[Who the Son sets free is free indeed]
Confession time. When I read these two words recently I had such a sinking feeling. I’ve known for some time that I had a story God wanted me to share, I just didn’t know when exactly. Well, He’s been speaking to my heart almost non stop through several fellow bloggers; through the people I’m closest to, and also through song. All of what He’s been speaking is pointing to now–now is that time.
I’ve had a lot of fear about sharing this story though because it is a very personal story, and anytime you put your heart on the line there’s a danger it will be trampled upon in some way, but when I weighed what Satan was trying to use against me, I realized that what he had to say held no water. Every reason he gave me not to share it was very personal. He likes to play up those insecurities, but my insecurities always lead me to care more about what others think of me over what God wants.
“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
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” –2 Corinthians 11:3
It was sometime in 2006 that I met the person I’ve sometimes referred to as being manipulative, on a Christian networking site. When I received this person’s friends 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. But I guess this is where I started listening to Satan’s lies. 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.’ So, 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 others.
The first thing he ever said to me upon accepting his friends request was that he needed prayer because he had some serious health issues. I felt bad for him, and I said that I would pray. 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 pretty much the same way as any of my online friendships: we exchanged information about our situations. He said he was married and I can’t remember now, but I think he may have said that he had children. I don’t remember in detail a lot of what was exchanged in our communications, or even where things began to shift. At some point, however, things took a wrong turn, and his words became more romantic in nature as he started to express his feelings for me.
Why I didn’t run or reject this I don’t know for sure. I want to say that I was naive, but that only sounds like an excuse. However, there is still some truth in that. I was more naive than I realized, but this wasn’t just being out of the know; this was also temptation.
It didn’t help that at this particular point in time I was struggling with a lot of things, including depression. I didn’t even understand that I was depressed for that matter, only that life was becoming more and more difficult, and it felt like I was never truly happy. At this point in time I had yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which was one of the sources for my depression. A little later, I also learned that I have a sensitivity to gluten, which was another source. There’s even a third source; I’m also prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
When this took place I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything, and as if Andrew wasn’t even noticing any of this, 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.
After the fact, here’s where I felt I was manipulated: because I was feeling frustrated with Andrew, this person’s words only served to feed that frustration. I don’t recall expressing those feelings, but they were definitely there. He’d ask questions like, “What’s Andrew doing?” 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. As I write this now, I can see so clearly that He was no doubt serving the devil. You can’t be serving God while manipulating someone, but for whatever reason I wasn’t seeing this then. I should have been more protective of not only Andrew, but also our marriage, instead I kept buying into this devil’s lies.
It only got worse from there because then he started telling me how he would treat me. I was caught in his trap, and I was foolishly mesmerised by his words. I felt so out of step with Andrew, and I believed that I connected more with this person who was painting such a lovely picture for me. Obviously this picture wasn’t lovely, I only say that to describe how blind that I truly was. I kept listening when I should have shut him down and run.
Things only continued to progress from there. I developed feelings for him, as ill as that makes me feel now, but I was also very conflicted because of this. I felt it was irrational, and that it could never go anywhere. I knew I would never leave Andrew. I wasn’t even thinking like that! Divorce was never a word that was in our vocabulary. Andrew and I both meant what we said when we said “I do.” We meant ‘till death do us part,’ and I intended on keeping that promise. I’d made that promise before God after all, and I wasn’t about to break my agreement. To me, that would mean walking away from God, but here I was anyways continually going back to converse with him instead of fleeing that temptation. How could I do that!?
I hated myself for it, and I began to have a lot of anxiety as I struggled with my feelings. ‘But how can I control these feelings?’, I thought. ‘You can’t choose who you love’ I’d later 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, and I did learn from it. Later I’d come to understand that feelings, at times, 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 indeed forming between Andrew and I; as I began to give my heart away, I felt farther and farther 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 I couldn’t break free.
The attention I was receiving was a distraction from my underlying depression, so it was difficult to reject, but it didn’t take long before I knew this was neither good, nor helping me in any way. I began to feel like I was drowning even, and that nobody knew about it, but 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!”
I was miserable, and my anxiety kept growing, but I was trying to hide it all 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 that before? I wouldn’t have been in this mess. Why didn’t I just run? God spoke to my heart once again “The truth will set you free.” I knew this was the truth. I only objected to it out of fear and sorrow–fear of facing the truth, and the sorrow I felt for the hurt that Andrew would feel, but I knew 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, and do as He said.
Only by the grace of God, did the truth 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?” Those words made me cry when I heard Andrew say them, and then again when I wrote them. Somebody heard me and saw me alright. That same Somebody who, even while I was involved with something I hated myself for, loved me anyways, and told me exactly how those chains would be broken.
“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 even, 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, “Feel my living water flow.” At the time, I didn’t really understand what these words meant, but just the fact that He 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. Why this was encouraging to me was because 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 that deal. However, when I couldn’t feel what I should be feeling for Andrew, the choice that I made to listen to God was based on my love for Him. I knew then, with confidence even, who I belonged to, and I experienced some joy mixed with my grief.
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…”
This really spoke to me as I fought with the idea 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 though, it’s also a story of hope, and a story of grace and forgiveness. It’s a story of freedom from our chains, of mercy, of restoration, and of God’s amazing grace.
Though painful, this trial gave me a deeper understanding of how weak the flesh truly is, and 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, but 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 what you know now. I knew immediately that these words were for me as well.
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” –John 8:10-11
I needed this entire lesson from start to finish so that I could recognize my weakness, and perhaps even for such a time as this. I did see it (very clearly), and I didn’t like what I saw. With God’s help though I was able to turn away from what and who had tripped me up, cutting 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, no matter the cost: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” –Colossians 2:13-14
“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
The Following Poem was written shortly after this whole experience.
Bend Me Break Me Oh Lord
Bend me break me Oh Lord
And in my brokenness reform me anew
Cast off all that displeases you
Shall I fight Thee?
No Lord, my heart is Yours
My will’s not mine, but Your will
Draw me closer Lord
Teach me Your ways
Bend me break me Oh Lord
So shall I never part from Thee
But follow You all of my days.
November 3, 2006