Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shattered Blessings


I am overwhelmed at how blessed I am.

Shall I tell you some of the many ways I have been blessed in the past few years?

My father died of a heart attack on the same day I found out my husband had been unfaithful to me for all seven years of our marriage.

I went through a divorce after four more long painful years of praying desperately for God to keep it from happening.

I had to give up the ministry I had with my husband on the mission field of Nepal and lost all the work and relationships I had invested in there for years.

I had to move out of my dream house into an apartment in a bad neighborhood.

I had to go back to work after being a full time mom for all of my children’s lives.

I had to endure the stigma of being the “bad guy” because I divorced my husband.

I've had to live was the ongoing stigma of being a divorced single mom.

My mother and my Baptist pastor step-dad both died on the same day in a murder/suicide after refusing to speak to me for several years prior to their deaths.  

After my divorce, after seven years of commitment to a local church, it was determined I “did not have the right vision” to continue to serve.

That was just a few months ago.

I responded to loss of my beloved mission field of Nepal (and to the fire for missions in my heart that just wouldn’t go out) by finding another missions ministry to serve with, another country to work in, another people to love.  After four years of working with this ministry, I find I am again, shall we say, “incompatible.”  (There is no appropriate way to further explain publically the pain I feel over this situation, so I will leave it there.)

That was just last week, right after returning from my latest trip overseas.

Wait.

I thought you said blessings. 

Are you being sarcastic and bitter?  Are you ranting against the hypocrites of the world?  Are you trying to publically expose people you are mad at or having a passive-aggressive online pity party in order to get sympathy?

Nope. 

I’ve done plenty of ranting over the years, don’t get me wrong.  (Not to mention last week.) And cussing and fussing and crying and raging interspersed with periods of checking out emotionally and lying in bed staring dully at the walls. 

And plenty of asking why.  Stuff along the lines of, “Why me, God?  Why me?  I’m not a bad person.  I only wanted to serve You.  I only wanted to be a wife, to be a mom, and to be a missionary.  And when those dreams fell apart, instead of getting angry and bitter, I picked up the pieces, glued them back together and went on.  And then they got jerked out of my hands and smashed again. And again.

I could understand why this kind of pain would keep coming to me if I was living in sin.  If I had given You the middle finger after getting screwed by my (fill in the blank) Christian parents, Christian husband, numerous Christian pastors, leaders, counselors, etc,  and gone off to find selfish pleasure somewhere, abandoned my faith, forgotten my responsibility to my kids, left the church, ignored missions and rejected You, it would have made sense.

But I didn’t do any of those things.  I keep trying to do what was right even when I had been done wrong.  And You continually reward this effort by letting more pain come into my life?  Really?  I haven’t hit the life time pain quota yet?

Why did you let me get into these relationships with people, churches, and ministries where You knew I would get so deeply hurt?  I was seeking Your will.  I was asking for direction.  You could have stopped me. You could have stopped them. You could have ‘shut doors’. ”

And, of course it gets personal when there is a person perpetrating the pain.  And my questions start going something like, “How can You let him treat me this way?  How can You let a so-called Christian (parent, husband, pastor, leader) get by with this?  Why isn’t someone holding him/her accountable?  You see how many people he/she is hurting in Your name- why don’t You stop him? Are You not my defender? Are You not all powerful?  Are You not the righteous Judge?”

Here’s the deal.  If you ask those questions long enough and if somewhere in the swirling morass of your pain you actually have a miniscule part of you that wants a real answer and not just pain relief… 

Look out.

When you start invoking God’s justice, look out.

You are going to get an answer from God Himself, and it is not going to be what you expect.  Because if you pound on God’s chest with your fists and scream long enough, He will eventually oblige you.  He will wrap His hands firmly around your wrists and force you to look into His eyes.

And then there is no looking away, no pulling away, no changing your mind about the whole thing.  You pushed through the outer courts of your offense into God’s bedroom after visiting hours were over, busted down the door and demanded an immediate answer to your innermost pain. 

And why did you do this?  What is that innermost pain?  Regardless of what happened to you (yes, I know you've been through crap too), I believe it is this- You believed in God’s love for you, and although your circumstances deny that reality, you won’t give up on that belief.

And that’s why He’s going to answer you.

You see, I speak from experience.  I do still believe God loves me in spite of all the things that have happened to me. And so, in the face of this very paradox, I have thrown my tantrums and demanded that God meet my gaze and speak to me.

And when He does, I am undone.  The pain of that gaze is the sweetest agony, simultaneously most terrible and most welcome.  It relieves the fear that He won’t look at me at the same time it feels like it is killing me- because the fear I feel in God’s Holy Presence is better than the greater fear of being ignored by Him. At that moment of anguishing intimacy, God never speaks to me about what someone else did.  He doesn’t even have to speak.  He only looks into MY soul, and I see it reflected in His eyes, from His point of view back to me.

Because I am the one who busted down His door.  I’m the one who is here looking into His eyes, not anyone else.  There is no one else’s heart in this room to reveal but mine.

And here is where I begin to see things from a different point of view.  I say begin, because I can still only claim to have seen through a glass darkly, but at that moment of illumination in the eyes of my Creator I see just how dark my vision has been and catch a glimmer of the light piercing my sinful consciousness.

 Here is where it begins:  I see my self-righteous attitude of entitlement in the echo of my questions.  “God, I’ve been “good,” so You owe me good in return.  I deserve better.  I’m not like those people who used a dysfunctional family or a bad marriage as an excuse to live sinfully and selfishly.  I stayed in church.  I homeschooled my kids.  I didn’t even seek a second marriage but solaced myself with Christian service instead.  

I should have sufficiently earned Your guarantee that things would work out well for me because of all these brownie points.  And didn’t those right choices mean I was under the umbrella of Your protection from getting hurt again?”

Can somebody say filthy rags?  How about Pharisee?

I’m ashamed that the next thing that dawns on me as I look into God’s eyes that nothing less than such terrible emotional agony could drive me to this point of busting down God’s door and demanding His attention.  Because until I got into this much pain… I didn’t care enough to come here.  I only came because I had a terrible need for emotional relief, not because I love God enough to come of my own pain-free will.

I didn’t knock gently, come in quietly and put my head on His chest to be with Him for the sake of bringing Him pleasure.

So basically I’m seeking God selfishly as pain relief and a fixer of problems. 

But then, it dawns.  It was my pain that brought me here.  And, I’M HERE.  I’m in God’s Presence. Nothing else matters but Him right now WHICH IS THE WAY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALL ALONG.

Because as long as everything was going well- life, relationships, church and ministry- I didn’t (oh God, forgive me!) have time to seek His face. Instead I jumped out of bed, said a quick prayer, checked Facebook, made coffee and went charging into my day. And because these were all good things I was busy with- homeschooling, church work, missions work in Africa, relationships with Christian friends, talking with them about God… I was substituting good things for the best thing. 

And it wasn’t until the good things, and my dreams to do good things, hit the fan and got chopped up and bloody and splattered all over the walls that in my despair I turned my full attention to the Best Thing. He was standing in the middle of the room all this time, waiting for me.

So that means… all those bad things that happened… the betrayal, the lies, the loss, the shame, the grief… and the rinse repeat cycle...

…the loss of the good things I desired (and thought I deserved and had earned by being good)- a good relationship with parents that loved me, a godly marriage, a ministry in missions at my husband’s side, a position of service in a healthy local church, a “second chance” opportunity to serve overseas…

The many shattered dreams…

They have driven me into face to face encounters with God that I might never have entered into otherwise.

And these face to face encounters with God have revealed my sin:

My pride in my goodness and my performance

My sense of entitlement

My idolatry of relationships with people other than God, my willingness to be satisfied with lesser relationships than my one with Him as long as things are going well.

I have been given the opportunity to repent and put those things on the altar.

Therefore, how can I not call these events blessings?  They have brought me face to face with God, again and again, in encounters of Divine intimacy and purging many never experience.

Because when you see God, really see Him, even for a moment, EVERYTHING it took to get you there is worth it, no matter how painful.

Yes.  I am incredibly blessed.

(In the spiritual grieving journey I have been on this week, I have found a great deal of challenging applicable truth in the book "Shattered Dreams" by Larry Crab, and am super grateful to my friend who listened to God and gave it to me.  I am also indebted to the few select friends who have been witnesses to my cussing and fussing and crying and raging, and who have pulled me out of the bed (virtually and literally) when I stayed too long staring at the wall.  I'm extra grateful for the grace that has been extended to me by my children. Mostly though, I'm grateful to God who makes sure I have just enough human support at these times, but not so much that I forget what the whole point is- to come to Him.)


25 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Roxanne. You are one tough lady.

    I'm sorry to learn of some of the disappointments you've faced. We all go through things, but yes, it seems that you've had more than your share of rain. I love the way you pulled it all together. Sometimes, when you get knocked down over and over, even if you can't get up in that moment, you can turn your heart to heaven until you have the strength to stand again. No one can stop you from that.

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    1. Yes, you are right. And sometimes that's all we can do.

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    2. Roxanne, I really needed to read this today and know someone else is having a Job experience including the church response to single mom. Thank Tara Livesay for linking me to you.It is so lonely in the ash heap.
      Cheryl

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    3. Hey Cheryl! I'm sorry you've been through crap too. Some kinds of crap just hurts worse than others. I'm praying for Him to give you beauty for your ashes.

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    1. It's okay, Astrid. Really. This is a good thing.

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  3. Lauren EpenkotterMarch 24, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    Honored and humbled to have read this beautiful post.

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    1. Thank you Lauren. It means so much to have your continued affirmation after our brief but meaningful time together at the birth of your daughter!

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  4. So much of this I never knew and I haven't been on facebook much lately to know what was going on. My heart aches for you and at the same time once again find myself drawn closer to the Father through our friendship. You truly have made my life richer in Christ and it has always been through your transparency. Thank you for being real and exposing my own selfish and self centered view on life. I pray the will of God for your life be guided one step at a time as you move out in faith from here. Not for the blessings we all seem to strive for, but for the perfect will of God where you will be used to the fullest to have maximum effectiveness here on earth to fulfill your destiny here and eternally. I love you sweet friend - and we must have coffee soon!!!!

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    1. Thank you Kristi! You may not realize it but you are in a tiny minority of my friends who met me while I was married and stayed friends with me after the divorce. I've always appreciated that about you- your willingness to just keep accepting me. Thanks for your prayers.

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  5. Oddly, I've been staring at the wall all day—a 24-hour depression binge, which shames me more than I can say. And only then that tiny voice starts speaking, from way down in my stomach, saying the things that somehow I will only start to hear when I am sufficiently miserable, broken, and at the end of "my" little rope. Love to you, lady—

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    1. I wish it wasn't like that, I wish we weren't that way. Sending hugs and love to you, my friend.

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  6. Oh I hear you dear friend. This post so blessed me. Different circumstances, different pain but same revelation that at the end of the day it's all bout Him. I love what you said - I'm grateful to God who makes sure I have just enough human support at these times, but not so much that I forget what the whole point is- to come to Him. I'm such a people person that often times I run to the phone and not the throne. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing so beautifully. May God turn your messes into His message!

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    1. I really can't take credit, I'm just grateful to God for how He can turn the worst thing into an encounter with Him.

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  7. Where do you find this devotion and trust?
    I miss that every day, but I am forever lost and alienated from a god.
    According to all teachings I will never be able to seek that relation of love, grace and trust.
    I have a father, a quite shitty one , you know him.
    I used to have a Father. But my life and commitment to the one I love, prevents and blocks me out. I chose, I chose love. Sadly, the consequence is I am fatherless in all ways.
    I just wish I could have both. My life in any other ways is fantastic. A great and profitable carrier, a great home, a wife whom I love and loves me back.
    But still, I carry an empty and bitterness to this so called Fathers. I still remember your ex husband saying: you will always be a great disappointment to all in you life . I try my best to prove it wrong. But in my Fathers eyes, I'm afraid he was right.
    No matter how .
    I miss the fellowship, the sense of belonging, the awareness of being a His. Having a Father.
    Most days I try to forget, ignore.
    Instead I have come to despise all religions, all believers. Not because it don't agree. But because I've been judged, condemned and put down by believers.
    There is no place for me. I tried to beg, cry and ask god to take away what I felt and who I loved.
    Just because I love.!i don't really get it.
    I surely wish it otherwise, call it sin, weak, selfish not able to deny oneself or the true feelings.
    So I guess I'll go on. Being fatherless.
    You know me, as our paths crossed many years ago.
    I still have many questions, and I still am angry with you for not being able to understand or help, other than do just the same as all other Christians : condem me.
    You where the last I ever had contact with, who were Christians. I've read your exs web page and wonder how much hypocrisy it is possible to muster. Not much leave as you preach in many so called Christians. But still, set it aside, I still have a longing, for my Father. To find peace, love and grace. So reading your posts here, sort of seeing that even you have had your fill, I guess I'm sorry for your hardship, trouble and grief.
    Wish you luck. And if you still have a direct line up there, say hi to dad. And let him know I miss walking and talking with him. And please ask him to still keep an eye for me, and that I am sorry. But I can't chose, there is and was not a choice. It's just who and what I am.

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  9. In answer to your question: I’m just so desperate for Love that I dare to believe the words of Romans 8 as paraphrased in the Message are true: “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in scripture:

    They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We are sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

    None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing- nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable- absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

    I would add that no parent, no spouse, no depression, no personal doubt or unbelief, no confusion, no curse of doom put on me by anyone else, no judgment or condemnation passed on me, no, not even that judgment which I pass on myself, can keep God from loving me.

    Don’t try to forget. Remember it. And if it is more important to you than anything...do whatever it takes.




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  10. Thanks for your reply.
    But don´t you see? I would, I really would love to do what ever it takes, to once again be able to see and know and feel and trust that kind of love.
    But I have done enough studying, I know what the bible says, and no matter how I feel or want to, I can´t go and say that this scripture sounds good or if I twist it like this or that, or take it out of its context so it fits me.
    Still I don´t get why my sin is the only sin that's actually working as a catch 22. I am only guilty in finding and committing to one true love, through a legal marriage, through vows pretty much the same as you once did.Except its a same sex marriage. I have never broken that trust. I don´t in general lie, I don´t steal, I try not to hurt the people around me, I keep my promises and commitments. In fact, I guess my official sin list is not that unusual long or bad. In my opinion, suppressing and denying that love or feeling, perhaps ignored and moved on, married according to christian standards, even having kids, living on a lie, would be even a worse crime ad a greater sin, not only against God but towards all involved parts. I choose to stay true, and upright, and faithful, but I can´t find acceptance for this in the eyes of the the Father.
    One priest tried to tell me to rest in the grace, as we are all sinners. Difference is, you can go and sin, and you can repent and stop sinning. In my case, its not an option, because I believe I was created to be the way I am. If not, why did n´t God take this away, I identified these feelings and desires at a very early stage in my life.
    The community I grew up in, the church and the old friends are all gone, unified in the same view as myself, I am forever lost. I´ve been compared to animal, pedophiles,abnormal,sick and disturbed. I beg to differ and recent that projection for so many reasons. But it doesn´t solve or redeem me from what the bible says. No matter how or what way I choose to turn.
    My wish, it it can be simplified: Is to rest and allow the grace of God into my life. Stay in the presence and dwell in the house of the Lord, and call him Father, without feeling the constant guilt, pain, and torment, knowing I will never be able to deny myself and carry that cross. Its just to heavy. I carry some big wounds caused by my earthly father, and but it can´t by far compare to the deep wound and grief for the lose of faith and a Father.

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  11. Wow.

    You’ve really been through a lot of pain. And chosen to share it here. I am very, very hesitant to write anything here that might be misunderstood or taken out of context, but your willingness to share makes me willing to risk responding.

    You are not the first person to wrestle with this particular conflict. Nor is this conflict the ultimate catch 22 sin(even though I know many Christians act like it is). In all of us there are desires and inborn tendencies that pull us emotionally, sexually or behaviorally toward something that the Bible defines as sin. For some of us, it is sex or an emotional affair with someone of the opposite sex we are not married to, or who is married to someone else. For some of us it is an emotional or sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. For some of us it is a less specific sexual addiction that is relentless in demanding relief on a daily basis. For some people it may be other addictions, like an inexorable physical craving for any variety of substances. For others it’s a chemical imbalance or a disorder that makes us prone to compulsive and destructive behavior. For some of us it’s a mental or emotional weakness. The list is endless.

    And then, all of us are faced with a decision. Either, we do not chose to accept or believe the Bible as the ultimate Truth and our standard for living, and therefore are not subject to what it tells us is right and wrong, or, we believe it is True but we chose to disregard it in making our life choices.

    If we fall in the second category (as it sounds like you are from what you are written) it causes tremendous inner conflict and guilt, as we turn against what we believe (still on some level) to be right.

    But regardless of which category we are in, we are in it because we chose it. We always have a choice. We are never victims of a pre-determined path. We cannot control how we feel or what our tendencies are, but we are not slaves to them- we can choose what we do with those feelings and tendencies.

    (to be continued in next comment)

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  12. (Part 2- continued from previous comment)

    If “following our heart” – as our culture tells us to do- leads us to something or a relationship with someone that the Bible defines as sin, then we have to decide who to follow. Our own heart and what feels right, or what God tells us is right.

    God does not force us. He lets us decide.

    But then we get to live with the decision. And when we chose something other than God, we get to have that thing or that person, and lose our closeness with God.

    It doesn’t make sense that we could deliberately chose to do something God says is sin and then get to maintain close contact with God at the same time. He still loves us, but that’s not the same as daily companionship.

    Believe me, I know what I am talking about. I understand the inner conflict. I know how hard it is to walk away from something or someone you love. I understand how it can feel so good, and unthinkable that in God’s eyes it could ever be bad. And how it feels like it would rip your very heart out to deny it. And because I know how hard it is, I could never tell anyone else how to do this, or judge them if they made a different choice or came to a different conclusion.

    I can only say, in my case, although it felt like death for a long, long, time, eventually it became life. And for me, I came to conclude that God was right and I would rather accept and submit to His standard as written in the Bible as the ultimate Truth and standard for my life, the final definition of right and wrong, that any other happiness or pleasure.

    My relationship with Him is worth more than with anyone. Or life itself.

    I am sorry for the people who have judged you and been ugly to you, instead of loving you. This is not at all intended to be more of that crap. I do not see you as forever lost, or any of those other labels. I see you as someone like me, like all of us.

    But honestly, you seem to be struggling more with your own inner conflict and with missing God’s Presence than you are struggling with the way other people have treated you and responded to your choices.

    I pray you find peace.

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  13. Roxanne, I find it hard to put into words how I feel about reading this. I feel great sadness and anger for the situations you've been through but I know God loves you and therefore I know you are blessed. We love you. You are a tremendous blessing in our lives. If you need anything, please know, I will always do my best to help even if it is just my time and listening to you. Have a blessed birthday and we will see you soon.

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  14. Oh, Roxanne, I am SO sorry to hear about all the "blessings" you've had to endure. My heart not only sympathizes but empathizes as well. I've been "blessed" in similar ways myself over the years. I am currently in a season of blessings I actually like and enjoy ... but God is also teaching me to spend focused time with Him, seek His face, listen to His voice. I pray you will experience that kind of blessing season in your life VERY soon! Sending you a great big virtual hug!!!!!

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  15. Roxanne, I dont know that you desire to contact me but I think of you and would love to have a conversation, or how wonderful it would be to see you again. It warmed my heart to read single sisters and to see the first picture of you and Kathy. Oh the memories-you women are amazing-I love you and pray Gods amazing best for you and your beautiful children. Hugs from my heart to you!! Gentlehandsmombaby.com sincerely, Angie

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    1. Hi Angie! Great to hear from you! I was sorry that we lost touch! Please comment again with some contact information (I won't publish it). I'll send you my email! Hugs!

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