So resist the temptation to pronounce premature judgment on anything before the appointed time when all will be fully revealed. Instead, wait until the Lord makes his appearance, for he will bring all that is hidden in darkness to light and unveil every secret motive of everyone’s heart. Then, when the whole truth is known, each will receive praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5
Boarding a plane to Florida, with a ticket for one (but knowing there were two of us), I had no idea what was in store for me. Would I get married? Raise this child alone? Return to IL or move to FL? Would this relationship work out? We had tried it before and crashed. Maybe this time would be different?
My flip phone kept ringing. It was my Pastor, trying to get me to come in to consult with him. I silenced it and finally shut it off. Why would I want to subject myself to further abuse when they had already fired me from a position as their children’s homeschool teacher? They obviously didn’t care about me in my time of need. And guess what, I didn’t need them. Or God.
A seed of resentment was born. This same church who encouraged me to break off my first engagement with this man (who is now my husband of 17 years) abandoned me at a critical moment in my life and it wasn’t the first time. My father had passed away from cancer at just 48 years old, 2 years prior, and almost no one from that church came to his funeral to support me then or help me move forward after.
I didn’t evaluate things very well back then. I was naive and wanted to believe the best in everyone. I was blinded to the reality that was right in front of me. What I was convinced then as ‘believing without seeing’ and ‘walking by faith and not by sight,’ I now see as ‘manipulation fueled by fear’.
When your faith focuses on the external manifestation of prosperity and health, there is a culture of phony smiles and ‘I’m blessed and highly favored’ sentiments spoken when inside people are hurting. But you can’t admit that! To admit struggle would be to admit that God’s word isn’t true and that you don’t have the faith to believe it will come to pass for you.
To ‘confess’ that you lost your job, or you aren’t feeling well, or your marriage is on the rocks, or that you are in a financial crisis, was unacceptable and faithless. So smile you must, while inside fear is gripping so tightly and you are doubting so deeply and your confidence is crushed and you wonder what the heck is wrong with you when you are doing everything ‘right’ and the promises aren’t materializing.
Sitting here now, 17 years past this crisis of faith, I can see it turned out RIGHT. I can point to any number of WRONGs above and elaborate to a degree you wouldn’t even care to read. But I am at peace. It is ALL RIGHT. And I think that is the magic of our faith in God.
Faith in God does not show up in the fireworks of success. It shows up in the trenches of turmoil. It is the fires of life that refine us and teach us. That short window of time gave me the gift of so many life lessons, some that I am even now just learning.
Here are just a few:
People are people. It doesn’t matter if they have the title of “Pastor” it’s important to keep your respect and reverence in check. It is not healthy to hold anyone’s advice up higher than your personal relationship with God. Sure, we can seek wisdom from a mentor, or counsel from a minister, but ultimately we are responsible for our own lives and choices.
Bad (or unexpected) often is Good. “Resist the temptation to pronounce premature judgment on anything…” I have learned the most from the times when I ‘failed’ or made a ‘misjudgment’ or ‘sinned’. I am not saying that I blatantly chose to learn this way, but the truth is we can learn from our mistakes and we are not expected to be perfect. So if you screw up, choose to learn and not repeat. This produces good!
God never leaves. This is something I am still learning in full color. It’s not a mistake that my parents bought “The Strong-Willed Child” by Dr. James Dobson when I was a youngster. If you tell me to go left, chances are I’d prefer to see what happens if I turn right. Maybe that’s immature or maybe that is human nature? Whatever the reason, following God was not part of ‘my will’ for over a decade. And He didn’t give up on me…He ever so slowly orchestrated the situations in my life to draw me back to Him.
I heard in church recently, “There are no ways to God, but God makes a billion ways to us..” (sermon from 6/17/18 on the Podcast). That sounds good to me today. I am not trying to find God, He is pursuing me. I love Him because He first loved me. I don’t have to judge life and all its messiness, I can choose to trust.
It takes the pressure off. God is making my life work together for the good. It’s okay if it’s not looking like I thought it would. It’s okay if there are struggles along the way. It’s just fine if I screw up and veer off course. God won’t let me go.
Even my screw ups can be some of the best things that could happen. How?
The wedding date was set for June 30, 2001. Our first child was born just shy of three months later, on September 12, 2001. A family was born with two more daughters to come in the following years.
The lessons I have learned through that one ‘crisis’ moment have been invaluable. God had a plan and even though I shut Him out for years, because of my own hardened heart, He drew me back ever so gently and He never once gave up on me.
Even when I wanted to give up on myself.
Keep walking the road of faith. Resist the temptation to judge any one moment in time as “right” or “wrong,” or “good” or “bad”. Only ask, “What can I learn from this?” Change what you can and let God work the bigger picture. Know that life is a series of happenings that have a purpose. You just won’t see it until it has past. And that why life comes with this disclaimer, “Faith Required”.