In this episode of the Purposed Marriage podcast, we discuss how allowing ourselves to become offended by the behavior of our prodigal can lead to anger, bitterness and resentment.
It’s not always easy to recall the two years I spent running from the Lord, because those memories seem so distant and foreign to me. But, I share stories from that time because I know for so many standers recounting my path to restoration is helpful in order to better understand the heart and mind of a prodigal. My desire isn’t to rehash past events that bring about guilt and shame, but to paint a picture of how far God has brought me is such a short period of time. Thankfully, Thanksgiving of 2015 is one holiday experience I can retell but never have to relive.
Let’s take a glimpse back at November of 2015. Tommy and I had been separated for nearly eight months and were living in two households. I went to great lengths to distance myself from him, only communicating about matters that directly involved our children. Earlier in the month he appeared at one of our divorce hearings and pleaded with the judge for an extension in our case. The extension was granted and my desire to be permanently estranged from my husband was foiled. Needless to say, I was angry! I was angry at the judge for taking pity on him. I was angry at my lawyer for not convincing the judge otherwise. I was angry at Tommy for delaying the inevitable. But, most of all, I was angry that I wasn’t getting my way. My pride and rebellion was at an all-time peak, and anything that stood in the way of promoting my sinful lifestyle infuriated me.
I know Tommy felt the wrath behind my anger, even though he never openly communicated that to me. I intentionally ignored his messages and when I did respond, I kept the texts short. As Thanksgiving was approaching, the messages and phone calls between us increased. With every interaction, I could feel the tension mounting. We were met with making decisions about things we had never had to face in previous years and this was new territory for both of us. It was especially challenging because we did not have the same expectations regarding the holidays.
Tommy wanted nothing other than to celebrate with me and the boys. He longed to take part in the Thanksgiving traditions we had created together over the past ten years. I would have probably been open to the idea of a joint holiday had Tommy been willing to go along with my wicked plans and not attempted to delay our divorce proceedings. But, my schemes went awry and I intended to punish him for his lack of cooperation. I was so blinded by my anger towards him that I couldn’t see his desires were genuine and good for our entire family. All I could see what that he was standing in the way of what I wanted, which was a declaration to end our marriage. Despite his request for togetherness, I chose to host Thanksgiving for family and friends in our home without him.
That year Thanksgiving was different. After the feast was over and my guests had left, a deep loneliness set in and the reality of my choices started to hit home. I was living life entirely on my own and it was solely based on my poor decisions. The company of my friends and family could not fill the void that I had hoped it would. In reality, Tommy could not fill that void either, but turning back to my marriage would have been a step in the right direction. I had fallen so far out of the will of God that I had tunnel vision. I was consumed with my will instead of God’s will and I was seeking the happiness that I felt I deserved. I was willing to do anything to please my selfish desires, and oftentimes in ways that were damaging and sinful.
Praise the Lord, God gave Tommy clarity to see right through the devil’s schemes. That Thanksgiving, Tommy continued to respond to me in love. I knew I had hurt him deeply, which was my intent, but he did not retaliate or respond to my sin with sin. The Father provided him comfort and love as well as great restraint, which didn’t go unnoticed. Tommy could have easily faltered in his stand due to the cirumstances, but his foundation for standing was grounded in the love of Christ. His absence from our family dinner wouldn’t deter his fight for our marriage. He knew that the Lord had more work to do in my heart, so he thanked God for the process and prayed for me that holiday weekend, as he did every weekend. Tommy’s spirit of gratitude wasn’t based around a day, but it was a lifestyle choice that he chose daily.
The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first holiday as a restored family. I still get emotional as I reflect on the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit renewed my mind and set my feet back on the path to righteousness. The Father took our dead marriage and restored it back to life in a miraculous way that only He was capable of doing.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.Psalms 100:4-5
Dear friends, I know many of you may find yourselves in desperate family situations. Some of you may even question what you have to be thankful for in the midst of your crisis. I want to remind you of the Father’s may provisions, the greatest of all, a Savior. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to take our place and bear our burdens on the cross. Let’s never forget to be grateful for the gift of the cross! We can also come to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing we serve a Master that is actively working and fully capable of performing God-sized miracles in our marriages. Despite the longsuffering, let’s be thankful for the process of transformation taking place in our lives, and let us continue to pray for our prodigals to make their way home to Him!
When I made the decision to file for divorce, I was full of self-righteous anger. I deserved so much more out of my marriage and from my husband. Perceiving Tommy’s flaws worse than my own, I felt superior. In reality, I had such backwards thinking. I lacked mercy towards him and was constantly finding Tommy at fault. I didn’t have time to scrutinize myself because I was too busy keeping a record of his wrongs. And, every chance I got, I took the opportunity to point out his offenses towards me. Rehashing past failures never offered solutions to our martial problems, rather, it led to further bitterness, resentment and anger in his heart and in mine.
The years of turmoil took a toll on our marriage. It strained our relationship to the point where I felt completely defeated. Instead of turning to God with my hurt and pain, I allowed the devil a foothold in my marriage. The enemy slowly drove a wedge deeper and deeper between me and my beloved. Over time, my attitude towards Tommy changed as well as my patterns of thinking. The dangers of not taking every thought captive soon spiraled out of control. Thoughts I would have easily dismissed in the past were now stirring around in my mind daily. I had completely given myself over to the lies of the enemy and was no longer guarding my heart. Inevitably, separation and divorce quickly followed.
Self-righteousness is terribly destructive, and sneaks into the heart and mind making it nearly impossible to show genuine love towards others. Is there any characteristic more deceptive? We hate to see self-righteousness in others, yet we will defend it in our own lives. The bible makes it clear that God despises pride, which is at the root of self- righteousness. We see this in the parable Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The Pharisee elevated himself above everyone else looking down on others, whereas the tax collector recognized he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
At the point in my brokenness, where I became more repulsed by my sin than that of Tommy’s, the tide began to turn. The Holy Spirit revealed the depravity of my own heart and redirected my anger inward. I had to face reality, my sin was equal to his in the eyes of the Lord. Ultimately, I realized the best way to change my husband was to humble myself.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.