Friday, November 20, 2015

Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of LIFE

So often one of the biggest terms I hear of in all the romance stories that are out there - falls under these lines: "Listen to your heart..." "Follow your heart..." "Whatever your heart tells you."  I would like to say that the heart can be swayed easily and that we need to be careful of this teaching.  It talks in the Bible how we need to guard our heart, how it is a well spring of life.  When I was growing up, my parents gave me a name plaque, that had my name, "Kari" listed.  Below it read: "Pure One" and then it had that verse I just referenced: Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.   I always remember looking at it and desiring to be that girl.  I want to share my story on how I have fallen many times in letting my mind take captive of thoughts that have settled and set root in my heart.  I am not proud of these stories, or these struggles that I share.  Unfortunately, through these they are one of the ways I have deeply hurt those around me in my life. But I think it is important to share as it is a topic that is worth bringing to the forefront of discussion.  I am guessing I am not the only one that has struggled in this way.  The root of these struggles comes from a deep desire for attention - to be noticed, to be known.  The truth is I am known by the One True God who matters more than any other relationship.  But for whatever reason I did not embrace that truth in the times of my life where I stumbled.  So I bring this before you as part of my story, that maybe God might bring to light the truth, that it is not attention or fulfillment from anything other than Him, that will satisfy. 

When I was a child, I craved attention from boys.  I always had a crush on someone.  I could name a list of probably about 6 -7 boys before I met Nick, that I was sure I was going to marry someday.  But for some reason, most of those boys weren’t ready to make a lifelong commitment to me at ripe age of 6, or 10, or 12 or 14, 15…  I was very committed to the boy that I liked for that season.  I wrote love notes in Double Dutch, practiced writing my new married name to see how it would sound.  I even wrote secret admirer notes to one poor guy for a time period.  Then when I got tired of waiting for him to figure it out, I gave him in person a bag at church with Christmas gifts and a note from me.  Mystery solved!  But yet none of those guys ended up being the one I would marry someday. 

When I met Nick, we both knew after a few months where this relationship was headed.  But 6 years is a long time for anyone to wait to marry.   Nick lived in Scappoose, and I lived in Beaverton, which was a 45-minute drive.  We would see each other at church and youth group, and then we started taking turns going to each other’s homes after church on Sundays, and spend time together with each other and our families.  We often would take walks and talk together.  That is something that even today, I always love talking to my husband.  We would write letters a few times a week, since long distance phone calling was expensive back in the days that cell phones were just coming to life. 

But as we got closer, about two years into our relationship, we started to struggle a bit with physical intimacy.  We never went all the way before we were married, which is a miracle in itself.  However, we did things to each other that really should only have been shared in the context of marriage and hurt each other deeply in our dating years.  Interjection – being on the other side, with 15 years of marriage so far, there is something so deep and beautiful that is shared in the safety and security of marriage, that can never be found outside of it, in the same way.  It has taken years of repair and rebuilding our poor choices and mistakes and sin prior to our marriage. When we made those choices prior to marriage, it was a cheap temporary emotional fix, compared to the deep connection shared with someone you are committed to spending your life with, in a way that God truly does bring man and woman into oneness. 

Nick’s way of coping with it, was starting to avoid me.  He would go hang out with friends, and tell me he wasn’t able to see me.  He was afraid we would fall and struggle in those areas.  I was feeling neglected when he pulled back and avoided me.  Around the time all of that started, A co-worker began speaking words to me, that told me they didn’t picture me with Nick, but they really saw me with this other guy that I had been friends with for years.  I started to listen to these words, lies that came from a person that was very promiscuous in his own life.

By listening to those lies, I started thinking and wandering in my thoughts, not being faithful to Nick.  At one point I told the other guy my feelings for him, and that's when everything fell apart.  Nick broke up with me.  I was heartbroken.  I realized, that I did care for the other guy as great friend, but what I felt for Nick was so different, and crossing that line with my feelings while in a relationship with Nick was so hurtful to both of the guys.  I ended up losing that friendship for a season, and Nick almost didn’t take me back.  I spent a week praying before the Lord about everything.  I had to get to a spot of being okay just me and God, even if Nick didn’t want to pursue the relationship anymore.  In the end he chose to let me back in. 
Can I take a moment to advise right here – that there is a fine line between being a good friend with a guy – and that I didn’t set the best boundaries when I was in high school, and I did let my heart get emotionally connected to someone I was never going to have a long term relationship with.  Talking on the phone hours with another guy as a friend, probably was not the wisest choice of that time.  I know there can be good healthy brother/sister relationships.  I have plenty of experience with that when we were a part of our college group of a bunch of guys and only 3-5 girls depending on the season. In those relationships the guys treated me like I was Nick’s girl.  And I treated them as brothers.  And I didn’t make long phone calls with them, and rarely would I be alone with any of them.  I kept healthy contact, and thankfully never had thoughts of wondering with any of them.  And I am so grateful for that season because it allowed me to see and learn how I should treat guys, and what lines not to cross.
And I wish I could say that was the end of my lack of loyalty in my heart to Nick, but it wasn’t.  While Nick was busy in college, I had two other times I entertained thoughts of relationships with other guys.  One was brought into the mind after a co-worker told me she thought another guy that was a work associate liked me.  Like I said at the very beginning, I longed for the attention, and Nick was very busy and still avoiding me a bit because of fear of stumbling into struggles.  But both of those situations thankfully dissolved because of circumstances.  And we got closer to seasons of engagement and marriage, and those thoughts mostly went away.

When we got married, we had very clear goals of what we were planning to do in life together as a married couple.  Things didn’t go exactly as we dreamed and planned for.  But during that season, we were drawn close together, united with the goal to start a family, to help in high school ministries for a season, to help with a church plant.  We had vision which knitted our hearts in unison. 

Nine years into our marriage, when our twins arrived, we walked into our life stage of four children under five, with somewhat realistic expectations of what it was going to take.  Jumping in with all I could, I put my big girl boots on and became my own version of “supermom.”  After all, this is what I signed up for with wanting to experience pregnancy of my own.  We also decided to try to sell our townhome at the time, with the cramped quarters for our four children of three girls and a boy sharing two bedrooms.  Long term this wasn’t going to work.  It took all my days to feed bathe and care for four children, and keep our house constantly immaculate in case someone would come by to look at our home.  Somewhere along the way Nick and I became two people surviving side by side of each other.  We always tried to make it to 7pm when all our kids were down and we could finally breathe for a little bit before our bedtime came and then we started once again the next day. 

During that season, we were so focused on trying to find a new home for us, in case our townhome sold (it took 6 months of a very bad market before it finally sold – we paid $1000 to get out of it).  Nick would spend much of his time on his laptop looking at houses, I think a way to make the time pass while we waited. 

I started to feel lonely again.  And then I had a lie from a hairdresser (who in the time I knew her ended up leaving her husband for a new guy she had met) that I let root in my soul.  I had shown her a picture of Nick one time, and she told me that isn’t who she would have thought I would be married to.  That she pictured me with someone that was more of a GQ guy.  Seriously you would think I would be more careful of what I let take root in my mind, but once again I started to listen to that lie, and started to see all of Nick’s imperfections.  And I started to dream again of attention from another person.  Mind you, I never acted on any of these dreams.  They were all inside my head, a secret fantasy world – maybe consider it a muse to help me push forward, an alternative reality of having someone admire me and appreciate and recognize all that I did.  Someone who would, dare I say, put me on a pedestal…  Yikes that is a scary desire for anyone to have. 

Those thoughts eventually went away, but I still was struggling with longing for attention.  You see, Nick is the type of guy that is not intimidated by taking care of the kids.  Or all the work that can go with it.  So he didn’t tell me words of encouragement that I longed for from him, words of admiration of all the hard work I was putting into our children.  In his mind, he wasn’t trying to be mean, it was what I was supposed to be doing.    

Just months after having the twins, I was told that I had lost weight, and looked like I was a smaller size than what I was wearing.  I started getting into being more aware of what I looked like.  Being told those words started to elevate my self-esteem, and basically started boosting my ego.  I did notice on occasion getting looks when I was out grocery shopping.  I had taken up running for the first time in my life.  I started to train for a half marathon.  Then after completing my first one and being at the lowest weight I had been in years, I felt like I needed to keep running that distance to maintain my size.  I would often run 13-15 miles almost every other weekend for long runs, to make sure that I didn’t start gaining weight, and lose my endurance. 

And sadly, that is where a three-year period of mind struggle started for me of wanting attention from one person.  I remember the first glance.  That’s all it took – was one glance.  Feelings of being noticed rushed into me, and for those several years I battled with wanting attention from this person.  I didn’t know in the beginning who his wife was, who his children were.  All I knew is that he looked at me.  It makes me so sad that this is a part of my story, but this mind battle, this emotional affair I carried out in my head – a way to push and survive through each day by dreaming of attention – planning what I would wear wondering if he would notice.  See – it makes me so sick to my stomach to think about. 

I would like to interject again.  I am grateful.  Grateful that I had boundaries I had set up that I wouldn’t cross.  I didn’t ever get his number.  I never contacted him on Facebook.  I often tried to avoid conversation with him.  I know this was an attack – an open door I had allowed into my mind.  God put protectors on me in this time, which I am so grateful for.  Once I was at a grocery store, and meeting up with a friend.  Nick was on a business trip for two weeks and I was single parenting during that time.  The guy showed up at the store, and even pulled up behind my line and helped me put my groceries on the check out, when I didn’t ask for it.  I knew this was dangerous territory to be treading in.  Thankfully I told my friend of what had happened.  Her and I understood each other’s struggles in this, and we had developed a little accountability in it at this time. 

I would like to say in the midst of those struggles in your mind.  Confess them.  Don’t allow them to go unspoken.  When they get confessed you can eventually if not immediately get set free from them.   Find accountability from safe friendships. I had a few that knew about it, that I found freedom to talk with in the midst of those struggles.   Nick even knew I was struggling with it at times.  Because I told him.  I know it hurt him deeply.  He was committed to me.  And in action I was committed to him, but in my heart I was not.  One other recommendation.  When those thoughts come, turn it around into prayer.  I have prayed many times in the midst of the struggles for that person’s marriage – that God would bless and protect it.  It was one of the ways I could shut down the thoughts from rabbit trailing any further than they already were.  I wish I could somehow erase that battle of my mind.  But if can somehow be redeemed that in sharing this might help someone else that is needing to hear it, then I will allow my sin and mistakes of emotionally connecting my mind to another man who was not my husband, to be shared to hopefully bring to light the darkness you may be in or find yourself in one day.  See I never planned on it – I didn’t premeditate it.  But I found myself in the middle of it by letting a thought take captive and take root in my heart, instead of getting slaying it the moment it came into my mind.

I lost a lot indirectly from that struggle.  Thankfully I did not lose my marriage. Thankful that those thoughts stayed in my mind and never were acted upon.  But I was humbled in the end.  And pulled out of that struggle, in a way that was completely removing me from the situations that would bring it to mind.  And I am reminded once more, I do not ever want to go back to how it once was.  To be freed from that is a place I want to stay.   

The truth is, my husband is never going to be able to give me all the attention I long for.  My friends cannot meet those needs.  Another man that is not Nick definitely cannot meet that need.  The truth was, I had gotten so dried up in the midst of my laboring daily over my children, with not having my cup overflowing in the Holy Spirit.  So to fill it I started looking for alternative ways to fill up my empty cup, that was running out of steam to give daily and sacrificially for my family.   The truth is, Jesus’s Spirit in me, is the ONLY thing that can fill those empty spots of my heart. 

I want to end with some scriptures, to share, to help if ever encountering a battle like this in your own life.  And to encourage you.  Keep the guards up.  Set good boundaries around your heart.  Confess your struggles in safe places.  So if when a temptation does come, you are equipped to handle it. 

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

 Proverbs 4:23-27
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.  Let your eyes look directly ahead and your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. 

 Ephesians 5:6-17
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.  But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  For this reason, it says “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

 James 4:6b-10
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double minded.  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 

 1 Timothy 6:11-12
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith love, perseverance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

 2 Timothy 2:22
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 

 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 

 Matthew 5:27-28
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.