Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Standing in Obedience

I have really debated about whether or not I would ever specifically address a situation in my life here, in this “public” format. I’ve turned it over and over in my head, and talked myself out of it at least a couple hundred times. I often chose to hold my silence to value the privacy of the parties involved. However, there is something God is doing in my life through this situation and I want to share. So, doing my best to still respect the privacy of the situation, I am going to try to share.

The back story.

On June 30, 2015, my husband told me he wanted a divorce. The journey since that day has been long and hard. There have been some really ugly moments along the way, and so many tears. There have been moments where it seemed like there was about to be a huge breakthrough which would lead to the restoration of my family, but there also have been many, many reminders of all the things which brought us to this point. God has been using this season to crack me open and expose all the darkness inside I have wanted to keep hidden. It has been exhausting and painful. It has also been beautiful.

I am relying on God more and more. I am desiring to see His will and righteousness in my life. There is still so much work for Him to do in me, but I hunger to be obedient to His commands more than I ever have before. I’ll be honest, though I hunger to be obedient, it doesn’t always come easily or with a joyful heart. There are times I feel like an angry 3-year old brushing my teeth only because I was told I “have to.” There are times I feel like I just want to toss away my faith and go a little crazy, because it would “feel good.” But, at the end of every day, I am reminded of Christ, His love for me, and His sacrifice, and I know that sometimes my sacrifice has to be one of dying to my flesh and allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate the fruit of self-control. (There is still a lot of cultivating to do when it comes to my mouth, by the way.)

A call to obedience.

It is through this desire to be obedient to God that I have come to a place where I am boldly standing for my marriage. When this journey first started, I chose to stand for my marriage. Then, there were a lot of hurts which brought me to a decision to join my husband in throwing in the towel. I quit praying for my marriage, quit praying for restoration for my family, quit praying for my husband. I was hurt, mad, and I had no desire to stay committed to a marriage where I was the only one standing.

But, even when I had decided to throw in the towel, I couldn’t deny the fact that in the eyes of God and according to the laws of the State of Texas, I am still a married woman. At this point, we are not living together and reconciliation is not currently on the table, but there has been no divorce. There hasn’t even been a filing for divorce. As such, I am still just as married today as I was on June 29, 2015. Because I cannot deny this fact, I have been behaving as a married woman. I have not gone out on any dates or entertained any offers to be “set up.” I have not joined a dating site or put myself on the market in anyway. I don’t flirt with friendly guys at the grocery store. I still wear my wedding band.

During this time, when I was done with my marriage but recognizing I was still a wife, God began to do some work on my heart. He began softening some areas and primed me to be willing to accept this call of obedience. Multiple people in my life, from various walks and sometimes coming from an obscure place, have spoken restoration over my marriage. However, without those words of restoration, I would still be charged to be obedient to God in my behavior as a wife. This is where it gets tricky and incredibly difficult.

Obedience gives birth to blessings.

One of the things I have learned in my parenting journey which is playing out in other aspects of my life is that “obedience gives birth to blessings.” (Thank you to the beautiful women who wrote Triggers for teaching me this knowledge.) As a married Christian woman, God expects certain things from me, of which the obedience to is not conditional upon my husband’s actions. I am to conduct my behavior in a certain way because that way is the best way for me to behave. When I conduct myself according to God’s commands, I allow God the opportunity to bless me. This blessing is not because I am doing a “good job” at listening (works righteousness doesn’t work with God), but because when I am walking in obedience it means I am not junking up my life with the consequences of my sinful actions.

Sure, I could go out on dates, but what happens when feelings develop and the opportunity to restore my family becomes available? Or, what happens when I find myself in an incredible moment of fleshly weakness and spend a night doing something I will spend the rest of my life regretting? I could be a horribly vindictive woman and tear my husband down with my words and actions because of the ways he has hurt me, but that would be in direct violation of the commands given in Romans 12:17-21 and would only foster deeper wounds. (Confession: I am struggling with being vindictive at this time and it is so difficult that I have had to gather a group of my friends to be covering me in prayer over this issue.) If I act according my flesh and not the commands of God, I am giving a foothold to the enemy to come in and further destroy things.

When I chose to be obedient, it takes my sinful screw-ups out of the equation and gives way to God to have the lead role in this story. I know this is true, because I just saw the fruit of my obedience in a recent situation regarding my children’s education and my husband’s opinions. Long story short, I submitted my heart, was going to go forward with something I didn’t really desire to do, then last minute God came in, my husband’s heart changed and, in the end, I got exactly what I wanted from the situation.

Now, I know it doesn’t always work out so cleanly. God isn’t some magic genie who grants wishes based on obedience (again, that works righteousness thing doesn’t work), but because I didn’t get in there and make the situation messy with my personal sin nature, God was able to soften my husband’s heart and his mind changed without any manipulation on my part.

What this looks like.

If you are still reading at this point, you might be shaking your head, thinking I’ve got this all wrong. Especially if you know any of the history of my marriage, you might be thinking I am a fool for continuing to stand for my marriage. But I want to explain what this looks like and how it plays out, so you know that I’m not just some crazy, co-dependent, pansy who can’t stand the idea of failure in my marriage.

This standing for my marriage is an act of obedience to God. It is not asking me to do anything other than keep my heart committed to my marriage. I do this by behaving as a married woman should, by praying daily for my husband and his relationship with Christ, by praying for restoration for my family, and by “being still” and letting God be God. That’s it.

It does not require me to accept or condone my husband’s sins against me or my marriage. It does not require me to not have boundaries. It does not require me to go along with things which would cause harm to me or my children. Again, it only requires me to keep my heart steadfast in trusting God with this situation and daily walking in obedience to Him.

My commitment.

So, I will stand for my marriage until that is no longer a command on my life. And, on the days when it is hard to stand (there are plenty of those after nearly 14 months of this), I will ask my friends to cover me in prayer and remember the commitment I made to God and my husband the day two became one: for better or for worse.

I have no guarantees my marriage will not end in divorce. I pray that the blessing which is delivered from my obedience will come in the form of heart transformations which will allow my husband and I to reconcile and restore our family, but I am fully trusting in God if that is not how my story unravels. More than I desire to be in unity with my husband again, I desire to be in unity with God, however that ends up looking in my life.

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