Eugene Peterson writes in his introduction to Galatians, “[Paul’s letter] also gives direction in the nature of God’s gift of freedom – most necessary guidance, for freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered.” Don’t I know that to be true as I’ve experienced these last 16 months! I’ve seen freedom become an active force in areas of life that have completely taken me by surprise; and I’ve seen freedom slip through my fingers without my even noticing until I can feel the chains settling in again.
Please humor me as I share a short blurb from my study of Galatians chapter 1 before I attempt to tell this next part of the story. The Bible passage says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father…”
The following is taken from my own study notes. The bold words are scripture; the other words describe or explain the meaning of the original words used.
3Grace (which includes the ideas of good-will, loving-kindness, favour) and peace (security, safety, prosperity, felicity) to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ [anointed] – [remember the words from Isaiah which speak of the mandate of the Lord Jesus when they say, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me
4who gave (to supply, furnish, necessary things) himself for our sins to rescue (to choose out (for one's self), select, one person from many, deliver) us from the present evil (full of labours, annoyances, hardships, causing pain and trouble) age, according to the will (choice, inclination, desire, pleasure) of our God and Father…
It seems to me that God’s desire and pleasure is to rescue us from this life of labor, hardship, pain and trouble. He has gone to great lengths (monumental understatement!) to accomplish this rescue by the One dedicated and set apart for the purpose of binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming freedom for captives, and so much more. With these thoughts in mind, the story continues…
After 5 months of fabulous living, mediocrity wasn’t anything I wanted to hide behind anymore. I wanted God to breathe His life into every part of mine.
The time of crisis began very innocently with Tim and me looking for a new bed. After 22 years of sleeping on a waterbed, our backs were beginning to hurt and we went looking for a new bed for a new mattress. We spent maybe 3 or 4 days going to several stores looking at all types of bedroom furniture. We’d narrowed our choices down to one or two when the cost began to really wear on me. We were looking at spending $3,000 to $5,000 for new bed, side-tables, mattress and dresser, then of course there’s probably some new bedding needed too. I couldn’t even pretend to have the money – we were carrying a lot of consumer debt already, and in fact had been for close to 10 years, we were helping to pay for our daughter’s wedding and then there was the cost of flying to Ontario for the wedding. Did we have to buy all of this? Well, no. All we really needed was a new mattress which could be less than $1,000.
So, after a week or two of looking, thinking, driving, taking pictures not to mention some dreaming, it was stressful to imagine saying “no” to Tim. Money and spending had long been a bone of contention between us. Tim will buy anything/everything; I won’t spend a cent. I unequivocally hate debt; Tim’s fine with debt as long as our equity is higher in the big picture. But God had brought so much goodness and life to me I was freer to be authentic, and so on a Sunday afternoon, on our way to dance class, I got up the nerve to say to Tim, “I think we should just get a mattress now and wait to get the new bedroom furniture until we have more money. We still have a lot costs ahead of us; our bedroom can wait.”
I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that Sunday night was the worst night of my marriage. There was a whole hornet’s nest of past hurts, disappointments and frustrations immediately come between us. My point of view seemed reasonable, and I didn’t understand why it had precipitated such a huge amount of hurt and anger. But there we were. After an attempt to talk through it we ended up in bed still angry, I was in tears, and there was no resolution in sight. Every hurt, failure, resentment, dissatisfaction and grievance we’d known kept company with us that night. All the old lies were screaming at me – he’ll be happier without you, you’re holding him back, just give him a way out, it will never be different, there is no change, it will never be better.
I remember at one point Tim reached out to put his arm around me. Just the touch of his hand sent my skin crawling and I couldn’t get away fast enough. I bee-lined it for the basement and cried my heart out. There was no change. We were defeated. Father, where is your life in all of this? I know you’ve worked miracles in me these last few months but there is nothing of your life here! It’s all a sham if our marriage is this stuck! Oh Father, we are desperate for Your help! Please, please, please help us!
I had prayed many prayers over the previous 6 years asking for God to intervene and help us. Frustration and dissatisfaction were almost daily companions for me. We had some seasons of great breakthrough and hope in intimacy, but disappointment and feelings of failure were the norm and wholly familiar. So here I was praying and desperate again. I was certain God was able to bring wholeness and life, and yet our experience was so much less.
About a year before this point in time, I had read a book by Elizabeth George and realized how poor my attitude was toward Tim. I could see my disrespect for him in my attitudes and oh, it looked ugly. Way back in 2008 I made the simple change of saying “OK” when he suggested something or asked if I wanted to do something. I simply pushed aside my initial reaction of “You’ve got to be kidding,” or “yeah, likely,” and made myself say “OK.”
So the interactions changed:
I only made myself say the word, and then do whatever it was I’d said OK to. My attitude was generally obstinate and disconnected [‘who really cares anyways’] and God heard all the complaining and grumbling that accompanied my verbal compliance. But as time passed I came to realize two things:
1) I said I wanted Tim to lead our family and our marriage, but I shot down just about every suggestion or idea he had, and
2) most of what he was asking of me was conducive to spending time together, and his ideas were rooted in taking care of me and our family.
Yet here I was now; I couldn’t say yes to spending thousands of dollars when it was just going to bury us deeper is a quagmire of debt, and yet to say no exposed every frustration and disappointment in our relationship. And so I cried. Where was the hope? Why wouldn’t God intervene? The answer paralyzed me with fear…