Divorce sucks. A dear, fantastic, beautiful woman I love (“Joy”) is going through it. She and I headed off to lunch recently so she could catch me up. Little did I know we were headed into a veritable shouting match about God’s attributes.
My life’s ups and downs could rival those of Trump’s career. I’ve been loved. I’ve been divorced. I’ve been hugged. I’ve been hit. Sung to. Screamed at. Birthed new life. Had life die within me. Securely debt-free. Crazily debt-ridden. Mt Everest to The Dead Sea. That’s me. Lots of lessons learned along the way. The one that caused Joy’s eyes to blaze with anger and forehead to wrinkle: outcome is not our responsibility.
She’s faced with a tough choice. A ministry unaware of her husband’s infidelity (with a major donor to that ministry while he was in charge of the ministry’s development) submitted an affidavit on his behalf which affected the custody dispersal of their children. Her dilemma is whether to make the ministry aware of the circumstances that caused his abandonment of her and their children. I urged her to, at all times, speak truth in love. Operate from a motivation of love. Stay in truth. She’s a former client of and donor to that ministry. She has a responsibility to provide truth to them. She’s scared of doing anything that will further affect the custody situation. I told her that outcome was in God’s hands, not hers. Her job is to speak truth, be motivated by Godly love. She ultimately realized her motivation right now would be vengeance, so she’s got some more discussing to do with God. Our conversation, though, is still churning through my mind.
I used to cling to the façade of control. Take Action A, follow with Action B, Outcome C will occur. Follow rules: pain and suffering remain at bay. Take the medicine: sickness leaves. Eat correctly: get a healthy body.
As a Christian, though, I have to accept that my life is no longer ordered this way.
God is in charge of the processes and He’s anything but predictable in action – only in motivation. His motivation is always love, but it’s not always a love I can comprehend given my lack of His perspective and overall purposes. He’s a God who says, “Yes, I know you’ve never known a man, Mary, and it’ll wreak havoc with the man you’re engaged to, but you’re going to give birth. Trust me.” He says, “Yes, I know you can’t speak well and there’s no discernible food or water out there in the desert, Moses. Trust me.” He says, “Yes, I know you’ve no concept of rain or flooding or need for salvation from such, Noah. Trust me.” He watches Elijah have those four jars of water filled and poured on the 12 altars three times, then produces a blazing fire on them. Over and over He makes no sense on this side of the lesson. Over and over we see His glory as a result. His awesomeness. His ability, not ours.
It’s easier to give up the need to control outcome if we value His outcome over the one we can dream. If His outcome hurts today, we have to be confident of the tomorrow that reveals His glory. We have to long for that glory more than our comfort. God glorified must be our source of peace.
I ache for Joy. I know the overwhelming hunger to control. To prevent pain – of self and of those under my care. To believe myself a failure if I don’t shield them from hurt or a bad outcome. Ultimately, it’s a reflection of our design. We’re made in the image of a God who controls. And I think it becomes an offering to Him when we sacrifice that particular part of our design back to His authority…trusting that He can do something more fitting with circumstance than we could dream.
Joy reminded me if she pointed a gun at my head and pulled the trigger, I’d die.
I reminded her that would only happen if God allowed it. And, if He did, He’d ultimately be glorified in it.
She reminded me of an abused boy, chained to his bed for years, recently discovered by authorities. “Was that God’s will? You think God’s going to be glorified in that?”
I reminded her of some of my Dead Sea moments. A client who recently reneged on $19,000 that was supposed to help move my family nearer my in-laws’ who need our presence and help. A former boyfriend who thought pushing and slapping were acceptable ways to keep me in line. Another one who made me long for the days of just pushing and slapping.
“You think all that was God’s will?” Her beautiful blue eyes opened wide.
“I think God allowed it,” I responded. “I don’t think I can know fully why. I don’t have His mind. But I can tell you I have a good sense of how He hurts because I’ve hurt. I can think of that man who owes me money and hurt for the impact his ministry will experience as a result. I can feel that more honestly than I can want justice from him. I can think of the men who hurt me and ache for how lost and scared they must be more than I want them to be hit back. And I know that’s God. The world tells me if I’m hit to hit back harder. If I’m cheated, to exact vengeance. But God says to love your enemy. He says to turn the other cheek. I’ve learned that doing so gives Him freedom to be seen. And Him being seen – and known – matters more than me. There’s freedom in that.”
She shook her head.
We sat back in our chairs.