They Will Be Known for Their Love

The past few months, maybe even this past year, has been quite a journey for me spiritually.  I’ve been convicted, in August/September of this year, of not focusing on what God wanted me to focus on, of continually getting too easily distracted, or using the time God’s given me unwisely or at the very least, not maximizing its potential to do what I should be doing for Him.  Since that time, I’ve implemented many changes in my life.  It’s been such an amazing, beautiful journey.

And since I was starting a basic journal, almost a daily diary of sorts, to track my emotions/moods as I knew I was grieving a loss and wanted it not to unknowingly affect me, I now have pages and pages of lessons learned, prayers prayed, scriptures and sermon notes, spiritual growth moments, and acknowledgments of gratitude almost every night.  I recently looked back in my prayers from a couple of months ago, and found that I had asked God if He would teach me how to appropriately respond to people who insult, provoke, or mock my words, or my ministry.

And when I read that prayer, I realized with joy that He’s answered me in this!  Our God is such a faithful God.

Yesterday, at my sweet, wonderful, I-can’t-say-enough-great-things-about-them women’s Bible study, we were discussing how our failures to be all God wants us to be can either define us, and hinder our growth, or be used to refine us, and develop us into better Christians.

By taking me through this journey this past year, even in my failings and shortcomings, my own lack of discernment in responding to sinful or evil people in ways that weren’t helpful, God’s been using my weaknesses to refine me.  It’s amazing to have a physical journal with all of the notes in it that follow this growth path to grace and more wisdom.

I worried too much about what other people thought, when they misunderstood my motives or even accused me of having terrible motives that I knew were not true, I wanted to correct them and show them they weren’t acting godly.  I hated seeing injustice continue, with no one being brave or godly enough to call it out.  I didn’t trust or understand that God didn’t want me being worried about all these things.  That even focusing my attention on them was derailing my purpose and not doing what God wants, it wasn’t submitting to God.  Caring too much about the verdict of what others thought about my ministry, or me, or my life became way too high a priority, above pursuing God and what HE wanted for me.

But He used ALL these things, my failures in responding correctly, my seeing people I trusted use and twist my words I said to them, my seeing people actually lie about what I said to fit their agenda – my trying and failing to intervene on my own behalf – all this was useless, and yet useful in teaching me the goal of His lesson.

To not be afraid.  To trust in Him.

When it was all too much, and I prayed that He would just make it stop, He clearly spoke to me in my spirit saying

“My grace is sufficient for you, even in this.”

There are some trials that He will not immediately deliver us from because He has a very specific lesson for us to learn in them, and so sometimes he keeps us in a position that’s painful, or leaves a thorn in our side, so that we can be refined in the pain of it.

I realized I was reacting in Fear.  Fear of not being approved of by everyone.  Fear of being written about negatively and having other people turn away from me.  Fear of being mocked or insulted and having others influence or ruin my reputation.

I’m not defined by how I responded poorly at times, instead, He’s used it to teach me better ways – His own ways.  I’m excited in that I’ve now had opportunities to put these new ways into practice, making Him pleased with how I’m choosing to respond now.  It’s making me into a more graceful, fearless woman.

It’s making me into a more peaceful woman – I didn’t realize that all my striving to defend my own reputation, or correct misunderstandings, or confront mockers, or go to others to get them to see my “side” wasn’t pursuing peace.  I thought I WAS pursuing peace in trying to make everything better, trying to influence women who mock to be better themselves.  I didn’t realize that this wasn’t done using God’s power, and that it only negatively influenced my own spirit.

What makes a woman truly beautiful?

God wants women to have a gentle, peaceful, fearless spirit.  Or in His own Word, 1 Peter 3:1-6

“A peaceful gentle spirit… that does not give way to fear.”

When I choose to respond slowly, with godly wisdom and assurance, when I first go to Him and ask Him “How should I respond to this, if at all God?”  I please my Father in Heaven with submitting to Him.

Submitting to Him is acknowledging that He is in control.  I am not.  And when I try to control all these outcomes, I’m sending Him the message that I don’t want to obey Him, that I don’t trust Him to do what’s right, that I don’t think He’s enough.  I had NO idea I was disrespecting God Himself like this, but it truly has been quite a journey.

I’ll post again on some more things I’ve learned over this year, thank you for reading!!

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10 thoughts on “They Will Be Known for Their Love

  1. I’ve been prayer journaling 4-5x weekly for one year+ now. It’s amazing to look back at the way God has answered literally countless prayers in ways far bigger than I could have imagined at the time I wrote them down. Not only that, but to be able to track the way our relationship has ebbed and flowed and grown and changed even just over one year. I don’t know if I would be so aware of everything He did if I hadn’t (often forced myself) to sit down and open up to Him on paper.

  2. That is really sweet LeeLee, that you’ve been journaling for that long, I can’t wait till I get to a year+.
    Mine isn’t really a prayer journal, although sometimes I’ll add a short (or longish) prayer, but it actually logs what I did that day, emotions/moods, kids and what they did/how they acted, goals to get done that week, things I have to get done that day, tracking our budget, and then a little spot for spiritual growth. That was my “outline” for myself, but wow did it ever change with hearing entire sermons where I would go back and write a couple of pages of sermon notes that were speaking directly to the situation – it was eerie and almost unwanted at times.

    Do you feel like your relationship is stronger because of the journaling, or your faith stronger? How is your faith now?

  3. Somehow your comment went to spam! That’s so encouraging that you are still learning and leaning on the Lord. I think that shows great humility to admit and wisdom and love for God! Thank you so much for sharing HMN.

  4. I know what you mean about the eerily relevant note taking. That has happened to me too many times, though for me it happens when I visit the local seminary library to do research on whatever passage seems to suggest itself to me at the time.

    In that way, it’s made my faith 1000x stronger by training me to hear God’s voice, how He speaks to me, and what our unique relationship is like and to make me lose count of the ways He’s answered me and come through for me and lead me.

  5. This post describes some frustrating things that I have seen, too. there’s a lot of background. I’m sorry it got so long. (10 paragraphs, I think?)

    I was always an oddball, mostly because of emotional abuse beginning as a baby, but at least I had hope for the future. Unfortunately, on our wedding day, my wife began withholding affection, intimacy, and respect, and has smeared me more than once when I tried to stop her abuse. The result is fairly severe C-PTSD. She uses the symptoms to justify herself, and to support her subtle accusation that I am not firmly rooted in reality (or that I’m abusive).

    Anyway, I have been following Christ since I was in my early teens, and was very outspoken. I was not afraid of people thinking poorly of me for Christ’s sake. Underneath, though, I was convinced that I was not valuable. I didn’t want people to see my enormous load of shame. I honestly thought that I could trust my wife with that. We got married after a fairly long wait. I thought I knew her.

    Over the years I have grown in my understanding of the gospel. But I have also come to realize how much the church is affected by culture. There are some perspectives that I hold that people don’t like, even though they have nothing to do with undermining the gospel of grace. I agree with the church’s doctrinal statement, and trust the Bible as the word of God, etc.. It doesn’t make me real popular, but I didn’t mind. Mostly, I just hoped for validation and encouragement.

    I was unemployed, depressed, and started having panic attacks, so none of the men in the church were willing to respect me, listen, and believe me. After leaving that church (it was insinuated that I was abusive, and elders believed it out of hand), I thought our new church would be helpful. The elders teach at a local conservative evangelical Bible college, and seemed insightful when I talked to them.

    The elders, however, have actually undermined me. The doctrinal stances are twisted and compromised by cultural perceptions. For example, I asked them and learned that they are complementarians who believe that the man is the head of the wife. Yet in sermons, they are willing to torture the greek, and turn a verse about submission into a message that says husbands aren’t allowed to demand (their term) submission. In my case, this amounts to my wife believing that she will never be held responsible… the elders certainly don’t think it’s important.

    Also, when I was counseling with them, they asked what I wanted. One thing I want is for her to repent of her contempt and abuse ( a confession in the presence of those she smeared me with would be indication that she is serious). I know that is a big deal. It isn’t a matter of vengeance. I am angry and hurting, and this is the model for reconciliation in the Bible. Especially in abuse situations, there needs to be more than just a private “I’m sorry”.

    The result is that they shot me down in front of my wife. Repentance was apparently seen as something mean and vindictive. They said that I should forgive automatically, and said that this is how God does it (1Jn 1:9; Lk 17:3 ??) My anger, which has been slow, reasonable, and righteous, was lumped with my depression as a “wrong emotion”. Another man has tried to pressure me on several occasions to adopt the church culture which, although they know/say anger isn’t always a sin, says that we aren’t Jesus, so we aren’t capable of righteous anger. Honestly, telling an emotionally abused person that they should at least stop being angry by nightfall is kind of like telling a person with a broken leg to stop limping; or telling a person who just got beat up to stop saying ouch, and stop bleeding. Last Sunday he told me that staying with my wife and pursuing of my wife through 20+ years of contempt didn’t show love and that I was hard-hearted.

    I’m not so stuck on everyone thinking I’m wonderful. But why is it that in several christian circles (2+ churches, homeschool group, christian counselors) I can’t find a single person who will simply tell me they know it’s rough, but they will stand by me and help me work through this stuff? Why is it that no one can just tell my wife that it’s sinful and cruel to withhold affection and be aloof? Why can’t I find anyone who is deep enough to know that depression isn’t a sin, and that I’m not having a “pity party”, or “false humility”?

    It’s not really my reputation I am worried about. But if I don’t play along with the church culture (which I believe is wrong Rom 12:2 ), the people who could help simply see me as an uncomfortable presence at best (until my wife helps them infer that I’m a mean, angry, scary, hairy man who she needs protection from). No validation, no help, no resources for therapy (if I could find one I trust). If I had a loving wife, I could blow right through all of this fairly easily.

    I do thank God for what he has shown me through all of this. It just seems like I’ve been starved of love and dignity pretty much all my life. Although, like you say, we can’t let our value or sense of justice be so strong that we take up the gauntlet every time someone badmouths us, there is also a time to stand up for basic dignity and for principle. To everything there is a season. I just wish I had the wisdom to understand where the boundaries should be, and how/when to defend them.

    In the end, completely aside from the added pain and burden that was put on me and my family, I think it is incredibly sad that a plea for help and mercy is turned into defending against contempt and pain. This is what culture does, even in churches that have a good strong doctrinal statement and intelligent, zealous members.

  6. Object of Contempt, thank you for commenting your thoughts and your experiences, don’t ever worry about a comment being too long. I remember your first comment from last January or February, I’m deeply sorry for everything you’ve been through. I’ve read about CPTSD, it breaks my heart that parents sometimes cause their children to grow up with something like that. It’s not what God intended for you, and I’m sure it’s been aggravated by how your wife withholds affection and is aloof your entire marriage. How is your spiritual walk going now? Have y’all found a church that you’re currently going to, or are you still in the one where the elders don’t listen to you?

    Did your wife spread rumors that you were emotionally or verbally abusive for desiring her to submit to your leading in the marriage or because you spoke harshly? Sometimes us women will call our husband merely putting their foot down “emotional abuse.” And if he raises his voice in an argument, or tells us “no,” that’s “verbal abuse.” Of course, either of those things aren’t abuse at all, just the way men respond (and women) in normal arguments with a spouse. There’s a major difference between raising one’s voice in an argument and calling someone demeaning names, slandering them, or baseless attacking of their character in front of others. In fact, what she is doing to you, withholding affection (and sex?) and being aloof so that you can’t have an intimate relationship with her, is actually emotional abuse because it’s so painful and manipulative to a husband.

    I’m so sorry no one from the church has told you that she is wrong to do that. She is, and has been, wrong and sinful towards you. Withholding affection (and I’m guessing also sex), is so disrespectful and sinful, and yet our society, even our church culture often thinks it’s “not that bad” or allowed when a woman does it.

    One thing I want is for her to repent of her contempt and abuse ( a confession in the presence of those she smeared me with would be indication that she is serious). I know that is a big deal. It isn’t a matter of vengeance. I am angry and hurting, and this is the model for reconciliation in the Bible. Especially in abuse situations, there needs to be more than just a private “I’m sorry”.

    I agree with you that a person who has wronged another, has the responsibility – BIBLICAL responsibility – to go and make things right with the person they’ve wronged. You’re right, it is the “ministry of reconciliation.” The Bible commands that if you are there at the altar giving your gift, but you remember that someone has something against you, you are supposed to stop what you’re doing, and go and make amends with them before continuing with God. God cares about reconciliation being done the RIGHT way, where the offender doesn’t excuse their wrong or gloss over it, but confronts what they did, and tries to make it right, in large part because I believe it helps stop the initial sin from tainting everything around them. Sin is so contagious – when we’re sinned against, it is SO tempting to sin back in a myriad of ways… retaliating with attacks, holding onto bitterness or resentment, jealousy that they seem to get away with it, etc. but repenting, publicly at that if she’s ruined your reputation to others by spreading falsehoods, is necessary for undoing part of the damage she did when she wronged you.

    Again, I’m so sorry no one has validated this for you. I’m so sorry that the church elders/leaders actually accused you of wanting vengeance for simply following the Ministry of Reconciliation. I agree that it adds HUGE insult to injury when your plea for help and mercy against her actions is used against you – turning it around into you being the villain or the one who’s brought the abuse and conflict onto yourself. I still find it hard to understand that this kind of interaction between church going men and their elders/pastors is so rampant – I don’t understand why they constantly let wives off the hook, and are complicit in their sinning against their husbands with disrespect and withholding sex/affection. You’re always welcome here, and I hope it offers you encouragement and renewed strength for the spiritual battle you’re in inside your marriage. I’ll be praying for you and your wife, praying that her eyes will be open to the damage she’s causing you, to the immense pain she’s caused you over the years you’ve been married, and that she will truly repent and become a respectful, loving wife – the person God wants her to be.

    Have you read the blog http://www.biblicalgenderroles.com ? The man who writes that blog, Larry, actually tries to minister to men who are dealing with foolish or sinful wives, in a society and church culture where the wives are never rebuked or confronted for their sins. He gives men practical ways to deal with her disrespect, natural consequences to help her learn that she cannot treat you that way and “get away” with it in your relationship. It’s not helpful or good to allow someone to continue sinning against others just for the sake of keeping peace. It’s actually probably a sin NOT to do anything to try to correct the foolish person who keeps sinning against another. Larry’s site offer practical ways to get your wife to confront her sin against you head-on, something I’ve never seen before, even with the red pill Christian blogs they don’t cover practical steps like he does.

    Go to his site and let me know if it helps, I want to see you in a better place, with more feelings of control over the way she treats you and is sinning against you constantly in your marriage.

  7. Dragonfly,

    Thank you *very* much for the encouragement! Just being heard and validated is so rare. There is a kind of directness in your words that is rare and valuable in itself.

    I’ve seen the blog on biblicalgenderroles.com. He had some stuff on there that I disagreed with, but could deal with. In terms of sharing it with my wife, it would have been fruitless. At this point communication has gone from being manipulative gaslighting to non-existent. Sharing blogs like forgivenwife.com looked like it might help, but she refuses to introspect. She eventually scolded me for reading “other women’s blogs”. Larry has a lot of new stuff up now, so I’m going to poke around some more just for myself.

    She treated me like a chore. Told me I should know that she loves me because she sacrifices and has sex with me.. after years of giving me the runaround. At least she was finally honest about her attitude. The only reason I can think that she had sex was because she knew no one would support her if she were refusing outright.

    She smeared me badly 2 – 3 times where she had people believing that I was abusive, and/or mentally unstable over the last 1 1/2 years. Then I realized that it was *far* worse than just the general refusal to submit, or a sexual hangup. I should’ve known a lot sooner, but I tried to believe the best about her. Now I am seriously thinking about divorce. I can’t even believe I would do that. It’s spiritually dangerous because of the in-laws, lots of kids, and I have lots of debt but little employment. I haven’t always been this way. I put myself through a university without a loan or grant. I had a career mapped out. I can barely get up now.

    Anyway, I haven’t asked for sex for about three months. She hasn’t missed me or asked about it. She operates with a smile and no remorse for anything. She doesn’t admit anything, so why have remorse?

    Thank you again for your kind reply!

  8. “Sharing blogs like forgivenwife.com looked like it might help, but she refuses to introspect. She eventually scolded me for reading “other women’s blogs”. ”

    There’s nothing at forgivenwife.com that would be wrong for another woman’s husband to be reading or seeing. I’m sorry that you’re in this spiritual battle for your marriage, and that she refuses to see truth in what her actions and attitude is doing to the marriage. I think some of the practical tools at Larry’s blog (biblical gender roles) would maybe help – especially the post on confronting your wife’s sexual denial. He details steps for husbands to try to follow, and he’s available to walk you through whatever you are going through in your spiritual battle.

    I think it’d be a great encouragement for you to go to him and get his counsel and maybe even mentorship through this! He’s been through it, and hasn’t lost his faith, become useless in Christ, given in to depression or despair, and now he’s at the point of being used to help teach other men what to do. I’ve contacted him to see if he’s available for you.

    Still praying for you and thinking about your marriage situation.

  9. Object of Contempt,

    I am so sorry to hear of the situation with your wife. As Dragonfly has pointed out – I have been in your shoes. I have face many difficult times both in my first marriage as well as in my second marriage. The Lord has used these experiences in my life to remove my “cultural lenses” or “cultural blinders” that many Christians and Churches still have.

    You are absolutely correct in your comments that most Churches today have in essence drank the cultural “Kool-Aid” when it comes to marriage and Biblical gender roles in general.

    Even in most Complementarian Churches they do as you correctly stated and torture the Greek texts of the Bible to teach a false doctrine that submission is voluntary for women and husbands may not require or demand it from their wives.

    The idea of a husband disciplining his wife is anathema in most Christian churches. They have effectively reduced the position of husband to no more than a figure head leader with no real power or authority.

    I realize you may not agree with everything I write on my blog – many people do not. Dragonfly does not agree with every position I take on Biblical matters either.

    But I think what you need to do is what a good Christian friend of mine said many years ago – you need to “eat the meat and spit out the bones”. If you see areas where you feel that I am correctly expounding upon God’s Word and rightly dividing the Word of Truth then use it my friend! Don’t let your disagreements with me on some issues stop you being able to be blessed where you do agree.

    Here are some posts I think directly speak to issues you are facing and have raised in your comments.

    http://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/05/23/8-steps-to-confront-your-wifes-sexual-refusal/

    http://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/10/03/should-a-christian-husband-make-his-wife-submit/

    http://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/10/03/7-ways-to-discipline-your-wife/

    Please feel free to contact me privately via email. I would love to help you through this difficult time. God has given every Christian husband a “tool box” of sorts(that is the title of an upcoming article I will be having).

    There are many tools in a husband’s tool box that will help him in teaching, guiding and disciplining his wife in her spiritual growth.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

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