Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

Love Journey: Do The Next Right Thing

on February 26, 2014

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 

This verse speaks volumes to me about why my first marriage fell apart.  The first half of the verse:  Do not repay anyone evil for evil is unfortunately where I chose to place most of my energy during that relationship: I was always on the “pounce”, acting out in some form of retaliation for the level of “wronged” I felt by my husband at the time.

I was married to a hunter.  Do you know what it means to be married to a hunter?  Not only was he a hunter, he was also a fisherman (and not your let’s fish for a few hours kind of fisherman, either – everything was an excursion).  So, it was always either “duck season”, or “ice fishing season”, or “dove season”, or some sort of “season”.  And if he wasn’t actively participating in the hunt, he was planning for it, or preparing for it, or talking about it.  I used to call “hunting and fishing” his mistresses.

Did I ever mention we have 3 children?

So, I bet if you did the math, you can figure out who was left to take care of the children, the house, the meals, etc. – while he was out on his excursions.  Yep.  That would be ME.  And that would be back in a time when I thought living in a constant state of “discontent” was just what normal relationships were like.  It was during a time when all I thought about was myself, how I felt, what I needed, and what I wasn’t getting.  And, let’s face it – my needs were not being met by this man.  So, I was always angry.  I was always acting out in anger – sometimes directly toward him, sometimes passive-aggressively in other ways.  But, unfortunately, there was constantly a “he owes me” in the back of my mind, or an “I deserve to have some fun too” rationalization in my head that prompted me to do some of the most unloving things you can imagine during the course of that marriage.  Believe me – I am not proud of how I behaved in that marriage.  When I look back at it with the new pair of glasses I have today, I see how very many unloving choices I made during the course of those 8 years.  I absolutely recognize that it was not all my fault.  I know that each of us played a very significant role in the destruction of our marriage relationship.  Each of us had a part, each of us had our own “side of the street” to look at.

As seems to happen far too often in our society, my ex-husband and I took our relationship to a point where it was irreconcilable, and we ended up divorcing.  There was a line that was crossed where just too many hurts had happened, too much pain had been inflicted, and the love was just too far gone.  Sometimes, I have found, that you have to remove yourself from toxic relationships in order to understand what love isn’t, before you can wrap your mind around what love IS.

I have gone through a lot of healing in regards to the places I used to dwell in my past.  I have dealt with my “side of the street”, looked deeply into my actions, asked for and freely given forgiveness for wrongs committed.  Sometimes I have received forgiveness for my actions, and in some cases I have not.  Unfortunately that is out of my hands.  I can only own my part, and I can only do my part.

By far, the most significant change in me, is my submission to the Lordship of Christ.  This was a decision that I made in 2011, to follow Him and let Him show me who I was and who I am.  Let me tell you, it has been one of the most amazing adventures of my life – complete with major highs and incredible lows.  I have cried, I have rejoiced, I have mourned, and I have celebrated.  But most importantly, I have healed.  I have been freely given the amazing gift of God’s Grace and Forgiveness.  I bask in the truth that it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.  I have changed.  Where I spend my time “digging” has changed.  The way I live my life has changed.  The way I love has drastically changed.  I am eternally grateful for these things.

At this point on my journey, whenever I stop to consider the way I used to live, I am tempted to fall into the abyss of guilt, remorse, and self-pity.  I am not proud to see the woman I used to be.  Which is why I share it with you.  The life I used to live, I lived apart from God.  I never once spent time looking at myself in light of who God called me to be.  I never once stopped to reflect on the way my behaviors made Him feel.  Maybe you are in the same boat.  If you are, I would like to offer you encouragement.  Your past (even 5 minutes ago) is behind you.  There is nothing that is stopping you from making a decision to exit the life you are living and enter the life He has created for you.  Sometimes, like in my case, this involves a physical “exit” from the life you are leading.  Sometimes, it is just an emotional “exit” – a change in the way you are perceiving your life.  More often, the emotional transition – from my way to His way has been the “exit strategy” with the most significant impact on my walk with Him.

But, I digress.  I am supposed to be studying verse 17 of Romans, chapter 12:

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Perhaps I didn’t fall away from the path God wanted me on tonight so far after all.  I read these words, and I realize that this verse is a verse I cling to in the way I live my life today.  There is nothing loving about living a life of constant “retaliation” (even if I really have been wronged in some way).  There is love in keeping my side of the street clean, regardless of the way other people treat me.  Love keeps me doing the right thing, even in the face of others doing the wrong thing.  Love doesn’t dwell on the way others treat me, but rather on the way I treat others.  Love IS doing the next right thing.  This truth brings me to another set of verses on this topic that I really feel expresses God’s heart for the way we are called to BE love:  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Again, this is another set of verses that could be unpacked at some point, but for the purpose of today – notice that Love is an action, a choice, a state of being – incredibly deeper than just a mere feeling.  Oh we serve an amazing God, and HE IS LOVE.  How wonderful that He is taking the time, to gently guide and direct me (and you) down this path from what I thought love was, to the TRUTH of what Love is.

REFLECT:

Are there areas of your life where you are acting out of “retaliation”?

When you read 1 Corinthians 4:13, what does your heart tell you about the way you love?

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