Chapter 5 “Her Sins, Which are Many, are Forgiven”

As my room-mate was saving up for her move to Florida, going through her things and deciding what to take and what to put in storage someplace, we had been invited to a different singles group at a larger church not too far away.  We started visiting and I ran into a guy I had once worked with years ago.  My room-mate was interested in him, so we struck up a conversation and made some plans for a group outing with him and some other friends of ours, to go to a college basketball game.

(Side Trip) That turned into an adventure in it’s own right, when my alarm system went wonky on me late at night in the heart of downtown after the basketball game.  The doors would unlock but the system would not disarm so I couldn’t start the car, and I couldn’t stop the glaring horn sounds.  The police wouldn’t help us, and I didn’t have Triple A, so it took some time for me to get hold of a tow truck.  Then we all scrambled to come up with the $65 between us (which sounds cheap now, but I was appalled then) and then all 4 of us crammed into the cab with the tow truck driver (yup, 5!) and made the 45 minute drive home.

Anyway, the match didn’t “take” between my room-mate and the old acquaintance from work, but the old acquaintance also had a room-mate, and the long and short of it is, he is the father of my children, and known affectionately to my readers as “hubby”.

Now, it didn’t happen just like that. God had done a good bit of work in my heart, and I had finally resigned my will to His on the “being married” score.  I was ready to trust the Lord and allow Him be sufficient.  I had every intention of moving to Florida.  (I jokingly remind him from time to time that he still owes me Florida).  I expected to live out the rest of my life as a single and childless person, and I had accepted that.  It’s interesting that when I finally relinquished my determination to have a mate, it was only then the Lord sent him.  There was a great deal of heart-ache for me as I shared with him my past, and a renewed mourning over what really had been lost.  (He loved me anyway).  My history, my scars, came into the marriage with me.

Just before we met, his aunt died, ( She was a nurse, and a poet-some of her poems are on my blog at Cordia’s Page) Included in her estate, was a ring.  His mom was the heir to her estate.  When we knew we were serious, he asked me what type of ring I would want when we got engaged.  I described it.  I said I wanted white gold, an emerald-cut ceylon blue sapphire, with diamonds on each side, but not necessarily symmetrical.  When he told his parents, and asked his mom to go ring shopping with him, she said “Nope, we already have that ring!”

IMG_0089 Here is Aunt Cordia’s Ring, which is now mine.  It is a Ceylon blue emerald-cut sapphire, baguette diamond on one shoulder, 3 rounds in tapering sized down the other. The only difference was, it was yellow gold, clad-over with platinum.  When I had it polished, they stripped the platinum off of the shank, so now it is two-tone, which I think I like even better.  For our bands, I got white gold and he got yellow, but they are matching in style.  We had the jeweler furrow out a thin cross at center of each ring, use the yellow gold from Garrett’s ring, to make a yellow-gold cross in my white-gold ring with his gold, and a white-gold cross in his ring from my gold.  So each of our rings has a piece of the others ring in it, in the shape of a cross which symbolizes Jesus in the marriage with us because a triple-stranded cord is not easily broken.  You can sort of see the crossbeam on my band, as it is turned a little off-centered toward the left.  (Look just below the left prong on the sapphire).  When the rings are polished you can see the crosses very clearly, but as tiny scratches appear and mar the surface, it is less discernible, but can be seen in bright light such as sunlight.  We get a lot of compliments on them.  He was so excited when he proposed to me, and the story about the ring is just amazing because we all saw it as God’s blessing.  His aunt also was a Christian.  I think I would have liked her a lot from what I’ve heard about her.  I’ll meet her in heaven some day, where we can swap nursing stories.

Well, with Garrett I was finally  safe enough for God to begin to unpack my baggage and start dealing with it all.  We both were cheated by those other experiences in my history.  He had history of his own, but was not previously married.  I worked hard trying to learn God’s real design and intent for Biblical intimacy and for marriage itself. Now that I had a good man, I had to learn how to be in a relationship that wasn’t turbulent and conflicted and dysfunctional.  We both had to learn things.  I am so thankful that God gave me this man, a gift I certainly did not deserve, and then even blessed us with our two great boys.  Garrett is as consistent as I am “chang-ie”.  I am the kite, liable to get myself caught up and carried away on turbulent winds, but he keeps me from ending up in the stratosphere.  He calls himself my cinder block.

The church we were attending when the kids were younger, had a class that was pretty unique, called “Apples of Gold”.   It centers around the Proverbs 25:11 verse which says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” and it is  mentoring program for older Christian women who have raised their families, to mentor younger Christian women wives and moms on how to make the home a warm and nurturing place for their family to enjoy together, how to set a peaceful and Godly tone or atmosphere, practice hospitality and fellowship, and most of all how to be a good mate to her husband and nurture the marriage.  It was one of the neatest church programs that I think I have ever participated in.  I think it was 12 weeks.  There were about 8 mentors, and about 25 younger women.  Each week there were 4 of the leaders who were assigned to creatively decorate a table, using full table settings, themes, and decorations, while one leader was in charge of the devotional and whomever was hostessing was the mentor in charge of the meal.  That person would take us through a recipe which she would have all the prep-work done ahead of time, and teach us about the herbs and things she used, as well as about cuts of meat, etc.  We got the recipes of everything that we cooked or ate while there, to take home, so at the end of the course we had 12 full-meals we knew how to put together.  It also included variations of table-settings, substitutions for certain ingredients, conversion charts, etc.  They taught us about certain kitchen tools and gadgets that “every kitchen should have” to make work easier, etc.

When we first arrived, we did the recipe.  We all gathered around in the hostess kitchen, while she demonstrated her recipes, and while that was cooking, we had our devotional lesson, all centering around the ideas of fellowship, being gracious, particularly on respecting your husband and how to build him up, rather than tear him down.  We discussed how the woman really sets the atmosphere at home, so things like knowing to give him time for some quiet and transition when he first gets home, just lots of stuff that, in today’s broken world, where so many come from broken families, and never learned the more traditional stuff, can know how to still have that for their own family.  The classes were one morning a week, and lasted about 2 and a half to 3 hours.  At the end, if you completed all the classes, you got to attend this really nice banquet, childcare provided, where you and your husband were treated to a nice dinner and they made  it all really special.

Well, one day a leader named Mrs. Delaney* was speaking, and when we all sat down, I noticed right away that she was a little nervous.  I noticed because I turn flushed around my neck and face when I am nervous or upset, and she was like that.  (I always hate when people make it worse by pointing it out.)  She opened with prayer, and then she started out by saying that she would like us to continue to pray for her as she spoke, because she had something else she had planned to talk about that morning, but God led her to speak on “this other thing”.  Her voice was even trembling so I was really feeling empathy for her, I mean, I could tell it was excruciatingly uncomfortable for her. She said that she even argued with God, and tried to talk Him out of it but that He told her, “no, there is someone here today that needs to hear your story.

At that she forged ahead, and began telling about how she had grown up going to church, got saved when she was real young.  She said that she was pretty timid and shy, and didn’t really date anyone during her teen years, until when she was about 19 years old.  She met a boy she really liked, and  they started seeing one another regularly.  She felt comfortable with him, they had even started talking a little about getting married some day.  In other words, she really trusted him, but one night, when they had been dating for about 8 months, he started getting physical with her.

When I realized where she was going, and that I was that person for whom God was asking her to relive this very obviously painful piece of her past, I was overtaken with panic and I began to quake in my seat.  I felt suddenly cold as ice.   I dropped my chin to my chest and kept my eyes closed,  and fought to keep tears from forming.  I felt like a spotlight was on me and I sat there, frozen, not daring to move, barely breathing, not wanting others to realize it’s me while a little voice somewhere down in me began to whimper, and plead, “no, please God, make her stop, please don’t let her tell it”.  I experienced a sense of both shutting down, and of going outside of myself at the same time, outside of the scene and watching from afar.  I remember also experiencing a sense of dropping, down, down, down into a hole, with people all around me, hearing her voice through a roaring that filled my ears, and muffled her words.  I remember wanting to run, but feeling pinned in place.  All I wanted was to not be in that room.  My chest squeezed like there was an enormous balloon in there, and every word she said pumped it up tighter and tighter.  I felt that pressure rise into my throat, but I choked back the sobs until my head ached with it.  I kept telling myself, just hold on, it will be over soon, and when everyone starts moving around, you can slip out and you never have to come back here.  She told of how he brought her home afterwords, her dress torn, her socks muddy, and crying.  She told of how when she told her mother what had happened, her mom didn’t believe her.  She called her a slut.  And she said that other than her husband, she had never told this story to anyone else in her life.

As everyone got up and started moving around, in the general chaos of several ladies gathering up their things, I made a bee-line for the door, only getting stopped once, and made it to my truck before I broke down.  I didn’t want to sit there and have my breakdown, because if anyone so much as looked at me, much less asked me if I was okay, I was afraid that I might shatter into a million pieces.  When I got home, no one was there.  It was a school day, and so for a couple of more hours, at least, I had the house to myself.   I started praying, just trying to take everything to the Lord that I was churning up inside me.  The Lord said “call her”.  I said, “oh God, no, please, I don’t want to talk about it”.  God said “call her”.  So I finally did.  When she answered the phone, I told her who it was, and I said, “you said the Lord told you there was someone there who needed to hear your story.  I think it was me”.  She said, “I know”.
I said; “you knew it was me?”, and she said, “When I first started talking, I didn’t know who it was, but by the time I finished talking, the Lord had told me who it was.  Now, I want you to come on over to my house, you need to talk about this”.

So I went, and I did talk, and she ministered to me and prayed for me, and prayed with me, and she told me that God has forgiven me, that I needed to forgive myself, and the person that did this to me.

The Lord has intervened in my life in very personal ways many times, but this!  God coming to me, orchestrating the time, the date, the individual He would use, He came especially to me.  Me! I was so overwhelmed and so broken by His mercy.

That was a new beginning for us in this marriage because between the emotional pain and shame that I carried, and my mental and physical illnesses, Garrett’s and my relationship intimacy was fraught with frustration, difficulty, and tears.  The irritability that came with the “ups” of my mood swings made it excruciating for him to even touch me in any way, and yet I so needed to be comforted by him.  A lot of the time I couldn’t even tolerate a hug.

It is hard enough, being mommy all day, and making the switch back to being someone’s lover.  I think for most women, tenderness outside the bedroom is a crucial and necessary prerequisite, for leading up to that greater intimacy we both may be hoping for later.  We women are not compartmentalized within, like men are.  We have to have some neutral territory in between, to create a segue way from point a, to point c.  Most of us can’t “turn on a dime” at will, emotionally, from being mommy in sweats, with baby puke on the shoulder and toddler slime on the sleeve, to being our husband’s “hot mama”.  We were aware of the need for “us time”, we just found it nearly impossible, between my being sick, our financial struggles, the conflict with the in-laws, who often when we might have asked them to babysit, were already keeping the other couple’s two boys, and just yada, yada, ad infinitum.  We did the best we could.  I continued to work on me, my issues,  with a counselor, and on my own with the Lord, and also the two of us with counseling.  We just never gave up.  We had faith that God would some day help us get things right, in spite of ourselves, and there were also two things in particular we had going for us in the marriage.  Garrett and I are great friends first and foremost, and we have always “found our way back to one another” whenever there is anything that we were divided about.  Because we both are absolutely miserable when anything is sitting badly between us.  The other thing is, we can always laugh together.  That by itself has probably been our saving grace more times than I could count.

I know that there are those who would argue that being married again, makes Garrett and me both adulterers.  Well, yes.  Adultery is an act, though, not a continuous state.  I’m an adulterer, I’m a liar, I’m a thief, I’m a murderer.  So is he, so are you.  Gods law is one law, if we are guilty of breaking one, we are guilty of breaking all because God’s law is one law.  That is why Jesus gave His life.

I remember before meeting Garrett, that there was a nurse about my age who started working on the unit shortly before I left, whose husband had left her, except she also had a daughter.   She was a Christian, but felt strongly that she could not be remarried because of her divorce, yet she felt very cheated.  She was not judgmental about it when she knew I got engaged to Garrett, in fact she was genuinely happy for me, but she was bound by her own convictions in regards to herself.

While another girl, who was a good bit younger than I was, and not a Christian, made a remark to one of the other nurses when she found out, saying “Engaged? She doesn’t have any business getting engaged, she’s done been divorced twice”.  One of the other nurses said “doesn’t she deserve to be happy like anyone else?” That nurse wasn’t a Christian either, but she knew I was, and she was the one that shared the exchange with me.  It stung a little, but people are entitled to their opinions.

God hates divorce.  Having been through it, I know why. No matter what the circumstances, divorces are painful.  I am so thankful that there were no children in those other unions, although the second one did have his young daughter, and I saw that even as her step-mom when her dad only had her every other weekend, and a week each summer, that it was painful for her.

There are people who would say that if I was only 9 when I “got saved” and considering the direction my life took, I probably was not truly saved back then.  And frankly, I wondered that myself, later on.  I mean, if a child dies before the age of accountability, and goes to heaven because she had not reached the point of being able to grasp her state of sinfulness and need for salvation, (not knowing good and evil) then I have to wonder if professions of faith at that age are “counted” per se as the moment of salvation, or whether God sort of takes it “as earnest” but  still requires a later confirmation of that decision once the age of accountability is reached.

There are those who just do not believe a person who has truly been saved will be allowed by God to live in such opposition to His law, essentially dragging Christ’s name through the mud.  (All I know is, God knows the end, from the beginning). I do know that I truly loved the Lord as a child and teen (even if I didn’t have much understanding about Him or His character and nature yet).  Things grew very complicated as I began to face the life passages of adulthood, and I was miserable the entire time that I walked counter to His will, and that the day I came to the end of myself on the floor before work, was the first time that I truly understood with an adult’s mind,  the cost of sin and my need for my Savior and the price He paid.  

Can there be salvation without repentance and can there be repentance without fully grasping the scope of our depravity? (Jesus says we are to come to him with faith like that of a child)  I was sincere in 1973 at the age of 9.  I was broken that fall day  in 1992, at the age of 28 when I cried out to Him again.  Which counts as my “spiritual rebirth” day?  I don’t know if it matters.  Because whether I was saved in 73 or 92, Jesus has paid the penalty for my sins.  I know I never had a doubt after the encounter in ’92.

I sometimes imagine that my physical sickness stems from that history, but I don’t see anything that I have been through as punishment, but rather natural consequences.  Sin brings pain and death.  Whether it is my sin, or whether I am in some way a victim of the sin of someone else, doesn’t really make a difference.  Like a pebble dropped into a pond, there is a ripple effect of sin and it effects every person and all of creation.  The “thou shalt nots” of God’s law are not there to spoil our fun.  They are fences and boundary lines erected for our own safety and protection.  God is holy and yes, it offends Him when we violate His law, but it is because He loves us and provided a way to avoid the painful consequences and yet we choose to suffer them when it is unnecessary.  What’s more, He knew we would, so He took the form of a man, and died to pay for those sins so we didn’t have to continue to suffer for them through out all of eternity, and people still refuse to accept His free gift of forgiveness and redemption, loving their sin all the more.

Over time I have come to learn that even our failures are never wasted in God’s economy.  I avoided church and God, and Christian friends when I was living a life that diverged from that “straight and narrow” way.  Even though I was rebelling and railing against God in my heart, I still respected the Bible and God and Church enough that I wasn’t about to go into church and fake it. Even after I was back in church, for a long time, I couldn’t  share the gospel because somewhere along the line and without realizing it, I had absorbed the “get saved-have a better life” mentality.  Without that “selling point”  I didn’t know how to appeal to people.   Beyond my initial rudimentary grasp that I had as a nine-year old child, of my need to be saved, I somehow grew to feel entitled to certain blessings in return for being a “good Christian girl”   As if I knew I needed Him to save me, but I thought I had achieved some degree righteousness of my own.  (As if it can be built up like a muscle).  So many misconceptions.
God said: “My people are destroyed for lack for lack of knowledge”.  He also said “the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.

Maybe the biggest difference between my earlier years and now, is that now I know Him better.

As I look back now, I know I am forgiven, so in regards to my self, it doesn’t matter whether or not God counted marriage #1 as a “real marriage” or whether technically I have been divorced once or twice. All of it is under the blood.   I regret the bad example that I was to the lost around me who knew I professed to be a Christian. I did so many things that misrepresented Him.  Yet even that has been forgiven.

I am just a forgiven sinner.  That is all.  Sin leaves scars, but God loves us anyway.  And that is probably why the song Alabaster Box is so special to me, and why the many instances recorded in scripture of Jesus’ tender mercy to women, are so precious; the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who anointed His feet while the Pharisees griped about the waste of the precious and costly perfume.

Luke 7:37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Yes, that is why I love Him so much! More than my husband, more than my kids, more than my parents, and more than life.

*(Not her real name)

Read  Chapter 6 

4 thoughts on “Chapter 5 “Her Sins, Which are Many, are Forgiven”

  1. Stay close to the Lord and He will make that verse you found become a living breathing reality. Keep reading and writing …God has His purpose and He is using you. Hangest thou in there…
    BTW I love your “handle” Serve Him… That is what it is all about!

  2. Sandra
    I became engrossed in your life story and am now up to chapter 6…it is so powerfully written and with such empathy and tenderness. I can see how it will be used by the Holy Spirit to minister to others. There are so many women out there who can “relate.” Thank you for being so vulnerable and willing to share all of this with your readers. It makes being a sister in Christ so rewarding …this is who we really are…and God loves us all….no matter what.

    • Thank you Gaye. I posted my story a few months back, and you are one of the few to give me feedback. My own brother points out that it is so personal that many people will be reluctant to comment, and I guess I can see his point. But the way I am in my writing, is the way I am in person. (A wide open book, very forthcoming). I have learned that the best and really the only way for God to redeem the painful parts of our life, is to offer them up for His use. Mosaics are one of His best mediums. He makes beautiful things out of what we think are wasted, ruined shards. We make our plans, but God directs our steps. A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. I will never forget the first time God placed that verse in front of me. I was a rookie nurse, stressed to the extreme, “single again”, having never really been on my own, and training for charge nurse (mandatory), and I felt like my life was really ruined because of the relationships and failures and all the anger and pain I had experienced. That verse was on something at the bedside of one of my cancer patients. It struck me in such a deep way that I did not even comment, but it was seared into my brain. I knew God placed it there for me to see. The Bible tells us that the heart is deceitful above all, and desperately wicked. Why do you think that the number one “motto” of the world is “follow your heart at all costs”. God, on the other hand, tells us to lead our hearts and to guard them. I have learned a lot, the hard way. But that is really the only way to learn. This blog is as much about allowing God to use all that to touch, help, or encourage someone, as it is about anything else. (And it’s about a lot of things, lol!) In my own life, God has ministered hope and comfort to me through many unexpected means. As a word person and avid reader, God often speaks to me through books, and not necessarily the ones that are written in the “Christian Genre”. When the second husband left me, that song “Hold On For One More Day” was popular on the radio, (Wilson Phyllips?) and it truly did give me a little infusion of hope every time I heard it. There are a lot of bad things in the world, and in this life. But God can and does even use it all for the good of those who love Him. It is pretty amazing!

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