Victory on the Vine, The Resurrection, Pt 3

FAITHFUL FELLOWSHIP

It was another lonesome Friday night. I could envision couples at the Inner Harbor strolling hand in hand or eating steamed crabs at Phillips on the veranda.  Friday nights and Sunday afternoons were the hardest for me. I had always viewed those days as family fun days. Now I spent those days staring blankly at the television.

One Friday night, the Lord gave me a vision that brought me so much comfort and  joy.

I imagined He and I together in a cave by a campfire. I had brought our favorite snacks.  It was a special night He had reserved especially for me.  I would sing Him funny songs and tell Him silly stories to make Him laugh. He would smile broadly as He listened to my long narrations of recent events, at times laughing heartily as I tried hard not to exaggerate.

Sometimes, we’d sit there silent. I would smile at Him, thankful that He’d brought fun and fellowship to my dark place. His warm brown eyes lovingly gazed back at me, causing me to cast my eyes down toward the flames.

Without dialogue, I knew there was no place else He would rather be; He knew I was grateful.

Even now, this vision brings tears to my eyes; it’s my favorite go to place.

My Comrade and I were getting closer by the day.  No longer afar off, He would reveal different things to me about me, my calling and who He was. He also avowed Himself to me as Shepherd.

Psalms 23 says: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The 23rd Psalms is a Psalm that denotes absolute trust. It was written by David, probably while he was tending his father’s sheep. Usually, mundane times are times of great revelation. I could imagine him seeing how much his life was like the sheep, prone to going astray. David became the king of Israel but still saw himself as one in need of a shepherd.

This Psalm also speaks prophetically of Jesus our Good Shepherd (John 10). Psalms 23 brings comfort and an overall sense of well being. It’s the best passage to read when you’ve lost everything but your relationship with Him.

Let’s take a closer look at the first three verses.

V.1 He says, The Lord (or Jehovah Roi) is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Jehovah Roi is the Hebrew name for Shepherd, it means, the one who sees. He is the Overseer, Manager, and Supervisor of our lives. He is the one who knows best what our soul needs because He has a very personal relationship with us. Jehovah Roi doesn’t give you the image of God on the throne. He gives you the illustration of Him in a very tangible way coming down and examining your wounds, pouring in oil where it’s needed. Not only is He the One who sees you, He is also the One who touches you.

David was saying, because He is my personal Shepherd I shall not want. The Hebrew word for want is, chacer, which means, I shall not want, decrease, be lesser than, be made lower or fail. In other words, because He is my Shepherd, I am complete. Glory!

Verse 2 talks about the green pastures and still waters our Shepherd leads us to. Sheep are animals that were easily frightened and didn’t trust rushing waters.  In times of our fears and uncertainties, we must pray and ask our Shepherd to lead us into that place of green pastures and still waters that only He can provide.

This world is full of tumultuous times. If you are experiencing discomfort, it could be because you have wandered a few steps away from your Shepherd.  You cannot be close to His heart or His hand and still be afraid.

Stop wherever you are. Meditate on your Shepherd and allow him to lead you back to the place He provided. Even in times like these, he still has a resting place for His own.

Verse 3 says he restores (or turns back) my soul. I could feel this taking place in my life during this season. As I turned my heart towards Him, He turned my mind.  If my mind had a ladder, He was repairing every rung so that my thoughts were rising. He was resurrecting me above my circumstances. Glory! Things on the outside hadn’t changed much, still I could feel His workings deep within my soul.

STAGNANT STATUS

It had now been six years and my husband made no attempt to contact me. I was certain he’d be able to find me when the time came.  He knew several of my family members. It made me angry that he kept his location hidden from me. He was attempting to control my life with this and I needed it to come to an end!

One day, I ran into a couple who we both knew very well. They said they’d received a letter from him saying all was well.

“The envelope didn’t have a return address, though” the husband said with a puzzled look.

I told them exactly what went down with us. It pained me to have to do it as they were a couple who looked up to us.  Still, I was tired of living under the blanket of the myth that my husband had created.

“Tamara, I am standing here talking to you and I don’t see one ounce of anger in your face.  You have every right to be.  I would be,” the husband continued, still searching my face.

Throughout this, I had experienced every emotion you could have, including anger. My prayer to God was that I never looked like what I was going through. I knew He had granted my petition.

“Well, if I were you I’d tell everybody I saw what he did to me!” the wife said rolling her eyes at no one in particular.  I could tell she was angry for me.

After our conversation ended, I remembered a talk the Lord had with me about my husband. “Underneath all that is a very nice person. I created him to be that way,” I heard the Lord say that day as I stood in the bathroom mirror preparing to leave the house.

Underneath what? I wondered. There was one layer I was certain of: fear. It dominated his life. He had a fear of failure and a fear of success.  He had a fear of my success.

“Well when your ministry blows up, don’t leave me,” I’d often hear him say, half-joking.

I’d wondered how many times he thought about that.

SOON TO BE SINGLE

By now I was starting to meet men who were asking me out.  “You’re still loyal to that!” one frustrated suitor said, referring to my marriage, after hearing me explain why I couldn’t date yet.

After attempting several times to get me to go out with him, he eventually gave up.

One Saturday, I thought I would do a little extra before going to the grocery store.  I put on this cute little sundress I had just purchased. By now, my hair had fully grown back and I was very pleased with it.  I decided to wear it up, leaving little tendrils around my ears and the nape of my neck. I completed my ensemble with makeup, jewelry and high heeled strappy sandals.

I thought I looked cute that day. (smile)

While getting out of my car, at the grocery store, I noticed a teenage girl and an older handsome gentleman.  They had just gotten out of a cream-colored convertible and were walking towards me.

“Must be father and daughter,” I said to myself as I headed toward the store.  They had matching oval shaped faces and sparkly brown eyes.

“Now that looks like a nice lady,” the young girl said to the gentleman as she darted her eyes in my direction, “Let’s walk a little closer so you can say hi to her,” she continued as they headed towards me.

What in the world is this? I thought as they approached. “Hi,” he said awkwardly. Pausing for a second, I smiled broadly. “HI,” I said, probably louder than I should have.

I could tell he wanted to say more but couldn’t think of anything to say so he of kind tucked his chin in his shirt and walked off, with his disappointed daughter walking behind him, fussing.

What was wrong with him? Was there something wrong with me? I thought as I stood there bewildered.

Then it hit me.  He was probably just like me, single again.

Another time, I went to a 24-hour grocery store late one evening. As I browsed through the red meat, a tall, dark-skinned, athletically built young man approached me. He flashed a toothy grin as he moved closer. Now I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was one of those questions where he was trying to find out if I was fixing dinner that night for two or something. I found this out later, while talking to my daughter.

At the time, I replied, with a straight face: “Aw nah, I already ate, I went to Taco Bell,” while pushing my cart in the opposite direction.

“WRONG ANSWER!” my daughter yelled, laughing and shaking her head, when I told her what had happened. “He was trying to find out if you were single. You’re gonna need a view pointers before you get back out there,” she said

Although I was slightly offended that she thought I needed pointers, I had to admit she was probably right.

When did I become so socially inept? I wondered one day.

“It’s just been a long time since you’ve been out there,” my daughter assured me on another day as we continued our discussion. “I’m gonna hook you up, though. So when the time comes, you’ll be prepared. You need better jeans and some new sunglasses!” she said before walking off.

SEEKING AND SEARCHING

My closure came in the spring of the seventh year.  By now I was learning to date myself.  I would go out to movies or out to eat alone.  I was starting to enjoy my own company again.

Heading towards a local Target store one Saturday, the Lord spoke. “Don’t go to this Target,” He said, referring to the one closest to my home. “Go to the one out by where you used to live. You’re going to see someone there.”

I didn’t spend much time wondering who I would meet out there as I headed west.  I knew if the Lord took the time to speak to me concerning it, it must have been someone  significant.

Once inside, I dislodged a red shopping cart and fished through my purse for my shopping list. Looking over my right shoulder, I noticed a former church member and her husband had just walked in the store. My first reaction was to hide.  I had grown accustomed to avoiding certain people who knew my family lest they ask about my home life.

“Greet her,” the Lord said, “She’s the person you need to talk to.” We greeted each other and hugged.  After about five minutes she said, “My sister and I went on vacation and you’ll never guess who we saw. Bill (not my husband’s real name) and his new wife!”

I forced myself to look stoic, uninterested. “Oh really? I wish I could see him. I need to ask him something,” I replied weakly.

I NEED TO ASK HIM WHEN HE DIVORCED ME! I screamed in my mind.

“Girl, yeah!” she said heartily.  “I wish I knew you needed to talk to him. He came up to me first and said, ‘Don’t I know you?’ He introduced me to his wife and said they were leaving for a cruise. I asked him if he lived in Orlando and he said no, they lived somewhere else in Florida”

We chatted for a few minutes briefly and went our separate ways. This news didn’t entirely surprise me since I had heard he was contemplating marriage.

Still it was hard for me to believe that he could divorce me without any contact, when I was certain he could have found me. Since I had heard he was in another relationship, I had been searching for him online.  I had even gone to the local courthouse to see if he had come to Maryland and filed for a divorce.

“Sorry, we have no record of anybody by that name filing. Guess you’ll have to wait until he resurfaces somewhere,” I was told that day.

I had convinced myself he was a bigamist.  I had to find out.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

One spring night I decided to go see Tyler Perry’s film, Daddy’s Little Girls. I don’t know if it was Idris Elba’s character Monty’s determination to fight for custody of his daughters or Idris’ onscreen appeal (smile) that motivated me that evening, but I was determined not to leave that movie parking lot without answers.

Pulling out a tiny spiral note pad from my purse, I started dialing phone numbers I had obtained from a paid internet site.  I had phone numbers from possible former employers, businesses Bill had started, a church he’d joined, and potential relatives.

Sighing heavily, I started dialing, only to receive a few of the same disheartening responses: the number was disconnected; the number was changed; the number was wrong altogether.  One person I called I was certain was lying. After probing for a few minutes, I realized the guy wasn’t going to give up any information. This is going to be harder than I thought, I said to myself, determined not to give up.

Almost nearing the end of the list, I still hadn’t called the church. It was a Saturday evening and all I was expecting to get was a recording giving the times of office hours and services.  To my surprise, a young woman answered.  I asked if my ex-husband was a member there.

“Yes, he is, but he’s not here right now.” she replied. I then asked her for the name of the pastor, trying to sound as polite as possible.

“We don’t have pastors! We have Elders,” she said curtly, sounding offended. “Well…what’s the Elder’s name then?”  I pressed.

“I don’t have to give out that information.” she said flatly.

“You mean to tell me you can’t give me the name of your leader?”

“No,” she said smugly.

“Okay”, I said, determined to call back on Sunday morning. All I wanted was the Elder’s name. I could draft him a letter later.

I sat there for a minute, thinking about the conversation. The young woman was being a gatekeeper and that was to be expected. I just wanted my rightful answers, that’s all.

She had no way of knowing that, I thought, shrugging. My thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone ringing.  It was a Florida caller and not one of the numbers I had called.

I picked up the phone but before I could answer, the caller hung up.  I immediately dialed back.

“Did someone from this number just call?”

“Yes…you called our church!” the woman replied clearly upset. I apologized to her and told her I who I was looking for.  “That’s my husband!” she said, now really sounding upset. She had the sweetest sounding voice and sounded older than I would have imagined.

I chose my words carefully.  “Here’s the thing, ma’am. I may have been married to your husband; that’s why I was calling.”

“No!” she said laughing.

“Yes, ma’am, it may be true. I’m just trying to find out,” I said.  I could feel my heart sinking.

“Bill…honey, this lady says she was married to you. Come tell her it’s not true,” she said, still laughing. By now my heart was racing.

What was I going to say when he came to the phone? I wondered.

“Hello?”

My heart sunk again, it wasn’t him. Before further explaining my situation, I profusely apologized. “I heard there was a man who moved to the area with my exact name, but I’ve never met him,” he said.  I mentioned the name of some of his family members, hoping he may know at least one.  He said he didn’t.

I apologized some more before hanging up.  They wished me well. I could tell they felt bad for me.

I sat there numb.  It had turned dark.  Cars were already starting to fill the parking lot for the next featured film.

“You didn’t call the last number,” the Lord said. It was the number of someone I thought may have been one of my ex-husband’s siblings. It was.

“Oh, Tamara! Bill’s ex-wife. What can I do for you, dear?” my ex-brother in law said.  “This isn’t really a social call,” I said before explaining my reason for calling.  I told him that I had recently heard that Bill had gotten married and I could not find any record that he had divorced me. I kept talking for awhile before I noticed the silence on the other end.

“Are you still there?” I said, hoping he hadn’t hung up.

“Yes, dear…I’m still here. I’m so sorry…I just don’t know what to say,” he said somberly. I know he could hear the exasperation in my voice. I wondered what version my ex had told his family.

“I will definitely have him call you. Don’t worry he’s gonna call you.” Thanking him before hanging up,  I was almost on the brink of tears.

Driving home, I felt slight relief.  I thought of the many times that I’d had to fight for the simplest things. I thought of the many times I’d been left with no closure.

The parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived was packed.  They must be having another party at the clubhouse, I thought. There was no place to park but in the fire lane; that was okay with me since I had several bags to bring in. I could go out after midnight and move the car.

I wound up going out about 1:30 or 2 am to move the car.  By now there were several available parking spots. I decided to park in the spot closest to the door under a huge tree.

Around 8:30 that morning, I woke to the sound of a neighbor knocking. She’d come to notify me that my car had been involved in an accident and the police were outside.

Throwing on whatever I could, I ran downstairs. “Not my car!” I said to myself in disbelief.

I was not prepared for what I saw.  My car was resting at a 45 degree angle on the side of the tree!  It had been hit twice; on the passengers side and in the rear. The other cars on the right and left side were slightly damaged but only by debris from my car.  It was a direct hit, one officer speculated.  There were two police cars out front. Neighbors were starting to gather around the scene.  All eyes were on me.

“What time did you come in last night?” one policeman asked.  I could tell by their line of  questioning, they thought I had done the damage after a night of drinking.

Then all of a sudden I heard someone yelling on my right.”GOD LOOKS OUT FOR HIS OWN!! I AM THE LORD’S CHILD AND HE DIDN’T ALLOW ANYTHING TO HAPPEN TO MY CAR!” one neighbor yelled as she continued to praise Him.  Everyone turned around and looked at her as if she had lost her mind. I didn’t even know her and her car wasn’t parked that close to mine.  I stared at her for a long time, before rolling my eyes at her. I turned around to continue to search for clues as to who may have done this to my car.  I was befuddled. I could still hear my neighbor in the background who had settled down a little but was still signifying and testifying about how, of all the cars out there, her car was spared.

Later I would continue to see that same neighbor.  She would stare at me strangely every time. Until the day I saw her being evicted, she wouldn’t look me in the eye.

She was just grateful her car wasn’t damaged. Still you have to use wisdom as much as possible, I thought shrugging to myself.

In the end, the only thing the officer could tell me about my car was that: it was hit by an SUV, possibly a drunk driver, whose vehicle would have been just as damaged.

Thanks for nothing, I thought, sighing.

“Can you think of anyone who is really angry at you?” one officer asked me. I told him I had an ex-husband but I was certain he didn’t have anything to do with it.

To this day, I never found out who totaled my car.

All day that Sunday, I had to make calls, arrange for a rental car, a tow truck, etc. My phone was so tied up that day, I apparently missed one caller: my ex-husband. He left a detailed message saying he had spoken to his brother who told him I called.  He had the nerve to sound like he had an attitude that I had found him and called one of his family members, telling them the truth.

I know what he sounds like when someone tampers with his good guy image. Towards the end of the message, he said, “I mailed you a copy of the decree.  You should receive it in a few days.”  He sounded slightly remorseful.

Nothing was more final to me than hearing those words come out of his mouth.

Although it was what I expected to hear, I didn’t expect it to hurt.

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