Dirty Hope

HOPE

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I have the word hanging all over my house. I doodle it. I sing songs about it. And I overuse the word in almost all of my sentences.

Hope. Hope. Hope.

And like the picture above, which happens to be the screen on my phone, the word just looks pretty.

Pretty hope.

A pretty friend of mine who is pretty dear, sent me a pretty book in the mail the other day. (Let me interject here, too, that the amount of love being shared with me is pretty o.ver.whelm.ing. in itself.) The book? About hope. Pretty beautiful.

I opened the book last night and within only the first few pages was hit square in the jaw with a concept that I had never faced before.

Hope isn’t pretty.

Hope is far more a waiting for something in a hot, sticky mess than it is a peaceful, orderly affair.

Scripture calls Christ in us the Hope of Glory. Jesus’ life was not sterile. He consistently plunged into the unclean places of people’s lives and hearts.


And my favorite, when the author relates hope to those of birth pains and tells of a story of South African women whose culture lends itself to a gathering joining in the groanings of the laboring mother:

The beauty of the wail comes from a deep sense that says, “We are suffering together. We are a bloody, hot, sticky mess, but we will get through this. As we enter the chaos, we have a deep sense that it really will all end sometime. That is our hope.”

Hope is dirty.

It’s sticky and messy. And just downright nasty and yucky on most days.

Because if things are simply beautiful and right, hope isn’t needed. Hope is required and leaned upon in the most sweltering, mind-numbing, groan-inducing times.

Jesus is our Hope.

But had the world been right, He wouldn’t have had to come. And if all were right now, He wouldn’t have to come again. And when He came and when He comes again, He’s coming to save us from filth and grime and the grotesque pieces of a very dirty life.

Hope is filthy. It’s covered in soot and mud and has rolled around in the ashes.

Why else would we HOPE for beauty from ashes?

Yes, I still think of hope being the light in the dark. The rainbows after the rain. The breath of fresh air.

I see hope on the sun-kissed cheeks of my children. In the majesty of the dainty flowers that are tucked behind my ears by the chubby fingers that picked them for me. In the smell of fresh cut grass.

I see hope everytime I look into the face of my husband. And I feel it wash over me as I whisper prayers to the Lord.

Yes, hope is beautiful.

But the grittiness of it might just be more gorgeous.

Because without the dirt and filth and the hot, bloody, sticky mess….how could we ever truly relish in the comfort and peace and perfection that will come when what we are hoping for happens and the chaos ends?

I have physically been in hot, sticky, bloody childbirth labor three times. And each time I thought I would never survive. But I did. And I have absolute perfection times three that stares me in the face every day because I had the hope of the end of that labor.

People can say all day long that childbirth is beautiful. It’s not. It’s a disgusting mess of horror…until. Until the hope baby is seen. And all the tears and sweat and filth are an afterthought because the hope brought forth the prize.

The labor is long for me right now. I’m hot and I’m tired. I’ve been known to scream a time or twenty, and I certainly cry. Waiting on my husband is a hot, sticky mess.

But like the Africans from the author’s story, I’m so blessed with a support system that has chosen a hard road of suffering and groaning with me. They haven’t left squeamish at the sight of the blood.

And I have my Precious Hope of Glory, who has already walked the most dirty, bloody, sticky road of suffering and shame.

Yes, my hope is dirty. Boy, is it.

But, oh, how beautiful the dirt will be….one day.

***All quotes from The Allure of Hope: God’s Pursuit of a Woman’s Heart by Jan Meyers***

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Jesus Mows Grass

Spring has sprung here in the South.

And my yard was a living breathing jungle.  I had put off yardwork long enough, and I knew that something had to be done to tame the masses of weeds and crab grass.  This was to be a first for me.  Yardwork without the husband.  I have mowed and such for years, but the husband has always been there to get everything running and just to, well, be there.  Not so anymore.

I summoned all of the fragments of girl-power that I could, and I headed to the garage.  And stared the beast in the face.  I would prove victorious today.  I would master this living-on-my-own thing.  I would mow the yard without a man.

Until I didn’t.

The lawn mower wouldn’t start.  And the weed eater had left the building with the husband.  I had nothing to do anything with except one of those old handheld weedwackers that would have shriveled up and died before it even touched the acre of yard it would have had to manage.

And so I did the only thing I knew to do.

Cry.

I plopped myself down on my front step and just cried.  Not because I felt defeated over having zero idea how to get the lawn mower running, but because I was mad.  Absolutely furious. 

How dare he leave me here to have to deal with all this stuff that is his to worry about?  How could he be so selfish?  So unfair?

God sat with me and held my hand for a long time this morning.  He reminded me tenderly of a time when all the gloom will disappear for those that are distressed (Isaiah 9:1).  And He comforted me with songs of thanksgiving.

And then He did what any Perfect Bridegroom would do.

He mowed my yard.

The smell of cut grass is wafting into my house through my open windows, and the tears are continuing to stream down my face.  Because, right now, there is a beautiful young man who belongs to a family that is so ridiculously precious to me mowing my yard.  He just showed up this afternoon.  And the kids ran to tell me that he was mowing.  And I turned to a pile of mush in the floor.

You think Jesus didn’t send him?

I know He did.

Because stuff like yardwork matters to my Husband.  And He’s going to make sure it’s taken care of.

Because He loves me.

He Texts Me; He Texts Me Not

Every morning and every night.

Like clockwork.

I think I did miss one night because I fell asleep when I was really sick, but I think that’s been my only slip up.

Every morning and every night, the husband gets a text from me that tells him that he’s special and that he’s loved.

Somedays he gets the text even if he’s been awful to me, and other days he gets the text if the last thing I want to do is tell him he’s special. Because there are a lot of days he doesn’t act special.

But, it’s something that I feel like I’m supposed to do. And not because I’m being clingy or needy or holy.

But because I want him to know he’s special. And loved no matter what he’s done.

Plain and simple.

I texted him the first time with that message the night he left me. I can’t remember my motives that particular night, probably passive begging for him to come home. But, for whatever reason, I sent another the next morning. And then that night. And so on. For almost 5 months now.

Sometimes he texts back. Sometimes he doesn’t.

But I can’t make myself not send them. I’ve tried.

Just a few days ago, I thought I had had enough of this whole watching and waiting thing. I was ready to check out and move on. I had decided that I would stop my texts cold turkey, and that, among other things, would cause him to realize that I was done. That he wasn’t going to get to continue to feast at the table of adultery, while resting easily on a pillow of knowing I’d always be around.

But nighttime came and my hands grabbed my phone and a text was sent before I knew what I’d done.

Same thing happened the next morning.

So I prayed about it and begged God to guide me. Pleaded, really. Because I, in no way, wanted the whole texting thing to become about me and something I needed to do.

I neither received any Scripture reference to texting an infidel nor writing on the wall pointing me in either direction; I just felt like it was okay to text him that night. And so I did. And again the next morning. And on and on. And I texted him this morning, too.

Hope you have a good day. I love you.

That’s it. Nothing flowery or profound. Sometimes I tell him that I’m praying for him. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I tell him that I miss him. Sometimes I don’t.

I don’t know what he thinks when he reads them. He may think I’m a crazy stalker. He may secretly love getting them. He may dread them. He may look forward to them and wait for them. I don’t know.

But I think I’m supposed to keep sending them.

Because it’s important to know that you are loved and that you are special. That your sin and faults don’t dictate your specialness to someone who loves you unconditionally. That no matter how badly you hurt someone that loves you so much, they don’t quit on you.

I can, with almost 100% certainty, say that the husband isn’t in the Word right now. I, however, am blessed to be. So I only have to open the pages of Scripture and set my mind on the Lord to remind myself of my worth and beauty. He’s not taking hold of that privilege right now. So, if I can serve to be a reminder of unconditional love (not only mine, but Christ’s), then so be it.

I continue to have days that I feel like dirt. Like trash. That I wasn’t worth enough to fight for, so it was easier and better to just trade me in and set me out for garbage. It’s not an easy feeling to go to sleep swallowing. Let alone wake up the next day facing.

What I don’t want is for my husband to ever feel that way. No matter what he does, he matters to me. And I don’t want him to ever feel like he’s trash or not worth the fight.

[Insert lectures on boundaries and criticisms about making things too easy for him here.] I get it. Nine out of ten people probably disagree with what I’m doing. And, like I said, I wanted to stop, too. It does seem like he gets the best of both worlds. He doesn’t have to know what it’s like to do without my love, because I continue to give it freely. Again, I get it.

But, just as I said before, my hand continues to reach for the phone to do it. I’ve prayed against it, because it’s not easy or comfortable for me. And yet still, the texts log.

Because maybe it’s important to him. And it is making a difference for him. I don’t know what God is doing in his heart and mind (and that drives me crazy, because I want to know!!), but maybe my text messages are being used for a greater purpose. Or maybe they aren’t.

But, for now, all I know is that the texts will probably keep being sent. Morning and night. Like clockwork. Until God tells me otherwise.

Because he matters.

And he needs to know it.

[This is for me. It may not be for you. If you’re the victim of infidelity, God may not lead you to wait and watch and send text messages. I would never question your stance on handling your spouse in an adultery-victim situation. We’re all different and called differently. Waiting just happens to be what God has called me to do. It’s not easy nor fun, but it’s what stares back at in the mirror right now. Please don’t judge yourself or me based on what God asks the other of us to do. And if you have never suffered at the hands of adultery, please don’t lay judgement at the feet of those of us who have. Survival takes many shapes and colors, and if there were a cookie cutter formula then we wouldn’t be facing this epidemic in the first place.]

Exodusing

I’m on a plane and so thankful that God gifted me an individual aisle seat this leg. I have my Bible and books all spread out like I mean serious business and am trying to get some studying done.

But my mind won’t turn off.

I’m watching the tiny lights of the world down below me in the darkness of these early morning hours and realizing that I’m heading back.

Back out, really.

Back out into the desert lands. The sandy dunes that hold my ankles hostage and make it hard for me to pick my feet up and trudge on. The rocky places that stub my toes and bring stinging winces to my face. And I’m not looking forward to it.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to study the book of Exodus and the exodus of God’s chosen people. And though I’ve made general points toward clips of their story in relation to mine, I’m deciding that God has placed me in a very metaphorical traipsing through their footsteps. And I’m conflicted as to how I feel about it.

In chapters 1-13, Moses draws back the curtain a bit and sneaks us a peek at the rescue of the Israelite people from the Egyptian’s slave-driving hands. The Egyptians are bad. God’s people are good. “Let My people go.” “No.” “No, really, let My people go.” Frogs. Bugs. Blood. Death Angels. And God’s people are on their way.

On their way into a world that would be unlike anything they had ever known. And would prove to be beautiful and remarkable and life-changing. If. If they would allow God to do His thing.

I get it.

My marriage was not perfect. Absolutely not. But it was all I knew. Looking back, I want to shake me. But, like the Hebrews, I knew it needed to be better than what it was, but really had no idea how to get it there. Because fear and change are hard to face, let alone do something about. And sometimes (alottimes) it’s easier to stay in the rut rather than climb out. The Egyptians hated slavery, but they never banned together and left (1:10 says that the Egyptians themselves feared that they would just up and leave, thus the infanticide of the baby boys).

Rut staying. Just means extra bondage for extra time.

Thankfully, though, God hears our cries for help. I didn’t groan under the burden of my marriage like the Hebrews did under their slavery, but my heart ached for the need for something more authentic.

For the Egyptians, they were rescued from their rut of slavery via a miracle baby turned murderer/doubter/coward by the name of Moses. Me? I was rescued by a wakeup call in the shape of an affair. (This is where I say that I KNOW God did not cause the affair to jerk a knot in my chain. But I know He used it. So let’s not dive into that theological debate here.)

Fast forward to the banks of the Red Sea.

The Hebrews have discovered that Pharoah and his army are angry as all get-out and hightailing it in pursuit of the people. The people who have just witnessed miracle after miracle, cringe in fear and spout off nonsense about just surrendering back to slavery to escape the uncertainty of the unknown and terror of death.

Again. I get it.

Last summer, I spiraled into self-destruction because it seemed safer to defer to absurdity than to courage. I clung to the hand of deception rather than the Hand of Truth.

Then God stepped in and gave the words to Moses and comforted both a gaggle of grouchy scared Israelites and a pathetic puddle of me.

No. I’m serious.

God threw Exodus 14:13-14 in my face again and again until it stuck.

Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do His work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians [the crumbling pieces of your old marriage] today for you’re never going to see them again. God will fight for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!
–from The Message

And so, I mustered what grains of bravery I could find, made a literal effort to keep my mouth shut with the husband, stepped carefully, and followed Him out into the unknown.

God parted the Red Sea, led the Hebrew people through, and demolished Egypt. God picked me up out of my deathbed, walked me out, and burned my old marriage to the ground. I couldn’t go back and have that marriage now if I tried. It’s gone.

I, like the Israelites, have stood on the other side and realized the tremendous power of God (14:31). I have sung joyful songs (chapter 15). And I have started the already daunting task of desert dwelling and navigation.

I’ve been hungry and thirsty. And God has already provided sweet mercy (15:22-25). I’ve complained and whined and cried out to God.

My husband is living life with someone else. I’ve been traded in. And set out on the curb for trash pickup. These waters are bitter. I’ve tasted Marah (15:22-25). Though sweetness has rained from Heaven’s Rock, I can sit for awhile and find the bitter taste still lingering in my mouth.

I’ve felt tested by God (15:26).

And, though it’s happened more than once over these months, God just recently (over the past few days) has gifted me with an oasis for rejuvenation (15:27).

And now I’m looking ahead into chapter 16 and noticing that the whining is starting up again.

I found myself not 2 hours ago sitting at the airport gate, moaning to the Lord about having to take a step out of oasis shade and put my foot back down into the hot wilderness sand again. The Wilderness of Sin (16:1). Oh, boy.

I’m not going to say that God will move me through the 40 years of Hebrew wanderings and wonderings in such the timeline as He has thus far. But He may.

Wow, if He does. Because there’s a lot of good, good stuff in my future.

But, I’m also scared. Because there is some not so good stuff in the next chapters of their tale. And I’m so ready to move out of this story, bypass the wilderness, and slide right on into the Promised Land. I’m hungry for milk and honey.

But one thing is for sure. Okay, maybe two things.

First… No matter what, the message is clear all through Exodus. Get over yourself; be brave; let God do His thing.

And, second… As beautiful as Ezekiel is to me, maybe my hope now is coming from Exodus.

Exodus gave me hope today.

Po-tay-toe. Po-tah-toe. Elim. Ohio.

I’m sitting criss-cross-applesauce. On a bed. In a basement. In the home of a friend I met in my computer. In a state I had never stepped foot in before yesterday.

And it’s not weird.

In fact, I think it was totally ordained by God.

Actually, no thinking. I just know.

Because to say I have been tired is like saying the ocean is wet. I was wearing weak all over my body; and my words, written or not, were dripping with fatigue.

But our Gem of a God knows that every desert needs an oasis.

About a month ago, I was talking with my dear friend that lived in my laptop, and both of us rather simultaneously snarked off about a massive need to just hug the other one’s neck. About two hours later, God played travel agent and gifted us the opportunity.

I wasn’t exceptionally exhausted then. Understandably, the navigation process of this road is complicated and hard, but, at that particular time, I was dealing and in a spot where the dealing was dealable. I was thrilled about meeting my friend and the opportunity, but never realized that it was going to be an execution of sovereignty.

Just this past week, however, my desires to even continue trudging on the restoration road were waning. And waning fast. I was not only believing lies in my head, I had resorted to making up my own. I felt like walls were closing in on me; the pressure was too heavy; and I was suffocating. And I had almost convinced myself that escaping via my own route was going to be my rescue.
The sand dunes of my desert were getting too high, too deep, and too hot; I was parched; and my camel had died 4 miles back.

And then, I boarded a plane. To meet a virtual stranger. And I felt like I was going to just collapse under the weight of a really meaty mirage.

Because I knew that everything was right and good and God-given about this trip, yet I couldn’t understand it.

My heart was aching for and missing my kids; self-doubt and self-worth were taunting me; and I felt, plain and simple, out of control. I had fought for so many months to maintain control of what particle of my planet that I could, and, with one plane ride away from absolutely everything familiar, I felt like I would somehow lose some ground that I had covered. Sandy ground, yet it was still ground.

The vision was of an exciting fun-filled trip, yet as the pressure built last week, I felt almost a sense of fear that it would be ripped from my hands. That good things don’t happen to girls like me anymore….obviously, look at my marriage.

Lies. All lies.

I’m telling you, not a pretty place to find yourself. Staring down the eyes of a loaded double barrel shotgun of doubt and merciless stupidity.

But, God knew better.

All along.

Despite my attempts to inadvertently forget His hugeness, He has provided palm trees and fresh pools that are very much real. No mirage in tow. And rest and refreshment have been so sweet.

My friend just so happens to be even more precious in person than she is in Times New Roman font. She’s funny and honest and transparent and she makes me laugh. And think. And want to be a better everything.

Her kids are beautiful and witty and charming; and her husband is so gracious and generous to put up with all my nonsense.

And it’s been so good for my soul.

Yes, to make a new in-skin friend. But, also, to just be away. Far far away. Away from all the abnormality that is my new normal.

He knew I would need this. And He knew 4 weeks ago that I needed it today. And so He made it so.

God gave the Israelites the oasis of Elim (Exodus 15:27).

And God gave me a basement bed. In Ohio.

True to Your word, You let me catch my breath…. –Psalm 23:3 (MSG)

I Confess….

I’m a doubter.
Yet ridiculously gullible.

I don’t even know how those two go together into one outfit of skin, but they mashed themselves up solid in this one.

For instance, I have a hard time giving people the benefit of the doubt. I tend to automatically assume the worst about people if I hear or observe them in certain scenarios, because, in my mind, you don’t toy with situations if you aren’t an active participant. Why go near fire unless you kinda like fire? (I say that with no judgement, just honesty from where I’ve been. Because the times I was accused of being involved in something negative, I usually was.)

On the flip side, if you give me your word, I’ll believe you. And will fight for your honor because you gave me your word.

And I’ve been burned both ways many times.

I’m accused (by myself mostly) of being entirely too skeptical and too trusting all in one breath. And what is left is a seriously confused set of schizophrenic trust issues.

Enter the husband.
All of the above applies to every second of my days with him.

I doubt every word that exits his mouth and could easier stuff a hippo in my back pocket as I could believe him. Yet, I believe him. And still defend him. And thus keep the giant pendulum in full swing.

Enter people.
Everything above applies to them, too.

I have a beautiful support system, but I cautiously step out every day wondering if that will be the day that someone will decide I’m not worth supporting anymore. I’ve very openly trusted so many people with the position of ally for my family, because I couldn’t fathom anyone not believing in restoration. And now, because I’ve opened myself up so wide, I’ve watched people abandon me and my children; I’ve watched people sit on their hands and say nothing; and I’ve watched people align themselves with the side of infidelity because ruffling feathers is too uncomfortable.

Enter God.
Surely the above doesn’t apply here.

For me it very sadly does.

Transparency is my only option here, and so, here is my very transparent story with God….

I doubt Him.
At least every 5 minutes. Of every hour. Of every day. I doubt Him.

I hear the promises of Jesus, and I believe them with everything in me and then find myself convincing myself that the husband could never change. My finite mind can’t wrap its feeble wires around the thought, so instead of leaning not on my own understanding(Prov. 3:5), I end up deciding to lean on doubt of the One Who Holds Everything Together.

Shameful.

Yesterday, I shut myself in my bathroom, sat on my toilet seat, and just cried. And begged God to forgive my unbelief. I had found myself (after a series of heart-wrenching emotional blows last week) ready to give up and throw in the towel. I knew that there was no end in sight, and I wanted out. And then I had to stop and confess and remember Who I was claiming couldn’t make miracles happen.

But not 8 hours later, I was back at it again.

More confession.

This morning, again.

Seriously? I feel as though I have no business even approaching the Throne in prayer after all that.

And I feel like a big fat hypocritical liar.

For several months now, I’ve claimed and professed sincere hope and expectation. I’ve tried to wear faith as a medallion around my neck for all to see, and have tried to be a voice to those that are suffering silently. And the whole time, I haven’t even really believed with everything in me that restoration for my family is possible.

I feel like a fraud.

Just for the sake of honesty, here’s where I get tripped up:

First, I don’t fully understand free-will vs. God changing lives. I know that the husband has to surrender fully from his own will, in order for repentance and reconciliation to ever come. But I know God can change lives and hearts. But, I don’t know where one ends and the other begins. And because I’m so gray, I tend to put all the responsibility and hope on the husband. And he’s not doing himself any favors. So my very limited mind feels like its only option is to just believe it’s all too hard, and all this hoping and waiting and watching has been for nothing.

Second, I, at times, tend to fall back onto a pathetic little pillow of thinking that my marriage isn’t quite as high up on the Lord’s priority list as I would hope. The magnitude of aching and hurting and abused and broken people is devouring this planet. Why would He choose my family to be the one to save and make new?

Third, sometimes it’s easier to feel sorry for myself than to keep going. I will not for a second say that needing time to grieve and mourn is not justified nor 100% okay. I would take that back pocket hippo from earlier and smash it into the face of whomever said otherwise. But, wallowing? Not okay. And I can cozy up to wallow on most every day that begins with a morning and ends with a night.

And, lastly, this is all really very hard. And weariness and weakness breed sleepless nights and a brain that swirls in circles and paints ornate pictures of my oh-so limited self.

I cannot describe to you the beauty of the hope I crave to have. It’s not hoping something will happen; it’s expecting it to happen. It’s believing in a God so radically huge that it’s incomprehensible to even contemplate another way.

I long for it.
I want to go to bed at night and wake up the next morning with that faith so attached to me that it like another skin.

I don’t know how to get there except to trust God.

There’s that trust thing again.

Trusting God that He’ll help me trust Him.

I know it’s really no more complicated than asking a cat to purr. Or a green bean to be green.

God doesn’t change.
His Word is pure.

It’s me.
This is all on me.

But, Praise Jesus, He is okay with baby-stepping me through this thing. And then just carrying me when I botch it up and trip all over my feet.

Every 5 minutes.

—–
UPDATE:

Want to see how cool God is? And how I need to find that hippo and smack myself around a time or two with it?

I’m currently sitting in Chicago on a layover. I wrote that blog post about 30 minutes ago on a plane. I have a 2 hour layover, so I pulled out my Beth Moore James Bible study and thought I’d get some homework done. I opened up to my page for today and just had to lift my eyes and praise Him for His sufficiency.

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Here I go… Going to try to actually DO victory instead of just talking about it.

Self Therapy Repetitions and Mutterings

To God….
I am beautiful.
I am special.
I’m worth it.

God…
respects me.
honors me.
loves me.
wants to be with me.

God will not….
trade me in.
throw me away.
use me.
forsake me.

Because of God…
I have hope.
I am still breathing.
I can face the day.
I keep on doing the little things that add up to big things.

He is faithful.
He will not fail me.
He will not break His promises.

He loves me.

I matter.