I mean spoon. No, I mean fork.
I have a pet peeve I’d like to air publicly. Maybe this hits too close to home for some of you and I’m happy to discuss it in person or via private email with you if you’d like. But hopefully it will encourage you, specifically those who wrestle with choices they’ve made in their past or choices made by others for them which didn’t go well.
So, I get a little miffed when someone refers to a divorced man’s previous wife as the “first wife” or their marriage as their “first” marriage. It’s a little like that movie First Wives Club which was entertaining and all, but it was a comedy and not really the greatest commentary on the true nature of divorce and remarriage.
To me, I’m not Rob’s second wife. I am his only wife. I am his first wife – right here right now, I come first. You can even argue (which I intend to here) that I was always meant to be his wife – the only one until my very last breath. It may play out a little bit like semantics in your head, but one thing I have come to know for certain is this: God has ONE plan. Just one. He doesn’t come up with alternates. He doesn’t go back to the drawing board when we screw things up. He isn’t surprised or caught off guard. He doesn’t make adjustments or have to recalibrate the GPS. He has one plan. He has always had one plan. And that’s the one we’re in.
In some ways, I think eastern thought and religion has a better handle on this than we western thinkers do. We tend to be very linear, cause and effect people. We see life as a series of paths, as we keep viewing choices or circumstances in our lives like forks in the road and that there were two or more possibilities at any given time. I don’t think this is entirely accurate or helpful. Maybe it’s a little Greek tragedy of me, but I don’t think we have nearly as many choices as we think. Yes we have free will. Yes God allows us to do things that are contrary to His perfect will and character. Of course. But in all ways, God has always accounted for who we are. Our nature, our character dictates what we are going to do in that moment, and we either are relying on ourselves to make a decision that we want to in our flesh at that time, or we use the superhuman strength of the power of the Holy Spirit to rise above our earthly desires and choose to do what is right and wise. Sometimes the decisions aren’t as difficult or painful as we thought they might be, and other times they are even worse than we expected them to be. Regardless, none of this is a surprise to God and it isn’t like we are playing some strategy game where we make a move and then He makes a move accordingly.
For those of us who believe in the sovereignty AND the goodness of God, this is freeing. We cannot screw up. We can seem to, but we don’t… if you know what I mean. It’s like we can decide to not change the oil in the car like we should and it will break down – throw a rod or whatever. It’s your fault. You messed up. But it isn’t going to make the world come to a screeching halt. Your choices are a direct reflection of your character and your self-awareness at the time and they have been written in the stars, so to speak since the beginning. Just like God’s grace and provision for you. He knew you and loved you and chose you long before you ever had any choices to make.
God allows natural consequences of course. Sometimes He is gracious and merciful where the consequences aren’t all they could be. Other times, they feel they are way worse than they should be. At the end of the day – and the end of the age – God has not lost control and He is not abandoning you to have to earn your way back to His good graces. He has already covered your sin. There is no more to do for your purity and your right standing as a joint heir of Jesus himself. If you believe in the provision of Jesus’ blood on your behalf, you have been covered from start to finish, head to toe. End of story.
But for those times when we are wracked with guilt, fear, and shame – or for those times we judge and condemn others in their choices and their past sins – the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and goodness is damning. We can’t shake it. It’s overwhelming. And in our humanness we come up with these ideas of Plan B or C or whatever letter we’re up to, as if we need to do some kind of damage control. Perhaps our fear and shame drives us to try to make restitution. Or maybe we feel like we need to constantly explain ourselves to everyone because we did something clearly hurtful and destructive, but we just want to be understood and, if we’re honest, we want to be justified or even condoned in our choices. It’s a function of having this linear thought process about our lives. We have to rationalize that fork in the road and why we took the road we’re on instead of the better option.
I think we get caught up in wanting to pinpoint ourselves and others into two camps – in God’s will and out of God’s will. When we see someone who sinned, usually in big visible ways, we tend to want to think, well you are living out of God’s will. And that may be true. An unrepentant heart and a lack of humility drives us to continue down our path in a foolish way, continuing to make our choices based on selfish pride and a combination of fear, shame, hurt and wanting vindication.
Instead, I think that it’s a more sound theology to see our choices, like a test of sorts, as the means by which we really see ourselves and what we really are. I sinned because that’s who I AM, in my depravity and selfish pride, I make choices, or a series of nonchoices (being passive and unintentional, as the case may be) based on blind spots and a lack of self-awareness, either not recognizing or flat out refusing to acknowledge my own hard heartedness and responsibility for my actions.
But glory to God, we’re not finished yet. The story hasn’t ended. We draw breath for another day and we get to see God’s working in our lives in spite of ourselves. We get more chances to grow up and to make better choices. And like Job and David and Abraham and Jesus himself, our lives are a series of choices portraying our character, and our deeply rooted faith in the character of God and what He has for all of us to do. And God uses it all, Plan A, the only plan all along to work out His redemptive story throughout time, to show us His heart, His intentions, and His glory.
And this is the Gospel, the Good News, for us, that we are part of this redemptive story. That our lives are not in danger of derailing anything, but that we are in the process of learning and testing ourselves to see what we know, what we believe about ourselves and about our Creator. He uses it all. He has purposes for it all. He brings it all together, and we get to see it, experience it, feel it to our core, more and more as time goes on.
I would never in a million years wish upon anyone what Rob has been through in his life. There is no way at the time I would have said probably any of this to him as he was suffering. Of course he knows all this. Of course it is true and good and right. But he had to go through it. Had to because he did go through it. And in the season it was horrific and painful. It feels sadistic at times when we look back on what God allows. How could it not? But the truth we have come to know is that now we get to fast forward, and now we get to see what God was up to. At least in part. And some day we will know the whole. Oh glorious day! Until then, we revel in the beauty of the small piece of redemption – our marriage, our family, our life together – and we get to see how God leads us through the darkest of nights to this beautiful day and the hope of all our days to come.
If you are in the dark night, I pray you will see this as an encouragement to hold on. I pray that you will cling to the hope that Rob and I have known and have now experienced in its fruition through each other. I don’t know how God will bring you through or if your story will have the kind of arc Rob’s story has. But I do know He will use it all for your good and His glory. I do know that if you will press on in humility and reliance on the provision of God’s grace and goodness, you will know a day when you can say all these things for yourself and see God’s hand in your story. I know without a doubt that God is faithful, that He has your every choice covered, as you remain humble and repentant of the sins that bind you. He has no contingency plans, just Plan A and you are solidly in it right now and forever. And one day you will stand before Him fully pure and holy, clothed in white, for an epic wedding where He will forever make you more glorious than you have ever been. That day is coming for all of us who believe. Believe it with me, dear friends!! And walk on.