept off of our feet but do we love the idea of truly doing life with another person day in and day out?

My husband told me a thousand times while we were engaged, “plan for the marriage not just the wedding.” He had learned his lesson and was wiser for it. His heart ached for a long time. He felt duped by the girl of his dreams (who turned out to be anything but) and forsaken by the God that he served faithfully. However, when I met my husband in the summer of 2006 (two years after dream girl left), he was a strong man who had been refined by the fire and understood what it meant to pledge forever.

We have to slow things down. We have to be prayerful about all things; especially huge, life altering decisions like marriage. We can’t give up easily. We have to know what kind of commitment we are making and stick to it. Trust me, you will be blessed.

We live in a society that stresses fierce independence and dogged self absorption, but that won’t get us anywhere. Love cannot be displayed, given or received in a world full of people who only care about themselves. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Sometimes following our hearts, as much as we think it will make us feel better, is absolutely the wrong thing to do; especially when we have hardened our hearts to God’s loving regulations for our lives.

Divorce, in this situation, is sin. There are consequences for sin. Ask dream girl. I don’t know her personally, but we have mutual friends and I know that it was a long road toward restoration and wholeness for her. God loves his children and just as a human parent disciplines their own child, so does God. Revelation 3:19a says “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” Not everything that is good for us, whether it is being disciplined or sticking it out and working very hard to make a relationship work, is pain free, pleasent and enjoyable. In fact, I would go as far to say that the things in my life that have been the most painful, unpleasent and unenjoyable are the same things that have made me into all of the good things that I am today. (Check out Hebrews 12)

Just as I said in part one of this blog, my heart is broken over this news. Anytime a heart is broken and a marriage is ended, it is sad. It is hard to imagine that kind of pain. I believe, because I know so intimately a very similar situation that Kim K. is broken hearted. She should have ended things prior to going through with pledging her life to someone, but she didn’t and now she has to live with that and deal with the consequences.

But you know what? My God is a God of love, forgiveness and restoration. As the song from part one says, he “makes beautiful things out of dust/us.” God loves Kim K. and his heart is aching right along with hers. He loves you! In all of your sin and bad decisions and heartache. He longs for restoration. He wants a relationship with you. He wants to love you like you’ve never been loved before.
If you are struggling right now; if you feel like you have made a mistake and simply got caught up in the loveliness of an idea, know that if you follow Him, He can make it work. Read some of my other entries for proof. If you are currently on that roller coaster and feel like it is too late to get off (engaged and not yet married), know that it is not too late. Slow down and plan for your life together. Think about the devastation you will leave behind if you try to get off after it is too late.

In the end, it all boils down to love. You are loved by the creator of love. There is nothing you have done or can do that will ever change that. It is a matter of accepting that love and turning around and loving in return.

Kim K.
I am so sorry that you felt you were in too deep when you weren’t. I’m sorry that you have given up hope so quickly. Like I said yesterday, you are loved and know that all things can be restored though Him who loves you!

 

Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/jj_heller/only_love_remains.html ]
Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

It’s Over Already?

My heart aches at the news of Kim Kardashian’s decision to file for divorce. After just 72 days of marriage the model/reality TV star made this statement to E! today: “After careful consideration, I have decided to end my marriage. I hope everyone understands this was not an easy decision. I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned. We remain friends and wish each other the best.”
Divorce is a HUGE deal! It devastates lives and people’s hearts. It is not at all what God intended when he instituted the gift of marriage (giving oneself fully to another person for the rest of your lives). God designed marriage at creation. Adam and Eve were married and lived as a married couple. After Eve was created in the Genesis account, God “brought her to the man” (Gen. 2.221). This is considered to be the first institution of marriage. Two verses later, it is written, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2.24). It is clear, by these verses, that God created and ordained marriage and therefore, had a plan for the institution. God designed marriage to be a lasting union between man and woman, in which both partners reveal characteristics of God to one another that were previously unknown to their partner.
With an understanding that marriage was intended to be a lasting union, it seems obvious to assume that divorce was not intended. This is evident when Jesus says, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so” (Mat. 19.8). Jesus responded in this way in reply to the Pharisees asking Jesus about the law of divorce in order to trick him. Even at this very early time in Christian history, there were opposing views regarding divorce. There were two main schools of thought regarding divorce. These schools of thought were formed by two different Rabbinical teachings: a) Hillel and b) Shammai. The Hillel school of thought was that a divorce was permitted in any circumstance, but it needed to happen in a discrete manner. The Shammai school of thought, in contrast, was much more restrictive and greatly opposed divorce among married couples. By asking Jesus this question, the Pharisees were testing him to see which school of thought was correct and, also to question Jesus on whether or not divorce should be permitted at all. The Pharisees were probably attempting to provide an opportunity for Jesus to go against the Mosaic Law. Because Jesus spent the large majority of his ministry ratifying and changing views from laws to love, the Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into saying that divorce was okay.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus continues his teachings on divorce and Paul, in First Corinthians, furthers the teaching. In teaching, both Jesus and Paul discuss exceptions and circumstances regarding the rules of divorce. Because sin entered into the world, God had to ratify his intentions for marriage. He did not intend for divorce, but because divorce became the reality of humanity, He set up guidelines in order to restrict and monitor it. One of the exceptions that is discussed in these passages is the fornication exception, found in Matthew, as stated by Jesus. In order to grasp the meaning of this exception, it is of utmost importance to come to a full understanding of the meaning of the word fornication and differentiate it from any other similar words.
The Greek text uses the word, “πορνεια” which is translated into “unchastity” in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This is a very important word. Πορνεια is transliterated into prorneia and is from where the English word “porn” comes. Many other translations of the Bible translate πορνεια to “fornication” or “sexual immorality.” The word fornication, in American culture, is often mistakenly interchanged with the word adultery, which is the Greek word “μοιχαω.” These words, in the Bible, are not and should not be interchangeable. Fornication refers to a sexual sin of any and all sorts; adultery is unfaithfulness toward one’s marriage partner.”. While both sins are wrong and carry heavy consequences, they are not the same and they should not be viewed the same, specifically, in regards to marriage. Jesus says, “except for fornication,” not “except for adultery.” The exception clause in regards to divorce deals only with straying outside of the marriage in a sexual manner.
To set up the next exception, Paul goes into a lengthy discourse on the subject of marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. He commands that as long as the unbelieving spouse is willing to coexist, the marriage is not to be dissolved by the believing spouse. Paul even goes on to explain the benefits of such a situation, where he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (7.14). The term “sanctified” is not referring to salvation, otherwise there would be no use in identifying a spouse as unbelieving. The term is used to describe the temporal blessing the unbelieving spouse will get because of the believing spouse. In this passage it seems as though Paul is eliminating reasons for the believing spouse to seek a divorce. If the believing spouse is worried about the effect of an unbelieving parent on their joint children, Paul assures them that the children will also experience blessing on behalf of the believing parent.
Paul continues to discuss the issue when he says, … “but if an unbeliever departs, let him depart.” The word “depart,” in Greek is “χωριζεται” which literally means “separates from.” This is the same word that was used in Jewish culture to mean divorce and was almost always used by Paul to refer to divorce. It seems that, under inspiration from God, Paul says that divorce, in the case of the unbeliever leaving the believer, is not to be stopped, if every attempt to salvage the marriage has failed. This is most likely the case when the unbelieving partner is so frantically opposed to Christianity that he or she refuses to continue the marriage.”
These two exceptions to God’s original intentions for marriage appear to be the only exceptions specifically expressed in the Bible. As I will point out in just a little while, this does not necessarily mean that these are the only valid reasons for divorce. With an understanding of what scripture says about the issue of divorce, I want to discuss how this affects us today, if at all. Even with a desire to fall within the confines of Biblical doctrine, it is often difficult to discern what information in the Bible should be taken word for word and without any liberty and what should be taken with more thought and with an understanding of cultural and societal differences. Frequently, in American Christianity, people are searching for black and white answers on any and every issue and in the case of divorce, there are not black and white answers for every circumstance. But how should society today deal with cases that are not discussed in the Bible?
I once read a book called “Christian Doctrine: Faith Once Discovered” and the author said, “the silence of the Scriptures should be respected as strongly as the clear statements.” While human instinct is to become frustrated with the silence, the author suggests that one should have respect and awe for what was purposely left out of the Bible. This, however, still does not answer the question of what to do with the silence. Author J. Vernon McGee discusses this question when he says, “I do not think one can put down a categorical rule either way for today.” He believes that each case should be judged on its own merit and to make black and white rules when there are no true black and white rules for every circumstance is simply unacceptable. It is hard to imagine that God would require a person to remain married when their life, or the life of their children are in danger. Each circumstance should be weighed and measured on their own, because there is no scriptural evidence leaning toward a right or wrong answer.
There is, however, a danger in this line of thinking. Some people seem to be taking far too much liberty in areas of silence. Where scripture is silent, a lot of people are making assumptions and not seeking wise counsel, studying the whole of the Word of God and/or seeking the will of the Lord. With couples finding it very difficult to combine their financial lives/views as well as their expectations for what a marriage should be at the top of the list for divorce and separation, it is extremely important to think, study and discuss thoroughly the Biblical view of divorce, as well as the character of God.
The issue of divorce will always be debated and discussed. Add to people’s opinions on the issues, the different perspectives that people get, along with the past experiences that they bring into the issue and the result is a muddled, confusing and frustrating set of issues that bear hugely on a large number of lives. But no matter how each person interprets God’s teachings on divorce, God’s word itself should be the basis from which we begin to take our stances. So to truly find answers to the issues that press us today, we will need to always, accurately use God’s word to help and guide the direction of our lives.
We have to look to our God for answers. As I have written about before, marriage is difficult. My first year of marriage was straight out of the drama category on Netflix. We both had dreadfully different expectations going into the marriage and adjusting to life together was tremendously difficult! The only reason we made it was because we (thankfully) both understood that we made a commitment to a LIFETIME together and did what we had to do to make things better.
Now, I don’t know Kim K.’s circumstances or if she has Biblical grounds for a divorce, but I do know that my God is bigger than any circumstance and he can change people’s hearts and lives. As I said in the beginning of this blog, my heart hurts to hear of divorce so soon after pledging to do life together forever. If I’m honest, my initial reaction was judgment, asking, “how can you know it isn’t going to work after just 72 days?” I mean, 72 days into my marriage, I had been ready to give up probably at least 70 times. I can only imagine the pain Kris Humphrys and Kim K. must be feeling. I think I know the disappointment, because I felt it; the disappointment of something not being as wonderful as you expected is a distinct disappointment that stings deep down at the core of your being.
Take care, you married people. Remember your commitment and know that God will bless you richly when you honor your commitment. Support, love and encourage your married friends, those who are struggling and those who are not.
Kim K.,
I am so sorry you are struggling through this. Marriage is sacred and it can be so beautiful. Know that God can restore everything that has been broken. Know that you are loved. Know that you are His!

-Rebecca

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new