Oh How He loves You

Jeremiah 31.3

This truth resonates with me today.  My desire is to extend this truth to the only person still living who hurt me beyond measure.  While much healing has occurred, I recently realized that more emotional baggage needed to be discarded out of my life from this old relationship for me to fully live in today.  The process began about 2 weeks ago.

I knew that I needed to thin some files to make room for new ones in our home office.  While this may not seem like a very large task since I keep fairly up-to-date with such tasks, there was a section in a drawer that had never been touched since it was created.  Fifteen file drawers neatly organized alphabetically and the folders in the “Legal” section were bulging a bit too much.  I had been in car accidents, named in the will of a few different parties, and survived a divorce with much accompanying paperwork telling the grueling details.  The latter one was taking up too much space for my current lifestyle.

The Lord had convicted me many times in the past of discarding the “Divorce” section:  the remnants of pain from divorce.  I got rid of a few things awhile back but not enough such that I could still recount the many hurts, injustices, losses, and pain with the remaining documents.  A sick badge of honor was left intact should I ever need to tell the whole story again.  In holding onto more than the final court decision, I was burdening myself in more ways than I realized.  Conviction came again when I was pleading with the Lord to heal me of a serious illness.  At first it seemed so unrelated that I put it off once again.  Then I decided to respond differently:  with obedience.  With trust.  With faith.  With swiftness.

I felt nothing after the folders fell into the recycling bin.  Whoa.  After all, maybe some good can come from the papers chopped and shredded into something more useful, eh?  Within a day I had forgotten about all of those files and memories altogether.  It is only in the writing of this blog that they have come to mind as I attempt to illustrate the power of letting my Jesus Who loves me and knows me so well lead me into His place of righteousness.  Only He evens the score, makes things right.  Only He redeems the hurt by filling it with His love.  Only He will lead me into using the past for His glory should He choose to.  Ahhhhh.  Another measure of healing has come into my life by letting go of all of “the evidence” of sorrow.  My Jesus transforms sorrow for His good.  I am sure of this.

Now comes the next step:  finishing the task of cutting off any energy that goes to feeding the pain from this great loss in my life.  This is an ongoing practice.  My former spouse left 11 years ago!  So why did my curiosity cause me to check on his status periodically on the internet?  I could justify it a million ways and virtually all of them drained my joy in today.  So gently with the encouragement of another believer in Christ, I moved away from such nefarious activities completely.  Decreasing the frequency further was not enough.  Only by cutting them off have I found freedom!

Gratefully, all of this stuff has nothing to do with the love I receive from my intended beloved, Steve.  He is an amazing man of God, after His own heart, whether or not I choose to love him with baggage or without.  Oh yeah, I am blessed beyond measure!  The second part of the admonishment from my friend was that I needed to get rid of these behaviors to be free to fully love Steve.  My focus needed to be unhindered by pain from the past, especially that which I did not realize I was stirring up by dabbling in past hurts.  What a dumb thing to do!  My Jesus knows and holds my heart on all of these issues.  My Jesus is leading me to himself more and more to become the woman He intends for me to be each day and in doing so, moves me closer to Steve within the covenant of marriage He ordained.  Incredible.

The final step in this process (call it what you may:  healing?  letting go?  letting God?  joy?) is to lovingly dedicate Craig’s life to the One Who created Him just as he is.  Oh sure, I have prayed for Craig hundreds of times.  With a different kind of love I profess that the message of the cross is all Craig needs to come into the fullness of life.  The message of redeeming grace is all Craig needs to find the answers to questions he once asked, he challenged, he doubted with, he ran away pursuing.  The message of love, Christ’s everlasting love, will transcend everything he has ever felt in a finite earthly existence.  And the love of our Lord will be perfect.  The message of the Bible, that Craig used to profess in Sunday School classes so eloquently, is the only great read he will ever need to find joy and meaning.

And so Craig, I lay you before the Throne of Grace.  I pray that you will look up and see the eyes of heaven open up to you and bring you the true desires of your heart in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In Him you will find nothing less than every good thing.  I do hope you will find every good thing.  I have.  It is waiting for you as well.

In the meantime, I step away from this odd chapter in my old life.  My life was restored and love beyond measure has entered into my heart.  I am grateful for so much and a lot of it is in the form of one who is tall, blue-eyed, athletic, handsome, winsome, and loved and respected by many.  Tonight I have the privilege of celebrating an accomplishment in the life of my intended beloved and I am honored to be there at his side as he accepts recognition for his achievement.  I still know the greatest achievement stands above it all:  his surrendering to the Lord, Jesus Christ brings true victory!  Now that is something worth celebrating.  JJ


When the time is right

One of the hardest parts about chronic illness for me (longer-duration illness, not permanent, hopefully!) is the change in my relationships.  I’ve written previously about the loss of casual friendships, the ones based upon common interests or gathering places.  Today I’m talking about the one between a husband and wife.

Steve and I have been married almost 6 years.  I call him my “intended beloved” since I believe the Lord has blessed me with an amazing man of God as my life partner.  We came together in our late 40’s, having learned much about life, people, and the Lord’s enduring grace in the years before we met.  We’d both lost our youngest sibling and the last of our grandparents within the past 10 years, shared both similar and completely opposite interests, had to relocate due to divorce, seen plenty of changes in the world around us, and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as adults.  Still when we got together we needed to work on a few things as a couple.  I believe these things have become our strengths and bonded us together for life.  Yes!

Steve and I share the “love language” of caring touch.  (For more on the 5 love languages, see the work of Gary Chapman.)  Therein the challenge of late lies.  The most noxious symptom of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome for me is seizure-like episodes, 3-4 times per day.  Most any sensory stimuli can make a seizure attack worse or even trigger one if it is intense enough.  An episode can become  worse after it starts if Steve or anyone touches me.  So imagine a loving spouse attempting to comfort his or her beloved at a time of severe illness, reaching out and discovering that the gesture actually makes the person worse!  And if this happens over an over again, despite the caution, precautions taken to be gentle or vary the type of comfort, the spouse can become discouraged.  In our marriage, we have decided to work with the symptomatology and find a firm touch or closeness by proximity that sort of worked for me.  Thankfully, Steve did not stop trying altogether.  I understand that could have happened.

After all, the worst seizure attacks and convulsions happen late at night.  Steve often needs to go to bed to get up for work or another commitment the next morning so he simply cannot stay up with me night after night.  Our physical intimacy suffers.  Oh and if the attack isn’t so bad and we attempt marital relations, it’s a crap shoot whether or not the noxious symptoms start again.  Can you imagine turning something intended to be precious into something so ugly?  We often don’t even “go there” if I’m feeling sick or I’m in “pre-tic mode.”  The heartache of frustrating my spouse isn’t worth the Russian roulette we must play to see if things are going to work out o.k.  Stopping a tender moment also wrecks my thought process; it wrecks “the mood” for me.  Steve just says, unbelievably, that he doesn’t mind or that we had a time of closeness anyways.  Where do they make guys like him anyways?  Certainly I had not seen any in my past . . .

And this is where I must trust the Lord to sustain me, to sustain Steve-and-me through this season of our relationship.  I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who loves me truly, “in sickness and in health.”  I did not experience this when I was married before as a young woman.  The Lord allowed certain health issues at that time to challenge us, test us, deepen our faith and we both failed to lean on His leading to overcome the trials.  In the end, my former spouse turned to another woman for solace and physical intimacy.  She was an unlikely comfort:  wealthy, mother of 6 children, and spouse of a man about to be imprisoned for embezzlement.  Craig left anyways.  And what that left me was a fear of relational intimacy or at least of trusting another man to endure the inevitable trials of life.

In the time that followed as a single woman, I turned to my Heavenly Husband for comfort, protection, provision.  He was my constant companion and much healing occurred.  It wasn’t until a time of serious illness struck 2 years ago and 4 years into my marriage to Steve that I realized a little more recovery was needed.  Steve’s steadfastness strengthened by his true relationship with the Lord has never waivered.  Never!  I am humbled and grateful.  I often see in Steve:  “Jesus with skin on.”  Steve has been wounded by his past and an ex-wife who disrespected him terribly.  Regardless, he has rarely brought any vulnerability from that experience to our marriage.  He, too, has allowed the Lord to “restore the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25), rising up to become the spiritual leader God intended.  So glad he’s tall too.  I love looking up to my Stevers.

When the time is right, when we have submitted ourselves to the refining fire that can be the trials of life, when we are faithful to the calling the Lord lays before us, we too may be rewarded with blessings beyond belief.  Those blessings may not be what many think of as gifts or rewards.  For me and my beloved, those good things are the ability to overcome the wretched things of life in a way that actually deepens our love relationship together as well as our walk with the Lord.  My hope in writing this is that you are also seeking the One who knows your pain and loves you just as you are:  the person of Jesus Christ.  (Psalm 41:1-3)  He may indeed bring you an angel to minister to your needs, a “Jesus with skin on.”  He may bring you to the foot of His throne of grace a few times in desperation, alone.  I know that He will not frustrate you beyond what you can handle, however, and will fill your heart with unspeakable joy someday.  (Romans 5:3-5)

I am grateful to see the latter despite wretched illness.  I pray that you too, Gentle Reader, will be able to see all this and more when the time in your life is right.  (Ecclesiastes 3)  The sorrow will not be wasted, of that I am sure if we but keep our eyes fixed on the face of Christ.  We may even get a sweet snuggle with someone special too!


Addendum:  A new medication is bringing new hope.  I’m down to about 1 attack per day and they are less intense.  We are holding onto hope as this journey of illness appears to be changing.  Praise the Lord!!!!