There are furloughs that are voluntary and some that are involuntary. Over the years, I came to realize how many times I experienced furloughs in my walk with God. Some were similar to the time I spent with my childhood friends. Then there were others where I was relieved from spiritual warfare.
There were times when I thought the pressure was too great and I would check out and be MIA. During those seasons of self-imposed reprieve, I’d watch more TV, eat more junk food and just chat with God (or myself) instead of offering daily supplications.
Still, He would watch over me, never scolding. His love would always woo me back to active duty. I was ashamed of my behavior. He deserved better than a part-time soldier.
2 Timothy 2;3-4 says: Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Luke 17: 7-10 says: But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
I had to learn during this season, how to endure the pressure nonstop: how to serve until He was pleased. As leaders, we are called to be unprofitable servants. It’s our duty to serve long after others have stopped. There is no reward for the intense persecution and hardships; they are our reasonable service.
Remember now, I thought once I left the situation with my house and marriage, things could only get better. Little did I know, I had to bear more of the brunt.
When you are called to be a forerunner, there is no example. You’re the prototype. So if my Co-laborer commissioned me to the grave, I had to remain there until He called me out.
It’s a lonely place. People can visit your grave site but they can’t go inside the grave with you.
None of our duties can be done without His grace. Grace gives us the ability to complete our assignments. If we utilize it, it will cover our mistakes. It conceals our sins and if we miss the mark, it stops sin from blocking our blessings. Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20b). If we saturate ourselves in grace, we’ll receive all He has for us at our appointed time.
I love God’s amazing grace!
It had been about 3 or 4 years since I had actually laid eyes on my husband. Occasionally, I ran into common acquaintances or mutual friends. I was certain they knew of his whereabouts. During conversations with them, they would only give me looks of contempt, never mentioning him.
When God gets ready for me to know, He will reveal it, I mumbled to myself one day as I passed by a familiar place.
He did, shortly after. One spring afternoon, I took my car to a local mechanic shop for some routine services.
A heavy set older gentleman walked up to the counter. “May I help you, miss?” he said, grunting as he shifted his weight to his right side. “Yes,” I said, handing him my paperwork with my demographics and services I needed already checked off.
He sighed heavily, as he snatched the paperwork from me. I looked up at him, expecting him to give the price or estimated waiting period. Instead, he asked me if I was related to my spouse. I told him yes and that he was my husband.
“Didn’t he just move to Florida?” he said, practically laughing. I’m not sure if I even answered him. I was too busy wondering why he knew this and I didn’t.
Practically on the heels of that day, a friend called me and said she ran into someone closely connected to my husband and the guy told her, that my spouse was in another relationship and contemplating marriage. That time, I laughed.
How could he get married when he is still married to me? I said incredulously, after the phone call.
The news was coming in slowly but surely. I thought the information I’d received would make me feel hopeful that closure could be right around the corner. Instead it made me introspective and weary.
One of the tasks of my part-time job was to make occasional home visits. One day, I wound up in the neighborhood of an old suitor: Derek. I had met Derek a year or so before I met my husband. I was working at University Hospital, and I remember the day one of the pathologists brought him into the office. He was a new resident that had recently moved to Maryland from Ohio.
I was standing in the doorway of an office on the right side of my desk, talking to a friend when he walked in with one of the female physicians. She turned her nose up as she passed me, saying, “I will only be introducing you today to those who you’ll have dealings with.” I gave her one of those “whatever” looks and kept talking to my coworker.
They stopped at my friend’s desk, and he was introduced to her and her office mate.
As the pathologist did her introductions and explained their job functions to him, Derek was staring at me so hard that he forgot to close his mouth.
“What is he looking at?” I muttered under my breath, rolling my eyes at him as I turned to walk back to my desk.
What happened next shocked us all. As he and the doctor turned to leave the office, Derek did a u-turn and walked right up to me. He said, “Hi, I’m Derek. I’m one of the new staff residents, and I sure hope I’ll be working with you!” I quickly noticed that he introduced himself to me as Derek but was being introduced as Dr. Simms.
That time, I forgot to close my mouth!
Over the next several months, Derek pursued me and everybody knew it. Relationships between residents and administrative staff were frowned upon. We had always been taught not to get socially involved, since the residents were just passing through. I had known of a couple of young women who had gotten romantically involved with residents. One was dumped once his residency was over; the other followed her beau from city to city, hoping he would marry her. The girl who was dumped was never again mentioned at the hospital without, “You know, the one who was jilted?” tacked onto her name.
Before meeting Derek, I spent a lot of time fasting, praying and seeking God for overall direction. Is this Satan tempting me? I wondered, as I thought about Derek’s advances.
I decided to treat it that way. The more it seemed that I was playing hard to get, the more he pursued. I have to admit, I liked him. A whole lot. I looked forward to the days that I would see him. He arranged certain tasks so he could have direct contact with me.
Still there was something about the whole thing that bothered me. The Holy Spirit was too silent. I knew I was being tested.
I was enjoying my place with God, the peace and time spent in His presence. I didn’t want to be separated from Him. I continued to pray and even sought counseling from some of the ministers. Only one told me he didn’t believe this potential relationship was God’s best for me. The others encouraged me to go out with him, perhaps just to lunch.
I’d pour out my heart to God, being really honest. Why is this happening to me? I feel like I am really falling for him, Lord! It’s not fair! I complained one night.
Then one day, the strength came. Still, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do: walk away from someone I had developed strong feelings for. I even stopped speaking to him. He would look at me, perplexed, some days, mouthing, “What’s wrong with you?” I did everything I could to avoid him. He eventually start working in the Trauma unit.
Years later, I ran into a girl who used to work on our floor. We talked for a while before she said, “Hey, I heard you got married! Did you marry that Doctor?”
En route to a home visit for my current job, I slowly cruised past the red brick Tudor home. The yard was full of flowering bushes and children’s toys. There was a Volvo wagon in the driveway and another more expensive car behind it. I could see the backyard as I slowed down more; there was an elaborate swing set that looked like it had a little clubhouse on top of it.
I noticed the front door was open, and it made me think that the inhabitants of this home were enjoying the bright sunny day as a family. I had always wondered what became of Derek and what would have happened if we had embarked on a relationship. Would we have been happy together or would he have led me astray?
Everyone deserved a pleasant, peaceful life. Perhaps he’d found it.
“He’s happy,” I said out loud as I drove towards the main road, sobbing.
Why are you digging up what I have long buried? I heard my Co-laborer ask as I continued to sob. I couldn’t answer.
I needed to get to the house of God. Honestly, I’m not sure just how I got there, as my tears were blinding. I remember that day so well. The weather was picture perfect—the kind of day that would make anyone happy—but to me, it was dark and dreary.
Finally, I reached the church. There was a 24-hour prayer chapel on the left side. I needed to be there–in God’s emergency room.
Why am I so curious about Derek’s life? I haven’t thought about him in years. What is happening to me? I thought through my deluge of tears.
As I prepared to get out of the car, I happened to notice someone looking over at me in the car in the parking space on my left. It was a girl who I had counseled in the past. Now, she had joined my mockers. I didn’t care who saw me that day. I was desperate for God’s healing touch.
She stared at me smugly, laughing before getting out of her car. She never spoke. I don’t know how God dealt with her after that day, but I ran into her some time later. She came up to me with a remorseful look in her eyes, saying she just wanted to say hello.
Once inside the chapel, I allowed God to bathe me in His presence as He lovingly taught me.
Hebrews 12:1b says: let us aside the weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
The Holy Spirit taught me that besetting sin is sin that encircles your pain, medicating it. The Word of God says that He heals the broken heart and binds the wound. The binding is so that sin won’t enter the wound in our soul and spirit. All sin is dangerous, but a besetting sin will keep us from reaching the finish line.
After leaving the chapel that day I felt a sense of renewal.
I also found out much later, that Derek was no longer living in the red brick Tudor, on the day I passed by, but instead had returned to his home state.
LOVE GOES ON
Several months later, the church announced they were having a Valentine’s Day fellowship for married couples. It promised to be a great night out, full of food, fellowship, a guest speaker and fun.
“You single people, don’t hate,” the Bishop teased. “Come out and serve. We need waiters and servers and lots of help for this event!” he continued.
Where do I sign up? I wondered. I still believed in love and marriage, no matter what.
“Do you think you’re healed enough to do that?” one woman asked as I told her about my Valentine’s Day plans.
” I need to do it,” I told her that day. I had hoped that when the day came, I’d still feel the same way.
Valentine’s Day finally arrived. Dressed in red and black, I headed out to the church that evening, to help out with the event. There were several single people there already, waiting to be assigned some task. I was assigned to the hors d’oeuvres and punch. It was a fun night. We laughed and cracked jokes, as we cut up fruit and arranged the serving trays.
Glad I’d worn my most comfortable shoes, I headed out of the kitchen with the over-sized punch bowl. I had to keep casting down thoughts of me dropping the bowl or someone coming around the corner, running into me. When I reached the table designated for the hors d’oeuvres, I noticed a woman standing nearby. She had on a black and white flower print dress that looked like it may have been one of her dressier maternity frocks. Her auburn hair seemed to have a mind of its own. Badly in need of a trim, it seemed like she tried to curl it instead, but quickly gave up the notion. She looked like a flower that hadn’t been watered in a really long time.
I felt so bad for her. “Oh, isn’t this a great night?!’ I said in my most cheery voice. “I guess,” she grunted back. “You deserve a night like this, don’t you?” I said, trying to convince her. She looked for a moment like she was trying to think of something to say but then decided against it, ignoring me.
She seemed like she wasn’t used to much adult conversation, let alone a night on the town. It didn’t appear to me that she was used to receiving anything. My heart ached for her. I looked around for her husband; he was in a cluster of other married couples, laughing and talking.
It was a long night but fun nevertheless. Still laughing and acting silly, we packed up all the leftover food. I decided I couldn’t take any home because I had seen too many hands handling it. I decided to go to Burger King instead (smile).
After I purchased what used to be one of my favorite night-time snacks (a small cheeseburger, small fries, and vanilla shake), I headed onto the beltway towards home.
I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about the night. Giving really does bring a release, I thought. I could already feel the Lord taking me to another level.
Turning up the radio, I loudly sung whatever tune was playing, happily with Jesus, my Valentine.