I love this “Marriage is hard” 4-day reading plan for its straightforward delivery style!
Here are the excerpt and the four daily topics: 1. Marriage is hard: We’re prideful Apologizing is hard work. Apologizing and changing your behaviors is even harder, and what makes it so hard is pride… When your spouse has an issue with something you’ve said or done, listen twice and think three times before you say anything. It may just be that the best thing you can say is, “I’m sorry.”
I was never interested in faith of any kind. Egoistic and self-reliant, I was an everything-is-possible-if-I-put-my-mind-to-it kind of gal. Paid top dollars to attend seminars by renowned speakers; walked on fire (burnt my toe), read many famous self-help books. Christianity? Definitely not on my list. I thought it’s weird, prudish, weak, rude and definitely geeky and boring. Christmas to me, was party, drink, presents, merry-making, heck-yeah.
This is my story of why I’ve changed, decided to accept Jesus, (remained a non-geek), and how He had changed my life.
First of all. Christianity deal breakers.
Tension and wars among people of different faiths led me to conclude that religion divides. I did not want to have anything to do with that.
Who needs God? God had nothing to do with me. I refused to believe that Jesus has anything to do with a happy life. I’d seen my share of Christian hypocrites. I’m fine, I’m cool. No, thanks.
Then one day, this thing called marriage happened. I got married to a recent divorcee, with a daughter (sole custody with him), and an ex-wife with unlimited visiting rights. Any goon would have run a mile. But not this goon.
Drumroll Introducing … the most miserable time of my life.
Before marriage—Happy and so-in-love.
Instant status of a wife and a step-mother, not pretty.
So naive. I did not realise what I was getting into. I thought as long as I love his then six-year-old daughter as my own, give her a stable and supportive home, we will be a happy family. Nope.
Rejected by his daughter, in-law, trouble from ‘unlimited visiting rights ex-wife’ and a husband caught in-between everything and everyone; are not ingredients for a sweet beginning to our marriage.
I came from an unconditionally loving and accepting family background, so yeah, I had the shock of my life. Slapped awake.
The dreamy-marriage bubble burst. And the nightmare begins.
I was often angry and would burst into a rage at home. I had chest pain from all the outbursts and thought I would collapse from heart attack one day.
Suicidal thoughts started entering my head as the shouting kept getting worse. I was sane enough to not kill myself as I know either it’s 1) It’s painful. 2) It’s messy.
Oh. Then husband accepted Christ one year after we got married. Great! We now had one more topic to argue about!
The concept of surrendering and obeying God in the Christian faith was another deal breaker. I don’t get it. It seemed so weak. To some, f* is a revolting word, to me then, the four letter word is o-b-e-y.
I often cried shaking, angry tears. From a happy person, I became cynical, bitter and felt very alone. I had no one to turn to. But outwardly, I look composed. Still very much a goon, influenced by movies, I kept going away for short breaks thinking that it would help, but that was a lie. The deep pain in my heart did not go away. Hollywood, dang it!
Three nightmarish years later, came the turning point in my life.
Finally, I got so tired of everything, tired of all the fighting, tired of myself. I have nothing left.
I didn’t know when or how, but my hardened heart started to slowly crack. There was a hairline opening in my heart to let God in. I remembered suddenly getting “it”. I’d realised that all the ugliness in the world was done by people, and had nothing to do with the real God.
I also started to question myself: “I’d been living life my way for 30 years, but despite all I had achieved, all I had done, something was seriously not right… I need help.”
I have attended many seminars, I stayed positive, but nothing seemed to work long-term. What else could I do?
One day, I went with my husband to a church’s 2010 Christmas production, “Mad World”. At the end of the production, I followed the pastor to say a simple prayer.
It was weird as I didn’t think about wanting to accept Jesus at all! But I felt compelled to follow along to pray. As I said this prayer in my heart, I felt my cry for help –
Then, I pursue God. I told myself that if I want to find out about Christianity, I should go to the right source and discover once and for all.
So I attended Alpha.
Asked loads of stupid questions like ‘ why the heck God planted the tree-of-life in the first place?’ ‘No tree, no fruits, no eating of fruit, no sin, helloo.’
Finally, after chasing God around, in July 2011, I said, “Yes” again and invited Jesus into my life with the above prayer (scroll up, will ya).
This time, I’m clear and sure. And the exciting journey of getting to know God and drawing close to Him began.
Four years later as a Christian…
I am still in awe of how everything changes when we have God in our lives.
I still talk about Him with sparkling eyes and childlike wonder.
I’m still love-struck.
To someone who is so proud and driven, God has to allow many tough lessons in my life. Sometimes, I do say, boy, being a Christian is tough! Of course, I don’t say ‘boy’ in real life, only Mark Twain will say that.
I struggled daily, DAILY! with God…
I do NOT want to say sorry! He says: Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
I do NOT want to forgive! Do you know that person is wrong? He says: Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
How can I love such a despicable character person! He says: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:7
It’s inconvenient to call, talk, help him/her. He says: If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? – 1 John 3:17
I want this and that, God. He says: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.- Matthew 6:33
I struggled and wrestled with God, wanting my way. He says: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24
But when I obeyed, all the breakthroughs in my life happened. When I surrendered and let God take the steering wheel, that’s when He flipped my life right-side up.
Our marriage. God took our biggest mistake and turned it into something beautiful.
Relationship with our daughter. She doesn’t just call me mom with her word, but with her heart.
Our family. Three musketeers, having fun, loving life, learning from life, learning to love.
My work. Gosh, my work. I thought I gave up my precious start-up, a baby that I wouldn’t let go. But actually, He made way for me to have the best season of my working life.
Serving others. I’m joyfully serving full-time in my church. Hubs and I also started to volunteer in pre-marital counselling at our church.
His ex-wife. We are actually friends now.
And the praises to God goes on.
God is teaching me the meaning of life. I have less to complain.
My blinded eyes were open to see a lot of things which hardened my heart and gripped my life in the past.
I also realised many things that I thought were the norm, weren’t right.
Trusting and accepting Jesus—it is the most liberating thing I ever did. Unshackled my chains. Letting go and letting God into my life.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might LIVE through Him. – 1 John 4: 9
This, is the reason for Christmas.
Here’s the invitation…
His love is for me, you, everyone. It doesn’t matter your past. God offers us forgiveness, freedom, his Spirit to live within us, and eternal life. To accept the gift, you just have to believe and trust in Jesus. It’s an act of faith. If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can pray the simple prayer like what I’ve done (scroll up, will ya). It will be the best gift that you will ever receive. Ever.
It’s easy to love lovable’ people, anyone can do that! But it’s in the loving of people who have wronged us or caused harm to others, or simply just very different from us that my walk being a Christ follower is tested.
I’m chewing on this passage.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)
Some recurring incidents with my teen had triggered these thoughts in me. Parenting a child is hard. Parenting a teen is heartbreaking. I shudder to think if I ever have another child (of my own blood)…
So goes my Whatsapp to a friend whom I know won’t judge me with a wagging finger for thinking such un-motherly thoughts.
She comforted me saying that she knows perfectly lovely parents who want to strangle their kids plus hamster in tow.
“Thank you for making me feel normal,” I said.
My angry thoughts—For what we have done for our teen, the love we gave her, the sacrifices… She can disappoint and hurt us by repeatedly telling lies to our face, be disobedient, selfish (chose own pleasures over other people’s needs)… Despite us doing what we can; talk gently to her, reasoning, punishment, some threats when we get desperate, prayed together… She is still repeating the same mistakes, especially lying. It breaks my heart. How ungrateful of her to repay us with these.
But as I was blow drying my hair, this other thought/voice/conscience came to me—What about me? As a child of God, I’m giving the same treatment to my Heavenly Father. As much as I know how much He has done for me at the cross and loves me, don’t I break His heart time & again disobeying what He asks me to do, or not to do? I’m selfish too, placing busyness and things that are more appealing to my own pleasures over Him? He must be heartbroken too.
Yet He still loves me unconditionally. He forgives. He patiently watches as I repeat the same mistake, and when I’m done, send me some lessons to learn from it. He never falters. With that, I got a bit more different perspective on this parenting situation and felt comforted. Of course, comparing God’s standard and human’s standard is futile. So, here’s my prayer:
Thank You for always being with me. Thank You even for those hard lessons You’ve allowed to happen in my life. I’m sorry at times I’m thick-headed and still insist on doing things my way. I guess, this will never end until the day I go Home to You. But I pray that You will help me to become more mature in my ways. I pray that You’ll help me to obey You more. And place You at the center. Help me and hubs to parent our teen the way You want us to. With a lot of wisdom & discipline built on a solid foundation of love. Let her experience Your Fatherly love through us. I ask this in Jesus name, I pray, Amen.
Been reading my hubby’s devotion book – In Quietness & Confidence by David Roper.
It’s a great delight to read his writings. Honest, with depth but not preachy, and with a assuring sense of calmness that can only come from God. What I also love is that this book is peppered with wonderful poem & quotes, even from Winnie The Pooh!
Today, I’m reading up on our constant struggle to be better. And the pain of change… and failing time and again.
John Newton knew much of this, and this is what he wrote:
I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know;
And seek more earnestly His face.
Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair!
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins–and give me rest!
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part!
Yes more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe!
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds–and laid me low!
“Lord, why is this!” I trembling cried,
“Will you pursue your worm to death?”
“This is the way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may seek your all in Me!”
That you may seek your all in Me. – Father
So that I know change is not dependent on us trying and trying, but on Him. It’s His gift for us when we come humbly to Him and ask Him to change us.
The most wonderful things about Monday off-days:The house is all quiet.
I raise my hands.
I lift my voice;
I twirl around the house singing love songs to Him.
I read my books.
I devour The Message bible.
I pause once in a while to soak it all in. I smell the aroma of brewed coffee.
With a contented smile I said, yeah… just hanging out, me & my Dad.