On this path of singlehood, I have often caught myself dwelling on the mistakes that I have made, transgressions made against me and my son, things I wish had never happened. There are so many thoughts that raced my mind…what did I do to deserve this? How could they do this to me? If I ever get the chance to repay them, I will! I often shared these thoughts with others, hoping they would confirm that my feelings were justified, that I was right and the one who betrayed me was wrong. If you have ever been hurt or felt betrayed like I have, you may find yourself with feelings similar to mine. Though reliving painful moments may temporarily validate our feelings, it also robs us of joy, of free time to think clearly and of our ability to carry out God’s mission for our lives.
I remember the exact moment this truth was made plain in my life. I was on the phone arguing with my ex-husband about him not paying his fair share of the cost of raising our son. I was on my way to work, but I had gotten so emotional that I had lost my way and could not recognize any of the streets, despite this being a path I had driven a thousand times before. And then somehow it hit me like a ton of bricks. Immediately I was reminded of the fact that even though I was strong enough to walk away from a godless marriage, graced enough to have asked for and received God’s forgiveness, blessed enough to have found shelter in the warmth of His love and peace, I allowed this situation to ignore all that and bring me to a dark place. But it wasn’t dark because of what my ex was doing to me…it was dark because I was not allowing God’s light to direct my thoughts, words and actions. It was in this moment that I realized that my ex-husband didn’t have a connection to God like I did. He didn’t understand grace like I did. He didn’t feel God’s love like I do now, so he was trusting his own emotions and experiences, much like I did before I came to depend on the strength of God. And that was far more sorrowful than anything he could have ever done to me.
Right in the middle of some poignant argument that I was making about how wrong he was, I stopped fussing and fighting with him and I prayed. I asked for forgiveness of sins, thanking God for the wonderful gift of our son, praying for reconciliation so that we could raise him into the man he should be, and peace over our lives. And from that moment on, me ex-husband’s decisions no longer had power over my actions. The nature of our relationship hasn’t made me feel any better—I don’t feel his level of commitment is where it should be, but it finally occurred to me that a person’s actions shouldn’t dictate how I react! The more I understood how much control I didn’t have over my ex-husband, the less control I allowed him to have over me.
Years after this powerfully freeing revelation, I was listening to an old Gospel hymn that I’d heard many times before, but on this day, I sat and really listened to the words.
Alas ended, my Savior bleeds?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done
He hung upon a tree?
What amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Dear Lord I give my soul to thee,
’Tis all that I can do.
I was particularly drawn to this statement: The debt of love I owe. Searching the scriptures, I found the inspiration behind the verse: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
It reminded me, quite frankly, that no one owes me anything! Instead, I and all believers owe and will forever owe the duty to love. The greatest love story ever told, the Bible, gives us plenty of examples to know that love is an action, not a feeling. So even when we feel hatred, anger, betrayal, our action of love must stand independent of those temporary, natural feelings. We extend to others the same patience, kindness and forgiveness that we know God has extended to us in our erred human existence.
Today my actions of love for my ex-husband are deliberate, spirit-led and sincere. I speak no ill words about him around my son, I pray for his soul salvation, and I evaluate his actions as they occur, not holding on to past transgressions. I know God has a plan for his life, so I invite him to church, praying that one day his no will become a yes and he’ll hand his heart to God.
I can affirm without hesitation that the expression of forgiveness and love towards someone that has wronged you is much easier to write about than it is to practice. But the Bible doesn’t give us these instructions to love, just so that we can prove obedience before death. It is so that we can live freely on earth, right now! As believers we must know that trouble is promised—but if we are held captive by the undesirable feelings that troubles bring, we cannot expect to live a blessed life that beacons others toward God.
My prayer, dear friends, is that when we encounter feelings of betrayal, anger and hatred, we acknowledge them for what they are: instinctive emotional reactions to our environment. I pray that once we allow our natural selves to feel and experience those emotions, we give way to the power of the Spirit of God within us, and we choose to act under the divine principles of love. I pray we remind ourselves that if God can forgive our every transgression against Him, made possible by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, then we too can forgive those who trespass against us. Our Lord requires it, our spirit desires it, and our lives will be made better for it.
May God bless you as you trade every thought you have about being betrayed for ones of you being forgiven.
In Christian Love,
A Watered Garden