I Thought it was Over…

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My wife Kris came to me and said she wanted a divorce.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I stared back at her with both anger and tears flooding through my eyes.  It wasn’t the first time she made a comment like that.  Those infamous words came out time and time again, but in this moment, I could see she really meant it.  I felt defeated, heart-broken and dead inside.

We met several years earlier at church and it felt like a fairy tale ending.  We were best friends, loved the same music, and truly enjoyed spending time together.  We were a match made in heaven!  But something went terribly wrong along the way.  I was controlling, manipulative and of course “holier than thou.”  She was depressed and suffered from excruciating anxiety.  As the years went by, we fought and became isolated. Eventually, our marriage came to a point where she didn’t want to go on any longer.  Like I said, I felt dead inside.

As she stood at the doorway of our home, I can remember telling her, “just leave then,” and off she went.  As tears streamed down her face, she opened the door and slammed it behind her.  I was left sitting in a chair staring out the window wondering what would happen next.  In my mind, all I could say was, “God, please help me.  Please help us.  I don’t want my wife to leave me.  I feel so dead inside.  Our marriage is dead.”

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible. Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.” (John 11:38-45)

Several hours later I heard the creeky sound of the front door opening.  I was still sitting in that same chair wondering about how I’d lost everything.  God heard my prayer; God heard her prayer.  While we were apart for those desperate hours, we both reached out to Jesus in our pain.  Our prayers echoed the same sentiment of asking God to bring life back into our dead marriage.  As we softened our hearts to hear Him, he warmed our cold souls with a newfound hope.

Kris passed through the living room and over to where I was sitting.  She grabbed my hand and we held each other for what seemed like hours.  We cried, we talked, we asked for forgiveness and our marriage has never been the same.

I know many, many people that have faced or are facing a similar situation.  Death seems to have gripped your marriage, or even a treasured relationship, but God can breathe life into any situation.  Yes, we needed to soften our hearts in order to come back together, but more than that, we needed to allow Jesus to roll away our stoney hearts in order to expose the stench of what we had created.  The beauty of our situation was found in four sentences Jesus spoke.

We first needed to “roll the stone aside.”  Our hearts were hard as a rock.  I saw her as wrong, she saw me as wrong.  What we failed to see is that we were both wrong.  Jesus had to do some business in our hearts.  It was incumbent upon us to focus on ourselves rather than on each other.

Second, we needed to believe that Jesus was the answer. “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  Many times in my life as I’ve faced bleak situations, my belief has tumbled into the weeds.  Like Peter walking on water, the moment he saw the wind and the waves, he began to sink.  We both needed to believe that God could do a work in our marriage.  As we gave way to our disbelief, Jesus came through.

Third, as Jesus was working in our hearts, he commanded, “Jon & Kris, come out!”  We needed to do our part.  It wasn’t as simple as Jesus “taking the wheel.”  We needed to also drive towards loving each other sacrificially, admitting our wrongs and be willing to walk out of the graveyard.

Last, we needed to ask Jesus to humbly “unwrap us and let us go.”  We were covered in guilt and shame.  We both felt that we were no good to anyone, especially to each other. Our anger towards one another was really vitriol towards ourselves.  It took the grace of Jesus to remove our grave clothes and allow us to walk in freedom.

As you look at your own life, are you finding that you may have stumbled into a tomb? Are you feeling as though death has completely defeated your relationships?  Never let that be! Jesus is the great restorer, rebuilder and redeemer.  We all wander into the crypts of death from time to time.  It’s a matter of trusting Jesus to roll away the stone so that we can step out into a new life.

My prayer for you?  That you will…

  • Allow God to roll away the stone of your heart
  • Believe that God can and will do a work in your life
  • Come out of the grave and take a step towards truth and freedom
  • And, accept the grace and love that Jesus has given you

One thing I can be sure of, God wants you to have incredibly fulfilling relationships!

Kris and I are not only best friends today, but we have a marriage that I never thought was possible.  Do we still stumble towards the graveyard in our relationship?  Yup!  But we have learned how to quickly turn toward Jesus and walk in a new direction when things get tough.

It’s Time to Grow Up!

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“Quit judging me you dumb bitch.  You treat your kids like s–t yourself.”

If you can believe it, this was a recent Facebook post I read while trolling peoples not-so-private lives.  And yes, I’m sure you can believe it.  We can all believe it.  I mean really, which one of us doesn’t come across a post like this almost daily?  I have to say though, what was hard to believe is who they came from.  At least one of them would call themselves a Christian.  You know, a follower of Jesus, a disciple, a believer.  The sad truth is that the new social media culture has ushered in an avenue where people can drive their unabated thoughts relentlessly down the highway of intolerance without any immediate consequence. And yes, even those of us who call ourselves Christians weave webs of mayhem causing serious pain and division that can sadly scar people for years.

In the 2008 election cycle, I was an avid supporter of MY candidate.  I would defend, attack and argue why my guy was the one America needed most.  My diatribe of ideals would often send my foes into their own bursts of ideological indignation.  It was reminiscent of a classic McEnroe v Connors Wimbledon match.  The volleys went back and forth only to escalate into more hateful serves and an occasional net smash.  It was brutal beyond words.  So barbarous in fact, that I later went back and deleted almost every post.  I was embarrassed to say the least.

When is the last time you went back through your own social media feed and evaluated the content of your character?  What we write is a direct reflection of our character.  Do you find that your words are healing and encouraging, or do you see something different?  Perhaps you see something downright ugly.

Let me first encourage you by saying that you’re not alone.  We all fall into the traps of speaking (or writing in this instance) without first thinking it through.  Like I mentioned before, I’m not going to be the pot calling the kettle black.  I’m just as guilty as the next guy or gal that slays dragons in the name of philosophical superiority.  We are all sinners and say things we wished we never said.  But I want to take this one step further.  Jesus not only wants us to stop saying things that are unseemly, he’s looking for us to take radical steps in another direction.  Check this out…

27 But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

Yes, I just went there.  Those verses are found in Luke 6:27-31 and straight out of the mouth of Jesus.  I would like to challenge you to read those five verses five times in a row.  But let His words sink in deeply. Allow what Jesus is trying to communicate hit at your very core.  Okay, now re-read it five times again and then come back.

Listen friends, this is a picture of what true spiritual maturity looks like.  It is certainly a very difficult pill to swallow.  I mean think about what Jesus is saying here.  He wants us to love our enemies.  He’s exhorting us to do something good to someone that hates us.  And think of the audacity of Jesus when he asks us to pray for someone that has hurt us.  This stuff is crazy!  And yet, this is the life of a true follower of Jesus; we think less of ourselves and far more about others.

I want you to take note that there is something far bigger going on here than simply how we respond to people on social media.  Facebook jabber is nothing more than a window into our character.  Matthew 15:18a makes it really simple, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…”

Friends, what’s in your heart?  Do you find yourself blowing up in anger over something someone has said or done to you?  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t experience hurt or that we’re not ever to be angry.  What I am trying to highlight are the very words of Jesus.  There is power in His Word.

When Jesus commands it, He equips us for it.

As Jesus leads us down the radical path of love and grace, he knows it won’t be an easy road.  He understands that his calling is one that is completely opposite of the world.  But He has also provided us the strength to carry out his mission to love others above ourselves.  What I have personally found is that when I respond in a loving manner to someone who has been hurtful, or even hateful, I am at total peace.  I can rest in those moments.  I don’t take it personal.  And as I respond with peace and restfulness, I am able to love someone that isn’t so lovable.  Call it crazy, but it works!

Recently, I helped someone who was struggling financially.  Moments later they turned around and hurt me.  The details aren’t important, but what was important is how I responded.  I prayed for them.  I prayed for me, asking God to help me love them even though they hurt me deeply.  And you know what else?  I gave them my shirt; meaning I helped them again.  It has been the most freeing thing to give from a position of love rather than respond from the standpoint of anger and hate.

You have a choice today.  You can continue to come back with hatred, bitterness, loathing, hostility, resentment and revenge, or you can counter the way Jesus would have.  He loved people that hated him.  He healed people that doubted him.  He saved people that hurled horrific insults at him.  And yes, he died for people that hung him on a cross.  In Jesus’ own words, are you willing to take up your own cross and die for those around you?  That’s what it takes friends, death.  Death to our selfishness and maligned will.  But life to those around us who are hurting.

Keep one last thing in mind, most people respond in hurtful ways because they themselves are hurting.  If you find yourself in emotional turmoil, Jesus (and his followers) are the answer. As you begin to deal with your pain, you will find your heart changing and your Facebook posts becoming different.  Most of all, you’ll find a freedom and rest that allows you to show Jesus to a damaged world.