Wednesday, October 17, 2018

But Now I Keep Your Word

I set out into October expecting to write about LIGHT in my Mid-week Messages.  The Light of Jesus, the Light of God's Word... light in it's various forms in scripture, particularly through Psalm 119 as it has been a theme this month (God's Word: a Light to my path♥️)  But, instead, I find myself writing about marriage and how Psalm 119 is helping me with mine.  I wrote about it last week as I shared Hope for a Struggling Marriage and, this week, you guessed it, marriage is on the menu again.

I know, October is the last month one would expect to elicit thoughts of weddings and married life.  However, with my anniversary falling on the 10th every year, at the height of pumpkin spice season, my thoughts often linger on the early days of life with my husband.  I'm reminded of so many falls ago and all which has kept us going since.

I don't talk about my married life here on the blog very much. Mostly because hubby and I seem to ride more roller coasters than marry-go-rounds together and I never could see what I might bring to the conversation on the topic.However, this month, I feel like God has been moving me to be more open.  Perhaps because a portion of my sabbatical was prompted by struggles as a wife last fall.  Shutting down was, in part, because I was afraid to talk about where I was and I couldn't get over the hump to talk about anything else. However, since last fall, I have come to realize how not talking about it removes a much needed voice to other women like me.  I guess, to make any amount of sense here, I need to start from the beginning, in a shortened 'this is just a blog article' version...

I didn't grow up "in the church".  My grandma took me when I happened to be with her on a given weekend.  In high school I moved in with my dad (my parents were divorced) and, due to a closer proximity with grandma, I began attending more frequently.  At 16 I walked forward at church to 'get saved', though, to this day, I am not certain it was a true salvation but rather "fire insurance" as a result of yet another fire-and-brimstone sermon. I wasn't sure about the whole "Jesus" thing but I was certain about one thing: I didn't want to go to hell.

After what I have come to dub as my 'psudo salvation' I didn't live like a Christian.  I did try to read the King James Bible my grandmother had gifted me when I was 13 but the words were to frothy and I gave up.  Living under an Atheist's roof and being a daddy's girl by nature, incentive to 'walk right' was definitely lacking.  My dad's remarriage my freshman year to a woman who despised me drove me farther away.  I wanted love and acceptance badly.

So, I married my high school 'sweetheart'.  He was a year older and had joined the Air Force.  I graduated a semester early and, while my peers attended prom, I was planning my shot-gun wedding.  A few days after exchanging vows we loaded up our pick-up truck and headed west to his first duty station in Washington state.

And that is where it all took a big leap.

I had always wanted to attend church on Christmas eve and, recognizing I had a chance to formulate my own family traditions as an adult, we went for it.  I could have never anticipated how my pseudo-salvation would break that night.  After a fun play presented by the youth, pastor took the podium and began his O Holy Night message: the story of Abraham and Issac on the mountain.  I can't explain what happened except, despite the welcoming friendliness of the evenings greeters and the hope of establishing a church 'home', the message lit an unholy fire in me and I grew angry at God: "What kind of God would ask a dad to sacrifice his kid???" and "How on earth is this relevant on this night?"

As the evening concluded I made vaguely polite gestures of farewell, fighting the urge to run from the building.  I never went back.  Out of tradition I remember kneeling to set cookies for Santa by the gifts under the tree.  There, just before bed, in the glow of Christmas tradition I stood up resolutely and point-blank told God I didn't want anything to do with Him anymore.

I ran hard and fast away from faith.  I made mistakes, suffered from severe depression, attempted suicide, dabbled with drinking and made a general wreck of my life.  My marriage couldn't handle the weight of destruction we both wreaked and, after 4 years, when my oldest was 2, we split.

It was in this state that I met my now hubby.  He was coming out of a much rougher life than I.  I can honestly say, with my grandmother's tugging and my mom's new-found-faith, I never wandered too far.  I still longed for family and home and dreamt of being a housewife caring for it all.  I'm truly simple at my core.  Yet, as hubby and I took off in the direction of couple-hood, we did so in this lost and broken state.  Living together before and during engagement and even having Ashley before we were married.

Once we said "I Do" I found my marriage struggling again.  Desperately.  Until one day, when pregnant with Brenden, I wandered into a small church in our little town.  I had never heard sermons preached with so much power and so little yelling!  I learned of a loving God, not just a damning God.  Then, one morning, while an infant Brenden slept in my arms, Pastor had us open our Bibles to Genesis 22.  As I saw the heading, I cringed, ready to run for the door. The Sacrifice of Issac.  However, as pastor spoke, I realized something was different.  This time I heard the story of a God of Love.  A God who commanded complete Trust and devotion.  A God who would never really have a dad kill his son, but rather, would call a dad to Trust and then He, God, would provided what was needed.

I sobbed.  I held the small bundle that was baby Brenden close to my chest for fear my trembling arms might drop him!  I cried into his soft, blanketed body and called out to God from my heart, seeking His deep forgiveness for my foolishness and sinful ways, finally seeing and understanding.

That day I went home changed.  That day I began really digging into my Bible.  In her wisdom and desire to see me accept Christ, my recently converted mother had sent me an easier to read translation which quickly became my most treasured possession.  I devoured it, allowing God to transform me through every new and profound message which shed light on those warn out old ways.

One thing God's Word showed me in particular, the greatest light to my step, was how much God hated divorce.  I had been divorced.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  I found myself calling out to God for his mercy and finding conviction to set things right.  First, I made amends with my ex-husband, asking for his forgiveness.  It was what I felt I needed to do to be free to commit my whole heart to my hubby.  He forgave and I moved forward.  Second, God showed me through His Word how He calls us to STAY and serve our spouses even in the difficult times of married life when everything seems lost.  God impressed on me how He had a plan for my unbelieving spouse and He uses us, as wives, to bring that plan to fruition.

So, while my marriage didn't improve at first, my attitude did.  I committed to praying for my husband daily, to see Him come to a saving grace.  I prayed God would transform my husband into a man I could pray with in all of life's ups and downs.  It took 10 years of praying in this way before that big day came.  10 years of diverging beliefs and lonely struggles.  But it was worth

After his salvation he too soaked up God's Word and the counsel of other believers.  Within that first year he was Called to use his gifts in the missions field... a Call I had known 5 years prior when God told me He would show me the time to step forward in It.  So we answered, we sold much, gave much, traveled much and Trusted completely.

Then, almost 6 years ago, God called us out of field work and into our current home.  This, I believe, has been the biggest struggle in our lives.  Going from full-time work for God to full-time work for secular society.  The strain has been very difficult on our family and our marriage.  I thought maybe something was 'wrong' with us until I recently read "Missionaries are REAL People" by Ellen Rosenberger and discovered, no, our struggles were real and normal and manageable IF we kept our eyes on Jesus.

Yet, even in our struggles, I am reminded how each year does get better, with it's tweaks and adjustments, we move along.  Studying Psalm 119 this month has helped me with the struggles we still face in ways I didn't realize I was needing.  Every time I have read this Psalm in the past I only saw it for it's treasure of verses on the importance of God's Word.  But this month, I have also seen it for the treasure of verses on the POWER of God through His Word.  This week... the reason I share such a detailed back story... is because God's Word reminded me of how powerful our stories and experiences are:

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.  
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.   
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.  
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes..... 
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues.  
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold an silver pieces.
Psalm 119:65-68, 71-72 (emphasis added)

I once deeply regretted my past and resented how it wasn't different or better... that it took me so long to walk the right path... that my mistakes have had such far reaching ramifications.  Learning how these experiences were needed for my story, though, has been a slow process.  Meditating on verses 67 and 71 finally and completely closed the door on those apprehensions.  My faith has been made stronger because of my trials, not in spite of them.  I've known this for a long time but I feel like, each time I learn more on the topic, it becomes increasingly tangible.

Perhaps this post is still about LIGHT.  The light of hope and the promises in darkness.

I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
Psalm 119:55

This great big story is too much for one post and I hope I haven't overwhelmed the blog page with randomness as I tried to cram it all in such a small space!!  I hope, if nothing else, other women out there struggling like I have and still at times do, can find hope in the words and story here.  It can be hard to keep my chin up when hubby and I tend towards fire and ice more often than I care to admit.  But when I cast my gaze to the scope of our history I am reminded of how great and good God is.  How he set his light in my darkness, how he used my afflictions to teach and grow me.

One thing I do know as a result of my afflictions... I don't take my faith for granted.  When I look at the good work God has done in my husband I know He won't stop.  God is good, He does good, He will teach me his statutes and I will keep His Word♥️

I pray, if you are in any of the places I have been or am now, that you find peace in knowing your past is your past, it makes us who we are today as God teaches us how to keep His Word through it all...even and especially concerning our marriages!

If you are interested in a Psalm 119 study guide, scroll down to the end of this article to see how you can get a FREE copy!  Though I have poured over the beautiful words of this Psalm many times before, I am still finding new and wonderful messages to grow my Walk with Christ.


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