What Happened When My Religious World Crumbled
This is part 2: You can read the story from the beginning here.
Three years ago my religious world, with all its shaky foundations, came crumbling down. It was my my wife who saved me. In the midst of the mess, Kimberly, Kimmy to me, helped me understand something about Jesus I never knew, it was probably the first time I let her. You see, up till that point in our marriage, I had stormed ahead as the valiant leader, the great spiritual guru of the family, believing I was the one God trusted. I was the one with the mantle, a heavenly seal upon my life, called to obtain greatness. And who was she? She was there to support my cause, an extra pair of shoulders to heap my burdens upon when I was too busy to deal with them myself.
Yes, you probably just figured it out – I was a complete moron. It’s true, I was blind to my own foolishness, and, as it turns out, blind to my wife’s wisdom, for she clearly knew God far more than I ever gave her credit for. While I had spent my time trying to figure out God’s battle plan, she had spent hers understanding God’s heart. Thank goodness she did, it was the only thing powerful enough to bring me back from ruin. I still remember our conversation. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how her words floated into my heart as light as feather, and broke the yoke of false beliefs with all the strength of heaven.
I had left my pastoral position five months earlier and since that time, to my great frustration, nothing had turned out like I had assumed it should. We hadn’t spoken about my real feeling regarding the situation since my dismissal. I had spend months locked away in my study trying desperately to create a new plan, to find a way forward, but it was all to no avail. I started to give up, to the point where I did little more than function. Kimmy tried to help, but I was keeping her at a distance, until I was too weak to do even that. It was late one evening and I was curled up on the couch. Lost. Broken. Unable to make sense of anything. She walked over and sat next to me and began slowly stroking my hair, and, after an eternity of silence, spoke in her soft, fragile voice.
“Joel, don’t let yourself drown in pity and don’t for a second believe God has left you. He hasn’t. He never will. Your religious dreams may have been burned up, but your identity is not lost. You have an identity far greater than the man with the big church vision. That’s not who you are. That’s never been who you are.”
I closed my eyes, struggling to even talk. I wanted to tell her to take her words back. I wanted to declare that that was my identity. That I was someone important, that I had a vision to prove it. But I was weak, and also caught off guard at her words, for we never really talked about spiritual matters. I was always ‘strong enough’ to deal with these kind of things alone. Yes, strong enough to lock everyone out. Strong enough to live guided by my vision instead of my heart. Strong? What a joke. No, I was always weak, but now, for the first time, I realised it. I couldn’t hide behind my alpha male talents any longer. I had nothing.
There really is something divine about weakness. It has a power I had never given it credit for. I always thought of it as a curse, but it was the only reason I opened up to my wife. It was only through weakness I finally realised just how blessed I am. It was my weakness that allowed God’s grace to reveal itself. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m no longer disappointed or embarrassed about my weaknesses and limitation, and why I don’t judge anyone else for having them either. But none of that really made sense to me at the time, my attention was on her words ringing in my ears about my identity. I remember closing my eyes, thinking about what she said, to weak to do anything but be honest.
“Who am I without my vision?” I asked her, not waiting for an answer before throwing another question into the air.
“What will people think of me now? What value do I have in God’s plan now? I’m useless.”
That was all I could muster, and silence fell between us once more. My words depressed me, but they did more to her – they hurt her. They didn’t seem that potent to me, so why did they hurt her? I realise now it was because she knew just how wrong I was. Looking out the window, gazing up at the stars, she spoke once more, with more determination in her speech.
“You know, you don’t understand how God views you, that’s your real problem. You’re wrong if you think you’re useless to God now. You’re more than you believe, so much more,” There was a pause – and then she dropped the bombshell: “You need to stop believing that filthy lie! You’re not just a pawn in his game like you think.”
My heart stopped. How did she know? My secret I’d never so much as whispered to a living soul, but somehow she knew, and I realised in that moment that she’d always known. She had always seen the lie I was believing, I was the blind one. I’d never allowed her voice to find a place of value in my spiritual life and only now, in my weakness, could she help me see the heart of God.
My secret was simple: I believed God considered me expendable. I believed I was a pawn, being maneuvered to gain ground for him; a soldier whose worth was in my strength to fight, and to rally others to fight. I viewed my faith through the eyes of a soldier, and so, like any soldier at war, I hardened my heart in order to deal with the tragedy such a mindset creates.
Expendable. That’s why I felt useless, because I had failed in my mission. That was what I believed. That was the lie my wife saved me from. She revealed to me the true motivation of God is love. That I was loved as a son, not employed as a soldier. Her words may seem simple, but they were enough to reach into the depths of my soul and take the hand of my inner child, suppressed for so long, and draw him back to the surface of faith. It was enough to soften my heart once more.
These were her exact words, etched forever in my mind. I even remember the smell of her breath and the comfort of her touch as she spoke:
“I want to tell you the truth and I want you to allow these words to sink into your heart. The truth is you’re loved more than anyone could ever articulate. More than your best friend could ever understand. More than I, the very closest person to your heart, could ever replicate. You see darling, the One who loves you is the source of all life. You’re more valuable to God than all the stars in the sky; without you it’s as if they don’t shine. Without you, everything loses its value. But he’s got you. He’s holding you in the palm of his hand, like a pearl worth more than all he owns, he’s holds you tightly. You’re the reason he makes the world shine with warmth. You’re the one he died for; you’re the one he’d do it all again for. As hard as it is to believe, you’re his beloved child; you’re the one who motivates God to win – and he will win. For you, for me – for all of us. Don’t give up, keep walking, Love will find a way.”
Her words caused me to burst into tears, the reality of them so gentle and yet so powerful. I knew they weren’t just something said to encourage me. She believed every one of them. They were powerful because they were the truth. This was the God she belonged to, the God I belonged to, and in that moment I surrendered. I gave up being a soldier for God, and allowed myself to be a son.
That was the day heaven danced for me.
(Keep reading here.)New updates to the story will be posted each Monday. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or on the story’s facebook page. You can read the story from the beginning here.