In my book My God and Me I wrote about lessons I learned from bad marriages and other toxic relationships. Up to that point, I had never been exposed to what one would call a “good marriage”, as a result, marriage made no sense to me. Prior to my late twenties, I didn’t see the value of promising to join myself to someone else for life. I had seen and experienced too many reasons to bail on a marriage: physical abuse, sexual infidelity, emotional neglect to name a few. By my teens I had decided that should I ever marry, it would only be for a time and only for as long as convenient.
No wonder God has kept me single all these years. He’s been diligently stripping me, layer by layer, of all the wrong images and thoughts I had developed and nurtured from my family, society and culture regarding His holy institution of matrimony. By the time I put my book My God and Me together, God had pulled the scales from my eyes regarding my corrupt thoughts about marriage. I was allowed to begin to understand His purpose and plan for the marriage relationship and its continual evolution throughout its life cycle. I was able to realize and accept that the premise of my ministry to people is relationship – learning to heal, learning to build and maintain interpersonal relationships so that we can be better individuals and better partners in our marital relationships.
Have you thought about those relationships where God joins hearts and souls before minds are aligned and vows are spoken? When a man and woman try to catch up to what God has ordained as their union? When they struggle to grasp the totality of His promise? How difficult that must be for each to know the end result and to continue to sink in the minutia of process, continually getting lost in the labyrinth of selfish independent will (independent of God’s will)?
Thoughts of such relationships have been weighing heavily on my mind.
But, doesn’t that describe the bulk of intimate relationships? We all connect to our significant other in some way, on some level, long before our thoughts and our will align and operate in unity. The life of a relationship is intended to flow towards total unity… into oneness.
From my childhood perspective, my parents didn’t have a good marriage. My dad was unfaithful, physically and verbally abusive to my mother and he was a child rapist. I was the child he raped. In addition to that, he was very mean-spirited to me and my siblings. My parents separated many times – a result of my mother leaving him or putting him out. He always came back, begging for another opportunity, begging for another chance to prove himself worthy of his wife and children. He always offered profuse promises to do better and to be better. I will tell you, he never got better during my mother’s lifetime, but I have never heard anyone else utter words with as much hope in every soon-to-be-broken promise they spoke as he did. My parent’s longest separation was about ten years to life – he was sentenced to ten years for his violation of me and she died during that time.
Her death changed him. I think the only way that was possible was because he was aware of the depth of her love for him… the unconditional nature of her love for him. His children wanted nothing to do with him. His family, though supportive, wasn’t as loving as his wife had been. He was a labeled pariah in society.
During the years of his incarceration, I hounded my mother to divorce him. To allow herself some joy and happiness with someone who would appreciate, honor and love her. Someone she could depend on. Someone who would take care of her and provide for her. For nearly a decade, my mother listened to me attack her marriage and her only defense had been: He is my husband.
I didn’t understand those words then, but I am approaching an understanding now.
I didn’t understand how she could love him even as she loved me.
How could a broken heart not be divided in its devotion? And being divided, be diluted….
But just as she was adamant at claiming and keeping him as her husband, she was equally adamant about claiming and keeping me as her daughter. She was clear about her intention to reunite with her husband after I was raised and out of the house.
This may be a leap for many, but I understand God’s love’s for humanity better because of my mother’s love for her husband. She wasn’t in denial about his activities or about his violent nature. She didn’t want to accept his darkness, but she was more reluctant to give up on the goodness she saw in him. She didn’t support him in his wrong, but she didn’t desert him either. She saw something in him that perhaps only his mother and God were able to see in him. She loved him through so much that seems impossible to me.
He perhaps recognized the gift he had been blessed with far too late in life – well after he had time and opportunity to make amends and enjoy his marriage and family.
Knowing all that he had squandered, all that he had destroyed as a man, husband and father, I also know that his blessings entailed the same – wife, children, family and home. Knowing all that, I felt genuine sorrow for him when my mother died because due to his incarceration he had been unable to attend her funeral services. Of all the time he served and the broken relationships strewn throughout his life, I believe being unable to say farewell to his wife was the worst punishment he endured in life.
My coming to Jesus is a direct result of everything that happened to me before I acknowledged the call on my life. As broken as my childhood was and as difficult as my healing has been, it has all worked to SHOW me the absolute truth of Christ’s redemptive and restorative power. Not just for me, but also for my dad. Not just for my dad, but also for my parents’ marriage. Not just for my parents’ marriage, but also for my family. Redemption and restoration are not only possible – no matter what – they are waiting for you to claim them in the name of Jesus.
I want you to get this: Before I knew God as love, my mother embodied love to me. Even the measure of love in this battered vessel, living in a fractured marriage was enough to minister to my brokenness. When my dad was released from prison, I told him, “Because of the love my mother had for you, I forgive you. Because I know that to her dying day she intended to reunite with you, I am willing to work on a relationship with you. This has nothing to do with you and nothing to do with me. It’s simply a gift to my mother whom I can do nothing else for – but love.” He accepted my forgiveness and swore he wanted nothing more than to see his children (we were all in our twenties) and get to know us again. I invited him to visit me. He came and we began rebuilding our relationship. One of our first outings was a visit to my mother’s graveside.
I feel like I’m rambling here, but what I would like to leave you with is: God loves us all. There is not one person within His creation that He doesn’t love and yearn for a relationship with. The person you hate the most is someone He loves as much as He loves you. It took me a number of years (many years) to realize and appreciate that fact. From my vantage point now, I can look back and see that my mother illustrated this for me early in life. That’s not to say she knew what she was doing… but God knew what He was doing. Let go of your animosities. Give up your anger. Offer forgiveness. Accept forgiveness. Repent. Offer love. Accept love. Restore your relationships. Be at peace with who you are. Remember God doesn’t want anyone to perish (die in sin), so do your part and pray for the person you have given up on. Pray for the people you don’t want to be bothered with. Pray for those who have abused and misused you. Pray for those who truly have no idea of the repercussions of the destruction they have sowed into your life.
Don’t do it for them. Don’t do it for yourself. Do it for love. The measure of love that God has given you from Himself.