A while back, I ran across an updated picture of my friend and her husband. Being the sappy man that I am, I smiled, shed a few tears, and quietly thanked God for what I was seeing. The last time that I had spoken with her, she and her husband had separated. I wasn’t privy to the details of the separation, and quite frankly, details weren’t important to me. All that mattered to me was that someone that I cared about was hurting. That broke my heart.
She loved her husband and was devastated by the situation that she found herself in. Also, she wasn’t the only one being affected by the situation either. She and her husband had built a beautiful family together, and I’m certain that each child was carrying the burden of the circumstance.
If I’m being honest, I’m not her husband’s biggest fan. He has always come across as judgmental, arrogant, controlling, and rude. Quite frankly, he’s not someone that I’d care to have a close friendship with. Nevertheless, my friend loves him and has built her life around him. So I committed to pray for them, and I rejoiced when I saw a brief glimpse of the possibility that there might be a reconciliation.
Not too long ago, another acquaintance of mine went through a similar situation. Except, he wasn’t as lucky. I saw him crumple to pieces as his wife walked out on him and their children. He lost almost everything he had except is faith in God, his dignity, and his determination to succeed. He fought as I have never seen a man fight for his wife before.
Over the course of approximately 2 years, I saw him rise up like an underdog in a blockbuster hit. Although he was already an upright and likable guy, he took it upon himself to make himself even better. His spiritual, personal, and physical development literally rose above what anybody anticipated. As his marriage lay in shambles, he continued to serve God, love his wife, and be a stellar father to his children. However, at the end of the story, his wife still chose to walk away.
Thinking about these stories places a lump in the back of my throat. You see, I know what it is like to walk in my friend’s shoes. I know what it’s like to wake up without the person that you love most by your side. Unlike my friends, though, I know what it’s like to take a look in the mirror and know that my situation was all my fault.
As much as I might criticize my friend’s husband, the truth of the matter is that I, too, struggle with arrogance and pride. I, too, have a propensity to throw fits of cataclysmic proportions when things do not go my way. No matter how much I would try to deny it, I have a tendency to try to control people and situations through manipulative behaviors. Although I have surrendered this vice to God, it still beacons for my attention.
It is by the grace of God that my wife chose to remain by my side. I still remember the moment that she met me in the coffee shop to talk. The first thing that caught my attention was her beauty. Her hair as it fell onto her soft shoulders, the light shade of lipstick that lay on her lips, the gold bracelet that shimmered as she walked with elegance.
However, that brief moment was clouded by the look of pain that came from her eyes. The look of sadness and grief was undeniable. Even more undeniable was the fact that I was the cause of all of it. Despite the fact I held my composure, inside I was crying an ocean of tears.
I’ve shared much about my journey from shame toward grace in previous posts. However, I’d like to share with you three things that I’ve learned from the reflections that I had this past week.
Grace and boundaries are the best way to deal with undesirable behavior.
Confession time: At one point, I thought to myself, “Gosh, I don’t know how my friend can put up with her husband. He is so annoying.” (Yes, I know I sound like a complete jerk. You have every right to judge me for this). I am 100% aware of the fact that I am guilty of displaying the same annoying behaviors that I hate.
In fact, my behavior led to me almost losing the person that I love most. My awareness of this leaves me with only one choice…. grace. I remember that when I was at my worst, the thing that saw me through was grace. God sent me person after person to love me through my worst season of being ever.
Although each of these people demonstrated grace, they had no problem with setting boundaries to hold me accountable for my behavior…. With that said, I believe that the proper way to show gratitude for this expression of love is to do the same with others.
Good behavior does not always lead to good results.
I literally saw a man do all that he could to win back the love of his wife. His transformation was amazing. Aside from the spiritual and personal development, the guy looks like he walked off the set of one of those extreme makeover shows. Homeboy is looking great these days. Nevertheless, his wife still walked away.
I know many who, if faced with the circumstance, would walk away from God, curse the entire world, and find ways to add to the misery that they already have. This guy didn’t do that. It’s almost as if I watched Job get up and continue to praise God even after his friends encouraged him to curse God and die. The truth is that good behavior does not guarantee the outcome you hope to have. However, when we truly pursue God, we end up with the greatest outcome that anyone could ever have… His presence.
Circumstance doesn’t define me. God does.
One thing that I admire about these two people is that, in spite of their pain and heartache, they did not allow their circumstances to define them. They knew their God and were confident in their identity in Him.
As I began to work through the skeletons in my closet, this was one of the first things that I had to address. I had to deconstruct a false story that I had created about who I was. Although I am still in the process of untangling this web of false beliefs, I have gained a ton of insight and have made significant progress.
During this process, the heaviest web that I have shed is one called shame. As I look behind me, I see that shame kept me from having the abundant life that Jesus wanted (and still wants) for me to have. As I’ve come to allow God to define who I am, I am noticing that life is coming together the way that it is supposed to.
I’m no longer who or what I once believed that I am. I know recognize that I am more loved than I deserve to be and more loved than I could ever have imagined. Jesus loves me.
John Eli Garay
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on john-eli.com
Featured Image by Jamie Street