I have spent too many hours concerning myself with others. True, godliness demands looking outside oneself in love and serving others, but there is a difference between service and true humility.
My brother was a squanderer. I was faithful. My brother left. I stayed home. My brother was careless. I was careful. I’ve always been “the good one”. Surely, fairness would dictate that I would reap the rewards of my labors and he would reap the shame of his. Yet, here I sit, watching the party in his honor, feeling alone and slighted.
A father’s love is a beautiful thing. It is not predicated on good behavior. A lost son is loved and longed for just as a present son is loved, appreciated and cherished. Still, in moments of celebration it’s easy to feel lost and forgotten. If one is not careful, those feelings turn to bitterness, an equally grievous evil.
Years ago, I found myself in my closet weeping. The closet became my only place of solitude where the kids wouldn’t look and the husband didn’t care to follow so I spent too much time there hunched on the floor feeling sorry for myself. My husband (at the time) was addicted to drugs, sex and pornography. He would disappear for days on end binging on whatever he could get his hands on. I wish I meant that figuratively. The infidelity and repeated betrayal took its toll on my fragile heart. I blamed him for all of our problems. I hadn’t yet learned to take responsibility for myself and not allow myself to be treated and abused. I hadn’t learned proper boundaries. I hadn’t realized my true value.
Still, I took the blame upon myself for his actions. If I were better, surely he wouldn’t do these horrible things. If I were more attractive, surely he wouldn’t feel the constant need to look elsewhere. If I were a better wife, he wouldn’t run. I wrongly believed my actions dictated his and consequently, his actions dictated mine. I worked hard!
I began to believe that God must love him more than he loved me. When he would return home, everyone rallied around him in support. Forgiveness was freely offered and readily available whether or not his repentance was sincere. He was celebrated as brave and heroic for his perceived effort of coming back to the Father’s house. I knew forgiveness was essential for me to survive and felt I’d be chastised if I didn’t pursue reconciliation.
It took years for me to figure out that forgiveness didn’t mean removing consequences. It took many years for me to learn that it was right to establish boundaries and not allow myself to be mistreated. It took years for me to turn my backbone from jelly to solidity. I finally made a stand and got out despite the criticism of many. I couldn’t be more thankful for the freedom and peace that decision brought me.
Being a godly wife doesn’t mean ignoring the misdeeds of others. It involves taking a stand for righteousness. It involves looking inward and finding God’s love and grace in ones’ own life and acting in accordance with right principles and Biblical truth. Never has God demanded his little ones to accept abuse as a part of submission. In fact, scripturally, we are not to keep company with a man who is “called a brother if he is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. With such a one [we] are not even to eat.” 1 Corinthians 5:11. Such scriptures can be difficult to reconcile in the midst of a marriage though sexual immorality is clearly a justifiable cause for divorce biblically. (Matthew 19:9)
Divorce is a horrible thing and though I had the support and love of many, I was heavily criticized by many also. Well-meaning brothers and sisters would tell me I needed to be more forgiving and just stick it out. Vicious believers even got in my face a time or two to try to convince me I was in sin for choosing to leave. Despite what anyone else said, I am responsible for my own actions. I am responsible for my own freedom. I am responsible for my own destiny.
As the prodigals brother (or sister in my case), we have a choice. We can allow bitterness to take root in our hearts and grimace at the celebration around us. Or we can choose to take responsibility for our own happiness. Life and joy require active participation. I was notorious for being a victim. I allowed circumstances and other people to drive my life. Now I’ve learned that I am in control. Dr. Henry Cloud has said that no one can control us. We are responsible for allowing others that power. We can take control of our own lives and say no to abuse, no to self-pity and doubt. We can actively pursue God’s love for ourselves and understand that it is vast and endless. When we do, we will find that our rewards are ours and no one else can take them from us.
I am the keeper of my own destiny. I refuse to be driven by the recklessness of someone else. Rather, I will make choices based on the word of God and what is right for me. This may seem selfish to a heart that has spent years in codependency, however, the truth remains. No one has the power to steal the joy set before me. No one else can make me do anything. I decide.
When we take back the responsibility, blame disintegrates. When we take back our happiness, no dart fired from an enemy can quench it. When we decide to walk with our heads high and our eyes fixed on the infinite love of our God, nothing external can steal our peace and our focus. We become warriors!
I confess that I was the prodigal’s brother. Today, I am free to love without abandon because no one can hurt me. My hope isn’t in the approval or disapproval of anyone else. My hope is in The Lord and in the promise that he sees me lovely. And now I see myself free!