The Joy of Suffering Long:
So here I am sitting at my desk, an alien in a familiar environment. My head hurts from an incident last night which is far to embarrassing for me to explain here. Suffice it to say I am not so good at, shall we say, chasing? Today I had a theophany. For those who do not know what a theophany is, here is the definition: Theophany, from the Greek, theophaneia (meaning "appearance/showing of God"), refers to the appearance of a deity to a human, or to a divine disclosure. For me it was the latter. And actually, to be honest, it came to me last night as I was laying in bed waiting to hear from my estranged wife as to whether or not she was safe and had found a place to stay. Alone in my bed with thoughts to wander, my mind began to drive me places I did not care to see. Who was she with? Where was she sleeping and with whom? I lay there contemplating silently and fighting back visions of our own past intimacy superimposed with the face of whichever guy may or may not be taking my place in her life. Men from the past, men from the present, men I have never known or even met. I saw the glow in her eyes as I had seen so many times throughout our own relationship. What the hell am I doing laying here in my bed? I need to get off my back and start fighting for her! I need to go look for her! I need to call her to make sure she is safe! At least a text message! Something, anything! What the hell is she doing to me?
I almost got out of bed. I almost woke up the kids. I almost loaded up in the car to set out for what I am sure would have been a long sleepless night of darkened streets and empty parking lots and carless drivethroughs. That's when I felt something float over me like a breeze. In my ear I heard a faint whisper. I'm not really sure what it said, but I can tell you I know what it meant. Surrender. Let go. Let Me do My work. So for the first time since all of this hit, I put down my phone and stopped waiting for her to call. I'm not sure why I did it. It is very much out of character for me, but this time, I felt it was right to let her go. And I fell right to sleep.
I woke up this morning and I felt groggy. My head was pounding and all I could see was light. My eyes hurt and I tried to squint to shut it out, but it didn't help. It just made my head hurt in a different way. I readied my little angels and dropped them at daycare. At work five minutes early, I started the daily monotony. When you break into a routine, your mind will wander, and mine tends to revisit all the sad and lonely places. And that's exactly what mine did today. Where did she stay last night? Dear God, just tell me she didn't sleep with another man. A month's worth of recovering and this is how my day begins.
At eleven, I went to meet Brandon for lunch at the Toxic Bell. My mind recoiling from the previous evening of talking to lawyers, friends and parents, all of them saying the same thing. "Get her out of your house! She's eating you alive!" Sitting down to eat, after the small talk and the blessing, he seemed to know just what to say. "Are you listening to God or to people?" Explaining how hard it is to feel God say one thing and to hear your parents command you to do another, where do you draw the line and how do you let them know without hurting their countenance? I told him that everyone around me says I need to get her out of the house. That she is wasting my time and my resources. That she is using me. That I need to fight for support. But everytime I try to do something along those lines, I feel the Holy Spirit whack me on the nose with a rolled up "Miami Herald." I know that what she is doing is wrong, but who am I to talk? Was I not ten times worse to Jesus? My sins put Him on the Cross! My idols kept Him from enjoying a place at my table. My atrocities drove my wife into the arms of another man!
All this pain I feel, is allowed by the Holy Spirit because I need to grow! My life has been such a mess from my past rebellion. My heart was so hardened that I never felt the light of day on it. But now I see that I am not a tree growing in a field, but a tree growing on a cliff. My roots have to find their way to the water. They have to grab hold tight so that the wind cannot carry me away. For on a cliff there is but one way to go if you fall. And yet, only one way to grow! Right now, my roots are digging deeper than they have ever been, but it's not enough. I need to feel this pain. I need to find the water. God knows that and He knows that I can take it. I will still hurt and I will still be sore from it, but He does not want me to be callous. When you are callous, you lose your ability to feel. Right now, all I feel is pain and sorrow. But I know soon, I will need to feel love. I will need to feel it so that I can return it. Love is not the opposite of hate. Indifference is. Indifference is the callous heart that gave up a long time ago. It is the orange that grew so much peel to protect it's flesh from the cold winter that it neglected it's purpose. Now it has no flavor. It has no purpose.
Now here's the thing I find myself doing. I am a man, and thus my nature is to take the wheel. I want things to happen and I will stop at nothing until it is finished. Part of letting go is to let go of this nature and hand it over to the Almighty and trust Him to do what He promises. Part of letting go is stepping back and saying, "God, I want this so bad, but here it is. Take it from me and don't let me convince you to give it back." I am a talker. When I get into a situation, I talk it out. I talk and talk and talk ad nosium. I thank my mother for this gift/curse. I think it is why I am such a good salesman. And I know it is why I never gave God control in the first place. I guess there was a part of me that thought that I could talk my way into heaven. How sad is that? Brandon opened my eyes to his own way of taking control in his own life and I found it to be identical in every aspect to my life. He said I needed to communicate with her through a mediator. He said if I talk to her, I am simply going to push her buttons, because that is my nature. And vise versa. In light of hearing this I realized what God was trying to tell me last night. He was trying to tell me to leave her to her own devices so she can hear HIS voice and not mine. I never really thought about the fact that the more I talked to her, the less she could actually hear God talking. No matter how right anything I say to her is, it still falls on deaf ears and only serves to validate the pain she is already running from. Pretty tough to admit and grasp, but it is the truth. In the end, I would rather she hear His voice and not mine. He speaks words that give life and healing. Mine are just words of pain and anguish, no matter how lovingly put. I feel peace and joy, not always, but regularly. I feel blessed, not always, but regularly. And I know it's because I serve a Savior who cared enough for me to want me to grow and not be complacent. Who wanted me to finally get the hell up and finally take my relationship with Him seriously. After all, what kind of friend really wants to stick around while the other sleeps on the couch all day? I'm glad that my Savior didn't give up on me the way other friends have.
Long suffering is no cake walk. You see that guy sitting in the chair at work? Looking so peaceful? You see that smile on his face? You see the bounce in his leg as he taps his foot to some silent beat? You see him muttering a prayer under his breath? You can almost feel the joy in his heart. Almost.