Thursday, December 16, 2010

7 Parables of a Completed Marriage: One - The Sacrifice of Pain, Part B

A parable on pain from the marriage of Daniel and Chloe.

Daniel and I (Chloe) had been married almost two years.  We were very much in love and spent almost all of our free time together. We were not accustomed to conflict between us and thus, were completely unprepared for the event which follows.  Even now, I shutter to think of the damage this event could have brought in our marriage, if I had not realized something extraordinary about dealing with pain.

In the beginning of our marriage I wanted so much to please Daniel and serve him in ways that would give him pleasure.  He was always doing so much for me.  Therefore, I started preparing something for him everyday after he returned home from work.  It was a very personal thing and I took a long time preparing it for him each day.  He seemed to be really pleased with it and it gave me so much pleasure to do it for him.   This had been continuing for almost 16 months when, one evening during our after-diner talk by the fire, he said; You know Chloe, I don't really care for this (referring to my daily preparation for him).  Would you mind not doing it.

I was stunned by this spontaneous moment of honesty since I had no idea he didn't appreciate my effort.
I suppose my face was a clear map of shock and hurt because he immediately read my reaction and tried to soften his comment. In answer to my obvious question; Why didn't you say something 16 months ago?, he stumbled and stuttered out a defenseless reply.  His reply was genuine and centered on the fact that he knew I really liked doing this and he didn't want to hurt me by rejecting the gesture.  He thought I wouldn't continue with this and it would stop by its own accord.

We talked for about an hour. He apologized and asked me to forgive him.  He also, fully admitted that it was wrong of him not to tell me honestly in the beginning, and that he had been 'thick' for not understanding that this would be interpreted by me as some kind of betrayal of trust.  I did forgive him and tried to rationally deal with the tremendous sense humiliation I felt for doing something I thought was so self-sacrificing and wonderful for my husband while he, all this time, was wishing I wouldn't do it. However, I felt betrayed and humiliated.

Over the next couple of days, I ran and re-ran all the logic as to why I needed to let this go now and return to the extremely generous and transparent intimacy Daniel and I had always shared. But, something was growing in me like a tumor.  I had forgiven him and knew I loved him deeply...but, I didn't know how to deal with the pain of having my trust in him betrayed. Deep down I knew I had a small, tiny fear of another betrayal happening.  These ten days between the event and my realization were, I think, the most agonizing days I have ever spent.

I watched everyday at the disappointment and then suffering agony in Daniel's face as I continued to  defy his hopes that this was over and we would be as we were before. We were behaving with normal geniality and concern for one another.  There were no angry accusations or arguments. But, we both knew that this unresolved pain in me was building, day by day, a partition in my soul.  It was keeping me from giving myself to him completely.  I was becoming destroyed by my own divided soul.

The crisis moment came on day ten when Daniel looked at me before leaving for work and uttered with pleading voice, You need to help me make it right Chloe. I can't sustain this separation.   I knew that it wasn't he who should do something to make it right.   It was me...but what? The pain seemed to be unbearable.

I turned to God and prostrated myself on the floor before His presence crying; Dear God, this wall of pain will kill us.  I don't know how to make it go away. Please, help me.   I cried more and muttered into the carpet, and then, I went quiet inside.  I listened, as a well-known scripture formed in my mind;  ...though you slay me, yet will I hope in you Job 13:13.  I began to dwell on this idea of not having my pain somehow treated and soothed away by Daniel or God, which would be some kind of restitution for the wrong I had suffered. Instead, I started to feel a kind of exhilaration at the idea of simply giving it up - sacrificing it for the opportunity to once more completely and vulnerably trust Daniel. After some time, it became wonderfully clear.  This is what real love was about...taking the risk again and again, trusting again and again in the one you loved so dearly..even if it happens once more. I made a decision at that moment to let go of my pain and concentrate on trusting Daniel- giving myself to him without reservation.

It was ironic.  I realized that by sacrificing this pain in me and choosing instead to trust Daniel's love for me, I had actually given him the most valuable gift of our marriage.  He understood as much also and his gratitude was deeply moving.

Kathleen's footnote:

I have taken this event into my own single life and applied this wisdom over and over. It has been a miraculous experience for me to simply abandon pain in a direct exchange for trusting, hoping and loving God's providence in my life. I have gleaned from Daniel and Chloe's marriage the liberating feeling of sacrificing pain and disarming its destructive results in my life: alienation, self-pity, bitterness, doubt and coldness. Once we refuse to hang onto pain, it looses its grip on us.

Next post will be Parable 2:  An Offer of Grace

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

7 Parables of a Completed Marriage: One - The Sacrifice of Pain (part A)

During the last 18 months since 'the visit', described in the last post, my private journal of encounters with God has been recorded.  It details the paradigm of marriage as it is used by God in the Bible to picture our relationship with Christ, and our being presented holy and without blemish for union with God through Jesus. (Ephesians 1:4 GNB).  It is from this journal, that I want to share seven major parables which have instructed me so completely in the major issues which bond married people into one or cause the inevitable separation or divorce.

You probably have two questions for me right off. One - how do you know anything about it, since you are not married; and two - why is important to you, since you are not married? Good questions which I also asked God. 

Let me start with disclosure.   I was married for seven years and had two children from that marriage.  One child died when she was ten years old and the second child is now married with children of his own.  I married when I was outside of my faith, dabbling in the occult.  Christ found me in the agony of that relationship and freely offered me salvation (1971).  I survived the marriage till 1978, at which time, we were divorced.  Since that time I have been single and completely uninvolved in any kind of male relationships.  This was a choice I made for my children's benefit and for the benefit of my work.   So, yes, the question is:  why this subject and why now, God? What is the relevance?

I will answer the second question first.  Why is this important for me, an unmarried woman, to understand? As I listened with my heart these last 18 months and wrote what I heard, and then read the Word, I began to quickly realize that I and every believer must clearly comprehend this paradigm of perfected marriage. It describes the structure of a fulfilling and deeply satisfying relationship with Christ now-here upon this earth which will eventually culminate in a divine marriage with Him.  As I began to apply this structure to my everyday life, every area of my life started to change for the better.

The answer to the second question is one of the most fascinating observations  I have participated in during my life.  Before I left for the mission field, God spoke a word to my wondering heart; Do not doubt I can satisfy all of your needs.  You can live on my Love alone and I can feed you that Love through anything.  I tucked that away in my soul and watch 21 years of full-time ministry prove that promise true (this, alone, would be a whole book).   However, I share with you here the phenomena of God providing for me a 'corporate husband' these last 21 years . Because of this, I have never felt single; and yet, I have had no relationship with a man since my divorce.  From the company of many, many wonderful men which I know through being friends with married couples, or men who are working colleagues with me, or are long-standing friends or relations,  God parceled out from them, in an individual manner, a specific quality which met a precise need for me at an exact moment in time.  It has often been, just a needed piece of advice, or a moment of practical help, a sympathetic understanding of a problem or a strategy on which to embark, or a moment of true inspiration.  Whatever I needed was supplied, not by a single husband, but by a mosaic of small pieces from men who acted toward me out of a God-given characteristic which I needed in a precise moment. Because God chose these men with specific qualities, I began to see what the perfected husband would look like - God's original plan. This is truly the incarnate God, Jesus, living with us and among us through people. He has become my perfected husband via this company of men in my sphere of knowing.

The same has been true for the many marriages which I hold dear to me in community. A corporate image of a perfected marriage has and continues to be in the process of defining itself to me as small mosaics from individual marriages touch and effect my life. Somehow, I feel with the couples their joy, pain, bliss, struggle and ecstasy as these small mosaics of their married life engage my life. Because our relationships are intimate, they have become a part of me. Since 'the visit', God has brought mosaics of married life for me to participate in which make brilliant and defined His holy paradigm of marriage. He is disclosing this to me through this corporate marriage.  

The seven parables are seven mosaic pieces from marriages with whom I am in close relationship.  I have changed all particulars so that no unintended disclosure will take place.  However, all seven episodes are true.  Also, I will take a writer's license here to write these in the first person. By so doing, I hope to make them less narrative and more personal (as, of course, they were).  The first of these is; The Sacrifice of Pain.
I am out of time tonight. I'll begin this first parable tomorrow, .

In earnest,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Intimacy- Part III: The Visit

Well, this has certainly been a space of time.  If anyone is really there reading this, my apologies.  The fall has seen more travel and work than I anticipated and so blogging has been lowered on the ladder of essential activities.   I am finishing this trilogy here on intimacy and will start with a series called; Seven Parables of a Perfected Marriage on the next blog.

We left off with my narrative about my time with the rain forest Indians and my realization that the force of God's love was truly the most  astonishing thing in the Universe to create change.   Now, jump ahead in my life four years to  July 11, 2009  in Kuldigas, Latvia.  I had returned from a U.S. tour to Munich with only 17 hours to unpack, pack and be off on another airplane to Latvia and begin a two week teaching and directing stint.  I was exhausted when I arrived in Latvia and on the one and a half hour's drive from the airport to Kuldigas, I closed my eyes and whispered a small, simple prayer. "My Lord, Latvia has always been a place of spiritual favors for me.  I am so tired.  Please visit me here so I can work with strength and joy".   When we arrived in Kuldigas, I ate and went immediately to bed.

I awoke in the morning with a strange awareness.  I was asked to preach in the service and started to prepare myself. I was quite distracted by this awareness which consisted of a lightness of spirit,  a persistent giggle in my soul,  and a sense of deep nourture in my body.  I couldn't  define anything, but it grew in me until finally, I was standing at the pulpit in the midst of my preaching and stopped dead.   The light went on and my eyes opened big and for a moment I was silent. He had come. I had asked for a visit and He was here. There was no doubt in my mind.  I was flabbergasted!

God makes it clear in His word that we are to have access to Him.  He insists on speaking of this access in terms of our five senses.  We are to see Him, taste of Him, smell His fragrance,  touch Him, hear Him.  It is clear that we are to discover His presence in our world by finding Him through our five senses. St. Thomas Aquinas speaks so clearly on this issue:
…existence of God is self-evident through our five senses.  Thomas Aquinas (St.) (ca. 1225-1274)

Synaesthesia:   The power of perception comes to the organ of the five senses from one common root.  The power of perception derives from it, and all perceptions gathered by the individual senses terminate in it.

 Perhaps, God simply awoke this root of perception in me and suddenly I became aware  of His intimate presence. I began to pay attention to Him through my five senses and found Him every minute of every hour manifest to me.  The giggle in my soul grew to a spontaneous joy and laughter that caused my students and friends to laugh as well and turn curious heads toward me constantly. The rest of that summer was marked by an intense listening in my soul to Him speak and then seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling Him confirm those conversations through the material world in which I existed moment to moment. I strained to tear myself away from this intense listening and perform in the activity of my ministry.  So much of what I had read all of my life about God, who He was and who we were in relationship to Him and our destinies began to make profound and moving sense to me. It was such an adventure of, exciting.  I wanted to shout to the whole world.

The lasting tatoo on my life has been the experiencing of the inexplicable intensity of God's love for me....His passion and jealous possession of me.  This banished fear from my life. It destroyed self-doubt and inferiority in me.  It brought me more pleasure, satisfaction and deep fulfillment than I ever thought possible. It has changed my life as radically as it changed those Indians lives in Ecuador. I began a new life that day in July and a true union to the one God of the Universe who is love.

I will continue tomorrow with a series of perceptiong which I have learned from this encounter with God.  The next blog is entitled:  ' The Sacrifice of Pain.'

I hope some of you are out there.  But, even if you are not, I love writing this and recounting for myself again the glorious nature of God in my life.

With an earnest heart,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Intimacy -Part II- feeling the power of Love

     All right, I'm back, having changed continents.  Now that I am on the other side of the big pond, California, to be exact, I am aware that although geography,culture, weather, law and a host of other things change from nation to nation and continent to continent, the spiritual world remains ever constant in its ways.  Love is love in its essential elements and design in all cultures.  Two defining characteristics are dominant for me in experiencing and observing love at work in my life.  The first is the element of self-denial - its not about me, my needs, wishes, or desires; its about the other and the act of giving rather than getting.

     The second defining mark of love which is carved in my soul  like a marble statue is that love is inextricably linked with the politically incorrect word 'obedience'.  Leaving aside, for another blog, the discussion of abusive authoritative  power which leads to suppression and oppression, my understanding of the concept of obedience is this:  a voluntary assent to come into agreement with another's will (or wish or desire) concerning a given specific. I don't want to get off on a long diatribe about 'obedience' (which I refuse to replace with some impotent euphemism) because I am really headed toward those Indians in Ecuador which I mentioned in the previous blog. However, I will digress for a couple more sentences on the subject in order to provide a broader base for understanding what took place during my stay with the Indians. Christ linked obedience with love when He mandated obedience as a requirement for maintaining an intimate relationship with Him. (John 14: 15, 21, 23-24). It does seem like a no-brainer to think that an intimate relationship could be maintained if two individuals are walking on diverging paths. The decision to defer one's own will to another for the purpose of developing an intimate relationship is a matter of trust and respect.- the ballast in love.

    In 1995 I had the privilege of working on the film, "End of the Spear" as an acting coach and movement specialist. It was a profound experience for me.  I loved my work on the film, but the stunning effect on my life came through meeting the Indians who were the murderers of Nate Saint and the four other missionaries working with the Auca Indians in Ecuador. The Indian, Mincaye, who was the young chief of the tribe which massacred the missionaries in 1956 in Ecuador had thrown two nine-foot spears into Nate Saint's defenseless body at close range.

    Any given work day for me on the film included a rib-crushing bear hug from Mincaye and a conversation with Steve Saint (Nate's son) or  Steve's son Joshua who considered Mincaye to be a grandfather to him, about the life which Rachel Saint(Nate's sister) and Steve Saint's family had lived with Mincaye for years in their jungle village . Trying  to glue together the fact that the sister and son and son's family of a savagely  murdered victim had devoted a large section of their life to live with the murderers of the victim and try to improve their life was, to say the least, an exercise in mental gymnastics.  This was especially true when reminded that the whole alliance was initiated by the wives of the murdered missionaries who walked into the jungle with small children in tow (where no one else would dare to go, not even the military) completely defenseless.  They had nothing more lethal with them than a radio....AND, the Love of God for these people. Acting on obedience, the women risked their lives and the lives of their children to bring the knowledge of God and His son, Jesus Christ, to that hostile tribe. The gift of love became theirs and their descendents.

    One morning, while boarding the bus which picked me up at the hotel and then headed out for the filming location, Mincaye got up from his seat and walked to the door of the bus and met me with an embrace and small prayer.  As he held me tight, I had this surreal experience. I felt transported by his love-as if I had left the earth and was now welded in some kind of eclipsing universal love.  At the same time pictures traveled with javelin-like thrusts through my imagination which depicted the horrifying  acts of Mincaye on that fateful day when he killed Nate Saint. And yet, I wanted him never to let go of me.  He continued to hug me for a long time until those other images in my mind became vague and finally indistinguishable. They were gone - swallowed up by the intense energy of Mincaye's love for me.  I saw at that moment the fulfillment of what God had communicated to me so many years ago in 1971.  Love was the most powerful force in the Universe.It could turn evil into good and hate into love - love so enormous that one would give up all for it.

      How to do that?   This was my question.  The answer to that lies in intimacy and will bring me up to the spiritual favor bestowed on me in 2009. blog.

For more information on the story of the five missionaries go to:
Beyond the Gates of Splendor - documentary available on DVD
End of the Spear - feature film available on DVD
Through Gates of Splendor - book by  Elisabeth Elliot                                 
On Asking God Why    - book by Elisabeth Elliot


Friday, October 1, 2010

Spiritual Favors

     Its has taken me almost three years to take this step to make public parts of my own spiritual journey and invite an open sourced conversation with all of you.  My guess is that you really are out there and that there are many of you,  just like me, who would like to - talk. Our world is changing so fast and so much seems confusing and contradictory. We need to hear each other so we can round out our perceptions - check our evaluations and know, as C.S. Lewis said concerning reading, that we are not alone. It would be lovely to take a beautiful walk  along the ocean, in the woods or climb a mountain with you, and then sit awhile to enjoy the beauty while we share a picnic meal and speak our hearts to each other.  However, there will be only a few  friends within reach to make that happen. Therefore, it is my wish that this blog would be our hike together and these ideas, and expressions act as our shared meal, wherever you are in the world.
     I titled this blog 'Spiritual Favors' - which I had not thought very much about in my 40 years as a Christian until July 12, 2009 when I received one. I think the most beautiful thing about a spiritual favor from God is that it is exactly that...a favor.  You can't earn it, or formulate a way to get another, or perform well enough to deserve it or teach someone else how to receive one.  It is simply an unmerited grace that is given by God, which, if we look at biblical and historical annotations of such favors, seems to always serve to deepen one's experience and revelation of God's love for us and thus, break down resistances to intimacy with Him.  I have kept a journal these past 14 months. It records most of the changes in my life since that day in 2009 which have taken place as a result of one thing;  experiencing a dramatic increase in awareness of the God's love for me. This seems to be the third installment of a lesson God has been trying to teach me since 1971 (perhaps, I am just a very slow learner).
     At that time (1971) my life was a living hell. I was a new believer in Jesus because the relational situation in which I was trapped (my own doing, by the way) became the major catalyst in shifting the sands of my life in such a way that I began to search after God in order to survive. I was immediately built up in the Word of God concerning His profound love for me.  I responded by wanting to do whatever I could to express my love for Him. It was clear to me that showing God's unconditional love within the relational prison I was enslaved  would be exactly what would please God.  This would mean offering the grace of forgiveness and releasing all 'pay back' or 'revenge' vouchers I was holding for the deception, abuse, neglect and alienation I had experienced in the relationship.  I also perceived something else submerged beneath the totally rational, cause-and-effect conscience mind. I guess you might say that I sensed the extraordinary-beyond this universe- power of that kind of love.  It really could change an entire world, I was sure.  However, something crucial was missing in this equation.  No matter how much I flagellated my soul for being too weak to give up my bitterness and subsequently,  pumped my mind with scriptures which told me I could...I could not.  My failure assured the fact that nothing would change in that relationship for seven years - at which time, I finally left it.

I am a theatre director/performer and need to conduct a rehearsal for a up-coming tour in a few minutes.  Therefore, I'll need to continue with installment 2 and the Indians of the Ecuadorean rain forest on the next blog.  Talk to you soon.