A large part of repentance is making right the wrong you have done. I think that at times this making good is so horrific that it serves to entrench the lesson! Our God knows us so well.
I soon realised that, as part of this process of dissembling my idols, I would have to apologise to my husband and ask his forgiveness. We place heavy burdens on those we put into positions of prominence because we expect them to live up to our desires, to be the answers we seek. My husband was someone who was emotionally dissociated. He simply did not see things the way I saw them and so he felt no need to behave in any other manner to the way he did. The rights or wrongs of that were not for me to judge – I had to hand that over to the Lord.
The long drive back to Swaziland each month from the beach in Mozambique provided great opportunities for some of my most productive conversations with my heavenly Father. On one such journey, He helped me see that I had made demands on John that he was unable to meet. I wanted a warm, loving relationship where each partner was concerned about the other. In Paul’s discourse on marriage and the roles of husbands and wives, verse 28: “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” I believe marriage is a partnership, with total disclosure, unity and consideration. John did not and refused to even entertain the idea of a partnership.
I finally understood that this was something that I could not accept. As a Christian everything in our marriage flouted the conventions of my belief. Not only that, but I needed to feel loved and cared for, that is who I am. I love hugging and being hugged, I love being included in the lives of those close to me, nurturing and being nurtured. Fair enough, you say, so what did you have to apologise for?
This is where it gets a little complicated, so bear with me. I had to apologise because I had made demands on him that he was unable to meet, and then I held him accountable for that inability, insisting he should be the person I needed him to be. In so doing, I had placed as much strain on him as he on me. I had to release him, to acknowledge that he was who he was, and ask his forgiveness for demanding that he change. I also understood finally, that whilst I loved him, I could not live in a relationship that didn’t offer me what I needed, and that was ok. The massive relief of finally acknowledging that, and being able to walk free of the consuming guilt and condemnation I had felt for so long, for simply wanting to be loved and accepted is indescribable.
People I have shared this have come back at me, as I am sure many of you will too, with the question: “So what about him? His apology?”
It would be nice, I have to admit, if that had been forthcoming. But that was not the deal the Father had struck with me. I needed to be obedient. What John did or didn’t do with that was inconsequential. Was that easy? No way! It was tough, and I fought many emotions, cried many hot tears as I wrangled with this. But deep down I knew I really had no choice. If I was serious about getting my life into sync with God, I had to respect His need for obedience, and if that comes with sacrifice, so be it. Whatever we give up for Him, He will reward in ways we cannot envisage.
What I haven’t yet told you is at some point during this time that I was wrestling with the concept of idols, our house that I was living in at the beach burnt down. Completely. Razed to the ground in a cruel act of burning rage, taking with it almost everything I treasured. I tried valiantly to put it out, but it was a wooden house with a thatch roof and there was a stiff breeze blowing off the sea that evening. Instead of rescuing my possessions, I tried to put out the fire. By the time I realised I was fighting a losing battle, the heat was too great for me to get inside. I had no choice but to walk away.
In those moments of numb despair, as I looked at my life going up in flames before my eyes, I heard the voice of the Lord quietly whispering, “Now you will learn what it means to trust Me.”
I found myself wondering what else I was unwilling to relinquish – was there something in the house, another idol, that would have caused me to fall, that God allowed everything to be consumed? Was what I had written so far that awful? I had said to a dear friend the previous week that it was so dry and boring I couldn’t bear it – maybe God couldn’t either! Or maybe He was simply obliterating the past, making a way for the future.
Foolishly, I thought that fire was the culmination of my discipline, my learning curve in the Lord. How little we truly know of desire our Father’s heart, to bring us as close to Him as is humanly possible. In retrospect, that night was the beginning of a stripping away that at times made me feel as if I was being flayed as my Saviour was that awful day two thousand odd years ago, great strips of flesh being peeled away.
I have frequently said to friends that it has been a journey that I would not wish on my worst enemy, but I would not have missed one step of it, because of where it has brought me in relation to my Lord.
Hebrews 12 vv7, 8:
But if you are without chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then are illegitimate and not sons.
We want all the benefits and blessings of God, especially in this day and age of the quick fix, the prosperity gospel, the bless me clubs that many of our churches have become. But we claim these as illegitimate children if we are not prepared to bow our will to the Father’s.
Job 5 vv 17-21
Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty
For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.
He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.
In famine He shall redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
Why did God allow it? I never asked. After all, He is God, and as my friend Zoe always says, “He can do what He likes”.
Be blessed this week, in Him.