For Better or For Worse

 

So here I was at the beach, trying to make some sense of my life, why I had followed the path that I had, what had brought me to this point.

As a Christian I have to go back to the Word, and to my faith. It was 1979 when I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, some six months later that I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, I have spoken in tongues ever since, it was the dawn of the charismatic movement and I believed in miracles of healing and provision. So why was I here? Where was this life of freedom and victory that the bible speaks about, and which was preached from almost every born again pulpit at that time.

Footprints - mine! (800x600)
There is a poem about footprints in the sand – these are mine, threading a route through the rocks, rather as I walked through life

My first marriage ended soon after the birth of my second son. Blood tests revealed I had syphilis, every cent my mother had left me had disappeared and in its place was debt. No matter how bad a marriage may be, divorce is a painful and undermining experience. My sense of failure and isolation were exacerbated as I became another seven year statistic. To this add a mild degree of panic as I looked ahead and wondered how on earth I was going to raise and educate my two sons on the salary of a journalist, and the next step of my journey was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

I didn’t get divorced lightly. My commitment to Christianity was total and sincere. We were not get married in church, but Robert Forrester had pronounced a blessing in the name of Christ, and that counted with me. My mentor and counsellor through those months was the then Bishop of Swaziland, Bernard Mkhabela, an amazing man of God. He agreed to my filing for divorce after much prayer and searching. The day I had to go to court, he invited me to attend Mass with him. As I was leaving his house, he grabbed his car keys and began putting on his jacket.

Babe, what are you doing?”

“I’m coming with you. You cannot go to court alone.”

“But you’re the Bishop of Swaziland, you can’t be seen in a divorce court!”

“I am also your father in Christ, and as you have no other family, I will come with you.”

I managed to dissuade him, but I have never forgotten his humility, his love for God and for his flock.

Fast forward a few years, and I was again in his office, this time asking for permission to get married again. He was not convinced it was a good idea. The man I was wanting to marry was also divorced, and surprise, surprise, a lot older than me. The priest he assigned to counsel us was adamant he would not marry us, as the words of Christ rang true for him:

Mathew 5 vv31,32: “ …whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

And again: Mark 10:11,12: “whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her.”

And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

He was right, I was wrong, and so was the Bishop and other Christians who said it was alright, God gives second chances. Forgive us, Father, for we mess with your words, and we interpret your law to suit ourselves, and wonder why we end up in a mess. How many times did that come back to haunt me. God wrote those words, I decided to reject them, because why? I was exempt? What deception, what longing, caused me to trust man rather than to fear God?

As humans, we tend not understand grace: it is not softness towards sin and disobedience, it is forgiveness and acceptance of us in our fallen nature over which we have no control. The only way out of this malaise is through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, his redeeming blood.

It was very easy to fall for the promises of a charming doctor, who outwardly seemed to guarantee security, someone I had known most of my life and with whom I was honestly in love. Our courtship was tempestuous, largely due to the restrictions of my faith. Then came the day that he told me of this amazing revelation he had of the Lord, how he had accepted Jesus as Saviour, and thus the counselling began. There were those who were not convinced, but it was easy to ignore their words of reservation, as it was the few signs that caused unease in my own spirit.

The Lord speaks in a still, small voice, and one of my most heartfelt prayers these past years has been for ears overly sensitive to that voice, that I might not stray too far from His side ever again.

When Bishop Bernard give his consent it was with a stern warning. “You need to be very sure this time, Glenda. I believe that God does allow second chances, you are young and it is good for you to be married. But, you have to make this marriage work, there is no way out of this for either of you.”

I realised some two weeks into my second marriage that I had made a huge miscalculation, as promises made prior to the event were offhandedly refuted. Financial support was withdrawn as my husband now asserted that he would not support another man’s children. At the same time he put me under pressure to stop working in order to care for him. A twisted Catch 22. My sons, who had been feted and spoilt were now ignored at best, or punished by banishment for minor offences at worst. They went from happy, carefree little souls to anxious, introverted little boys, manifested as a stutter in one and alopecia in the other.

Why did I stay? Simple really. Blind obedience. I say blind deliberately, because I took at face value the Christian dogma that is espoused, and I had been warned by a man I respected highly that I had to find a way to make it work. This was my second and last chance. Secondly, hope, a belief that my God was greater than my circumstances, and He could do more than I believed possible, and somehow He would make everything right.

As I began to unpack all that had led to this point in my life I understood why the Lord had told me to ditch all Christian literature, that He would teach me Himself from His word. There is so much that I had misunderstood, not least of all the depth of God’s love, His heart for us as His special creation, and especially for women as the pinnacle of that creation, the helpmeet for Adam. Eve, who was so beautiful that Adam gasped in amazement at her, and then her abilities, to the extent that he gave her the title, Mother of all the living! No wonder she was targeted by the serpent, and she still is today, together with her offspring, her young sons and daughters.

So often we interpret scripture to suit ourselves, or to make things easier for others, as did Bernard for John and I, to both our detriments ultimately. God has made His rules, not to punish us, but to guide us into that abundant life that Christ promises in John 10v10 :

… I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

It was this life that I had sought ever since I made that commitment all those decades ago, amongst that pile of books on the verandah of the house in Piggs Peak. The majority of us do not experience these because our idea of what God means is slightly off-centre, we get hung up on a phrase, take things out of context, and thereby condemn ourselves and others.

The Lord had much to teach me.

 

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