[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 that God wanted me to share, I just didn’t know when exactly.
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 that 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 that Satan 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. However, what I want is to please God, not man.
“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 a person I’ve sometimes referred to as manipulative. 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. 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 that he ever said to me upon accepting his friends request 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. 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 as if 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. I don’t remember in detail much of what was exchanged in our communications, or even where things began to shift, however, at some point 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, this still holds some truth. 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 several 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 as if I was never truly happy anymore.
At this point in time I had yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease which was one of the sources for my depression. Later I found out that there were other sources as well.
When this took place I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything. I also felt that 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 this frustration to him, but it was definitely there. He’d 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.)
As I write this now, I can see so clearly that He wasn’t serving God. 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 began telling me how he’d treat me. I was caught in his trap, and I was foolishly mesmerized by his words. I felt so out of step with Andrew, and I believed that I connected better with this person who was painting such a lovely picture for me. Obviously this picture wasn’t lovely, I only say this 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. As ill as this makes me feel now, I developed feelings for him, but I was also very conflicted. I felt that 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 this guy 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.”
Later, I’d 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. 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 that 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 as if I was drowning even, and that nobody knew, 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 don’t believe that this song was meant to make me feel so guilty. Perhaps convicted, but if I’d heard God over Satan I would have realized that He was telling me that He heard me and saw me.
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 this 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 was telling me to do.
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?”
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. 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 could 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 to me, “Feel my living water flow.” At the time, I didn’t 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 a comfort 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 Jesus. 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…” [source: biblehub ]
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, it’s also a story of hope, and a story of forgiveness. It’s a story of freedom from our chains; a story of mercy; a story 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.
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 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, however, 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, 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
I wrote the following poem shortly after this 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