“I just wanted to be the perfect wife.”
I heard gasps from the congregation and I was afraid because I hate being vulnerable.
From the outside in, my life is perfect.
Husband. Kids. Degrees. Home. #BlackExcellence.
But God told me if I am going to minister and speak to human beings, I had to be human myself, and not some misrepresentation of perfection. There is no God in lies and I was standing in a church of people to deliver my truth.
My first sermon.
My first testimony of my human life.
“I wanted to be together forever. Till death do us part. I am going through a divorce and it is the hardest time of my life.”
There was silence from the congregation, of mostly married people.
“And my divorce is my fault. I can blame my husband for his shortcomings and put a burden on him that I am not willing to accept myself. But the Lord showed me a better way and I know better.”
“Psalm 119:112 says I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, till the end.
Lasting change begins in your heart. Not just the behavior but the belief that drives the behavior. If something inclines that means that there was decline.
Is your heart inclined in a positive direction?
If your heart is in decline, what’s causing it? What bad habits do you need to break so that you gravitate toward habits of incline before habits of decline?
Your habits create the condition of your heart.”
Still, nothing. I was nervous. I just wanted people to be able to relate to me.
“In 2011, I met the love of my life in the very moment I experienced my biggest tragedy. My son’s father took his life in the same moment my daughter’s father saved mine.
Except, there was no daughter yet. It was pure love from a pure man who wanted to save me. And we married. He is my hero.
Fast forward six years, one marriage, one child and a divorce proceeding that separates us from the love we once had from the strangers we now are. How did we get here?
I hate the double minded but I still love God so I guess sometimes, I hate myself and need forgiveness. I hate the anger in the man that I married but I still want him beside me every night, whispering “It will be okay.” I filed for divorce but still want to hold on to a marriage not because it’s healthy but because I am scared to let go. I’ve been double-minded. Unstable. Faithless. How can I serve God and doubt him at the same time?
You can’t serve God and be subservient to doubt. You can’t serve two masters. You either have faith, or you don’t.
But don’t judge me because David’s heart was connected to Absolom in the same way our hearts are connected to people that destroy us.
In the Bible, Absolom killed his half brother. Dethroned his father. Slept with his concubines. Attacked his father’s forces. And what happened? When Absolom died, his death broke his father’s heart. His death was an empty victory and there was no joy in winning his kingdom back because the heart never lies.
I wonder if David had his “what if'” moments.
What if David avenged Tamar? Where would Absolom be if he didn’t nurse hatred in his heart for two years? What if David got on his horse, went to Geshur and brought his son back home? For three years, Absolom lived with fear in his heart and David did nothing. Over time that fear evolved into something uglier, turning son against father when love could have saved them both.
The Bible is old as time but how many of us can relate to David? How many of us have our own “what ifs”?
What if he didn’t step out on his marriage? What if I didn’t lose my temper? What if she didn’t take that vacation the night her child died? What if he didn’t lose his job? What if we did this different, or that? It’s easy to get lost in thoughts we don’t understand about circumstances we can’t control.
If the Bible teaches anything, it’s love. Love for others and love for yourself. Eventually, you have to let those “what ifs” go and trust that everything happens for a reason.
I don’t regret loving my husband and being flawed at the same time. I understand how my heart can be connected to someone who hurts but I can’t accept my double mindedness. I couldn’t love and hate my husband at the same time, causing him to be unstable in his own thoughts. So I had to choose.”
“Amen” shouted people from the congregation.
I was just happy to get a response.
“If I can commit to any sin it’s being double minded. How could I praise my husband one moment then defile his shortcoming the next? And I hate double mindedness, but I love God’s law.”
“I had to make a decision about hate, it is the most powerful motivation to change. I had to make a decision about the things I hated. I loved the way he touched me. I loved the way he said “I love you”. I trusted him. But I hated the way he made me feel.”
I got a couple of Amens.
“Sometimes before you make a change, you have to hate self-pity because self-pity feels good. I could talk about what I did for him and to him but when I talked negatively about him, I set my marriage up for decline.”
I could hear a pin drop. I was telling the truth.
“It was the law of diminishing returns.
I talked about him down here and talked about myself up here so now I could only love my husband as low as I talked about him. And I was wrong.”
“Amen” they said.
“In this process of divorce, I’ve had to find myself, and I’ve hated God. I lost my job and my marriage in the same week. The two very things that fed my ego and made me whole broke me into pieces and I didn’t know where to hide.
So I picked up a bottle. And two. Then three. Until I felt good and the pain went away. Until I didn’t feel the other side of my bed empty from my own bad decisions, and his. Alcohol fed my unhappiness.
I loved telling him where he fell short and how unhappy I was.
Judgement made me feel good because I got to point out his shortcomings, while ignoring mine. Now there is a space where we don’t recognize one another and love fails us both, or maybe we failed each other.
I loved picking up a bottle because I knew the pain would be gone in five minutes but I hated the hangovers and depression; the inability to nurture my own mental health because I got lost in my thoughts instead of hiding in God’s grace.
I loved the taste, but hated the outcome.
Somewhere between fighting and faith, we lost our way.
We know that Elijah hid in a remote location to protect himself from Jezebel because of fear. God reminded him that that He sent fire from heaven and He protected him on Mount Carmel. God reminded him that he had work to do and he had God’s protection.
The lesson in all of this is conflict is a place of calling.
So where do we hide?
I’m lost in my divorce and I don’t know what to do.
Hiding places shields you from the inconvenience of change.
If I filed for divorce, I could blame him for everywhere we went wrong, putting him on the defense in public for things we should have dealt with in private.
But my anger fueled his and his anger fueled mine and now we don’t know what to blame. At a point of no return but maybe there is a glimmer of hope in the texts we send to one another.
There are no winners in my marriage, only hollow victories fueled by unholy words and actions.
Fake smiles cover half hearts.
Hiding behind an image allows you not to deal with who you are so no one truly knows how I feel or what I truly want because if we are separated and I filed for divorce then surely I know what I want so no one understands the confusion in the madness, not even me.
I just want the pain to stop.
Where do you hide when it gets hard?
Is it an addiction? Drinking? Church? Gambling? Self-pity? Blame?
Where do you hide?
I’m on the pulpit today, a shining example of a failed marriage, ashamed of my shortcomings but I know there will be better days and I will have a testimony.
I’m a process and God isn’t done with me yet.
How many of us get locked into a pattern of adultery, alcoholism, gambling, or drinking because we are hiding behind everything but God?
We feel ashamed in our sins, hidings in crawl spaces we can’t escape from.
Too often we run from our demons and find solace in behaviors that are worse than the problems we tried to escape.
We all fall short of God’s glory.
Can we hit reset today?
God never said there wouldn’t be weapons, he said they wouldn’t prosper. If He is for you, nothing can be against you.
You have to have hope. Hope isn’t just something you have, it is something you do. It’s a noun and a verb. You have to hope continually, be strong and let your heart take courage and have faith.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
Do you have faith? When everything is going wrong and nothing is going right, do you have faith? When you lose your spouse, your child, your job, your health, will you have faith? Without faith, we have no place with God and it is impossible to please him.
When you know better, you do better. The next time you experience pain or conflict, where will you hide? You can hide in plain sight when you trust in God’s favor. You experience God’s favor in the land of the living.
There is no life in dead places.
I finally got a reaction out of the congregation and for the first time, I knew I found my calling.