Tag Archives: Jesus

Surely You Don’t Mean Me, Lord

In a tiny East Texas town, I stood before my eight 11th grade Sunday School students who were staring back at me with glassy eyes while I expounded on a lesson from Amos. It was at that moment I heard God whisper to me, “You have to do this.” 

Whaaaat??? This is the girl who never babysat. This is the girl who has a degree in accounting. This is the girl who said, “I’ll never be a teacher!” This is the girl who told her dear friend who loved substituting she was crazy. 

My initial response was, “Surely You don’t mean me, Lord!” Eventually, it became, “If You say so.”

I followed my crazy friend’s footsteps by starting out subbing and loving it too. Now I was also crazy. Next, I contacted the area college to see how to get my teaching certificate. I enrolled for the fall semester in the two classes I needed before I could do my student teaching that spring. In the summer before I enrolled in college, I had two close calls to begin teaching with an emergency certificate, but neither materialized. So off to college I went!

This girl was scared to death and so excited at the same time, because God had called me and I had stepped out in faith. The plan was coming together beautifully. Until…

There was a phone call my husband made to buy some used electronic equipment for the plant he worked for from a plant in Louisiana. Did he know anyone looking for an electrical supervisor position? Maybe? The trip to pick up the equipment included an impromptu job interview. I’d only been in college a month when his job opportunity came. Now what?

God was leading us to move in a few short months, before I could finish the semester for preparing for His call on my life and too late to get a tuition refund. Why did He put a kink in what seemed like a perfect plan? I was subbing on the days I wasn’t attending my college classes and loving it.  I was a shoe in for getting a job for the next school year. Didn’t I do everything in my power to obey God’s call?

Instead of being a college student and substitute teacher, I began preparing for a move that was not in my plan. Finding a place to live close enough to my husband’s new job proved difficult. The one place we could find had a horrible school situation for our children, but I had heard of a Christian school and checked it out.

From the time I arrived in the reception office, I felt at home at this school. There were hot pink “Moms In Touch” prayer group brochures on the counter. Everyone was so helpful and made me feel hopeful. Not only did my children have a wonderful Christian school available, they needed me to sub and my degree was enough to be able to teach there the next year.

God really did have an excellent plan in Louisiana that was so much better than what I thought it was supposed to be in Texas. Be flexible, Cheryl!

Meanwhile, the house in Texas didn’t sell. We rented it to our church’s education and youth minister for almost a year. We had little cash to get into a new house, but the rent house wasn’t where my sweetheart wanted to live. He wanted to live in the piney woods further north, so I painstakingly searched for a house in that area. Keep in mind that I had found the perfect school for the kids and me where we were living. Didn’t my husband understand God’s obvious plan for us?

After finding an adequate home for us to buy, I mentioned to our school superintendent one day at church that we were moving north. I was shocked and disappointed to hear they had a campus near there and had two teacher openings for the next year. I didn’t want to leave our new town. It seemed like a perfect place for us. Why did my husband have to be close to pine trees? Why would God move us away, set up a great situation, then make us move almost an hour away six months later?

I remover driving north on the interstate to handle business for the move, crying and singing along with a Twila Paris song on the radio, “Do I trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why?” 

It was easy to say “yes” to becoming a teacher. It was easy to say “yes” to moving to Louisiana for my husband’s wonderful job opportunity. It was easy to say “yes” to a Christian school for the kids and me. 

It was SO HARD to say “yes” to starting over again. But I did it! I had to trust God and my husband, even when everything inside of me was screaming “NO!”

This girl who loved Jesus taught 1st grade to 24 precious students with a degree in accounting and lots of faith that the Master Teacher would show me how to be a teacher. My daughter had been in 1st grade the year before, so I was familiar with the curriculum. I loved those kids and was determined that they wouldn’t suffer just because I had never taught school before and didn’t have an education degree. I had never been so exhausted in my life, but it was a successful year. 

By May, I felt like a total failure as a wife and mother. School took so much out of me, partially because I felt the need to go way above anyone’s expectations to prove I was good enough without a teaching certificate. Every time someone told me how good a teacher I was, I felt the sting of the enemy’s fiery darts because of how much my family had been neglected. 

I quit. Told my principal I wouldn’t be back the next year. She asked how she could help. It was too late. I never asked for help at all that year, though I was drowning under the weight of my unrealistic expectations of myself. Everyone said the second year is better, but I couldn’t take that chance. She said she had seen real leadership qualities in me and had felt I would be the one to eventually take her place. I was shocked and flattered, but no job was worth sacrificing my family. God had someone else in mind, I was sure.

Apparently, I had misunderstood what God had asked me to do with my life. Or maybe the timing was wrong. I didn’t really know what to make of this mess, but I was sure God was at work. 

That next school year, I managed to get a grip on my home life, attended a daytime ladies Bible study, and subbed in either the classroom or cafeteria at school. I missed being at school all the time, but I enjoyed not being so stressed and burned out. Ladies at church didn’t seem to want to sing cute songs with motions. Part of me was craving being with kids and fulfilling the call I believed I received. What was I supposed to do?

My certified, experienced, mature, pastor’s daughter replacement seemed fabulous at first, and our son was in her class. Then things began unraveling. One of the boys in the class was constantly being picked on by her. The students were way behind in the curriculum. Principal observations went well, but not much teaching was going on when no one was looking. My son came home crying many days, saying how mean she was. It was a hard time, and I felt so guilty.

Eventually, I was asked to help with an improvement plan. I was to observe her for a week, teach with her observing me for a week, then observe her again for a week. Reluctantly, I agreed, putting my ability to tangibly love my enemies to test. Afterwards, nothing really changed, but she did enough to keep her job. A personal matter brought about her resignation in January.

Next, they asked me to take over the traumatized classroom just until a replacement could be found. They needed a lot of love and to catch up academically. I agreed to fill in temporarily. The first day I was back in the classroom, I knew I had to stay. Those precious kids needed me and I needed them. After talking it over with my husband, he agreed I could come back if I didn’t let it drive me crazy and have to work all weekend. 

With more realistic expectations and writing  my lesson plans on Thursday nights, I was back where I belonged. They were such a sweet class, and I loved leading them in silly songs with hand motions. I was doing God’s plan HIS WAY instead of mine, and it led to so much joy!

My principal retired and I ended up taking her place. Our little campus was turned over to a local church a few years later and most of us moved back to the campus where the kids and I began. Once again, I was in the classroom, but taught 4th this time. In my 40s, I was required to complete my masters in education for our accreditation and state approval. I was put back into a leadership position again as I prepared to graduate. God blessed me so much during more than twenty years in Christian education. 

God did mean me when He called an accountant who was a stay-at-home mother to become a teacher. It was quite a roller coaster ride to get there, but I really did have to do this. And He was faithful to walk with me all the way.

Taking Swings at the Wrong Enemy

Why was I so angry with my mother? This should have been such a sweet time for us to savor. Selling her home and moving in with us, Mom’s retirement gave her a well-deserved break from many years of giving herself to meet the needs of others. What was so exciting was this was her intentional choice to live where she had few responsibilities and obligations for the first time in her life. As my husband told her, staying with us was a “no brainer” to rest up and save money until she knew her next step.

Always cherishing our relationship, I did have some qualms about her giving up her independence, her home, her friends, her ministries, and her church family. If this didn’t go well, what would happen to the close friendship we had developed over the years we’ve been apart? Would she be resentful after making her decision? We are both strong-willed women who think our way is the best way. How would that work in the same household?

Unfortunately, things were actually worse than I had feared. Mom’s health was wavering and, she began to be fearful. Anything that came up was the worst case scenario in her eyes, and her faith was stuck in the quick sand of her anxiety. My reaction was not helpful at all, since her inability to deal with her new circumstances triggered my old habits of feeling responsible for rescuing Mom. Given the choice of fight or flight, my knee-jerk response was to fight for her.

I whined and carried on with God about the situation. I memorialized the old days of feeling like I had to carry the burden of my mother’s serenity on my shoulders as the first born. Resentment was welling up inside of me. I had dealt with the sexual abuse at the hands of my father during weekend visits over 25 years ago. Now I was struggling with choices Mom had made with my father and two step-fathers, who were all alcoholics. The truth that she had not been an innocent victim of these flawed men flew in my face and had to be confronted, or so I thought.

When I began healing from my childhood sexual abuse, part of the process involved actually remembering what had happened. None of the denial or trying to pretend it wasn’t all that bad. Once I had wallowed enough in pity, I had to make the choice to forgive and move forward. Now, being with Mom every day had caused the difficulties I had faced growing up in a home where you never knew what might happen to bubble back up to the surface. I couldn’t sugar coat the memories and pretend all was well with us. Her choices had hurt me and my siblings, and I could no longer deny the truth.

My brother, who has been sober for 25 years, suggested that Mom and I attend Al-Anon Family Group meetings. He’d been telling us both that for years. I didn’t understand why it was so important to him, since we did not live with alcoholics any longer. He asked me if I wanted relief or freedom. Reluctantly, we started attending Al-Anon meetings about a month ago. As God would have it, these meetings were exactly what Mom and I BOTH needed. It turns out that both of us were behaving in patterns developed while living with alcoholics. What we had not learned in many years of walking with the Lord, attending church, participating in Bible study, and even serving in leadership positions was waiting for us in the Al-Anon program.

The Serenity Prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Well, that’s enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I cannot change my mother. I cannot change my past. I cannot change me, for that matter, which is the first step in the AA Twelve Steps. I can have the courage to ask God to change me and leave the rest to Him. I can pray for wisdom. I can detach myself from feeling responsible for the serenity of others. If I take on someone else’s search for peace, it’s my own fault. Peace is what only God can give, and I’m not God.

My father wasn’t my enemy. My mother isn’t my enemy. When I think someone else is my enemy, I’m just taking swings at the wrong enemy. This morning, one of my devotional readings highlighted this passage in Ephesians 4: 25-27 (NIV), Paul says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Talk about good timing! This is just what I needed to hear to get the breakthrough I was seeking. When I suppressed my memories of sexual abuse, I didn’t put off falsehood. When I coddled my “fragile” mother, not wanting to upset her, I didn’t speak truthfully. I was angry about all of this for years, though I thought I covered it well. Unknowingly, I gave the devil a foothold. The REAL enemy was invited in by me and was hiding behind my parents. How many other relationships in my life have been affected by this scheme?

You know, this is how the devil works. He tricks us into thinking everyone else is our enemy, we believe lies that we are entitled to be offended, and he laughs when we take our swings at people we love. God calls us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). Now I understand that forgiving those who have offended us, before the day is done, is actually spiritual warfare. It slams the door on the devil’s foot we allowed inside by our unresolved anger. That’s the way to knock out the real enemy!

Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday

 

 

It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Cross_in_sunsetWhat in the world is wrong when you have everything you’ve ever wanted and are still miserable?  That’s where I found myself at the ripe old age of 29. Being happily married to my first date and having the privilege of staying home with our two children in our newly renovated first home just didn’t cut the mustard.

I was going downhill fast, thinking I was going crazy, dealing with a  strong-willed 4-year-old daughter and a bulldozer 3-year-old boy.  My gynecologist who had delivered my two children in two years advised me that the chronic pain I had been enduring was probably the source of my misery, so after a hysterectomy, I’d be fine.  I clung to that hope.

Fast forward a few months, and the absence of pain made no difference in how I was feeling. I was a “donkey on edge” and couldn’t figure out why.  There was no real trouble in my life. I should have been happy. Lots of women stay home with their children and many deal with strong-willed children. What was wrong with me?

A search for the source of my problems began. My childhood was pretty tainted with the divorce of my parents at the age of 6, sexual abuse at the hands of my alcoholic father,  and living with an abusive, unfaithful alcoholic step-father. Maybe growing up in such dysfunction was why I was so despondent. Look no further than the new Oprah Winfrey show to see that all of your problems can be linked to your past.

Reaching back to find what I needed to go forward, I looked inward to fix myself. At that time, the mid-1980’s, self-help books flooded the shelves of bookstores and libraries. I had always been successful when I put my mind to do something, so it never occurred to me this time it might be different.

At this time in my life, I believed in God and knew He could be the solution to my emptiness, but I refused to turn to Him. Like a 2-year-old, I wanted to do it myself. He would come in and change me, and I wasn’t willing to be changed. None of this was my fault, after all.

Spending time in meditation, talking to my “inner child”, wallowing in my sorrows, playing the blame game, talking to my family and friends, trying to “pick myself up by the bootstraps”, nor any other thing I tried to do on my own worked.

Thankfully, I discovered shame to be at the root of how I felt. It didn’t matter how much I had accomplished, I just didn’t measure up to my own expectations. I couldn’t do enough to ditch the shame I carried. That lead to reading John Bradshaw’s book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, which pointed to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for recovery.

Desperate for relief, I began to explore the 12 Steps, which began with admitting I was powerless over my shame and my life was unmanageable. I also saw that only with God’s help would I ever find freedom. My depression was caused by the anxiety in my heart from trying to be my own god. “I did it my way” had to be replaced by “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

Sin was the root of my sorrow. My own sin, not those who had hurt me. As a young girl, I had walked the aisle of my church, said a prayer to give my heart to Jesus, talked to the preacher, was baptized the next Sunday, then set out to live my life to the best of my ability. This was a little girl who was being sexually abused on weekend visits to her father’s house looking to feel clean, not a surrender of control to Jesus and trusting in His righteousness.

A pastor told his testimony of having a two-step salvation experience, much like mine. He repented of his sins as a child and of his righteousness as an adult. It was sin for me to live my life on my own power, on my own terms, without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells me that anything done without faith is sin. My best is considered as filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God.

Believing I could be a “good Christian” without God’s power seems so absurd, but that’s what I was doing. I hadn’t given up any control of anything to God, except for where I would spend eternity. There was no abundant life in me, only death that comes from the sin that separated me from my gracious heavenly Father who longed to set me free from the chains that bound me.

When I wrote the prayer of submission to God, the weight of sin and death fell from me immediately. I was overwhelmed by His grace and love. The shame that had consumed me was carried by Jesus on the cross. Admitting I had been spending my whole life working for the righteousness God had freely given me set me free from despair. I forgave those who had harmed me, and asked God to forgive me for spending so many years pushing down the pain without asking Him to heal me.

It is a matter of life and death. God gives us a choice. “Years I spent in vanity and pride” led me to desperation that would have ended in death. Life begins when I come to Jesus daily “just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”

#livefreeThursday

Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday

Guilt-Free Me or Pharisee?

Imagine this little girl returning to her home, where she lived with her mother and two younger siblings, after a weekend visitation bearing the guilt and shame of being molested by her father each night she was away. How does a second-grader live in a world where she was expected to be the “good little church girl” while dissociating herself from the “bad Daddy’s little girl” who was being abused?  What could she do to wash away the feeling of not being good enough to be loved by either parent? She felt like she disappointed everyone, because she just wasn’t enough. Never enough. Love seemed so illusive, and the pursuit of it so exhausting. And if she couldn’t do enough to please those she looked to for affirmation and acceptance, dare she believe a holy God would love her?

So, turning to the church, she did what any little girl who went to Sunday School, when she wasn’t at her father’s house for the weekend, would do in her situation. She made a profession of faith in Jesus, because she knew she was sinner and needed a Savior.  Baptized shortly afterwards, she thought she would experience her new life now. Beginning again at eight years old is a somewhat baffling concept, even to an adult.  She may have thought Prince Charming had come to whisk her away to the land of happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. No one told her what to expect in her daily experience. Sadly, the sexual abuse continued. The dissociation protected her from memories but not from guilt and shame. Though she was glad to know she wouldn’t go to hell if she died, she was on her own in this world.

Striving to be perfect to please God and everyone else led her to a life of being a great pretender. Keep up the façade or risk being rejected. There is no safe place. Never let them see you sweat. Don’t make any waves. Smile, the show must go on. God helps those who help themselves, so get your act together. Fake it until you make it. A Christian believing these lies of the enemy will end up becoming a Pharisee. Judging everyone else by your own standards, measuring yourself by others instead of God’s Word, and refusing to show any signs of weakness are symptoms of being a hypocrite. Guilt doesn’t make room for grace. Shame keeps you in shackles. Exposure requires excuses. It’s like trying to balance too many spinning plates at the same time, which can lead to disaster or deliverance.

Thankfully, that little girl, who grew up to be a woman and had her own little girl (and boy), dropped her spinning plates, came to the end of herself, and cried out to God. She faced the giant of guilt and shame, covered up by the “Pharisee,” and found that God had already won the victory. His strength is made complete in our weakness, so she didn’t have to muster up her own power. He loved the best and worst parts of her and delivered her from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light. Her guilt and shame from what was done to her and by her was covered by the blood of Jesus and could never be repaid by her attempts at perfection. When God exposes a flaw, it is done with love for the purpose of healing and restoration, not to heap guilt and shame on His child. Freedom from the enemy nipping at our heels to paralyze us with our past gives us peace. I can be the “Guilt-Free Me” because of His mercy and forgiveness, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

#livefreeThursday

A Response to Bill Muehlenberg’s Essay, “On Leaving Church”

On Leaving Church

The essay in the link above addresses the possible causes of people leaving the church. I think it should be noted that this problem does not exist in countries where It is illegal for Christians to gather together. They are desperate to assemble, despite the risk to their lives. Authentic Christians will be in fellowship with other believers, even if it’s in home churches. There is a huge difference between those who are disillusioned by the modern-day Church and those who refuse to be part of a church that has the appearance of godliness but denies its power. Thanks be to God for Grace Presbyterian Church, which is a refuge for all who are looking to Jesus, has a pastor, Bob Vincent, who unashamedly preaches the gospel from an attitude of humility and gratitude, and does not deny the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, whose works are as alive today as in Acts.

In the past, when I was not active in church or seeking the fellowship of Christians, it was because I had not yet trusted Jesus with my life. I had some very precious people who loved and prayed for me during that tumultuous time. I didn’t want to “play church,” but I wasn’t ready to turn control of my life over to Jesus. I saw peace in the faces of those who loved me unconditionally and wanted that for myself. Once I had nothing to lose, I surrendered to the lordship of Jesus and joyfully became part of a local church. Words from hymns I had grown up singing mindlessly now jumped off the page and gave me encouragement in my journey. His Word became alive to me, as the Holy Spirit gave me understanding.

Out of my gratitude for the peace and joy that Jesus gave me when I deserved hell, I served in that little imperfect church. There were times I wanted to give up and leave, but God used those imperfections to refine me. When I would return from chaperoning a youth conference or camp, I would cry out to God to make our worship services more authentic like I had experienced with the youth. I longed to see people openly embrace the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Once, as I was bearing my heart to the Lord about the lack of life in our church, I felt Him tell me that I was a missionary there. It changed my whole perspective and still does to this date. It’s all about Him, not our preferences.

I was wooed by the Holy Spirit to turn my life over to Jesus, but God used church people who loved me unconditionally OUTSIDE the church to cause me to want what they had. For over 20 years, I believed I was a Christian because of an emotional experience. Being supposedly “saved by grace” and living in the flesh to live up to a biblical standard did nothing but exasperate and confuse me. Obviously, I could not live a Christian life out of my own strength, so I gave up. Who wants to go to church and feel like you’re the only one who is a failure? Preaching the partial gospel which denies the power of the Holy Spirit to help us persevere in holiness to the end leaves us with an irrelevant Church. Thankfully, God showed me the truth in His Word that He saved me by grace and keeps me by grace. I love being with others who have been set free from trying to earn favor with God. Praise God for His indescribable gift!

The Sound of the Brass Bell

As the ornately embossed brass bell rang out in the orderly classroom, every little soldier knew what that meant. Everyone was to be seated with eyes to the front, feet on the floor, and mouths zipped shut. Any nonconformity was simply not tolerated. Children quickly understood that foolishness would result in the crack of a ruler on the hand of an unruly classmate. Although the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom, shaking in your boots all day long in school, afraid of a teacher tirade was no place for learning.

Imagine what I must have felt when I joined that first grade class, changing schools for the second time in the last year. I didn’t fit in, since we lived in a meager apartment in a neighborhood of affluence. The move from a spacious home in a middle class neighborhood, large enough for the massive Barbie house my aunt had built and furnished for me, had been difficult, especially having to give that beloved Barbie house away. At school, no one wanted to be my friend, and I was absolutely terrified of my teacher. The oversized ruler used to dispense justice hung on the wall beside my desk as a constant reminder not to make a peep. Just be still, do what you’re told and keep your mouth shut. That’s the way to stay out of trouble.

Later that same year, my father drove my mother, little sister, baby brother, and me to my grandmother’s house and left us. My parents were getting divorced. This meant another new school for me, but at least I had a nurturing teacher for the first time. But the old pattern of staying out of trouble was set in my mind. In just a few months, sexual abuse that would last for years at the hand of my own father during weekend visits began. Be still, do what you’re told, and keep your mouth shut was my coping mechanism for dealing with yet another terrifying situation.

Sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and touches can bring back joyful or fearful memories. God has walked with me as He allowed me to relive moments from my past to heal my soul. When triggers resurrect painful experiences, I receive grace and peace as I roll them onto Jesus. They are part of my story, but they don’t write the ending of my story. God is glorified when we allow Him to recycle our junk. And, after years of teaching first grade myself, a bell on my desk brings order from chaos without a word. Looking back with eyes of maturity, maybe that teacher wasn’t such a scary lady after all.

Honor for Dishonor?

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My morning routine is always the same. Alarm goes off, stumble out of bed, go to the bathroom, shuffle into the kitchen, make coffee (thankfully my Keurig makes it instantly), get back into bed, drink my coffee, turn on the local morning news program, and check email and Facebook. My Sweetheart brings me breakfast in bed before I start the crazed morning rush to get ready for work. Every day. The same old thing. BUT, one morning, I was knocked off my rocker by a post on Facebook by my father. It blew me away and sent me on a tailspin I had not been on since my struggle with depression in the early 1990s. How could one little post have such an impact on me when I had supposedly healed from the devastation he had inflicted on me as a child?

Here’s what the post said, “It’s been a year since my Angel,(name withheld) came into my life. She has changed me forever and taught me what pure love is. Now I can’t love another girl and I only think about being with her daily, although her Mother has taken her away. I will wait on my darling (name withheld) as long as it takes. This is all too bad for us both.” I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about this post made my stomach queasy. Every day, I would look to see if anything new was posted and researched to see just who this mystery girl was. My father lives out of state, and we only stay in touch electronically, so I had no idea what was going on in his life. For whatever reason, I became obsessed with finding out why I had such a creepy feeling about this situation.

A few days later, the truth unfolded. Her stepmother commented on his post about the girl being only fifteen, which meant she was fourteen when they met. My father was seventy-seven years old at the time. Can you even imagine? What I had to deal with is the knowledge that my father was continuing to be fond of under-aged teenagers. Yes, I had known he almost always had a “lady friend” over the years, even my sister’s best friend and other young women who lacked a stable family background and/or had addiction problems. Although it was disgraceful, those were all at least legal adults. I had a huge dilemma now that I was aware his ways had not changed since I was one of his victims. What in the world was I going to do about it?

Let’s go back to the year 1971, when I finally told my mother about being sexually abused for years by my father whenever we visited him. It’s something I really don’t understand, why I waited so long to tell her. He never told me not to tell anyone. He just let me do things while I was visiting him that I knew would disappoint my mother. That’s how many predators work. Getting children to do something they think they would get in trouble for doing, so it sets them up to keep secrets from their protectors. The abhorrent thing about my circumstance was that my father was supposed to give provision and protection for his little girl, not take advantage of her. Rather than having me face a trial and testify against my own father, my stepfather adopted all of us and my father signed away his parental rights. It put a stop to the abuse and protected my younger sister and brother from harm.

Back to the question posed earlier, what could I do to stop others from being hurt by him? After much prayer and consultation with my husband, our pastor, and my mother, I realized there was nothing I could do to keep him from preying on young teens except pray. I had to deal with my feelings of abandonment and neglect, especially when I found on Facebook he had traveled out of town to buy this girl and her sister school supplies and clothes the previous fall. Why was that so hurtful? Why had he never done that for his own children? Why were his words about how much he loved this girl and would wait for her to be old enough to make her own decisions like a knife piercing my heart? Working through the pain of his selfish choices to always put his desires above our needs took some more letting go. More rejection calls for more forgiving. More allowing the God of All Comfort to soothe my freshly re-opened wounds. Healing is a process. Would it ever end?

Honor your father and your mother is the fifth commandment. No problem honoring my mother, as she has always done her best to take care of her children, despite some very difficult circumstances. I have forgiven my father, many, many times, but I do not have an active relationship with him because I choose not to be part of his web of deception. I pray for him and send him emails that might help him see his need to turn his life over to God. He responds kindly. Honor him? Father’s Day is one of the most difficult days of the year for me. Just reading those cards, trying to find one that might work and die a little inside to see what wonderful things other people, even my children, can say about their fathers. But honoring my father can be in the way that I live my life. It can be honoring to a father who dishonors his children when we walk in truth, in a personal relationship with Jesus, extending love, grace, and forgiveness that only can come as a result of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Boy, would I love to wrap this all up in some shiny silver paper with a beautiful blue bow on top for you, but that’s not gonna happen. It’s tough, I’m not going to sugar coat it and say everything ended up happily ever after. It’s kind of like the dialogue from the movie Shrek when Shrek tells Donkey that we are like onions, made up of lots of layers. My hurts and your hurts over a lifetime have created layers of scar tissue that cannot be dealt with all at once. What happened that morning was a peeling back of one more layer of painful memories exposed in order to be healed. When that happens, I can be angry and bitter or choose to obey God and forgive and leave the results to Him. That’s what honors my Heavenly Father. And the Father of the Fatherless will honor those who honor Him.