Walk by Faith

I read something the other day about how walking by faith is taking a step when you believe you are being directed by God to do so.  You may not be 100% sure, but you have done your best to discern His voice and will, so you move forward as you believe He is directing. 
This got me in a lot of trouble.
By the time I was 24 years old, I had already been married once at age 17 and divorced at 20.  It was a very painful, wounding experience and I was not eager to repeat the process.  So I had pretty much decided that I didn’t want to get married again, at least not any time soon.  I wanted to take my time.  Be certain.  Have friends, both male and female, develop deep relationships, enjoy the companionship, but not marry.
I became a Christian when I was 23.  It was a fairly dramatic conversion because I was quite a mess and had much to be forgiven for and redeemed from.  I pretty much lost all of my non-Christian friends because I no longer went out partying and sleeping around.  I didn’t reject them or judge them because I loved them.  But they didn’t like the way God interfered with my behavior and how His presence in my life made me unavailable when it came to getting drunk or stoned.  I no longer fit in.  So they stopped letting me know when and where they were going. I was no longer included in any of their activities, even the swimming at the lake kind.  Because I was different.  So I found myself very, very alone.
Developing new friends proved to be problematic.  I discovered Christians were not often genuine.  Not authentic.  They were too busy pretending they were perfect in a ridiculous attempt to make God look good or trying to prove that, having been saved by grace, they no longer had any issues, challenges or failings.  It was hard to go deep because the façade kept me (and everyone else) at arm’s length.    My loneliness became isolation and it was painful.  Palpable.  Cutting.
I began to pray for some meaningful relationships.  I did become acquainted with a few people I could occasionally go places with or talk to about Scriptures as I attempted to learn more about God.  But the depth and quality I was seeking with another person just wasn’t there.  My prayers became more desperate. 
One day, as I was parking in front of the Christian ministry where I now worked, a guy was walking in…a cute guy I had gotten to know a little bit and who I felt was far beyond my level of coolness.  (FYI:  I didn’t have a level of coolness.  I was, without a doubt, completely uncool.)  He was handsome, popular, funny, interesting, intelligent, friendly, outgoing and he loved God.  I was often amazed when he even deigned to speak to me, since I was far down the ladder of social standing from the rung he occupied.  But as he walked in the door while I was preparing to get out of my car, God spoke to my heart.  He said, simply, “Seek first the kingdom and then…”  And suddenly, I knew that I knew that I knew the “and then” was that someday that utterly cool guy and I would marry.
Stunned much?  Yeah.
I tucked it away.  A year passed.  And to my utter amazement, this guy started asking me to go places with him.  He invited me to hike at the lake.  To go to the park.  To have lunch.  And to ride out as a 3rd rider on the ambulance with him and the paramedic he worked with.  I was looking for opportunities to reach out to others when they were in need, so I decided to take him up on the offer to be another set of hands.  And in the process, I could silently pray for people who were injured.
I started meeting him and the paramedic at the hospital almost every night after I got off work.  I was young…the lack of sleep didn’t bother me.  I often stayed with them until 1 or 2 in the morning.  As a 3rd rider, I couldn’t do anything medically, obviously, because I didn’t have training or certification.  But I could carry equipment, help lift and hold things for them.  I felt useful, amazed at how much they needed the additional set of hands, and thankful for the opportunity.  And those invitations to lunch, to go hang out at the park, became more frequent and harder to refuse.  Hesitantly, I started accepting his invitations.
One day, we were getting ready to go to the park, having stopped by Taco Bueno to get some food so we could have a picnic.  It was a beautiful spring day and I was looking forward to seeing the flowers while relaxing in the sunshine.  As we stood in line, I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling that something was up.  Something major.  It was such an intense feeling, I actually had to excuse myself, feigning the need to go to the restroom.  I closed the stall door and had a face-off with God.
“What’s going on here!?!”  I questioned.  “Why is he always asking me to do things with him?  Why does he seem to want to be around me?  What is happening?”
I was upset, agitated, frustrated.  I didn’t want to get involved.  I was not ready to trust my heart to someone…not in that way.  At the peak of my rant, I heard God’s still, small voice.  “This is of me.  I know you can’t trust him, but can you trust me?”
All the air went out of me.  I stood there for several seconds contemplating my answer.  And finally, in resignation, I told God that I would trust Him.  And I put it all in His hands.
Several months later, we had a very long and serious talk.  It seemed he had been undergoing the same little prodding events from God that I had been experiencing.  He was being assured that God was indeed putting us together.  As life partners.  We decided to begin dating with that in mind.  And I fell head-over-heels in love.
By the time we married, I was deeply in love and attached to him.  The only hesitation I had about marrying him was due to what seemed to be a disappointing lack of depth within him.  He was, frankly, kind of a shallow person.  I am deep water.  I like going deep with people.  He didn’t seem to have this capacity.  But I knew that the person you married would not fulfill you in every way and I thought I could develop friendships with women that would satisfy my need to deeply connect.  I trusted God, believing the relationship was of Him, but I had also come to trust this man I was about to marry.  My life was finally turning around.  I was experiencing happiness for the first time.  The world was golden.
We married in early April and my joy could not be contained.  My mistake was in believing he felt the same way about me that I felt about him.  I don’t know if it was also a mistake to take that step of faith, believing and trusting God.  I struggle to understand.
During our courtship, I let him know about my abusive childhood and talked with him about the fact that it had done damage.  He said none of that mattered.  He seemed to accept me just the way I was…an answer to prayers and to my long held dream of finally being wanted, loved and accepted even though I am flawed.   But as we were driving out to New Mexico, where we were relocating after a short honeymoon, I was suddenly sure, to the core of my being, that he deeply regretted having married me.  And that he didn’t love me.  That I was not the type of person he believed he would spend life with.  And that my shortcomings and damaged areas were such that he didn’t really like a lot of things about me.  I tried to tell myself I was being silly.  That it was a reaction to having married again and I was now expecting the same response from my current mate that I had experienced after marrying when I was 17.  I told myself it was different this time.  God was the author of the relationship.  I had prayed, relinquished it to Him and trusted Him.  It wasn’t as if I had selfishly pursued my own desires or gone down this path because it was what I wanted and demanded.  This was the result of my step of faith.  Still, I couldn’t shake the premonition.  And I felt sick to the core of my being.
He denied it at first.  But it wasn’t long before he finally admitted he didn’t love me.  Maybe 2 to 4 months.  Certainly well before our 1st anniversary.  He couldn’t pretend something he simply didn’t feel.  He thought I was a nice person in many ways and that I was a good friend.  I hadn’t yet become numb to the point of death, so there were, at this point, things about me he admired.  But not loved.  Not cherished.  Not wanted.  My flaws were too glaring and unacceptable to him.  He didn’t like deep any more than I liked shallow.  He wanted surface and he wanted that surface to be undisturbed.  Light.  Easy.  Happy, happy.  I was not undisturbed, light, easy or happy, happy.  I still struggled with depression, though it was better than it had ever been because I was, initially, so excited about spending my life with him.  But it was there.  And I was broken in many areas as a result of being abused in such significant ways as a child.  He simply didn’t want to hear it or know about this or understand my pain and wounding in any way.  That was my thing.  I was to keep it, and all resulting damage, to myself.
As Christians, we both felt we needed to honor the commitment we had made to each other.  Looking back, that was pretty stupid of me.  But again, it was one of those decisions made with the information that was available at the time.  Believing God had orchestrated the relationship, I also believed He would heal and redeem the marriage, eventually giving my husband a deep and abiding love for me.
Didn’t happen.  As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog, he left me 10 years ago, after 22 years of marriage, when he fell in love with another woman.
This is one of the big reasons I struggle to trust and believe God.  I truly, with all of my heart was trying to follow Him.  I wanted to go the direction He wanted me to go.  I stepped out in faith and it turned out to be a very painful, destructive and wounding experience.  It damaged me and my relationship with God, plus destroyed my remaining faith when the marriage finally completely came undone. That little step of faith turned out to be a quick trip down the elevator shaft without the elevator. 
Now, stepping out in faith feels dangerous.  It causes anxiety.  I don’t know how to look at what happened any differently or how to find good in the experience.  It takes a step of faith just to believe I should walk by faith.  So I’m pretty much just standing here on the stairs, paralyzed.  I want to believe.  I want to trust.  But I am terrified.  Terrified of being hurt, of being uncared for, of being left alone.  Of being a fool.  Again.  It feels as if walking by faith cost me the best years of my life. 
Still I struggle to take the leap once more.  Because God is either who He says He is…faithful, loving, merciful…or He is the biggest liar the universe has ever known.  And I don’t believe He is a liar.  Which, in and of itself is walking by faith.  Even if it’s only a baby step.  Even if that’s all I can manage.  Because that tiny step, for me, is truly gigantic.

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