Aug 14, 2012

I didn't understand that I was dead to Sin!

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV)

One day, my husband said, “Hey honey, guess what. Next week, two of our loved ones will be joining us at the trailer park for a few days!”  His face lit up with excitement. I started to feel joyful too!
Within a few days, the couple arrived. Right away, I noticed their weary faces. “It took 12 hours to get here!” They tiredly exclaimed. My heart filled with mercy.  I offered to cook dinner while they settled in. Then, I hurried back to our trailer and started to prepare a meal.  My husband quickly followed my lead. He raced to the grocery store to get a few more steaks. Soon, dinner was ready.  What a blessing to have our loved ones so close!

The next day, my husband called from work and said that he was returning home to change his clothes. He had planned some alone time with his closest friend. Within the hour, both men were standing outside our trailer door, eagerly anticipating a round of golf.  I asked if I could take a quick picture of the two of them together. We had missed honoring this man’s recent birthday. “Perhaps it is not too late to show our love for him through a special gift. Maybe a framed picture would be nice.” I thought. I snapped a quick photo. “I have plenty of time to run to the store.” I assumed. Then, before they speedily departed, my husband announced, “We are invited to dinner at their home tonight.”

Shortly after they left, there was knocking at the door. Two small boys and their missionary mother arrived for a spontaneous play date. We had been praying for a friend for our seven-year-old son. God answered our prayer. Somehow, the day flew by! Now, I only had one hour to spare before my husband’s return. So, I humbly explained my intentions to our new friends. Then, my young son and I drove to Wal-Mart.  “No toys!” I told him, as we entered the store. “We don’t even have time to look!”

We raced around the store. He pulled on my arm several times as we sped passed the toy department, pool accessories and video games. God helped me maintain my focus and soon the photo was printed. “Now all we need is the perfect frame." While I combed through stacks of picture frames, my son cracked jokes and played imaginary Power Rangers. Then, it was time to leave. “I can’t wait to present our gift!” I thought.

On the way home, I noticed a man standing on the corner. He was holding a sign that read, “Jesus Saves! Repent now.” I glanced down and read my car temperature gage. 106 degrees! I felt the Holy Spirit in my heart say, “He’s thirsty, offer him a cold drink. And, then pray with him!”  As a result, I quickly returned home to prepare a giant sized cup of ice water.

We walked through the door of our trailer. My husband was resting on our bed. So I hollered, “I’ll be right back, okay?” Then, I quickly shared my plans with my husband. He just nodded, kissed me on the cheek and said, “Be careful.”  A quick trip; and I was back home again.

This time, as I walked through the door, I noticed that my husband was standing in front of the television. The cartoon story of Joseph and his colorful coat had somehow caught his attention. “Oh, I love the ending to this bible story,” I shared.  "Forgiveness after all his brothers had done to him! Pretty incredible!” With his head held low, my husband simply replied. ”Yeah.” Next, we signed our loved one’s belated birthday card. Then, we walked as a family to the couple’s trailer.

We greeted our loved ones with hugs. Then I offered the husband his special gift. As he set the gift bag on the picnic table behind him, he offered me a shot of tequila. I politely refused. That’s when he began calling me a counselor and therapist. I held my head low and replied, “No, I don’t do that anymore.” But he vehemently insisted. “You know you still like to analyze people!” Was this a sign of what was later to come?

Inside, the wife prepared side dishes for our dinner. My husband, our son and I entered the trailer to take a quick tour. While inside, I sparked a conversation with her about a sewing project God had placed on my heart. I watched as she drank a shot of tequila. Our young son began to play with their two dogs. He kept on his best behavior. I sat on the couch next to my husband. I instantly noticed the agitated look on his face. In the past, each time his friend began to drink heavily, my husband would turn to me and say, “We’re leaving!” Yet for some unknown reason this time we stayed.

Before we ate, the man offered to pray for our meal. He asked that we grab hands. Then, he said, “Lord, bless our food.” He began to cry as he continued to pray. Our young son started to nervously laugh. In response, the man lashed out at me. “Donna, be a good Christian.” He spoke sharply. Speechless, I just kept my head bowed and nudged our son’s side with my elbow. Shear confusion! After nine years of knowing this couple, I had never heard either of them talk about having a relationship with God. Now, the same man was offering to lead both of our families by saying grace! I would have thought that I would feel joy, but instead I only felt ill at ease. Time to eat.

A few minutes after beginning our meal, the man approached our seven-year-old son and began spoon feeding him while making “airplane noises.” Next, he grabbed food off our son’s plate with his hands and began to eat it.  My husband remained incredibly calm. Afterward, the man returned to the kitchen and drank another shot of tequila.

At this point, I could tell that my husband was ready to leave. However, our young son was suddenly offered an ice cream treat. So, we stayed. I few minutes later, the man asked me to go outside with him to have a private conversation. So, I turned to my husband and said, “He has asked to speak with me two times tonight. I better go. Maybe he really needs someone to talk to!” Then, I followed the man outside. We sat down at the picnic table together. At first, he was being courteous and polite. He began to speak about God. He had grabbed my attention. But, after our son had finished his ice cream, my husband wanted to leave.  Still, I had a strong feeling that I should stay a just few minutes longer. So, I shared my plan to stay with my husband. No reply! He simply took our young son’s hand and began to walk back home to our trailer. I stayed.

After my husband and young son left, the exchange between the man and I turned sour. I was blind-sided! First, I was told that my husband had never physically hurt me and that I needed to forgive him. Then, he proceeded to lie about my husband. I tried to interject a story of how God had healed our hearts. But, merely bringing up God’s name increased his hostility. For the next thirty minutes, I listened to the man’s anger towards God and me.

Soon, his wife came outside. She walked over to where we were sitting. At first she seemed to compliment me about keeping a past secret of hers. She said, “To your credit, over the years, I never felt judged by you.” However, after a few moments, she quickly joined her husband in presenting a laundry list of my character flaws. Dumbfounded, I wondered, “What had I ever done to her to deserve such harsh criticism?” I was at a loss for words. All I could say was, “I thought I had changed. You are welcome to call my attention to my behavior the next time it happens and I will do my best to stop.” That’s when the wife grabbed my hand. She rubbed her finger back and forth tenderly across the back of my hand while she tried to offer an explanation to why she felt the way she did. All the while, the husband called me cruel names and mocked God. Though my heart was breaking, I tried to hear the message that they were conveying.  Still, all I could think was, “This particular woman was the one person in my life that I thought I had shown only love, mercy and compassion to. Had I failed her too? I felt like crying. Pride was telling me to defend myself. But I knew what these two people needed to see at that very moment was God’s grace. So, with my head held low, I endured the emotional and spiritual pain.

At last, God must have said, “That’s enough!” Because, my husband suddenly began walking towards the couple’s campsite. With my head still hanging low and my stomach in knots, I looked up at the woman and said, “I will need some time to digest all of this. Thank you for dinner.” Then, I walked away.

The couple called my husband to their side. Both of them started to apologize to him. Yet, my husband had no idea why they were apologizing. When my husband returned home he asked, “What happened?” My wounds weren’t visible on the outside, but the soul-tearing sting of judgment, name calling, and mean-spirited comments were breaking my heart. I said, “I’m leaving. I’ll be back soon.”

I got in my car and drove to the front of the trailer park. I parked my car directly in front of the pool and turned off the engine. There I sat alone, staring at the pool light, pouring out my anger, embarrassment and grief in private to my Savior.

A big question mark appeared in my mind as I began to take a rigorously honest inventory of my Christian walk. “Was I really still so self-righteous? Do I really exalt myself because of what God does through me?”  Almost immediately, I started to doubt my behavior as a new Christian. Then, with tears streaming from my eyes and my head held in my hands, I began to repent. “Forgive me, Father God, for my sins. Forgive me, especially Father, for the sin of a critical and self-righteous spirit. Deliver me from such hurtful habits. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.”  Instantly, God eased my burdened spirit.

After a short time, I started my car engine and drove home to our campsite. My husband seemed worried. “What is going on?” He compassionately asked. I didn’t want to cause him unnecessary pain, so I briefly shared what happened. A pure look of disappointment filled his eyes. “Well, I guess I’ll be having a talk with my friend tomorrow!” He said. “No honey, you can’t.”  I replied. God’s Word offers only to two options in a situation like this. Forgive and pray.” I extended my hand across the pillow to my husband. He laid his hand in mine. I began to pray. "Please Lord, forgive our loved ones for their hurtful behavior, especially his friend’s angry words towards You. In the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Afterwards, I went downstairs and sat in our living room chair. I held my head in my hands. Our son was still awake. He turned and looked at me, “Are you mad or sad?” He asked. “Both, I guess.” Then, I crawled into be next to him. He rolled over and asked, “What happened?” I simply replied, “I got yelled at. How about you?” He replied, with evidence still on his face, “I got chocolate ice cream.”  “That sounds yummy. I had the worst desert ever!” I said. Then he replied, “Well, you should have prayed first before going outside with him.” He continued. “And, if God said you were going to get yelled at, you should have ate the chocolate ice cream first.” We belly laughed.

A few minutes later, I felt the warming presence of the Holy Spirit. “Pick up the book that the missionary woman brought to you earlier in the day.” So, I asked my son to bring the book to me.  I turned the book over and began to read the bolded capital letters written in red on the back. “I PRAY THAT GOD FORGIVES THEM.”  I smiled. “Thank You Lord for Your guidance.”

Soon after, I returned to my husband side. I lay wide awake for hours, watching as the timer on our DVD player cycled from 1 to 24 seconds over and over again. I just couldn’t fall asleep. At one point, I turned the television on but the light was keeping my husband awake. So, I turned the TV off and stared at the ceiling.  The words to a Christian song began to play in my mind. When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there. Who made an end to all my sin.  Was God pacifying me with His song of mercy? I wondered.

At 4:00am, I just could lie there any longer. So, I went into the living room and grabbed my bible. I opened my favorite book and allowed the pages to fall as they may. As God would have it, the pages settled on Proverbs 19.  God spoke directly to my heart. “Take notice, and then forgive quickly!” I laid my head against the head rest of the armed rocking chair and closed my eyes. I began to pray. “Lord, heal my broken heart. Please help me to forgive them as You forgive me.” I closed my bible and remained still.

At 6:00am my husband came downstairs. Time to go to work. I kissed him goodbye then made myself a cup of coffee. Once again, I opened my bible. This time the pages landed on Matthew chapter 9. The Words in RED soared off the page. “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you.” God’s answer brought tears to my eyes.  Then, I read, “Follow me. I desire mercy. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners into repentance.”  I smiled and wiped my eyes. I just knew this story wasn’t over yet!

Charitie Bancroft, 1863. Music: William Bradbury, 1861

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands;
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

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