The Beginning of the Long Road Back

long-road3

We muddled through the next year. How do you restore shattered trust? All of my efforts to be a perfect wife clouded my true identity. We’d been married for twenty-one years. Who was I? In all honesty, I didn’t know.

I also destroyed Mike’s image of who I was. He thought I was perfect.  He loved the image I created.  We were both devastated.

“Dear God,” I prayed. “Only You can fix this. Help me hear and follow You.” Little did I know how long it would take for the breach to be repaired.

As I related earlier, I burned all my journals from September 1984 until March 1986.  There was more than a year gone.  God erased much of that time from my memory. I didn’t need to remember the words and deeds of that turbulent time. Mike and I needed to heal, and that meant leaving all the past behind.  But how can you do that?

Several times I went to our church elders and asked for prayer regarding our marriage. They prayed and counseled, but the God connection I needed wasn’t available.

My desire was to be in a congregation on fire for God, one who heard from Him. I needed a fresh deposit of His life. The church where we did attend was filled with loving people, but the life I was looking for wasn’t there.

From my journal: “Father, I am still numb from all that’s happened this past year.  So much hurt.  I’ve been afraid to approach You.  The damage I caused seems irreparable.  Can our lives be whole again?  Ever?  I feel responsible for fixing our marriage, but have no idea how.  Father lead me to a place where I can find life again.”

In March 1986, I heard about a congregation of young adults where the Holy Spirit was moving. They were thirty miles away. On Easter Sunday Mike was working so, I bundled up Sarah, and we drove the thirty miles.

The parking lot was almost full when we got there. I’d expected to see a typical church building. Instead, I found they were meeting in an old brick school-house.

Live music blared through open windows. The worship team was warming up before the service.

Sarah’s eyes lit up. She started squirming in her car seat. Sarah loved music. “Mommy, let’s go!” she insisted, tugging at the restraints of her car seat.

I released the latch, and she jumped out of the car seat, grabbed my hand and started pulling me toward the building.

“Wait a second, I need to get my Bible.”

We walked to the back entrance where a thirty-something young man handed us a bulletin. “Good morning,” he said. “Happy Easter. Is this your first time here?”

“Yes, it is.”

He looked down at Sarah and said, “The children have classes during the ser-vice. Take her with you to the sanctuary. The pastor will release them to their classes after worship.”

Sarah tugged on my hand to keep moving. “Come on Mommy,” she said with her eyes focused toward the source of the music.

We walked down a hall with classrooms on either side and then up a set of stairs into a large rectangular room. It was filled front to back, side to side with folding chairs. The worship team was on a low raised stage at the end of the room. Most of the seats were already taken.

Young adults and children were everywhere. The room was electric with greetings, laughter, and music. There were a few suits and dresses worn by the older generation, but the dress code appeared to be casual.

The worship started, and the room was supercharged with praise.  It felt so good to be free in worship.  I could lift my hands, clap and sing without feeling out of place or judged as weird.

I felt the presence of Holy Spirit and knew He’d led me there. This was an answer to my prayer and it felt like home.  But would Mike feel the same?  I doubted it.

What I saw at the new church was the life I wanted.  To see the Holy Spirit move without hindrance filled me with joy. The music, teaching and full engagement of the congregation lifted my spirit and put my eyes on the Lord.

I didn’t want to go back to church as usual.  Most of the time Sarah and I were attending our home church without Mike.  He could only go with us once a month because of the shift rotation he was on at work.

“Why not be in a place that fed my soul and spirit,” I reasoned, “instead of returning alone with Sarah to a place that didn’t?  What’s the point?”

As I expected, Mike was not as thrilled as I with the new setting.  It was too loud. (After years on the shooting range with the sheriff’s department, and running sirens in his patrol car, his ears were sensitive to sound. The live worship team with all their instruments hurt his ears.) He didn’t know the people and preferred being in a more traditional setting with people he knew.

Looking back at my journals, I can see now I was running ahead of God.  I’ve never taken the time to go back and read them until this week.

I could have gone to the new church on the Sundays Mike worked and went with him to our old church on the Sundays he could go.  But I didn’t want to miss what God was doing at the new place.  There were always prophetic words, salvation, healing, or deliverance to be experienced.  I’d never seen God move as He was doing there.

And so began the most turbulent time in our marriage.  It was also the most exciting, most testing and growing time for my faith.

Within the year I took a volunteer position as the pastor’s secretary. The pastor was not only head of that congregation, but he was also commissioned by our denomination to plant many other congregations of young adults in different states.  Since contemporary worship, casual attire, and freedom in the Holy Spirit was new for our denomination, the need to help the new groups with in-person support and resources was supplied by our office. I loved every minute of it, but family life suffered.

Before the pastor asked me to be his secretary, on April 20, 1986, I was spending my morning time with Abba.  I was asking Him for His direction and here is what He told me:

“There will be times when you will question My leading and doubt My presence, but know that I am with you and that you are being led in fulfillment of My will for your lives.  Unity will come. Oneness will be experienced, but only as you yield to My will and trust in My timing.  I am the Lord.  I change not.  I fail not.  What I’ve said, I will do. My promises are sure.”

Two weeks later, on May 9th: “…As you continue to seek My counsel regardless of your feelings, I will continue to reveal Myself to you…Listen to your heart and walk in the path that seems apparent and I will continue to guide you…There is much work to be done, and I’ve equipped you to bring ministry to this people, but I’ve also equipped you to bring ministry to your home.  Rest in Me and know that I am with you and value your ministry equally in both places.”

The balancing act between ministry in my home and ministry in the church would be a daily struggle for the next nine years.

~~ How About You? ~~

Are you yearning for something more in your spiritual life?  Do you feel as if you’ve found an answer, but are running into roadblocks?    Maybe you’ve forged ahead like I did. Are you finding fulfillment on the one hand and frustration on the other?

If I were in the same place now, I would take a different approach.  I would pursue God’s counsel with persistence. I would not move forward without clear direction. (Exodus 33:14 Moses asked God for the same thing.)

I now know from experience, His instructions come with a deposit of His peace, a strong sense of finality.  His counsel is also supported by His written word, the Bible.

Didn’t Jesus say that He didn’t say anything unless He heard the Father say it, or do anything unless He saw the Father do it? (John 5:19, John 12:49)

Hearing God and following Him is a lifelong learning experience.  If you’ve blown it, repent to Him and to those whose lives you damaged.  Receive His forgiveness and theirs, if they can forgive.  Either way, grab hold of His grace and begin again.

One of the most wonderful surprises about God I discovered, is when we turn to Him with our messes, He never berates us.  Instead, He holds us in His love and then gives us the grace to go on as if it never happened.  His forgiveness and mercy are beyond anything this world can offer.  You will see Him do it for me again and again in the pages of this book.

You are not the only one.  I would guess that every breathing human qualifies for an ongoing course in learning how to hear God, how to know His will, and how to move forward in faith to do His will.

He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). And He will do it more quickly if we cooperate with Him.

4 thoughts on “The Beginning of the Long Road Back

  1. I enjoyed this chapter as well Mary Ellen (smile). I read it the other day, I read the other’s you wrote as well (the teachings that came through my email). What a journey you all have been on. And the journey continues….Praise the Lord!

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