[Who the Son sets free is free indeed]
I knew that God was leading me to share this story, but I had a lot of fear about doing so. However, when I weighed what Satan was trying to use against me, to what God wanted, I realized that what the devil had to say held no water.
Every reason he gave me not to share this was very personal. He plays up my insecurities, but my insecurities always lead me to care more about what others think of me over what God thinks of me.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” –Galatians 1:10
It was on a Christian networking site, sometime in 2006, that I met this person who I’ve come to refer to as manipulative.
When I received his friend request I had a bad feeling about it, so I initially rejected it. He sent me another request. This time I hesitated. I shouldn’t have. I should have trusted my first gut instinct.
My thinking was along these lines: What if God wants me to accept this person? This could be why I’m getting a second request from him. I decided to accept his friends request. These were “good” lies (yes an oxymoron), because I was trying to follow Jesus, and I wanted to be both helpful and encouraging to the people around me.
The first thing that he ever wrote to me was that he needed prayer because he had some serious health issues. I felt sorry for him, so I told him that I would pray for him.
Hindsight is 20/20.
I have no idea if anything he ever wrote to me was true, but I fell for it. I fell for it like I’d just stepped right into a trap.
I was glad to make a new friend. Everything started off the same way as any other online friendships: we exchanged information. I don’t remember much of what was exchanged in our communications, however, at some point things took a wrong turn; his words became more romantic in nature as he started to express his feelings for me.
At this point I should have run. I want to say that I was naive, but this just sounds like an excuse. However, there is some truth to this.
I was more naive than I realized, but this wasn’t simply being too trusting; it was also temptation.
It didn’t help that at this particular point in time I was struggling with life. I was depressed, but I didn’t even understand that I was depressed, only that life was becoming more and more difficult, and I felt as if I was never truly happy anymore.
I was overwhelmed, and I felt that Andrew wasn’t noticing or helping me. I’m not blaming Andrew, and I’m not making excuses for anything here either, I’m just illustrating my vulnerability to make the point that this can happen quickly and easily, given the right set of circumstances.
The Devil Saw that vulnerability and He began to dig his claws in.
After the fact, here’s where I felt I was manipulated: because I was feeling frustrated with Andrew, this person’s words fed that frustration. I don’t recall expressing my feelings of discontent to this person, but I’m sure that the devil can spot a chink in the armor a mile away.
This person would ask me what Andrew was doing, and when I’d respond with, “He’s playing a game on his computer.” he’d suggest that Andrew wasn’t spending enough time with me, and that I deserved better. (Does this sound like anyone you know? You bet it does.)
It’s clear to me, now, that this person wasn’t serving God. You can’t be serving God while manipulating someone, but I wasn’t seeing that manipulation.
I should have been more protective of Andrew and our marriage, instead I kept buying into this devil’s lies.
Things only got worse. Then he began telling me how he’d treat me. I was caught in his trap, and I was foolishly mesmerized by his words. Because I felt so out of step with Andrew, I began believing that I connected better with this person who was painting such a lovely picture for me. (Obviously this picture wasn’t lovely, I only write this to describe how blind that I truly was.) I kept listening when I should have shut him down and run.
As ill as this makes me feel, I began to develope feelings for him. At the same time I was also very conflicted. I felt that it was irrational, and that this could never go anywhere. I knew that I would never leave Andrew.
I wasn’t even thinking this way! Divorce was never a word that was in our vocabulary!
Andrew and I both meant what we said when we said, “I do.” I meant till death do us part, and I intended on keeping this promise. I’d made this promise before God after all, and I wasn’t about to break my agreement. To me, this would mean walking away from God. But here I was, anyways, continually going back to converse with this man instead of fleeing the temptation. (How could I do that!?)
I hated myself for it, and I began to have a great deal of anxiety as I struggled with my feelings.
But how can I control these feelings? I thought. You can’t choose who you love!
Later, I’d come to realize that I’d never understood love at all. I still had a worldly view of love back then. I hate learning things the hard way; It’s painful, but experience is such a necessary and honest teacher, so I learned from it.
I came to understand that feelings sometimes have to be sidestepped and subdued, and thoughts have to be taken captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Temptation itself isn’t the sin, but giving in to that temptation leads to sin.
A division was forming between Andrew and I.
As I began to give my heart away, I felt further and further from the man that I married. Andrew didn’t understand what was happening. To tell you the truth I really didn’t understand it myself. I was so confused, and unable to break free.
In retrospect, what likely made this so tempting was that these feelings I was experiencing were a reprieve from my depression. However, due to my growing anxiety, it didn’t take long before I knew this situation was neither good, nor helping me in any way. I felt as if I was drowning, and nobody knew.
God knew all about it.
When I’d hear the song “Does anybody hear her?” by Casting Crowns, I’d feel so guilty. That’s me, I thought, I have such a cheating heart! However, I was understanding this song all wrong. The devil was pointing fingers at me, but God was showing me that He’d heard me.
I was miserable, and my anxiety kept growing, but I was trying to hide it from Andrew. I knew something had to give, and it had to give soon. I wanted out of this!
I can remember I was standing over the kitchen sink, when “The truth will set you free” began running through my head.
No it won’t! I thought in response. It will only hurt Andrew! (Why hadn’t I thought of this? I wouldn’t have been in this mess! Why didn’t I just run?)
God spoke to me once again: The truth will set you free. I knew this was the truth. I only objected to it out of fear and sorrow. However, I knew that if I wanted out of this I’d have to come clean. I had to tell Andrew everything I was feeling, and what was happening. I had to listen to God.
By the grace of God, the truth did set me free that night as I broke and confessed everything to Andrew.
I rejected the lies that I was being fed and accepted that I was at fault. Andrew was understandably angry and hurt at first, but he softened towards me quickly.
Later (only more recently actually) he revealed this to me: the reason that he softened was because God said to him, Do you want to hurt her too?
These words made me cry when I heard Andrew say them, and then again when I wrote them. Somebody heard me and saw me alright–the same Somebody, who, even while I was involved with something I hated myself for, loved me anyways, telling me exactly how my chains could be broken: the truth.
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:31-32
My depression deepened for a time after this. I felt as if I’d gone into shock.
I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, but we kept it to ourselves. I felt too ashamed. I felt so guilty for everything, but God continued to speak to me.
On one of my darkest days He said to me, Feel my living water flow. I didn’t understand what these words meant, (now I understand that living water is the Holy Spirit), but just the fact that God was still speaking to me comforted me. (John 4:13-14)
I also learned something else that was very comforting to me: I knew that I loved God.
For years I’d felt guilty that I’d really chosen to become a Christian because of my love for Andrew. I wasn’t understanding that God had chosen me, so I felt that Jesus had come in second in this deal. However, when I couldn’t feel what I should be feeling for Andrew, the choice that I made to listen, and then act, was based on my love for Jesus. I knew then, with confidence even, who I belonged to, and I experienced some joy mixed with my grief.
Why I’m Sharing This Story
As I was writing this piece, Jesus’ question to Simon came to my mind: Do you love me?
When He said to Simon, Feed my Sheep, Jesus was essentially saying to all of us, If you love me you will take care of the ones that I’ve entrusted to you. A commentary I referenced said that sheep here is probably translated better as “little sheep.” If so, Jesus was telling Simon more specifically to take care of those weaker in the faith. This same commentary went on to say this:
“He who had been loved and forgiven, held up that he might not fall, restored after he had fallen, is to be to others what Christ had been to him—feeding men with spiritual truths as they can bear them, gently guiding and caring for those who are as the weak ones of the flock through ignorance, prejudice, waywardness. The chief work of the chief Apostle, and of every true apostle of Christ, is to win back the erring, helpless, sinful sons of men…” [source: biblehub ]
This really spoke to me as I fought with the fear of sharing this story. These words reminded me that what I was so afraid to share could benefit the flock.
My story isn’t just a warning to guard your hearts, it’s also a story of hope and forgiveness. God sees us and hears us. He’ll deliver us from evil if we’ll hold to the truth. (Jeremiah 15:21)
With God’s guidance and help, I was able to turn away from what and who had tripped me up. I cut ties with the man who was leading me in the wrong way, to once again choose the one who would lead me in all truth: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Though painful, this trial gave me a deeper understanding of the weakness of the flesh.
I know that I’m most assuredly a sinner saved by grace. I still understand, however, that I’m loved and forgiven, so I’m going to live like I’m loved, at least, that’s what I say. Andrew keeps telling me that I haven’t let it go.
However, as I was typing back and forth with a sister in Christ yesterday, I gave her these words: Forgive yourself because you had no way of knowing then, what you know now. I knew immediately that these words were for me as well.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” –John 8:34-36