Neither Do I Condemn You

Read John 8:1-11

Walking away from God is surely not without consequence. After reading about this woman caught in adultery I thought about sheep. How stupid they are to wonder away from the care of the shepherd. They do not last long on out on their own. Maybe when you read about this woman you thought the same thing, “How stupid.”

Like the sheep from Luke 15 that we read about on Tuesday, I went astray. I went out searching for something that I thought my Shepherd was withholding from me. Have you ever been stubborn like that? “If you won’t give it to me then I will just get I myself.” After Jeff and I were married we struggled to get it together spiritually. I tried so hard to reach out to Jeff but he was cold and distant. Since we weren’t going to church my “well” was beginning to run dry. Soon I had wondered so far from the Lord that I contemplated having an affair as an escape from my lonely marriage. I even read the book The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. You may have seen the movie. The whole story starts with these two adult kids going through their mother’s things after she had passed away. They stumble upon a journal and are shocked to learn that their mother had a passionate weeklong affair when they were school kids. The whole message of the book was that if you are so unhappy it’s ok to betray your husband. Keep it a secret. No one finds out. No one gets hurt. And I really fell for it. I believed that I could have this affair and it would be as a precious jewel that would I stash away in my jewelry box. Only I know it’s there and I can go and look at it whenever I wanted. The memories would be a hidden treasure that I would secretly cherish. It would be my companion on lonely days. So off I went. Even now I imagine my Shepherd watching me from afar, His wondering sheep. The reality of the affair was not at all like the fairy tale I kept trying to make happen. It was awkward. So many lies. Not satisfying. I knew I had made a huge mistake. I ended the two month long affair and I was so scared and lost and all alone. My heart bleated for The Shepherd. He found me. And I was ashamed to find that He never took His eyes off me. My repentant heart grieved over betraying my husband’s trust and I agreed with God that I was so wrong. I did not feel worthy of His help. It was my mess. But it is impossible to stand in such strong waves of grace and mercy. I felt so stupid and also very aware. It was like I could see clearly now. I thought back to the book I read and I was furious with the lie it was propagating.   There was no precious jewel of memories to treasure in my heart. Only a deep stabbing pain every time I looked in my husband’s eyes. How could Francesca live with her husband while harboring such a secret? I’m guessing she didn’t live much. There is no life apart from Christ and we will never feel free if we are held hostage by such damaging secrets. Jeff was not perfect but his love was true. We struggled to meet eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart but it was pure and right. He would look in my eyes and tell me he loved me. “Not if you knew what I did”, my heart whispered. It was time to take the power away from this secret shame. We know that the truth will set us free and I would not spend the rest of my years living a lie with my husband, though I feared he wouldn’t be my husband much longer.

How do you find the courage and confidence to confess such a scandalous betrayal?

This is where the confidence comes from. When you live as a tortured prisoner and you see a way to escape, you take it. Even if it means you lose your right arm in the process. I might lose my husband, but at least I would be free. Free ladies! That was my courage and my confidence! I refused to let the shame rule over me. Not when Jesus stands bearing scars on behalf of my freedom! And oh the tears of relief. There is nothing like it.

I did confess to Jeff and his parents. And to my family. He moved out for 5 months. Possibly friends thought I must be a wreck as I lived alone awaiting my fate. Quite the opposite. It was before I confessed that I was a wreck and lived with a dark cloud hanging over me. But now my heart was free and alive. I was no longer a prisoner. Do you know how good that freedom feels? It sustained me when Jeff left and it steadied me as he contemplated keeping me as his wife. I knew that no matter what, I would not be destroyed. I was reminded how precious my marriage is. On the verge of losing it forever I was making a commitment to cherish it always and not mistreat it.

How is our marriage now? Stronger. And carefully protected like the precious jewel it is.

This week we have spent time talking about when we have ignored God. And this is what we have learned…

From the Woman at the Well learn that only Jesus satisfies.

From the Lost Sheep we learn how compassionate He is and how dependant we are.

From Peter we learn that no matter how we have walked away from Jesus that He still has a place for us.

And finally from The Woman Caught in Adultery we learn that when our sin threatens to separate us from the love of God, Jesus does not condemn us.

Thank you friends so much for letting me invade your inbox this week! Praying for you all to respond to God when He reaches out for you. We’ll be in touch again before we meet on the 20th.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. – Galatians 5:1

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. –John 10:10

And the peace of god, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7

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Ask Like You Know I’m Going To Say Yes …and a special note from My Darling, Jeff!!

So the writer’s conference was just days away and I was still unsure if I would be able to go. Remember now that Jeff had accepted an invitation to help some family members that live 4 hours away. My child care options were running out. Even if Jeff did stay home he would still need to enlist help so the kids could be in two different places.

It came to this…I really wanted Jeff to stay home. I had lamented to him about this soon to be missed opportunity but never really actually asked him to change his plans for me. I guess I thought that he just would. I guess I thought he would just say, “Hey honey, no problem. I will call and say I can’t make it out this time. I really want you to enjoy this conference. Cheer up, we will make it work!”

But no matter how much I complained about missing this conference he did not once offer to just stay home and skip his trip. He was feeling more obligated to his relatives than to me. So now I was having a different kind of pity party…[insert crying] “My husband doesn’t value me! My husband doesn’t listen to me. And if he is listening than he just doesn’t care!!” [more loud crying].

Someone please tell me I’m not the only wife who has gone through this.

These are the thoughts that really break a wife’s heart. When she believes that her trusted protector and provider is not looking out for her and she is on her own and needs to fend for herself. That he would not forsake all others and be there for her when she needs him.

We have had many struggles in our marriage. Most of them can be related to poor communication. The message is just not getting through. Or worse, we believe a false assumption. I knew these thoughts I was having could really take me down a bitter road with my husband and my tender heart could not handle that. And I didn’t think my marriage could handle that either. I pondered my options…

1. I could choose to be bitter and quietly plot revenge.

2. I could throw a major fit; a tantrum of sorts, until I got what I wanted.

or

3. I could try again to tell my husband how I’m feeling and this time clearly explain what I want and need.

I have witnessed many women throw the dumbest fits simply because they wanted something but never actually asked for it (me being one of those of course). They were waiting for husband to just do it or give it or say it…whatever it was. They were being helpless victims. It is very cruel to blame our husbands for our unhappiness when we really did not give them a fair chance in the first place, that fair chance being an honest mature conversation.

I eat my words every time I tell my 7 year old daughter, “Fiona, you must stop freaking out and just tell us what you want. Please believe that we want to help you and always will. The world will not respond kindly to a helpless victim. Just say how you are feeling and what you want.”

Why is it so hard for her to just ask for what she wants? Does she think that I can read her brain and I’m just being cruel by not giving her what she wants? Sometimes I do know what she wants but I want her to learn that I do not respond to tantrums and fits. I respond really well to an optimistic request. I tell her …

 Daughter ask

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

So here is how it went with my Jeff. We were climbing into bed and I said,…

“Darling, you need to hear these really dumb thoughts I’m having.” I told him all reasons I didn’t think I was worth the sacrifice, money and effort of my family on my behalf.

Jeff responds, “Well those are dumb thoughts honey. But I’m just not sure how we will be able to get you there.”

“Ahhrrrg! Well it’s pretty obvious to me Darling! You need to say home!” (no, I didn’t say that. But I was thinking it!). Instead, I said…

“Would you please stay home and take care of the kids so I can go to this conference? Please call your family and tell them you can’t come because Bri has a thing”. It felt awkward. It seemed weird to have to ask this of him.

Jeff’s response – “Ok. I’ll call them. You can go.”

I was tempted to think, “He isn’t doing it right. He didn’t say it nice. He didn’t smile. It seems like he’s mad”. (Oh our poor husbands. Am I right ladies?)

He knows my love language is Words of Affirmation. If you don’t express it with words then I don’t believe you. And as you can see he uses few; and takes the shortest and most direct route. Jeff wasn’t too surprised when I said I was needing a cheerleader. I told him that asking him to stay was a big deal for me. I needed him to say some encouraging words like, “I want to stay home so you can go. I’m excited for you to go to this conference.” So I told him I was going pee and when I got back he could tell me his cheerleader thoughts. Knowing my Jeff, I wasn’t expecting much. But when I returned, I opened the bedroom door to the sound of the Nebraska Cornhusker Tunnel Walk music playing loud on the iPad…for me! I laughed so hard!  He didn’t say anything but the look on his face and his choice of “cheerleader thoughts” expressed through epic football introductory music was enough. He was cheering me on…in his own way.

And an epic battle was fought and won between my two ears. There were no victims 😉

(A Note From Jeff) As her husband and friend, my wish is for my wife to be the best she can be. But like most husbands who are used to getting in the front seat of life, I need to be told over and over and over what Briana needs. I am so good at asking for what I want, I forget to listen to my wonderful wife and what she really needs. Each person that reads this will think of ways that you have experienced something like this in your own life. If I can give a little piece of advice ladies, don’t be afraid to ask for your husband to bless you in any way he can. We live for it, we want to be your hero, but we can’t if we don’t know what burden we can carry for you. If you’re lucky, we will do it half the time.

pray with me

Dear Lord, Please help us think the best of our husbands. Speak love and patients when our hearts are freaking out. Help us guard against a victim mentality and just ask for what we need. Help us to ask with confidence and not criticize when they don’t respond the “right way”. Help us guard against quiet bitterness and obnoxious fits. Amen.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. –James 4:1-2


Finders Givers

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.  Psalm 39:7 (AMP)

Our kids have provided Jeff and I with some funny and memorable quotes.  I try to write them down before my aging memory loses them forever.  “finders givers” was one of those quotes. “You know when you find something and you say “finders keepers”.  Well, its kind of like that. Except you don’t keep it – you give it away.   Finders Givers!” they told me.  For some reason I’m inspired use this expression as the title for this post about expectations.  Maybe when you read to the end you’ll be able to make the connection also.

What kind of expectations do you have?  Always for the best, the way things should be, were meant to be…everything fair and right.

Here’s a good quote.  “An expectation is just an offence waiting to happen.”

Are you ever disappointed or offended when someone does not meet your expectations?

-Expecting my husband to be as expressive as I am.  Should he not be giving with his thoughts and feelings, especially about me?

– Reciprocation.

-I went to all this trouble and they didn’t even say thank you!

-I’m leaving this organization since I’m not getting the recognition and appreciation I deserve.

It’s easy to feel shortchanged and shafted at times like this.  Why? We expected to get something and didn’t get what we wanted.  The expectations I listed above reveal just how much I expect people to meet emotional needs. Sadly it’s also an example of giving…to get.

Here is an interesting thought.  Sometimes people do meet our expectations. Sometimes they give us what we want…and we take it, gladly.  Then since we have found a reliable “source”, we may go back to it and fill up again; like a thirsty person to a well.  But then later on we may complain that the water isn’t as cold as it once was.  Or maybe the water is dirty and we are not as happy with this “well” as we used to be.  This reveals that we are not interested in the person at all, only in what we could get from them.

So large are the demands I put on the poor souls that surround me!  My Jeff can attest to many a desperate cry from this little wife.  Give to me! Give me assurance, give me affection, give me intimacy! (Do you hear the neediness…the desperation?)

There is a still, true voice from inside me that says, “Take some time, go pray.  Only God can help you reconcile this.  Your soul cries out for something that Jeff can’t give.

“But I want him to give it to me!”

In John 4:4-26, Jesus approached an old well and there he met a woman drawing water.  In their conversation he tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”…

She replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He says, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Reading on from here we learn that this woman was very thirsty and has been trying to quench her thirst from the wrong source.  Men.  I can only imagine what her soul cried out to those men, give me affection, give me security, give me direction, and for crying out loud give me a ring!

We mistakenly expect so much out of poor human beings and expect so little from all-powerful God.  Unfortunately my attitude toward God can be that I’ll just take whatever comes from Him.  This can sound very healthy and mature.  It shows that I know He is really in control and that I am just content with what He gives me.  The sad part about this attitude is that I have no need to get too excited about asking Him for anything nor do I cry out to him in desperation.  He will just do what He will do.  This is not the relationship that my heavenly Father wants to have with me.  He wants me to ask, seek and knock.  I am convinced that there is no sweeter sound to Jesus than a desperate cry to him for help.  He wants active communication with us. Not just a passive relationship.  He has so much He wants to give me and show me, if I’ll just seek him for it instead of my husband.

And when I find my thirsty heart quenched by God’s living water, then I can give to Jeff.

pray with me

Oh Father how needy we are for You today!  Forgive me when I ignore you and look to my husband, family and friends to be what only You can be for me.  We need Your help to make us full.  Teach us to expect great things from You and let people be human so we can really give from an overflowing heart.  Amen.

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.  Psalm 5:3

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Psalm 22:5

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  Ephesians 3:20

think with me

This truth has allowed me to enjoy people more fully, and experience a truly genuine exchange and peace in my relationships.

Has God revealed to you any “wells” that don’t satisfy?

Is it a “well” that you need to walk away from?

Or does God simply want you to start coming to Him so that you can relate to this other person in a different way?