I used to soak up the romantic movies that told the story of a young girl pursing her life’s calling while one day, unexpectedly, her prince charming finds her. Their love, friendship and passion is unmatched and all consuming. She becomes the center of his life and he is driven and inspired by the power of their love to overcome all things.
As I would start to fantasize about my own life and how the story would continue after the movie was over the script would look similar to what follows. I would play the support and encouragement role in my husband’s, family’s, neighbors’ and friends’ lives. I would be self-sufficient and in need of no one, but able to discern how desperately everyone else needed me. I was called and chosen as a special and unique ambassador for the cross. I was to give entirely of myself and God would supply all I needed without the help of anyone in this world. As the story unfolds I would be blessed with four beautiful, intelligent, charismatic and successful children. I would live to a peaceful old age where I would be surrounded by laughter, a growing family, and life long friends. At my funeral there is only standing room in a beautiful stained glass church where the pastor speaks only words of awe and inspiration based on my life and the legacy I will leave behind. Tears flow from every eye because the memories are tender but laughter also abounds as friends and family reflect on the good times. God is present in the room in a special and moving way. The family I leave behind change the world and my legacy continues on. As the church empties and everyone says their goodbyes, my husband takes a few moments alone to kiss my hand once again and say his tearful goodbyes. My children and their families watch from the back of the auditorium feeling so proud and so loved by their parents, knowing that we will all meet again in the kingdom of heaven.
Rewind to reality... Girl is desperately seeking a man to love her. She is 18 and broken hearted after her high school love has betrayed her and left her heart shattered in pieces. She is on a summer trip with her youth group where she is spending her last summer at home on the beach in Florida for a week. Tall handsome boy sweeps her off her feet after a sand volleyball game and some tootsie pops. He does everything he can to win her love and even moves across the country to be with her. He abandons everything he might have pursued in order to make her happy. In the mean time the years are passing by and she is unsure that he is really the answer to all her dreams. They have an up and down relationship and even a broken engagement. After seven years they finally marry in a fairytale wedding but things quickly decline once the wedding day is over. Expectations are misplaced, roles are unclear, pride, control, selfishness and arrogance are the center of the marriage. Death before divorce she feels strongly in her heart and hopes the Lord will free her from this horrible mistake she has made. He also is so unhappy and feels like he is worthless to her and does everything he can to avoid her manipulation and control. He is faithful, loyal to the death, but also feels trapped. As the years roll by three boys are born to them and they move into a dream home, picture perfect life while achieving outwardly the success of the world and inwardly feeling like complete failures.
Little by little, as her life and marriage are secretly falling apart, the Lord is whispering in her heart. It start with the book Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. A popular book that begins with a simple prayer, “Lord, change me.” A 5:30am prayer group begins and four women get on their knees and pray, “Lord, change me.” After a year of praying together friendships divide and life turns them in different directions but the Lord is still with them all and will not forget their pleas for Him to work in each of their hearts. Babies are born, seasons are changing and a new friend and mentor enters her life. The Lord now whispers through her council, “I can change you, I will change you, you are not stuck in your natural weakness.” He also speaks a profound word that is now not so subtle. Words that changed her life as a young girl now begin to change her marriage and the way she views her husband. The Lord speaks, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made and so is your husband. See him in this way and I will show you how wonderful I created him to be. Let Me mold him and you learn to love him as he is not as you have created him to be in your own mind.” The words pierce through her heart and she prays, “Ok Lord, I don’t know if this will work but I am desperate for change.” She begins to let the Lord change her heart and even as she resist at times He is faithful to pursue her. Difficulties arise and failures occur daily but slowly she starts to see the man he really is, the man God created him to be.
It takes a shocking twist of events in her picket fence world to force her into a surrender mode. The call comes shortly after Christmas right before her ninth wedding anniversary. Her father has been having affair with a woman who called her mother a friend. It is as if his betrayal is so damaging that is pierces not one, not two but three hearts deeply. His wife and two daughters are devastated each in different ways yet painfully united in the hurt of this man they all loved and looked up to as the patriarch of their family. In this moment the Lord spoke to her, “I am all you need, I will never leave you, I am faithful, forgiveness comes by me alone.” The umbilical chord was cut. She didn’t realize how the ties to her family had not allowed her to fully submit and enter into the oneness God desired for her and her husband. The two literally become a new family and she had been blinded up to this moment in her life. Freedom and peace began to cover her as she starts to live in the role God has given her.
Time allows her to forgive her father and herself. Time allows her husband the ability to trust the changes she promises. Nothing happens in a day but slowly over the course of trial and error God is able to mold and shape, to heal the wounds, to use the scars as reminders, and to grow and bear fruit in areas that were dormant or dying. One thing becomes clear: the Lord pursues those who cry out to him with broken hearts and is faithful in all His promises.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17