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Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Biblical and Theoretical Examination

Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Biblical and Theoretical Examination

            Childhood sexual abuse is a topic often avoided in social circles due to the discomfort it causes on the one hand, and the absolute outrage it evokes on the other.  It is the topic of inappropriate humor or brushed aside as less than evil.  Comments such as, “Oh, Uncle George is just a dirty old man” are whispered at family reunions, when what “Uncle George” has done to females in the family for generations is not only atrocious but illegal.  It is irresponsible and immoral to turn a blind eye to the devastating crime of CSA.  A voice must be given back to those whose voice – and innocence – have been brutally stolen by those more powerful.  A stand must be taken against CSA, if not to stop it from happening, then in order to assist survivors who are haunted by their experiences.  Evil is overcome by redemption, and redemption can be found if people are willing to look evil in the eye and say, “No more.”  Individuals must study CSA – the causes, the effects, intervention, and treatment – in order to become equipped for the battle against it.

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A Broad Look at Childhood Sexual Abuse

By definition, childhood sexual abuse entails a variety of characteristics.  According to Glicken & Sechrest (2003), “Sexual abuse might be defined as a sexual assault on, or the sexual exploitation of, a minor” (p. 107).  The abuse may take place only once or over an extended period of time.  It may include one or more of the following acts: “rape, incest, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of genital or anal opening by a foreign object, and child molestation” (Glicken & Sechrest, 2003, p. 107).  CSA can also involve sexual harassment, exposure to pornography or taking pornographic photographs or video of children, and the sexual trafficking of minors.  These acts are done for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator.

The statistics surrounding childhood sexual abuse are astounding.  It should be noted that according to The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2004), as cited by Hodges & Myers (2010), these statistics are an underestimation of the actual figures because children are often afraid to report abuse and due to the lack of abuse validation.  Hodges & Myers (2010) go on to reference the statistics as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2000), stating that children make up 67% of all sexual assault victims; out of those children, those younger than 12 make up 34% and those younger than six make up approximately 15%.  Additionally, in 2007 the National Center for Victims of Crime published that females are the victims of CSA three times more frequently than boys, and 25% of juvenile females will be sexually assaulted by time they reach 18 years of age (Hodges & Myers, 2010).  Foster (2014) cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005), stating that “one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18” (p. 332).  Glicken & Sechrest (2003) report that males make up 23% of total sexual abuse cases.  Facts and figures point to the staggering truth: childhood sexual abuse is rampant in today’s society.

The existence of CSA is not exclusive, however, to modern day culture.  The bible renders accounts of sexual assault, including rape, incest, and CSA.  The book of II Samuel reveals the sexual abuse of King David’s daughter, Tamar, by her older half-brother, Amnon.  Amnon was the oldest child of David; Tamar was approximately 15 or 16 years old at the time of her assault (Smith & Chapman, 2011).  Scripture details the conspiracy between Amnon and his cousin Jonadab, who devised a plan to get Tamar alone with Amnon in his bedroom.  Once they were alone, Amnon demanded that Tamar come to bed with him.  She refused and even offered to marry him, if he would only ask their father’s permission.  Instead, “Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her” (II Samuel 13:14, New Living Translation).  To make matters worse, after he raped his sister, Amnon’s so-called love turned to hate, and he threw Tamar out of his room.  Sadly, the family covered up the scandal: “So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house” (II Samuel 13:20b, NLT); Amnon went unpunished by their father, and eventually, Absalom ordered the murder of Amnon.  Like many women, Tamar reaped the guilt, shame, and destruction bestowed upon her by the abuser, never receiving the love, kindness, and godly presence it takes to lead a victim to restoration, redemption, and healing.

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The Causes of Childhood Sexual Abuse

There are theories as to why perpetrators feel the need to sexually violate children.  In the cases of incest, attributing factors include “dysfunctional relationships, chemical abuse, sexual problems, and social isolation” (Glicken & Sechrest, 2003, p. 119).  Violators drawn toward children frequently do not tolerate frustration well, have little self-esteem, and need immediate sexual gratification.  Most tend to repeat their mistakes rather than learn from them.  Additionally, perpetrators of CSA have addictive personalities, little remorse for their actions, and excel at lying and manipulation (Glicken & Sechrest, 2003).  There are no age parameters when it comes to child molesters.  Pedophiles are specifically interested in sexually defiling children, believing that sex with children is “appropriate and even beneficial to the child” (Glicken & Sechrest, 2003, p. 120).

Who fits the profile of an abuser?  Men, women, fathers, pastors, brothers, grandfatherly next door neighbors, teenage boys at the park, and older girls on the school playground can all be perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse.  In other words, although it is more common for females to be abused by older males, one should not rule out men abusing boys or females sexually abusing children (Allender, 2008).  Why do offenders sexually abuse children?  Allender (2008) lists “excuses” that he believes should not exempt the individual from accountability for the crimes committed:

  • The abuser was abused as a child.
  • The abuser had a difficult background.
  • The abuser was going through a rough time with his or her spouse and was lonely.
  • The abuser drank so much that he or she was unaware of what he or she was doing.

At the very heart of sexual abuse is evil.  Ephesians 6:12 reads, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (NLT).  The intent of evil is to destroy God’s creation.  In the Old Testament, it is written, “So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NLT).  Furthermore, God created intimacy, perfectly reflected and expressed between a husband and wife within the sanctified bonds of marriage.  Evil takes great pleasure in destroying that which reflects God’s image – mankind, and in defiling the most intimate of God’s gifts – sexuality.  The harm done by CSA causes one to despise his or her own gender or to experience gender confusion, much to the satisfaction of darkness (Allender, 2015).  As Allender (2015) describes it, “Evil delights in sexual abuse because the return on investment is maximized.  It takes but seconds to abuse, but the consequences can ruin the glory of a person for a lifetime” (p. 36).

The Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The effects of CSA do not diminish simply because the abuse has ended.  In the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Foster & Hagedorn (2014) explain that “CSA frequently impacts children socially, cognitively, academically, physically, spiritually, and/or emotionally” (p. 538).  Victims of abuse develop coping mechanisms that can come in the form of justifying the abuse, dissociation during abusive incidents, or in extreme cases, developing dissociative identity disorder (Vieth, 2012).  The abuse is bathed in secrecy, and upon disclosure of the abuse, children may experience guilt when threats made by the perpetrator – such as being removed from the home, isolation, or disbelief – come true.  Being taught to obey adults, there is much confusion when obedience puts the child in such a deviant position by the offender.   Children believe that adults, especially those who should love them, can be trusted; CSA breaks that trust in others (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014).

There is a developmental impact on children as a result of sexual trauma.  Because trauma impedes a child’s ability to control arousal levels, problems such as learning disabilities and aggression may develop (van der Kolk, Weisaeth, & van der Hart, 2007).  Allender (2015) and van der Kolk, et al. (2007) touch on a similar point: the inability of the abused child to convey affect states in words.  As Allender (2015) describes it, “Literally, during trauma, language goes offline” (p. 58).  When trauma occurs, Broca’s area – that section of the brain where language is processed – stops working or drops in activity, similar to a stroke patient (Allender, 2015).  Unfortunately, when the words cannot be formed, the images attack later in life in the form of flashbacks.

As sexually abused children mature, the damage of that abuse may be witnessed in different areas of that person’s life.  CSA creates within that individual a sense of powerlessness, helplessness, and an undying pain deep within (Allender, 2008).  If that pain is not addressed, the tendency is to adapt self-numbing habits, whether through outside sources such as drugs or alcohol, or simply through the hardening of emotions and isolation.  There is a loss of the sense of self, as well as a loss of the sense of judgment.  “Sexual-abuse victims have learned to doubt their own feelings” (Allender, 2008, p. 126).  The adult victim of CSA often loses any hope for true intimacy, for strength, or for justice.  Life is marked by ambivalence, which can further lead to depression, sexual dysfunction and addiction, compulsive disorders, and physical complaints (Allender, 2008).  Biblically speaking, this makes sense: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NLT).

The spiritual effects of CSA vary.  In one study, it was discovered that children were spiritually injured, so to speak, due to the abuse they had experienced (Vieth, 2012).  These children encountered “guilt, anger, grief, despair, doubt, fear of death, and belief that God is unfair” (Vieth, 2012, p. 261).  However, not all spiritual effects were negative following sexual trauma; the same study showed that survivors prayed more often.

The Intervention of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Intervention and possible prevention of CSA begins with educating both children and adults.  CSA education can be shared within schools, churches, and community centers; however, the education is only as effective as the accuracy of the information.  Unfortunately, there are myths regarding CSA that can cause more harm than good.

Although “stranger danger” is an important rule to teach children, the facts show that perpetrators of CSA are more likely to know the child personally than to be a stranger.  In fact, CSA occurs only 3-10% of the time at the hands of a person the child does not know (Foster, 2014).  Programs should teach the pervasiveness of known offenders, as well as explain the warning signs of a possible abuser and the grooming tactics that violators use.  It is crucial to teach that people who commit childhood sexual abuse vary, “in which most are known by their victims, trusted by their family, and do not have a criminal history” (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014, p. 552).

Another falsehood is that most sexual predators are adults.  Studies have revealed that adolescents commit 33% of episodes of CSA (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014).  Adults should be aware of certain characteristics of juvenile offenders, such as delinquency and impulsivity.  In addition, adolescent offenders are often former victims of CSA; therefore, intervention is important for both the victim and the perpetrator.

Correspondingly, there is the myth that children can stop the abuser from attacking by utilizing tactics such as yelling “stop” or running away.  One should never expect a child to be able to impede the plans of an offender bent on molestation (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014).  To put that belief within a child can do more harm than good, especially if he or she is unsuccessful at stopping the abuse.  Self-blame for CSA is already common; to put the expectation within children that they should have been able to avoid or prevent that attack of a pedophile would heap mounds of guilt upon the already existing fear, anger, shame, and grief.

Programs that educate adults and children about CSA can help intervene and prevent childhood sexual abuse.  When taught about safety and healthy sexuality as opposed to victimization, the bonds between parents and children can be strengthened.  This leads to trust, which boosts the chances of disclosure, lowers a child’s self-blame in the case of CSA, and promotes children’s self-efficiency (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014).

Treatment of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Once the safety of the child is established and medical attention has been provided (Glicken & Sechrest, 2003), it is imperative that a victim of CSA is not left untreated for the psychological, emotional, and spiritual ramifications of trauma.  According to Glicken & Sechrest (2003), “Appropriate treatment and careful case management can often lead to successful outcomes and frequently end the multigenerational cycle of abuse” (p. 122).  During crisis intervention, it is critical that the victim be reassured that he or she is not to blame for the abuse.  Because of the complexity of CSA, other members of the family may require counseling as well.  Any fears of disbelief, punishment, or revenge from the abuser must be addressed; as aforementioned, the child’s safety must be of top priority.

Therapists working with children who have been victimized by sexual abuse must remember that trust has been broken; therefore, it may be slow going in gaining that child’s trust (Foster & Hagedorn, 2014).  Empathy toward the child’s worries can help to put the victim at ease.  Counselors may support children to express their hesitancy and anxieties, share information about therapy, and reassure them that what they are feeling is common.  It is important to be proactive when it comes to relieving the fears of the victim.  In addition to educating the child, it is vital to advise the parents or caregivers about the counseling process.  By letting them know the challenges that accompany counseling, it can prevent them from removing a child too soon if symptoms appear to worsen before improving.

One effective method of counseling is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).  This is “an evidence-based treatment approach that is structured to include child-only sessions, parent-only sessions, and joint family sessions” (Foster, 2014).  This type of therapy is conducive in meeting the developmental needs of the victimized child.  The focus is on symptoms related to trauma, such as fear, anxiety, and depression, in children ages three through 18, using gradual exposure.  Per Foster (2014), the eight components of TF-CBT are as follows: psychoeducation and parenting skills, relaxation skills, affective regulation skills, cognitive coping skills, trauma narrative and cognitive processing, in vivo mastery of trauma reminders, conjoint child-parent sessions, and enhancing safety and future development trajectory.

From a Christian perspective, Vieth (2012) provides guidelines in ministering to a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  First, if the child is older, or if this is a case where an adult has come for counseling when processing his or her own CSA, put judgment aside and do not focus on the victim’s sins.  It is not uncommon for the lives of abuse survivors to be tainted by drugs, alcohol, divorce, crime, sexual promiscuity, or mental illness (Vieth, 2012).  Quick judgment and harsh rebuke will push the victim away.  Instead, love should be poured upon the survivor of CSA, putting the gospel into action and standing with the broken.  Isaiah 61:1b reads, “He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (NLT).  God wants his people to comfort the victims of childhood sexual abuse, releasing them from the fear and captivity of their trauma.

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Survivors of CSA must be shown Christ’s empathy (Vieth, 2012).  Victims may question the goodness of God.  The counselor can explain that the offender disobeyed God’s commandments.  Victims need to know that Jesus understands maltreatment, emotional abuse, and physical abuse, as portrayed by His journey to Calvary.  Sharing scripture about Christ’s love for children may reassure the survivors that God does care about them.  In Mark 9:37, Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me” (NLT).  Regarding the harm of children, Jesus said, “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin” (Luke 17:2, NLT).  Luke 18:16 reads, “Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children’” (NLT).  If the Lord cares so deeply for children, then those in the Christian community should provide the care and protection needed when one of God’s little children has been abused.

References

Allender, D. (2015). Healing the wounded heart: The heartache of sexual abuse and the hope of transformation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Allender, D. (2008). The wounded heart: Hope for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Foster, J.M. (2014). Supporting child victims of sexual abuse: Implementation of a trauma narrative family intervention. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 22(3), 332-338. DOI: 10.1177/1066480714529746

Foster, J.M., Hagedorn, W.B. (2014). Through the eyes of the wounded: A narrative analysis of children’s sexual abuse experiences and recovery process. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 23(5), 538-557. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2014.918072

Glicken, M.D., & Sechrest, D.K. (2003). The role of the helping professions in treating the victims and perpetrators of violence. Boston, MA: Person Education, Inc.

Hodges, E.A., & Myers, J.E. (2010). Counseling adult women survivors of childhood sexual abuse: Benefits of a wellness approach. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 32(2), 139-154.

Smith, R.P., & Chapman, C. (2011). II Samuel. In Spence, H.M.D., & Exell, J.S. (Eds.), The pulpit commentary: Ruth, I & II Samuel (Vol. 4) (pp. 1-637). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC.

van der Kolk, B.A., Weisaeth, L., & van der Hart, O. (2007). History of trauma in psychiatry. In van der Kolk, B.A., McFarlane, C., and Weisaeth, L. (Eds.), Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society (pp. 47-74). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Vieth, V.I. (2012). What would Walther do? Applying law and gospel to victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 40(4), 257-273.

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The Truth About My Body Image

I’ve been married three times, and it’s only been through a recent Bible study (Made to Crave) and God’s revelation that I’ve come to realize how much my body image affected my past relationships.  (I will note that like the author, Lysa TerKerust, I am very thankful for a husband who loves me JUST AS I AM, “tankles and all”!)  I married my first husband a year out of high school.  We were young, we were naive, and I’ve only just recently accepted that although the mistakes I made in that marriage were my choices and my responsibility, his addiction to pornography fed into the lies about myself – and caused me to seek affection and acceptance elsewhere.  I was overweight when I met my second husband (who was a total rebound and ours was a relationship that was based on nothing but lust – and when that dies, so does the marriage), and I was so happy that he wanted a “curvy” girl.  A few years into our marriage, I lost 50 lbs. and by society’s standards (and his), I looked great.  Most people confused me for my daughters’ sister instead of their mom.  Ego boost.  But the diet pills and restrictive dieting and obsessive exercise couldn’t last forever, and after a bought of depression, I gained it all back.  And then some.  And then some more.  Over time, I went from being 5’1″ and 125 lbs. to over 200.  There are many deeper, darker problems we had that I won’t go into, but what killed me was when my husband told me he was no longer attracted to me.  That pushed me to do what?  Eat more.  I topped the scales at 221 just before I left him.

After my divorce, I got back to church, I went to a Christian support group, and I ran back into the arms of Jesus.  I was saved at 13 and spent my teenage and part of my first marriage trying to serve Him, but I pushed Him away to find happiness in areas that left me empty.  However, He never left me.  He was calling me to come back to Him.  I did, and later I met the man who I cherish now as my husband.  He loves me unconditionally, something that has been an adjustment after feeling like my worth was tied to my appearance, whether that was true or not!  Sadly, there are (too many) times that Steve has had to hear the self-destructive lies that still float around in my head, and he does his best to remind me of how beautiful I am. He often says, “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”

HOW MANY TIMES DOES GOD SAY THAT TO US??  “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”

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I’m not sure I can come up with a reason for why God made me the way He did – but Psalm 139 says I was fearfully and WONDERFULLY made.  I must trust – and find my beauty – in Him.

Determined

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Dear God,

Today, I just want to thank You.  So many times I come to You with my list of requests.  I know You want me to pray to You, to ask of You, to seek You – and I praise You for always being there.  I know You hear my prayers.  I know You answer each and every one, whether it is yes, no, or wait.  Thank You for knowing what is best and giving me the faith and the strength to carry on, no matter what.

Today, though, I come to you in worship and praise.  Thank You for placing within my heart the desire to be #determined this week.

  • Determined to spend more time with You in Your word and in prayer.
  • Determined to be obedient to You by eating what is right for my life at this time.
  • Determined to seek You when Satan whispered so many lies, trying to make me fall.
  • Determined to show humility, grace, love, and support in my marriage.
  • Determined to share Your promises with others.

I know I am not perfect – but You are.  I know there are times when I am weak – and that is when Your strength is made perfect.  I know I am nothing without You – and that in You, and You alone, there is victory.  Thank you, my Father, my Lord, my God, for being You.

I love You!

In Jesus name, Amen.

A Heart At Rest – A Lesson From Martha & Mary

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with “Martha Syndrome.”  One way that I show my love for my husband and my family is through serving. That in itself is not a bad thing; in fact, I think they rather enjoy it when I have a heart of servitude.  However, there are those times when I get a bit tired.  Maybe a little cranky.  Okay, maybe a lot cranky.  During those times when I’ve stretched myself too thin or possibly haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I have been known to raise my voice.  Slam a cupboard door.  Sigh loudly.  Grunt, grumble, growl.  What’s inside of my head might just come out, and it’s not always pretty.  “Why am I the only person around here who ever does anything??!”  (Sound familiar?)  This happened to me this past weekend.  My husband and daughter were less than thrilled.  I could go into an entirely different rant on how people ask, “What’s wrong?” yet don’t really always like the answer, but I digress.

In the midst of my slamming and grunting, I heard God’s still, small voice within my heart.  You see, it wasn’t just the contents of my brain that were ugly during my own personal pity party.  What was inside of my heart was ugly too.  My heart is where Jesus lives, and well, He really doesn’t like it when I trash His home.  Seeds of bitterness and anger are watered by the father of lies, who wants nothing more than to evict my Lord and Savior from His residence within my heart and soul.  Jesus warned us in John 8:44b that “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (NASB).”  Before I became completely enveloped in Satan’s trash talk, God stepped in and spoke to my heart with two simple words: “Okay, Martha.”

I knew who He was referring to, and I knew why He was saying it.  There are two passages in the Bible that I believe are different perspectives of the same story.  At the beginning of John 12, we read about Jesus’ visit with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  Picture this: Jesus arrives for dinner, He and Lazarus are chilling at the table, and Martha is rushing around (like we women tend to do when entertaining) finishing up the last of the cooking, maybe cleaning a few dishes, trying to make sure everything is just right.  She was doing what she probably did best – serving.  Now, serving in itself is a wonderful gift from God and should be used to His glory!  But as we’ll see, this didn’t seem to be the case on this occasion with our girl, Martha.  She’s buzzing around the kitchen, and where is her sister Mary?  Verse 3 says, “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (NASB).”  Now jump back to Luke 10:38-42.  This is where we get a peek into the hearts of these two sisters.  Martha was distracted with the preparations, while Mary was seated at the feet of Jesus, “listening to His word (v. 39, NASB).”  Mary was ticked!  She even went to Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone (v. 40, NASB)?”

Wow.  Let me just pause here for a moment.  Is that how I sounded?  Was I … really … whining to God?  Lord, do you not care that I’m doing the cooking and the dishes and the laundry all by myself?  Don’t You care that I have school work to finish while my family is, well, just doing whatever they want to do, and I’m so busy, and they’re not helping, and don’t You even CARE, God?  Yep.  That’s exactly how I sounded.  Just making sure.  Let’s move on.

Jesus spoke to Martha in verses 41 and 42, and I imagine Him smiling, possibly shaking His head a little, and taking her hands into His.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her (NASB).”  It wasn’t Martha’s acts of service that were wrong; it was her attitude.  It was her heart.  Jesus pointed out that she was “worried and bothered about so many things.”  Her heart and mind were caught up with not only the tasks at hand, but with the worry of why her sister wasn’t helping.  Mary was at the feet of Jesus!  He was a Guest in their home, and rather than worrying about food for her belly, she was feasting on food for her soul!  Even if Martha wanted to finish preparing the dinner as an act of service to Christ and her family, she should not have begrudged Mary’s need to be at the feet of her Lord.

Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus, hanging on every word.  Mary, who poured out her precious perfume upon His feet as a sacrifice from the heart, then wiped His feet with her hair.  That sweet smell filled the home and that sweet sacrifice filled Jesus’ heart.  That’s what He desires of us … what He desires of me.

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A heart at rest – that’s what Mary had.  Martha’s heart was filled with worry.  Jesus saw this and called her out on it.  He called me out on it, too.   Jesus wanted Martha, like Mary, to find rest at His feet.  To bring those worries and cares to Him.  To worship from her heart, and not just with her hands.  I want to be at the feet of Jesus.  There will always be times when I am needed to serve; but I will only find peace when my heart is filled with so much of Christ that there is no room for Satan’s lies.  Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to clean Your house – my heart – when the Martha in me comes out.  Keep bringing me back to Your feet, where I find rest. Amen.

Say WHAT???

ImageOnce upon a time, a handsome prince went out on a date (put-put golfing) with a beautiful princess.  They met through the Kingdom of Christian Mingle, and this was their first time seeing one another in person.  They laughed, had fun, went to dinner, and talked for hours.  In fact, the beautiful princess was so taken by the prince that she laid it all out on the table.  She told him of her devotion to the One True King, and alas, he was also a follower of the Prince of Peace! They spoke of priorities and morals, and they determined that should this blossom into much more than one date, they would take their time before joining their separate castles into one.

Two weeks later, they were engaged.  Six weeks later, they were married.  Now how did THAT happen?!

Believe it or not, this is one time in my life where radical obedience to God came into play.  It was a time when I had to step out of my own way, give God my complete trust, and do what He was calling me to do – even though it seemed absolutely crazy.

My (now) husband earnestly and persistently pursued my heart.  We had each been hurt in the past by ex-spouses and the mistakes of lives lived apart from Jesus.  In fact, one of the first things I told him was that I had built up a pretty high wall around my heart after having it broken.  He smiled and let me know that it was his goal to tear that wall down, brick by brick. 

That’s all romantic and junk, but I needed more than wonderful words and attention.  I needed to know what GOD was saying in the midst of this new found love!  Was it love?  I had been so deceived in the past by the father of lies, mistaking lust for love until it was too late.  This was a relationship where from the start, God was the center.  I knew my heart was opening; I could feel a different kind of love blossoming.  Yet I wanted to know, without a doubt, that this was God’s will. 

In my room one night, I prayed.  And then I prayed some more.  I’m not one for “putting out the fleece” to test God, but I asked Him to please show me something specific in His Word to let me know where to go in this relationship.  I opened up to Hosea 2:16. (We’ll forget for a minute that this is a story about Hosea and his harlot wife, and how that relationship reflected God’s dealings with Israel at the time!)  The verse reads “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’” (vs 2:16a, NIV).  My jaw dropped.  I nervously laughed and asked God for further clarification.  I opened to another passage, this time in First Samuel.  “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (vs 1:20, NIV).  My husband has a son named Samuel.  Tears flowed from my eyes, even as I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Really?!”  (Or in other words … SAY WHAT?)  

I allowed God to lead my heart, and He was so, so right.  Often times we are impatient with God’s timing; I was concerned at how quickly my heart and life were changing.  When my husband asked me to marry him just two weeks and one day after we met, I said, “Yes.”  (Surprisingly enough, I had very few friends who questioned the timing!)  Less than one month later, we said, “I do.”  Although I trusted God to lead our marriage, I still wondered why … why so soon?  I had no doubt this was God’s will, no matter how insane it seemed to my practical, sensible side.  I simply wondered.

Within the next year, our family went through much heartache.  Doctors questioned my granddaughter’s lack of weight gain and threw the word “leukemia” out there, scaring us terribly.  (She is now two years old and does not have cancer!)  My new born grandson wound up in the hospital, getting sicker for reasons the doctors could not explain, going through blood transfusions and looking nothing like his sweet beautiful self because he was so puffed up with fluid.  (He will celebrate his first birthday on Monday and is quite healthy!)  My husband’s grandmother, who raised him and was closer to him than any mother, passed away – nearly devastating my husband. More than one person, including my husband, told me that had I not been in his life, they don’t know if he would have survived her loss.  Praise God we had each other through those dark moments.

Yet there was an even bigger reason I believe God called us together in such a whirlwind romance.  Two months after we wed, we were doing a couple’s Bible study.  As we sat sharing, I told him that “no offense,” but I had envisioned marrying a leader in the church.  You know, a preacher or maybe a Sunday school teacher.  He stared at me, his eyes welling up with tears.  I thought I had hurt his feelings!  Then he spoke the words that have seriously changed our lives: “God just called me to preach.”  Just like that.  He knew without a doubt it was God’s voice.  Since that evening, God has shown us repeatedly that the ministries of preaching and (for me) counseling are in our future (and my husband does indeed now teach Sunday school). 

Could God have used other ways to comfort and speak to us had we not met or married as quickly as we did?  Of course!  He is God!  But how incredibly precious it is for me to know that the God of the universe used us to express His love, His comfort, and His direction to each other.  Praise Jesus that we both said YES to GOD!