Finding Strength

Is There Fruit?

Next week is Easter.  As I sat in church this Sunday listening to the pastor alone, I was struck by what happened last week and two years ago.  Two years ago my then husband practically ran toward the altar at our church in Long Beach asking to be baptized.  After an almost two-year battle knowing in his mind the Gospel to be true,  he was finally ready to accept God’s love in his heart.

This past week I stood next to him again after going through many awful things related to his alcoholism especially but including a high amount of manipulation from a rationalizing addicted mindset and many good things when he was sober.  I stood there as we worshipped and I saw him lift his hands in praise to God with his head bowed for the first time in my life.  I watched him shake his head up and down saying “yes” when the pastor talked about the restoration of the hope and healing in our hearts.  Almost a full month of men’s Bible study and also going to Celebrate Recovery I was encouraged that finally he was on a path that would not quickly turn dark.

To make a long story short.  There were signs of course I didn’t want to see earlier that week.  Times when he seemed off, that I dismissed.  After church he was tired and we talked about him going to his fourth Celebrate Recovery meeting coming up and he told me he had a problem accepting his 30 day chip and we debated what it stood for.  He didn’t want any glory for what he said he should be doing all along.  I encouraged him and tried to get him to take a nap and offered to make dinner that night at his place.  He left to the bathroom and came back with toothpaste on his breath.  Now for anyone who has lived with an alcoholic – that is a tell-tale sign.  But again I dismissed it.

Later after making dinner, my curiosity got the best of me, and I went into the bathroom where I found a giant bottle of vodka half gone with a glass beside it hidden under the sink.  I sat and ate with him knowing I wasn’t going to stay.  Feeling the rage inside my gut because of what I had seen in church earlier that morning.  The display he’d performed to convince me that he was closer to God than ever.  (I can only deduce it was a performance because he knew full well he was lying to me about not drinking for 30 days.  While that might not be fair…I’m not capable of seeing it any other way.) He made a point to introduce me to his Bible study leader too.  And the conversation we were having about him being 30 days sober.  He even tried guilting me into giving him more of my trust because he was doing so well, telling me he wanted MORE…and I stopped him and had to explain again why doing that was premature.  Consistency builds trust not wishful thinking.  And a month was not long enough.

In the end I walked away from him without an argument.  I just told him that until he stopped lying to himself especially, and to others, that he would not get better.  I know that the week since he has not preformed well at work.  He showed up drunk in client meetings over the phone and yelled at his colleagues.  I have not spoken to him at all.

But honestly as I sat in church today listening to a sermon about the reality of the resurrection and reflecting on all my memories, I had the sense of two things.

One of was the assurance I have in my salvation.  That I died to Christ to live in Him and as I struggle just as everyone does, that is real to me.  And whatever I have sacrificed for His sake was worth it.  Everything I did for my husband I did with a pure heart of love for God and for him in hopes he would see the LOVE of GOD.  And how transforming that love can be.  I can rest in that.  That is enough.

And secondly I was struck with the question, how do you know if someone’s faith is real?  And Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Four years ago my husband told me he was a believer.  Two years ago he was baptized.  Where is his fruit?  What has become of his life since these decisions?  Has he accepted the help the Lord has put in his life to become more like Christ?  Has he turned from his demons and said no to them and yes to the truth and love and healing of God?  Has he accepted the offer from his colleagues to send him to rehab AND pay for it?  Has he been able to bear his own fruit?  Incrementally he has inched ever so slowly in the right direction.  But he has left a wake of destruction in his path.  Pain, hurt, lashing out, pride, arrogance, and manipulation.  All by products of an addiction he refuses to truly address.  He placates it.  He rationalizes it.  He excuses it.  He is a tortured soul still.  He is the shallow ground that the seed was not able to take root in.  

Mark 4:16-17 says, “Others are like the seeds sown on rocky places. They hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But they themselves have no root, and they remain for only a season. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.…”  

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when Harry watched The Case for Christ about Lee Strobel’s life he fixated on the verse his wife prayed over and over in hopes this would be true for Lee.  It was, Ezekiel 36:26, which says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

That is still what Harry needs.  A place where his heart of stone allows the seeds of God to grow in nourishment.

He is the man who allows the cares of this world to toss him to and fro.  Because he refuses to admit his need for help and refuses to hold onto that sure and steady anchor that he knows in his heart will help him…but that would mean defeat to his human authority and bring him under the authority of something and someone greater.  His true sin is still that of pride.  He can’t admit his need.  Not for real.  Not in a way that would make it count for anything.

For myself.  I’m resolved to give him to the Lord once and for all.  I did my best.  I fought with a pure heart as best I could given the pain and hurt he caused in my life.  He is the Lord’s now.  I will make my way and I need to make my way toward healing.

And something else has happened to me too.  It’s a resolve to be me.  The whole of me.  I am not going to maneuver myself to a place so that I can keep a man ever again.  I’m not going to compromise my core convictions ever again.  I will walk away.  Because it is like my daughter said to me just today as I was crying on the phone.  She said, “Mom you are not giving up on anything because there is nothing to give up on.  The reality is he doesn’t keep his word.  The only thing you are giving up on is the idealistic notion that maybe someday he will.  You can hope for it, but since it isn’t real, you can’t act like it’s already there.  You have to live in the reality of what you see.” She is a wise one that one.

When my ex feels like I’m walking away and when he’s had alcohol he often challenges me to keep fighting.  He says, “STAY, FIGHT.”  It’s manipulation and he knows how much I hate to fail.  But you know what?  I did my part.  I fulfilled my duties and THEN SOME.  What I am refusing to continue to do is to fight HIS BATTLE.  It’s not mine to fight.  It’s his.  He is the one who has to stop quitting and retreat into that safe place of numbness that alcohol brings him.  He is the one who has to fight for himself.  He is the only who can.

His life will not bear fruit until he truly admits his need for God and then clings to the branch that will bear that fruit in his life long enough for that fruit to grow. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. There is NO OTHER WAY.

Jesus is the only way to the truth, to life, to water overflowing, to the Spirit, and to salvation.  He is the great Physician.  Abiding means to spend time with.  It is a way of life, not a quick fix.

With that and a deep breath.  I know that I’m ready to walk away from this chapter in my life and start a new one.  It might be lonely.  It might bring me to tears for a while.  I’m not going to give myself away again to a man who is not worthy of the precious gift I am.  I know the passion I felt for Harry was severely abused.  Never again. If that means I’m alone for the rest of my life SO BE IT.  God is enough for me right now.  I’m going to celebrate who I am in Him and accept who I am and give myself some love.



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