Jesus knows how our story is going to end. And that’s all very well and good but we want to know how it ends too. Some days it’s really hard to hang on until we can see the light at the end of our tunnel. If it’s not one thing it’s another – another e-mail, another letter, another conversation, another meal to cook, another teenager to discipline, another relative to look after, another day you’re barely hanging on to the end of your rope. Some days we’re in such a tight place we find it hard to breathe, to look up and be positive, to speak gentle to others, to inspire another human being who happens to be in our space … true or false?
A tight space (or two or three) during your life time is a given. Good times do not last forever no matter how hard you try, and at some point you’re going to find yourself down in a valley wondering: “how in the world did I get here?”
Let’s take relationships for example. When I got married almost 20 years ago, I was happier than happy could be. God wasn’t at the centre of my decision but life was good. We were financially strapped but able to live one day at a time surrounded by loving family and friends. When our son came along, things got even harder but there’s nothing like a baby to bring two people closer together. I changed jobs and loved the challenges my new role provided. I got to work on fun projects. I worked long hours and did a bit of travelling. Many nights I came home too tired to do anything except feed the baby and drop into bed exhausted. But all this time my husband was exhausted too. Worst yet, he didn’t have anyone to come home to, to talk to about his day or his dreams or what had ticked him off. I was so caught up in doing whatever it took to make my career work that I never even thought to ask. But then again, wasn’t he our son’s father after all? Wasn’t looking after the baby his role as well as mine, and if I couldn’t do it then who would if not him?
As time went by I developed issues. I was the main bread winner and never let my husband forget it. His opinions never quite lived up to my standards. I talked down to him rather than with him; it was my way or the highway. We separated after it came to light that he had found someone (a female of course) willing to listen to what he had to say, encourage him, edify him and make him feel special.
After much soul searching and tears (mine mainly) we came back together determined to make our relationship work. We went back to church and became active in various volunteer groups. It was truly a wonderful time in our lives. Our ten year anniversary saw us being blessed by our pastor as a few close friends joined in the celebration. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there. I remember it clearly because someone once told us that the more we tried to serve God and do the right things, the more the devil would try to distract us … and distract us he did.
I was laid off from the job that had consumed me for so many years. As I wondered what our future would hold our pastor was transferred to a different parish and his replacement wanted little to do with any of the systems or volunteer groups already in existence. We felt alienated and became despondent as we watched our annual fund raising/community building activities be scrapped. Eventually I got another job but my tight space became tighter when we realised our relationship was in trouble.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the familiar even when you’ve re-committed to making things work. But a marriage usually involves two people; three is a bit crowded and this ‘friend’ from the past was somehow still a part of our present. I was livid. I did and said the most unchristian things during the day, while crying out to God at night as I read my bible and prayed hard. In spite of what was going on at home, I worked in my office as if all was well with my world. I lived what my granny always told me: “People may look fine on the outside when they are dressed to the nines, wearing make up and smelling lovely but you just never know what they are going through; make sure you never judge a person until you’ve walked in their shoes.” My shoes were tight, tight, tight.
After several agonizing months, my husband became my ex-husband and although I never got married to become a divorce statistic, being on my own taught me many valuable lessons I would never have learnt otherwise:
- Your spouse or job or child are not meant to be your idol i.e. something you serve at God’s expense.
- A marriage will not work if one person thinks they are better or above the other.
- A husband cannot read his wife’s mind; clear, continuous, respectful communication is key.
- It is not wise to share your business with too many people; keep praying and asking God for guidance even if you want to share what’s on your heart with a professional counselor who will keep your private stuff private.
- There’s no better survival strategy than putting God first and foremost in everything; He’s with us on the mountain and He’s with us in the valley, especially when we’re pressing ahead through super tight spaces in those really tight shoes.
Who am I now? I’m a different person for sure. I know who I am because of the sacrifices I’ve had to make to get where I am. I am a survivor who made it out on the other side. I am stronger than that silly insecure girl who got married in 1995. I am a child of God who is not ashamed of her imperfect story. I am thanking God for tight spaces … hallelooyer!
“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.” Matthew 9:22 (NIV)
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.” ~ George Mueller
“Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation.” ~ Andrew Murray