Beauty for ashes

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Ashes. Evidence of destruction whether intentional or not. It is the remnants of something that once was and is no more. Ashes are dirty, dark and in many cases very hard to look at. The memories of what those ashes represent can be painful. We put so much effort and time into building up what we think is important, and what we think we need just to watch it all burn and fall into a heaping ugly mess.

Here’s part 3 of our backstory…grab a tissue and maybe a snack. This could be a little long.

A little over a decade ago, I was left standing and staring at the heap of ashes that was my marriage and my life. The continuous running thought through my mind was “Why?!” “What do I do now?” “How will I survive this?” Then I look down at my 6 year old daughter and my 4 month old baby boy and fake more strength than I truly had…

Have you ever looked at a field that has been burned? Acres of black nothingness. And for what?

What the farmer knows, that we may not understand right away is that when he burns his fields, he is improving the health of his pastures. He destroys the weeds that will choke his plants and prevent good fruit. Later the new growth is a beautiful, luscious green pasture ready to be used as a fertile ground for planting or grazing. What was once dark and dead is now ready to give and sustain life.

This is what comes to mind when I take time to sit and reflect on where we have been and where we are now. God gave us beauty for our ashes.

Infidelity, drug addiction and just plain selfishness caused my marriage to go up in flames. Jeff had been dabbling with one drug or another since his early teens. I thought he’d put all that behind him before we got married but turns out he was just an expert at hiding it. At least until it became so bad that he needed the drugs more than he needed us. That’s when he got a little sloppy and I became suspicious. When a girl like me gets suspicious, it gets real!

So I started digging, asking (nagging might be a better word), accusing and there may or may not have been a boot thrown through a window…. Not really the right way to handle the situation but at the time I leaned toward brute force rather than civil communication.

I’d find little traces of this or that in his truck or in his pants pocket. He would say it wasn’t his of course. I may be a lot of things but stupid ain’t one of them.

Kinda makes me think of those old episodes of Cops when the officer would pull a baggie out of a dude’s pocket and right out of the gate he’s like “that ain’t mine”… I swear I’d be the officer that says “Of course it isn’t! Show me the tiny elf that crawled into your pocket, had himself a good time and left his bag behind? We’ll take him down right now!”

I told y’all I was full of the sass.

Ok back to the story…

After a long time of this nonsense it got to the point where we both had simply had enough. It all came to a head when Jeff left for 3 days without any word and when he came back he refused to tell me where he had been. I found out later where he was those nights and who he was with. So we separated, not yet ready to divorce, but to cool our heads and figure things out. We had 2 kids by this time and we had to make something work for their sake. Our daughter was nearly six and had seen way too much yelling and fighting in our home.

I was Christian by this time but still so young in my faith that I didn’t fully understand yet how to turn it over to God. I was used to fighting to make my point so that combined with Jeff’s junk made for a very toxic situation at home. Something had to give.

Not long after the separation I get a phone call from a friend who had found out that Jeff was having another baby with a woman he had been spending time with. Jeff owned up to it and there wasn’t much left to do but file for divorce and move on with my life.

I felt like I would never recover from this, but God used that to show me a love like I had never known before. He was there when I cried myself to sleep after tucking my babies in at night. He heard my cries and comforted me. He gave me the strength to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I was now down to one income with more bills than money. Daycare alone took most of my check, but y’all when I say God took care of us I mean He made a way where there was no way! We always had enough to eat, the lights stayed on and the mortgage got paid (maybe a little late, but still paid) I can’t truly even begin to explain the miracle of all this.

He also used that time to work on my heart. Because I am a strong willed woman, God allowed me to be broken enough to realize that I wasn't making it on my own strength. He had to teach me to be dependent on Him. It was hard. I like control. But it was necessary for me to see how much better I could be for my loved ones when I put my life in His hands.

And while He was working on me, He was working on my ex-husband too. God brought that man to his knees...literally. It took losing everything that was important to him to break him. A couple of months after our divorce, this man that was at one time stone cold toward God was now giving his life over to Him in repentance.

We were reconciled to Christ first, then back to each other. Now don't misunderstand, the trials were not suddenly gone. I mean, he had another baby on the way and the whole situation surrounding that to consider. But we were just better able to face it all through seeking God and loving each other better.

We have been remarried now for nearly 12 years. We have had opportunities to minister to other couples and tell the story of how God met us in the ashes and made something beautiful out of our very messy lives.

When I tell this story I often say it was the worst, yet best time of my life. Through that terrible heartache I was able to meet God's grace head on and it was amazing!

If you are like me and not a stranger to the hard roads of life, then friend let me encourage you to trust God like never before. Lean on Him and rest. You cannot make it on your own and He doesn't even want you to try. Your Father wants you to run to Him and let Him love you through it.

I am praying for you as you read this. I pray my story gives you hope. I know our pain and heartache was not in vain. It is the promise of Romans 8:28 in real time. His promise to make all things work together for good to them that love God.

All things. Even the darkest, hardest things.

At the foot of the cross is where grace and suffering meet.

So what happened with the new baby?

I’ll tell you that part of the story next.