Becoming a Believer, Bless those who curse you, Divorced Christian, Persecution at home, Prayer, Testing Your Faith

My husband told me, “Either you quit going to church, or I’m leaving!”

1 Peter 3:1-2

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to our own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of the wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

I got saved in 1976, by myself, on a fishing boat in Alaska.

My husband went nuts. The attack  was not rational, reasonable or sane.  The only explanation is that his attacks were not from him; they were from the enemy of our souls. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and powers and world authorities of this present darkness. (Ephesians 6:12) I came to understand that, but the battle was personal and fierce, and constant.  He threatened to kill me. He threatened to kill the pastor I had talked to. But I had learned the truth, and I could not be shaken. Jesus was my God. My husband hated me for giving my heart to someone else.

I likened myself to one of those inflatable children’s toys that has sand in the bottom. You can hit it from any direction, but it always comes back to center and stands up again. That was me. My husband didn’t hit me with his fists. He hit me with rages, humiliation, insults, belittlement, abandonment, disdain, disgust, contempt. He would hit me from all directions, but I would come back to upright and wait for the next hit.  

My husband and I spent summers on the boat, along with our daughters, then aged 7 and 3.  That spring I had flown to California for my brother’s wedding. While I was there my brother’s pastor had asked me if I had ever read the Bible. I said I had tried but it did not make sense to me. He showed me the verses from 1 Corinthians that explain without the Spirit of God it is impossible to understand the Word of God.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11-14

Then the pastor asked me if I would pray this kind of prayer, “Holy Spirit, if you are real, show me the truth.”

There was no danger in that kind of prayer. So, for the first time in my life I got down on my knees and prayed.

During the next few weeks, the Holy Spirit showed me the truth. I accepted the gift of salvation.

The rest of that summer and fishing season I learned to stand on the word of God in the face of the devil’s attack.

At the end of the summer when it was time to put our oldest daughter back in school,  I flew home. I immediately found a church.  I loved the it! Never have I had such friendships, and such love. I didn’t know that I had been living in a desert, but I was getting filled at the oasis. I took the girls to Sunday School–and went myself. We went to worship service on Sunday morning and again on Sunday evening. We went to Wednesday night fellowship and I joined the Ladies Bible Study. It was the happiest experience of my life.

Six weeks after I got home from Alaska, my husband came home. His rage increased. He hated that I was going to church, and he hated that I was taking the girls to church. He screamed and stomped, threw things, stayed away from home, and insulted me whenever he saw me. He said over and over again that he would rather have his daughters be prostitutes than Christians. This became a mantra that my girls grew up under. I tried to keep them from hearing it, but I know I failed.

            In the Spring my husband went back to Alaska and I had several weeks of peace. But when I got back to the boat the battle raged again. I tried to keep my Bible out of sight and I tried to keep the girls from saying anything about God when their dad could hear them. It was impossible and we suffered.

            The highlight of the summer was when  my sister came to Alaska to work in the cannery. We helped her get the job and a place to live while she was there. She was the youngest of my sisters, 11 years younger than I, and had been the second one in the family to become a Christian. She was still in high school when she came to Alaska. She was a great comfort to me as we could spend time sharing the Lord when alone. 

During her stay we put the boat “on the grid” to clean the bottom of it. The grid was a set of timbers in the harbor that are underwater at high tide. At low tide, however, they are high and dry. If a person took his boat to the grid and secured it there during high tide it would come to rest on the timbers as the tide went out and eventually the boat owner could walk around under the boat to examine it or clean it. There were about 8-10 hours of dry time before the boat would float again at the next high tide.  We had rented a hotel room in town for the day since living on the boat with two little girls while the boat is on the grid is very hard to do. My sister was watching the girls while I working under the boat. My husband’s  harassment of me that day was far beyond what I could bear. He had driven me to tears and despair. Finally, I threw my tools down and declared, “I quit.” He mocked me as I slopped through the mud under the boat and left the harbor.

When I got to the hotel room my sister greeted and comforted me. I could not stop crying. Suddenly my three-year-old daughter came across the room with the Gideon Bible from the hotel room in her hand. She certainly couldn’t read. She didn’t even know what kind of a book she had in her hand.

“Mommy,” she said. “there’s writing in this book. Why did someone write in the book?”

I took the Bible from her and looked where she was pointing. Sure enough someone had underlined some verses. I looked up, amazed.

My daughter asked “What does it say?”

“It says, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls.’” Matthew 11:28

My sister and I started to laugh. Good for God. Praise the Lord. He used a hotel Bible, some else’s underlining and my tiny daughter to encourage me at a very low time. 

I went back to the harbor and finished the job. 

At the end of August I flew home and went to church. The pastor saw me come in the back of the sanctuary; he came down from the pulpit to welcome me. I had never had anyone show respect and welcome for me. I exhaled all the tension, and enjoyed every minute of fellowship I could get.

Six weeks later my husband came home. Before the first Sunday, he laid out his ultimatum. “Either you quit going to church or I’m leaving.”

He meant it.

I was crushed.

I went to our bedroom and threw myself across the bed in tears before the Lord. By this time I had memorized 1 Peter Chapter 3:1-2 about wives being submissive to their husbands even if they are disobedient to the word.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 1 Peter 1:1-2

“Oh, Lord,” I cried. “You know how much I have loved this church. You know how much I love the fellowship. I have been so loved. But I know that you hate divorce and I know that your word says for wives to be submissive to their husbands. You also said that this can be a way to win them to you.” With flowing tears and a broken heart I laid it down. “All right, Lord. I’ll quit going to church. I know you can sustain me without it. I submit to your word.”

How my heart ached!  Sunday mornings were the worst. But I had made a commitment and I stuck to it.

That was 1977.  We stayed married for 20 years after I became a Christian. We were divorced in 1996. I will write more about that in another post. Today, as I write this, the year is 2019, 43 years after my rebirth.  How do I see those years of persecution now? I am, and will be eternally,  thankful for them. Why?

  • I learned that all I needed was the Lord. He sustained me by his Spirit and his word. I grew quickly. I stood firm. I learned I did not need to go to church to walk with Jesus. I learned my theology straight from Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
    •  When I did, at last, start to attend church, I was surprised to learn that everyone’s experience was not like mine–persecuted to be a Christian. Didn’t Jesus say don’t be surprised when they hate you?  John 5:18 and 1 John 3:13

 

  • When my children made their life commitments to the Lord, they knew they were going to war. Accepting Jesus as their savior was not a Sunday School picnic activity. Their father told them he had failed as a father because they had become Christians. My daughters will not be shaken. They each married a Christian man. Their children are being raised in Christian homes. Both of my daughters serve the Lord in their families, and in their vocations. The younger is a Young Life director, the elder is a pastor’s wife; she heads up a prayer and healing ministry in their church.

Praise God.

 

To read the story of my conversion click here: https://gracegloria.com/2017/01/03/conversion/

 

 

Christian, Divorced Christian, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith

The Heart of Stone

 beach-stone4

Heart of Stone

“I will take the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

           “I have stopped praying for him.” My friend, Trina said. She was not the first one who had told me this. Since I had been divorced for about six months several people had told me that they had stopped praying for my ex husband. I had not. I didn’t know how to stop praying for him, or even if I should.

I planned a personal retreat to the outside of Vancouver Island on the advice of one of my friends at Regent College.  I was taking a class from Eugene Peterson called Ministry and Spirituality. At the end of the class we were required to write a paper on how we would keep our spirituality once we got into ministry somewhere. Beverly had told me that when she got to that place in the class she took a personal retreat to seek the Lord about it. That sounded like a great idea to me. I had never done such a thing.  Many stories came out of that retreat. This is one of them.

I made reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast inn in Tofino. I wanted to be on the ocean, where the surf rolls in. My home on Drayton Harbor overlooks a shallow bay where the tide slips in and out twice a day, but I felt I wanted to be somewhere with surf.

On the second day of my stay as I went through some of the verses that I believed that they Lord had given to me as promises for my husband’s salvation. One of them was the verse above from Ezekiel. “I will take the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Later that day I walked on the beach, in the rain. The stones on the beach were wet and gray. But suddenly I walked past a small stone the color of red brick. I turned around and went back to it. It was shaped like a human heart.

beach-stone

“Oh, my,” I thought. “It’s a heart of stone.”

I picked up the cold, wet stone and put it in my pocket. I wrapped my fingers around it. As I held the stone it got warm.

I took the stone home with me and it became a tool for a kind of body prayer. I can’t really explain in words the significance of it. It was prayer without words. I kept the stone next to my bed. When I would wake up in the morning, or in the night, I would pick up the stone and lay it on my body—on my neck or my chest or my belly. The stone would be cold and shocked me when I put it on my warm skin. But as it lay there it would get warm. I would then turn it to feel the cold surface again. Somehow this ritual was working to release me from the one flesh relationship with my husband. I could not have articulated that then, but afterwards I realized that is what happened.

Resurrection morning fell several weeks after I had been praying with the stone. That morning when I picked up the stone and laid it at the base of my neck, it absolutely abhorred me!  I could not stand the touch of it on my skin. I grabbed it off myself and set it on the side table.

“That’s it,” I thought. “I am through praying for him.” I knew it.

 

A couple of hours later I went to the sunrise service for resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo, a beach on the spit near where I live. Several of the community churches got together every year to reenact the resurrection of Jesus. A friend of mine from Regent was there with her new born son, Blaine. I had been with her when Blaine was born—another amazing time for another story perhaps. Sharon asked me if I would like to hold the baby, Blaine. Of course, I did.

I cuddled him close to my neck. I could feel him breathing. Then I sensed his little heart beating next to mine.

Oh, my gosh!  My knees shook. It’s a heart of flesh!

The Lord had been talking about two different hearts.

He would take my husband’s stony heart, and he would give me a different heart to hold—new people, new relationships.

Stunned I moved toward the buckets of flowers at the foot of cross. We had been instructed to take a flower for ourselves and place it on the cross. As I took out a flower for me, and one for Blaine, I could hardly see for the tears flowing, flowing down my face.  A familiar voice from behind me said, “What’s this, Jonni? Starting over?”

I tried to smile and explain to my former brother in law that the baby was Sharon’s but then I thought, “No, that’s right. I am starting over.”

My friend Tim was at the Sunrise Service that morning, too. I had spoken to him and told him that my marriage was not going to make it.

I certainly did not know it then, but the next Resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo I was there with Tim, my husband, the heart of flesh the Lord had promised. One day earlier that spring he and I had gone to the beach at Semiahmoo together and I had thrown the heart of stone back into the cold ocean waters.

Now, almost 20 years later, Tim and I have moved back to Blaine. Our home overlooks Drayton Harbor. We walk the streets and pray for Blaine, and for the people we stop and talk to on our walks. Recently a friend pointed out to me that the red headed baby boy named “Blaine” was not only a type the Lord showed me about my new husband, but also the represented the call he would put on my life to pray in and for Blaine.

beach-stone3

Now, 20 years after Tim and I threw the heart of stone representing my former husband’s heart out into the water at Semiahmoo, God still knows where it is. He will redeem it in his timing.