Sister to Sister: The Destruction of the Family Next Door

Well, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been a part of the agony, after the fact, but, thankfully I’ve never been privy to the dialog itself…until a recent hotel stay in another state. Glenn and I were staying next door to a couple whose marriage was forever changed. The conversation I didn’t want to be overhearing was excruciating for me, just lying there in the darkness in the middle of the night. But I can only imagine the depth of pain in the room next door. I could only guess the wording of the woman’s side of the conversation, for she spoke in hushed tones that resembled the sounds you might hear around a hospital bed as the life of your loved one ebbs away. And, in fact, it was the life of the marriage itself that was likely passing in the hotel room next door.

Husband (in a very deep and determined bass voice): No! You know better than that. We’ll see how it really was.Wife responds in hushed tones.

Husband: You know that’s a lie. It was your boyfriend. We’ll see. It’s all coming out now.

Wife again responds.

Husband: We’ll see.

Wife responds.

Husband: Well, we’ll just see, won’t we? I don’t believe that for a minute. You said you couldn’t even walk to the second floor, so how do you expect me to believe that story? How, Donna?

Wife responds.

Husband: Well, I guess we’ll know soon. We’ll see.

At this point, my heating system came on and muffled the noises coming from the next room. Thankful for the respite from the awful crash of a falling marriage next door, for the warmth, not just of the heating system, but of the contented and godly Christian man who lay sleeping peacefully beside me, the few quiet moments of the night were welcomed intervals of relief. But then the system would kick off and, again, the agony on the other side of the wall was apparent.

Husband (By now his voice was not as deep and there was weeping between his words.): Oh  Donna! Just tell me why? Why? Why were you willing to throw it all away like this? Why?

Wife responds.

Husband: But can you tell me why? What is it? What was wrong? Did I somehow do something to cause this? Why…a thousand times, Why?

Wife responds.

Husband: (speaking quietly, but gravely): No. I’m not going anywhere. This is my home. These are my kids.

Wife responds.

Husband: No! I tell you I am not leaving. I am not going anywhere. I did not make this mess.

Wife responds.

Husband: But I AM thinking of Lizzie. I’m thinking of Josh and I’m thinking of  Jessie. They are mine, too. I’m not leaving. But if you could just tell me why. Why? Why, Donna?!

I guess the heat came on again, because the next morning when I was awakened by Glenn’s alarm to summons us to hurry and get up and ready to go finish up a marriage seminar in this particular town, I, too, was still wondering why? Why do people throw it all away? It made me want to linger there in that bed with his arms around me for a few more minutes. It made me want to spend a few more minutes in thankfulness to God that day; for Glenn, for the Word that blesses us with sanctification in our marriage, for our children and for our happiness. It really just made me want to never, ever see a night like the people in the room next door had just endured.

But it also made me understand the exception of Matthew 19: 9…you know, the “except it be for fornication” part. God understands the pain of marital unfaithfulness. God knows the full extent of the damage done by Donna. He understands the depth of that cry: “Why?!” (Read the book of Hosea and understand with me the hurt of spiritual adultery against the One who has chosen us.)

I pray the alarm will go off in Donna’s room, too. Perhaps she will hear the wake-up call, before it’s too late. Perhaps her three children will never have to know the sorrow that comes in the wake of divorce. Glenn and I checked out of the hotel shortly thereafter. We left, at the hotel desk, a complimentary copy of our book about God-centered marriage with our contact info, for the couple next door. But I left determined to teach a little more passionately that day, to love a little more deeply and to thank God a little more frequently for the amazing blessings of marriage with Him at the center.

Sister to Sister: When My Godly Husband Falls (Part 2)

I will continue to be in the Word every day. Notice I used the word “continue”. I cannot continue something that I’ve never begun. If I have not already made it my habit to study daily, may I begin now, even while beginning this new study, to put the Word in my heart regularly. It will be enriching now, but it may be the source of your sanity if you face the devastation of a spouse gone astray. You do not want to follow after wickedness. Stay close to the Book and you will have a hard time following His lead into sin.                                                             

 They draw near who follow after wickedness;They are far from Your law” (Psa. 119:150).

I will seek wise counsel. As a Christian wife, with a once-Christian husband, you have looked to your husband as a spiritual leader, just as the Bible commands (Ephesians 5: 23, 24). It’s very difficult to stop looking to that man as your mentor… as your spiritual advisor. But sadly, if he has left the Lord, as Saul did, he can no longer be trusted to instruct your spiritual conduct. You may need guidance desperately. May I advise you to seek faithful people; elders who are in the Word or older women who fit the Titus 2:3-5 model. If you seek professional counseling, may I advise you to seek out a Christian counselor, or, at the very least, a counselor who advises in accordance with Biblical principles. I have seen many women follow the counsel of a trusted, but non-Christian counselor, right onto a path that will lead them to hell. 

I will work diligently to protect my kids from spiritual danger. Your children will not come out of a childhood in which they witnessed their father (or mother, for that matter) fall into sin without being hurt. They will not escape unscathed. But I have seen plenty of children rise above such a situation to live faithful lives as adults. However, in most cases, where kids end up spiritually successful, there was a faithful parent who remained faithful even when the going got tough. In cases where the husband’s sin has resulted in his abdication of parental responsibilities, it means you must parent to the point of exhaustion almost every day. It means being sacrificially involved in the lives of your children. It means giving attention to discipline, helping with homework and protecting, as much as possible from the insecurities that come with divided parents; whether divorced or spiritually divided. It may mean walking that fine line between, on the one hand, ignoring, thus normalizing sin and, on the other hand, making it clear to your innocent children that their father is living in sin. There will be tough calls to make, but your life must be filled with prayer, the Word, good counsel and discretion. You cannot allow your emotions to strangle the joy out of your children’s innocent years any more than is already necessitated by the sin. 

I will not even begin to compromise with the world. This world spews forth self-fulfillment as the philosophy that brings us through the tough times:

—“Isn’t it time you did something for YOU?”

__ “You deserve to have a little fun, too.”

__ “You can’t let him rob you of your happiness.”

Or the line that takes the Word out of our concept of His will:

—“I think God wants me to be happy.”

 Of course, all of the above is rubbish.God did not call us to be happy. He called us to be holy (I Peter 1:16). It is important to remember, when making the tough calls in the tough times, that you can do anything for a lifetime. I know it’s hard. I know it’s exhausting. I know, on some days, life seems hopeless and it’s a struggle to go on. But try to see this life as God sees it. It’s a vapor or a flower that appears for a short time and… poof!… it is gone as quickly as it came (James 4:13-17). It is so very temporary and yet, it is the battlefield that decides the eternal victory. Don’t let the devil get you so discouraged that you choose an instant pleasure that results in eternal damnation. You can do anything…for a lifetime. You can bear any burden for the short sojourn to heaven. 

Sister to Sister: When My Godly Husband Falls (Part One)

Just this week, I’ve been asked the question of a godly woman….””What do I do? My husband was a good leader. He was involved in the family and a great example in the church. But he has been consumed by temptation. Our lives are becoming distant from one another. Our home is suffering and I am becoming bitter.”

While most problems in our homes could have been avoided by having taken a good, hard look at the man before the marriage took place, there are some cases in which women marry good, honorable Christian men—who change.  Perhaps, as was the case with Saul, position or prestige changes a man. Perhaps disappointment in others or financial loss may alter a man’s devotion to God. Perhaps it is sexual temptation or involvement in addictive behavior. It is simply the case, that while there is no temptation so great that a man cannot resist it.(I Cor. 10:13), the devil is trying to get your husband to fall prey to his devices.

It is worth my time to consider ahead of time just what my “plan” would be if my godly husband falls. What if he is tempted by the devil and begins a downward spiritual spiral that causes him to sink deeper and deeper into sin? How will I react?

I must not fall with my husband. Notice here, we are not speaking of a good and faithful man who make mistakes. We are speaking of a husband who is living in sin. His conscience has been seared (I Tim. 4:2).                                                                                                            

In talking with women who suddenly find themselves married to sinful men, I often quickly realize that, although the sins of the wife may not be exactly the same ones as those of the husband, she is embittered and is quickly becoming less committed to doing right and more vulnerable to the devil, herself. A wife is tempted to lie to cover up the sinful behavior of her husband. A woman begins to date non-Christian men after having put away her husband for adultery. A woman begins missing worship services because she is embarrassed by her husband’s behavior. A woman stops praying because she feels as if God is not listening. A mother becomes overwhelmed by trying to be the only godly parent and begins to make compromises in the way she is raising her children. We could make a long list of various ways the devil is successful in weakening wives whose husbands become involved in sin. Let’s predetermine the course we will take if ever placed in such a sad position. May I remember that I am spiritually married to Jesus and that my bond with Him is even stronger than the one I have with my husband.

(Much of this post taken from Women Of Scandal: http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/Women-of-Scandal/p/65464960/category=3290197)

Thursday: Look for the practical part two. I surely do not have all the answers. But God does. Next up is my best shot at getting a grip on His will in this kind of difficult and challenging marriage.

By Request: The List that Saved my Marriage

I recently spoke with Emily Hatfield on Wifey Wednesdays about “What to Do when your Husband Is Wrong”. You can find that here:http://thelightnetwork.tv/wws5e3/.

Since that time, some have asked for the article I mentioned on that episode. Here it is and it IS worth a reprint.

 

A few years ago, a very dear friend came into my life at a time when her marriage was falling apart. She was battered…not by an angry husband, but by several years of falling into the mire of self-pity and revenge whenever it was her turn to lose in the selfish tug of war that was daily occurring in her middle class marriage. It was time to throw the dirty towel into that mire and walk away. Thankfully, though, the Lord came into her life and she and her husband honestly assessed the critical situation and slowly rebuilt the marriage with the building blocks of Ephesians five. They are now living “happily ever after.” It was this friend, who, once she had come out of this darkness, first called to my attention this article by Becky Zerbe. My friend found some answers she needed in this article. The article has been often reprinted. I rarely include the writings of others in this blog, especially things written by those I don’t know. But this is real. It’s powerful. And it might be a list that some of us need to make.Although, I couldn’t ever (without scriptural reason) offer to assist my daughter in getting a divorce, this mom was, otherwise, pretty wise in her counsel. Read on…

The List That Saved My Marriage
What an inventory of my husband’s shortcomings taught me
By Becky Zerbe

The day had come. I’d lasted as long as I could in my marriage. Once my husband, Bill, left for work, I packed a bag for myself and our 14-month-old son and left our home. It was the only year in our married life when we lived in the same town as my parents. Obviously the convenience of being able to run to Mom and Dad made my decision to leave Bill easier.
With a tear-stained, angry face, I walked into Mom’s kitchen. She held the baby while I sobbed my declaration of independence. A washcloth and cup of coffee later, Mom told me she and Dad would help me. I was comforted to know they’d be there for me.
“But before you leave Bill,” she said, “I have one task for you to complete.”
Mom put down my sleeping son, took a sheet of paper and pen, and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page. She told me to list in the left column all the things Bill did that made him impossible to live with. As I looked at the dividing line, I thought she’d then tell me to list all his good qualities on the right hand side. I was determined to have a longer list of bad qualities on the left. This is going to be easy, I thought. My pen started immediately to scribble down the left column.
Bill never picked his clothes off the floor. He never told me when he was going outside. He slept in church. He had embarrassing, nasty habits such as blowing his nose or belching at the dinner table. He never bought me nice presents. He refused to match his clothes. He was tight with money. He wouldn’t help with the housework. He didn’t talk with me.
The list went on and on until I’d filled the page. I certainly had more than enough evidence to prove that no woman would be able to live with this man.
Smugly I said, “Now I guess you’re going to ask me to list all Bill’s good qualities on the right side.”
“No,” she said. “I already know Bill’s good qualities. Instead, for each item on the left side, I want you to write how you respond. What do you do?”
This was even tougher than listing his good qualities. I’d been thinking about Bill’s few, good qualities I could list. I hadn’t considered thinking about myself. I knew Mom wasn’t going to let me get by without completing her assignment. So I had to start writing.
I’d pout, cry, and get angry. I’d be embarrassed to be with him. I’d act like a “martyr.” I’d wish I’d married someone else. I’d give him the silent treatment. I’d feel I was too good for him. The list seemed endless.
When I reached the bottom of the page, Mom picked up the paper and went to the drawer. She took scissors and cut the paper down the vertical line. Taking the left column, she wadded it in her hand and tossed it into the trash. Then she handed me the right column.

“Becky,” she said, “take this list back to your house. Spend today reflecting on these things in your life. Pray about them. I’ll keep the baby until this afternoon. If you sincerely do what I ask and still want to leave Bill, Dad and I will do all we can to assist you.

 

Facing facts

Leaving my luggage and son, I drove back to my house. When I sat on my couch with the piece of paper, I couldn’t believe what I was facing. Without the balancing catalogue of Bill’s annoying habits, the list looked horrifying.
I saw a record of petty behaviors, shameful practices, and destructive responses. I spent the next several hours asking God for forgiveness. I requested strength, guidance, and wisdom in the changes I needed to make. As I continued to pray, I realized how ridiculously I’d behaved. I could barely remember the transgressions I’d written for Bill. How absurd could I be? There was nothing immoral or horrible on that list. I’d honestly been blessed with a good man—not a perfect one, but a good one.
I thought back five years. I’d made a vow to Bill. I would love and honor him in sickness and health. I’d be with him for better or for worse. I said those words in the presence of God, my family, and friends. Yet only this morning, I’d been ready to leave him for trivial annoyances.
I jumped back in the car and drove to my parents’ house. I marveled at how different I felt from when I’d first made the trip to see Mom. I now felt peace, relief, and gratitude.
When I picked up my son, I was dismayed by how willing I’d been to make such a drastic change in his life. My pettiness almost cost him the opportunity to be exposed daily to a wonderful father. Quickly, I thanked my mother and flew out the door to return home. By the time Bill returned from work, I was unpacked and waiting.
A new outlook
I’d love to say that Bill changed. He didn’t. He still did all those things that embarrassed and annoyed me, and made me want to explode.
The difference came in me. From that day forward, I had to be responsible not only for my actions in our marriage, but also for my reactions.
I think back to one of the items: Bill slept in church. The minute he began to doze always marked the end of my worship time.
So often I thought he was rudely uninterested in the message—and my dad was the preacher! It didn’t matter that Bill was unable to stay awake any time he sat for a longer period. The entire time he spent nodding, I spent fuming. I’d squirm in the pew, feeling humiliated. I’d wonder why I ever married this man. I knew he didn’t deserve a wife as godly as I was.
Yet now I could see myself as I truly was. My pride was hampering a valuable portion of my life—my worship. This problem wasn’t Bill’s; it was mine. When Bill fell asleep in church, I began to bathe that time in gratitude and prayer. I took my eyes off Bill and myself and looked to God. Instead of leaving the services in anger, I left in joy.
It wasn’t long before Bill noticed a difference. He remarked at lunch one Sunday, “You seem to be enjoying the services more lately. I was beginning to think you didn’t like the preacher.” My immediate instinct was to explain how he’d ruined so many services for me. But instead, I accepted his statement without defense.
Remaking the list
There have been many times through the years I’ve had to remake the list. I’ve continued to ask God to forgive my pathetic reactions and give me his wisdom in dealing with my marriage.
Fifteen years later, at the age of 49, Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He had to quit his teaching job, leaving me to support our family, which has led to trying days and nights of worry. Watching him fight to maintain abilities to function daily has been inspiring to my sons, as well as to me. We’ve had to depend on our faith that God is in control—especially when we feel so out of control. We’ve searched the Bible for answers to questions we struggle to understand. We’ve spent hours with every emotion from anger to grief. We’ve asked, “Why?” We’ve claimed God’s peace that passes all understanding.
Regrettably, many days I’ve run short on patience, even though I know Bill can’t prevent himself from doing things that try my nerves. I realize my responsibility is to respond with the love God would have me show. I cry to God to love through me—because I know I’m not capable of loving Bill as God is capable of loving him.
Many times I’ve thanked God for a mother who was a spiritual mentor. Though she must have been tempted, she didn’t preach to me or offer her opinion on my behavior. She guided me in discovering a truth that’s saved a most treasured possession—my marriage. If I hadn’t learned to respond as a Christian wife to Bill’s small problems, I wouldn’t be able to respond appropriately to his larger ones now.
My son came home one day and asked, “Mom, what are we going to do when Dad doesn’t remember us?”
My reply was, “We’ll remember him. We’ll remember the husband and father he was. We’ll remember him for all the things he’s taught us and the wonderful ways he’s loved us.”
After my son left the room, I chuckled. I was thinking of all the things I’d remember about this man who loved his family and his God. Many of those enduring memories are those same annoying little habits that made their way onto a list of bad qualities so many years ago.

Becky Zerbe is author of Laughing with My Finger in the Dam. Becky has been married to Bill for 29 years.Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today International/Marriage Partnership magazine.

Sister to Sister: I’m all out of “Nice”.

 
nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuits_M156zYu__LI was in a coffee shop the other day, trying to get some work done while waiting for my husband, when a group of thirty-something and forty-something women came in. They congregated and visited near my table. I wasn’t getting much work done, but they were loud, so I got a lot of eavesdropping done. I overheard one of them say this:
“So I’m just about done. I mean yesterday was the worst day at work and I was SO nice to customers all day. ‘How can I help you?’…’I’m so sorry you’re having difficulty.’…’Here, let me help you with that.’… I mean, by the time I got home, I was all out of ‘nice’. My husband started in about one of his little issues and I just said ‘You better just go to bed because I am fresh out of nice. My nice is just all used up.'”
I hope we never run out of nice, as God’s women. This woman’s perspective surely was not a holy one born of a meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:1-5).  Her spirit, rather, was one completely divorced from and opposite of kind and long-suffering toward her husband. She really had used up her nice in a context of earning a paycheck and, at the end of the long hard day, she had nothing left for the one who should be the most important person in her world.
I hope we are different as Christians. As God’s woman, I should see my home as my first responsibility; the place that gets the very best of me–not the leftovers. I want my husband to get the best of my nice–not merely because he could demand it, but simply because he’s my husband and I love him (Titus 2:3-5) and because my God has demanded that of me. Even should my husband be having a bad day or, as is the case with some sweet sisters I know who are married to non-believers, even if he’s having a bad life, my commitment is to God to give my husband my respect (Ephesians 5:33).
Where is your nice going when you really think about it?  Maybe you have enough nice to go around. But if you are using it up outside of your house and life with your husband and/or children is suffering as a result, priorities need to be rearranged and adjustments made. This woman at the coffee shop was truly very nice to her friends as she sipped her latte . She had time for them. One or two of them asked her questions and she responded with a smile. It made me wonder if she was going to use it all up again that day before she got home to the one that God has made to be her head (Ephesians 5:23), the one she is to be loving with phileo–friendship love (Titus 2:3-5).
 Surely the hearts of His daughters are refillable. Nice is a commodity that we restore over and over again when we continue to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness and goodness is the natural harvest of a life lived in Jesus (Galatians 5:23)…a life transformed by the Word and from  the world by a renewed mind (Romans 12:2). But if you constantly find yourself struggling to be nice where it consequentially matters most, then contemplate and eliminate, reflect and deflect, consider life carefully and change it prayerfully, trust and adjust. Get your nice on!
A woman can tear down her house with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1). Maybe some of us are building relationships at the coffee shop, the office and even in the church building, while destroying the most important one. If that’s you, let me encourage you to stop right where you are and vow to do whatever it takes to bring nice home to your most important earthly relationship.

Sister to Sister: That Night of Adultery…So Stealthily it Comes and Goes

o-ADULTERY-facebook-3What was about to happen to David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11 is very “Hollywood-ish”. In fact, Hollywood or Broadway would have had a heyday with Bathsheba’s bath time. It has everything that makes for the “R” rating (nudity, passion, adultery, and pregnancy by the wrong man) and yet they truly were “in love.” Lines like “The passion was bigger than both of them,” or “They just could not fight the feeling any more,” or “David had spent his lifetime running from Saul. He refused to run from his own desires,” would have been the trailer captions if Hollywood were doing the story.  But the Holy Spirit handles sin much differently than does Hollywood.

David had been called by God  the “man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). There were times when he surely had been given the chance to kill his arch enemy, King Saul, but he so deeply respected God and His anointed, that he could  not smite the King (1 Samuel 23:14-24:22; 26). He had shown bravery, wisdom and kindness on multiple occasions. When it came to women, however, David surely thought he knew better than God. So many men (and women) today can handle most any temptation except the sexual one.

In Deuteronomy 17:16-20, God had, interestingly and prophetically regulated the throne of Israel, even before they had asked for a king. Notice this regulation:

But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’  Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.  “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

But David had taken lots of wives and concubines, already (II Samuel 5:13). Certainly David’s copy of the law was not arresting his attention that night as he looked down from the palace roof and saw the beautiful Bathsheba as she bathed. The king for which the people had clamored to “ “go out before us and fight our battles” (I Samuel  8:20) was home during the battle and up on the palace rooftop looking at a beautiful woman as she bathed. This combination of failures was to be the huge blot on the record of David. This is the night that became his undoing in many successive and pivotal ventures. Lust, adultery, deceit, betrayal, making accomplices of subordinates, and murder followed each other in rapid succession in David’s mind, will and actions. His bedchamber must have turned into a dark, sleepless and torturous room of guilt, rationalization and plotting.  In fact, Scripture tells us in retrospect that the Bathsheba incident was the one time that David turned from following the commands of the Lord (I Kings 15:5). He should have had all of his defenses in place. But on that night, when his armies were succeeding, his personal, spiritual battle was lost as he looked from the roof and saw Bathsheba bathing.

It was a huge departure. How many times in later life must David have wished his distance vision had not been quite so good? Maybe he wished his spiritual distance vision had been a bit better!  How many times did he later wish he’d been out on the battle lines that night with his men as their active commander-in-chief? Sometimes large regret is born when we are in the wrong place, even for a short time.  Two people were in the wrong place on this particular evening.

Defenses are important. Prevention of opportunity…denial of tempting places and situations IS the best defense against adultery. David could have asked the question Joseph asked “…thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). But he didn’t take the time to ponder the impending damage to the one to  whom Bathsheba belonged, that the message he was about to send was wicked, that its intended result was great wickedness, and that His sin would also be against the God who had faithfully delivered him on numerous occasions.  One night, one bath, one leisurely rooftop stroll , one message, one response, one tryst…all likely occurring in just a few hours…and the pain of Psalm 51 tells the rest of the story:

 

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment. (vs. 3-4)