Yesterday would have been my twentieth wedding anniversary. Yeah, if I had stayed married to the first man I vowed to love, honor and cherish until death. I sat on the front pew of our church and thought about that as my husband of four years preached his guts out.
I’m an avid note taker. Usually I can be found with composition book and pen during any sermon or lecture. Yesterday was no exception. I flipped the page and wrote the date just as my Honey started preaching. “August 9, 2014.” My brain did a double take. August nine? Wow! Has it really been twenty years?
Memory carried me to another time and place, causing me to miss the sermon’s opening lines. “Twenty years ago today,” I wrote in purple ink, “I stood on a sunny beach in Costa Rica making promises I could not keep…”
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:22 NKJV) The words came loud and clear through our church’s sound system, pulling me back to the sermon. For several minutes my thoughts hopscotched between present and past.
- Lord, I did bear the cross for a long, long time:
- I bore the cross of confusion when my innocent dreams were shattered.
- I bore the cross of shame when I thought ours was the only family in church suffering the effects of drug addiction.
- I bore the cross of guilt when I enabled and rescued my spouse.
- I bore the cross of sorrow when he chose a different kind of life with a different kind of wife.
“How many of us have, as our primary focus, the desire to live in the spiritual world? – To dwell in the secret place of the Most High? To abide under the shadow of the Almighty?” My handsome Honey asked the congregation. Asked me. (He and I have been speaking about that a lot lately. How do we live Psalm 91 when the world around us is falling apart?)
“We’re expecting supernatural results from physical investments,” he continued.
It’s true, Lord. We often are. I used to think if I loved harder, my addicted husband would change. I thought that counseling, Narcotics Anonymous, and church would heal him. Nothing worked. Moving to a new city didn’t work. Controlling every penny failed. Screaming never solved anything. Neither did threatening, crying or cajoling.
Two days ago I posted this on my Facebook page: “…the best predictor of the future is the past. What he has done in the past will be what he does in the future, unless there has been some big change. You can bet on it… Promises by someone who has a history of letting you down in a relationship mean nothing certain in terms of the future.” Dr. Henry Cloud in Necessary Endings, Chp 6. (https://www.facebook.com/SameDressDifferentDay)
A reader named Emily responded with a question. “…unless there has been some big change…” like being born again?” She continued, “The Holy Spirit is amazing! But I agree with this quote; I have seen its sad truth in my own life and others’. We must pray for each other…and sometimes set more boundaries until those prayers are answered in a way that means it’s safe to open the gate in those areas.”
Spot on Emily! The key words are “born again.” I needed to be born again. Again and again. Still do. Every single day, I needed to follow the insight I’ve discovered under Vincent’s Word Studies on Bible Hub: Luke 14:27 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/vws/luke/14.htm “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
More correctly, his own. An important charge. All must bear the cross, but not all the same cross: each one his own.”
That cross-bearing is the secret to dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. See, I was all the time busy trying to bear someone else’s cross. I wanted so badly to fix my ex I was even standing in the way of God sometimes.
He also needed to be born again. Again and again. I could not do that for him. Only Jesus could.
All these years later, those tendencies still tend to crop up in my life. My sinful default? I want to fix, help, do, rather than bring a person before the throne of grace in prayer, rather than battle for them on my knees in the spiritual realm. I talk too much. I pray too little.
So, going back to Dr. Henry Cloud’s premise that the best predictor of the future is the past, I want to say this; if I had taken time to thoroughly review the past of the person I married twenty years ago, I may not have taken those vows.
Yes, people can do better than their pasts. Yes, God redeems, restores and heals. Yes, there is hope for brighter futures.
“But the key is this:” Dr. Cloud says on p. 95, “There had better be a good reason to believe that someone is going to do better. Without any new information or actions, though, the past is the best predictor of the future. You can bet on it.”
Observing my preacher man on the platform yesterday, I thought about our history together. I’ve known my husband for six years. I really, really know him. I trust him. Before I married him, I did my homework. He had a pretty rotten past, with a long, long history of broken hearts in his wake. I should have been terrified. But I wasn’t. Know why? He had experienced the big change. The Holy Spirit, born again change. There was evidence of that in his life. I trusted that evidence. I’ve never looked back. God redeems the things we thought were lost.
So, Dr. Cloud leaves us with this: “…here are the first questions to ask yourself about the anatomy of hope, no matter whether you are assessing a person or some aspect of business:
- What has the performance been so far?
- Is it good enough?
- Is there anything in place that would make it different?
- If not, am I willing to sign up for more of the same?
Those four questions may get you to see reality clearly and, if answered truthfully, could keep you from going down a road of certain failure – the failure of the past.” (ibid. p. 96)
I don’t know where you are today, but I wonder:
- Are you that young woman about to make some big promises without having done your homework?
- Are you feeling stuck in a relationship that keeps giving you more of the wrong kind of same?
- Are you on the other side of failed vows, trying to figure out what went wrong and promising not to make the same mistakes again?
Wherever you are, may I pray for you?
Father in heaven, thank You for redeeming the things I thought were lost in my life. Thank You for giving me hope that I can share with others.
I pray for the readers of this post. They are here for a reason. Please send Your Spirit to reveal to them how to take the next step of life in a way that doesn’t bring them more of the same pain. Reveal the truth of their past and heal their present situation.
Show them how to bear their cross with humility and a teachable spirit. May they learn to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and to say of You Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
Thank You for truth that we can trust. In Jesus’ name, amen.