Saturday, September 9, 2006

The Strength to Endure...

Yesterday, GiBee at Kisses of Sunshine related that she had visited Shalee's Diner. Shalee wrote a great post called "I Can Do All Things Through Christ". Shalee shared her month without coffee and challenged the rest of us to share how God has given us the strength to endure through... whatever ... and then to go to her blog and let everyone know we've posted. GiBee took the challenge and talked about her walk through infertility and the enlightenment she received at the end of the path.

Seemed like a good idea to me, so now I am accepting the challenge.

I have so many stories that I could share of God's mercy in helping me do "all things through Him who strengthens me". In hindsight, He got me through a painful, sometimes horrible, childhood without deep scars and with the understanding I need to forgive and, most of all, to not blame God for all that happened (just look at all the people shaking their fist at God because something devastating happened in their lives and you'll understand that this grace was a true gift to me).

I could share a lot of stories, but the one I will share tonight is how He gave me the strength to endure the longest - and possibly most misguided - wait of my life.

When I was a young child, I dreamed of becoming a wife and mother. Although I thought of careers (a journalist, medical examiner, teacher), the only skills I really pursued were cooking, cleaning, sewing and learning to run a house. I did this subconsciously for years and then, in my teens, fully acknowledged to myself that I really wanted, more than anything, to be a wife. At the age of 14, I was a Baptist and a new Christian. Our church held a missionary week event, where our pastor challenged us to get before God and find out what He wanted us to do - to discover our "calling". Now, I am sure he expected most of us to step forward to become a missionary or to serve the church in its missionary support, but I came away with something else. By the end of the week, I was convinced that God planned for me to become a pastor's wife.

No, I don't remember the particulars of that revelation.

Or how I came to the stunning conclusion.

But I knew it had to be a pastor for me.

From that time on, the only guys who I would even allow myself to become attracted to were those who were outgoing, evangelistic and who appeared that they might have "the call" upon them. I rarely dated. Part of this was because I was overweight and dumpy. However, the bigger part was because the guys were too "regular". My heart was reserved for only those guys who acknowledged a call of God on their life. The few times I let my guard down, I was pretty badly hurt and used, so that strengthened my resolve even more. I determined that I wouldn't date any man who wasn't clearly on the path, because every date that didn't lead to a commitment was just "practice for a broken heart".

From the time I was 18, I prayed constantly (ok, I probably whined more than I prayed) that God would bring me my pastor, already. Then something interesting happened. In my early 20's, I was very badly hurt by two pastors at my (independent charismatic, not Baptist) church. The rejection was cunning, complete and devastating. Not so much that I still didn't believe I was to be a pastor's wife, but enough that I no longer felt worthy to be anyone's treasured and respected wife. I was convinced that the man I married would be unfaithful, hurtful and a horrible husband, regardless of his life's calling. Not because he would be so horrible, but because I deserved so little.

But the desire to be married - and a pastor's wife - stayed with me. Kinda like an alcoholic's need for that next drink, I think.

In the aftermath of the season I'd been through, I attended a missionary college. Not to go be a missionary and not to find a husband, but just to refocus on God. While there, I met a guy who clearly had the pastor's call on his life - as well as the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen. I fell hard. He wasn't the one, though, and gave me a lot of flack once he realized how I felt. Even though he so clearly didn't want me, it took me four years to get over him - I was convinced that he was "my pastor" and that God only needed to open his eyes and we'd finally walk down the aisle. Once I got over him, I spent the next couple of years wanting to be married, but fearing most guys and being the "bodyguard" for all my cute friends when we went out.

Finally, I had enough. At the age of 32, I laid it all down. Actually, I threw it down. I might have even been a bit rebellious about it - but I don't think so. I just decided that I could no longer stick to something that I thought I had heard 18 years earlier. I figured that either:

1. I had been right all along and God would bring the pastor in His own time whether I fretted about it or not.
2. I was wrong all along and God was just waiting for me to get over my bad self and let Him do His thing.

Guess which one it was?

Yeup. Number two.

Still convinced that I didn't really deserve a good man or a good marriage and deciding that a sheltered heart is just as bad as a broken one, I decided to quit having an agenda and a list of criteria and just have some fun. I spruced up. I went on-line and talked to people. I joined a bulletin board discussion from my local newspaper and went to meet groups of people to discuss beer.

I dated.

Without evaluating the gentleman's "calling".

I even went out with a divorced guy, one or two non-Christians and a bee keeper from Fargo named Arthur (yes, he was a geek). None of them were planning to be pastors. I didn't plan to marry any of them and I did not evaluate their life's work in the course of one evening.

And you know what I found out? Going out on a date - a single night out with a nice man - is a great way to find out that perhaps you are not so unworthy, so ugly and so awful as you thought. For the first time in years, I felt free, pretty and even a bit vivacious. I've always been outgoing, but this was the first time I ever felt that I could just be myself around the opposite sex.

In short, I dropped it all at God's feet and went for a walk.

And one month later, literally, I met Champs.

No, he is NOT a pastor - and he never will be, thank God. But he has a kinder and more unselfish heart than ANY pastor I have ever met. He is quiet where I am loud. He is sweet and strong and faithful. He treats me like a queen and would never betray me as I have seen so many other spouses do. And he has blown to smithereens my old fear that I was doomed to have as abusive a marriage as my parents and as bad as some of the others I had witnessed.

Looking back, I realize that I would have made a horrible wife when I was younger; I had to get past the pain of betrayal and the fear of commitment. So, did God help me endure? You bet He did. And He waited for me to lay down my agenda and let Him get on with His. If I hadn't let go of my own plans and misguided interpretation of His will, I really think that God would not have brought Champs to me when He did, simply because I wouldn't have looked at him and seen what I see now. I would have discounted him, which would have been my own tragedy.

In the long run, I am a better wife for the wait... And I am stronger, too.

So, yes, I can do all things through God who strengthens me... Even lay aside my own misguided tenacity.

(P.S. The reward for waiting? Well, in addition to my wonderful husband, there is also our little 6 year-old pixie, Sweet Girl. That smile of hers is reward enough!)

Here are some comments from this post:

srp said...
What an inspiring post. My brother sang a song in church about Moses. Moses thought he couldn't lead, couldn't speak, couldn't do anything God asked. God told him to take his staff and throw it on the ground. When he did God changed it into a serpent. Moses realized that with God's power behind him, he could do anything. We have to do the same thing.
I believe the last stanza of the song goes something like this:
What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
God waits to show you the way.
Give it up.
Let it go.
Throw it down.

Brony said...
What a wonderful story of growth and discovery.
It is funny, I don't normally write about God or religion, but tonight I to found myself talking about the way God works.
I've never really thought of myself as religious, more spiritual, but the more I listen to myself the more I hear myself say words like blessings or blessed or God has or God did or God is... I think part of it was that I had to stop blaming God and start accepted who I am. See that my illnesses are not a burden, but a gift.

Geekwif said...
Ah, yes, I remember the beekeeper from Fargo. Now there's something to be endured! :)
Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Jeana said...
Wow, you had me completely absorbed. Thanks for writing about this. Excellent, excellent point. "I was wrong."

Shalee said...
I am shaking my head with a slight smile only because I relate so well with coming to God with my agenda. Too often do I present things to God with my strings attached, not really giving God the "authority" to be sovereign over all (including me). You totally nailed it with, "In short, I dropped it all at God's feet and went for a walk." I bet you had the most refreshing, eye-opening, wonderful walk all your life. I'm thrilled that you opened your heart to God's will, saw your worth and let Him mold you into the woman you are today. The added bonus of a precious daughter is like the honey from the honeycomb!
Thank you for sharing one of your stories of when God gave you the strength to endure.

Susan said...
Oh my have no idea (wait, I bet you do) how much this touched me. At the end of your post, it was like DUH, give it to God.
I wish I was there to hug you and tell you thank you for sharing this. I felt like you wrote this just for me! ((((HUGS))))

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