THE DEATH, PT. 2
I didn’t have time to dwell on the cowardly way my husband left. Now that I was in the Dark Place, I was too busy focusing on preserving my strength for whatever lay ahead. Why is the Lord stripping me bare? I lamented. You would think, after being in ministry for several years, I would have learned to trust Him with the unknown, but here I was, groping in the darkness, trying to find my clothes.
I never thought I would swipe at the darkness, in an attempt to push His hand away. I was ashamed of myself. How could I try to swing at God? I wasn’t angry with Him; I loved Him. I just didn’t understand where He was taking me. Then it hit me. I was behaving like a toddler, resisting a nap without realizing the repose was for my good.
The Lord wouldn’t allow me to condemn myself. Knowing my trials were extreme, He put me in remembrance of my Elder Brother.
Matthew 26:39,42 says: And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.
He went away again the second time, and prayed saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
“I’m starting to get it now,” I said to the Holy Spirit during one of our intermittent counseling sessions. You want me to drink from the bitter cup and not be bitter. Instead of wrestling with You, You want me to help crucify my flesh.
After I discovered my husband had departed, I never went after him. Not once. I was all too familiar with male flight. My daughter’s father had left in a similar fashion—no discussion, no provision—and so did my biological father before him. My Heavenly Father had left, too, it seemed; but unlike the others, He left discussion. He left provision.
One provision He left for me was a rock solid awareness of His love. Like a never-ending cascade, His love flowed over me with such a force, I never had a chance to doubt it. Ever.
Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
I could feel His love pulsating through me, but like all folds of love, pain is a sure counterpart.
I came to realize, over time, that I was experiencing the back side of love: the component that connects us in a greater way to our Lord.
We cannot become His bride, if we have nothing in common.
I am going to continue to share my personal testimony in a few; however, I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to talk about peace.
The Process of Peace
Peace was the other provision my Heavenly Father left me.
Romans 5:1 says: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is our current standing with God; this is how He presently sees us. He sees the finished work of His Son, already completed in our lives. Then there is our present state, the place where we are right now. We must go through a process to get to where God sees us, in our perfected position.
Isaiah 53:5 says: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Chastisement is the roadway to peace. Our modern-day definition of peace is undisturbed tranquility. We feel our outward circumstances have to be a certain way in order for us to have peace. Often we can be heard making statements like, “I can’t wait till the kids go back to school so I can have peace!” or “I wish they would stop that banging next door, so I can have some peace and quiet!”
True biblical peace is an overall sense of wellbeing. Even if nothing changes on the outside, the peace He lays in our souls will keep us and we will gain access to every blessing He has for us!
Now, as I said previously, this peace can only be obtained through chastisement. The Hebrew word for chastisement, in Isaiah 53:5, is Musar. It means punishment, discipline, instruction, and self control. It’s a correction which results in an education.
Hebrews 12:8 tells us that all must be partakers of chastisement. If Christ was chastised to purchase our peace, then we must be chastised to obtain it!
Hebrews 12:6 says: For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
I want to point out the difference between chastisement and scourging. Whereas chastening is discipline, instruction, and self control, scourging is far more severe. It means flogging; a more severe beating; oppressive, debilitating pain.
All are not called to scourging; only those who have peculiar favor with God.
The sound of the diesel engine of our late model Mercedes caused my stomach to fold in two, when I heard my husband pull up in front of the house. “What is he doing here?” I said as I scurried around the kitchen. I wasn’t doing anything in particular, but his presence was already causing me to become frantic.
He had been there a few times before, only to taunt me.
“What do you have?” he asked, on one occasion. “What do you think you are called to do, sit here and read the bible all day?”
The Bible was the only place I knew to go. It was my sanctuary, my hiding place.
“What do you have?!” He repeated, pressing me for an answer.
“I have the grace of God,” I weakly replied, as I searched his face, hoping to find the reason he now despised me. I hated being so vulnerable. I had come from a long line of strong women, who fought to stay alive and fought their men, if need be.
While I was hating what I was feeling, God was loving who I was becoming.
That night, I felt a cold gust of air as he opened the front door. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” I screamed. He didn’t reply. He just gave a cold stare as he passed me, looking in closets and cabinets. He seemed surprised when he opened the kitchen cabinet and saw the cupboard filled with food. I had gone to a local church’s food pantry for groceries.
By this time, I had been in full-time ministry for a couple of years. I had happily acknowledged the call; however, it was the separation I struggled with. To be separated unto your call means there is no turning back; the bridge is burned behind you. It’s the place where you respond to His sending only and not your neediness. It’s the place where you become His bondservant.
Strolling through the house as if he were under a spell, my husband headed towards the basement. I was right on his heels, demanding to know why he was there. I knew tonight had to be the last night for him coming to the house. I had to stop him. But how? I wondered.
“GET OUT! GET OUT!” I screamed over and over. I would open my mouth to say something else and that’s all that would come out.
“Oh, you want me to leave? I think I’ll stay,” he said chillingly, as he sat down, flipping through some envelopes.
“And I think I’ll sit here and scream in your ear until you leave!” I moved in close enough to kiss him and continued with my mantra.
“GET OUT! GET OUT!” I repeated, almost to the point of hysteria.
Then the voice from hell chimed in whispering, “Get the knife.” I shuddered at how close this thought was to me. It was as close as I was standing to my husband. Another thought affixed itself to my mind, “Call the police.” Like mischievous children on a merry-go-round, the thoughts repeatedly circled my head: GET OUT! GET THE KNIFE! CALL THE POLICE!
I was drenched in sweat; he didn’t break one. He got up, walked upstairs and strolled right out the front door, without incident.
Prior to this particular night, my husband informed me that he didn’t want the house or its contents. He was referring to me, but I decided that night to rid myself of some baggage of my own. I started with his belongings. I ripped all his clothes off the hangers. Nice sweaters, dress pants with tags still on them, shoes, boots, gold watches, and leather duffel bags and suitcases. While gathering all his belongings and sitting them by the front door, I remembered that a neighbor yelled over to me one day and said, “Change the locks, Tamara. He’s coming there, taking things out when you leave in the morning.” Well, now when he comes back, he won’t have anything to take, I thought.
Feeling exhausted and empowered at the same time, I continued down to the family room. Opening the deep walk-in closet under the steps, I paused to remember the plans I had for that closet. I had planned to make it my prayer closet. Taking out dusty bags and boxes and dragging them in front of the fireplace, I recalled the intentions I’d had for them. I had promised to give a bag of my daughter’s old clothes to a single mother at church. I’d promised to go down two dress sizes to get back into my old wardrobe. I’d promised to decorate my home on holidays tastefully with these items. I examined each item, one by one, as if hoping to find the clue to what was happening to my decaying marriage.
I didn’t hate him. I still don’t. I just hated what he did to us. We were not Cosby-style; just a hard working family who loved Jesus. We worked hard and served in our fellowships faithfully. We were a family who would stand in a circle on warm Spring nights and sing hymns.
We had great times as a couple. We didn’t vacation often, but when we did, we enjoyed them. The spontaneous getaways were the best. Armed with our favorite gospel jazz cds, we would load up the Benz, only deciding which direction we’d go in when we hit the expressway. He would stop and get my favorite snacks; then, we’d continue down the highway, laughing at funny things we remembered about neighbors and coworkers. Sometimes we’d stop, finding a place to make love before venturing off to find a hotel. I was his exotic beauty; he was my earthly hero.
But like helium balloons released in the atmosphere, those times had long disappeared.
The sunlight startled me as I realized it was now 5 am. Just in time for the garbage truck, I thought. I had 19 bags for him. Hoisting the bags up the stairs and dragging them out to the curb, I smiled, thinking about how mad the garbage man was going to be. I arranged the bags in such a way that they looked like a black Christmas tree. Placing my husband’s nicer things on top, I wanted the garbage man to know it wasn’t all junk, some of it was a present for him. From my kitchen window, I watched, as the sanitation worker got out of the truck. He looked really perturbed when he saw the amount of garbage out front. As I expected, his face lit up like a kid when he opened the leather bags on top. He pulled out item after item beckoning for the driver to get out and see his good fortune. My smile faded, as I thought about how junk to one man is treasure to another.
“At least somebody’s happy this morning,” I said to myself. Wearily, I climbed the steps to the bedroom, hoping to get a few hours sleep. Into a brown paper shopping bag, I placed the remnants I had set aside, things I thought should make my husband feel like a man: his military information, his police academy certificate, and a picture of his only son.