Installment 137

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In telling “My Story” I have been more than candid that I have, at times, truly struggled with what was going on. But there are times that I really felt that I was given clarity of what I was experiencing, as I discussed in the previous Installment.

So I want to share again something that was a moment of clarity. On August 21, 2015 (Month 6 Day 6), I made an entry in my journal about my marriage with Mary.

I wrote:

Today, I was reflecting on the events that happened as I was writing the latest letter I put on Facebook, Hilltop Visions, Part III.

One can go to my Facebook page and find a Note with that title. But something happened during that day, when I was composing that Note that made me think about something that had happened during December 2011.

I think I wrote about this way back in an earlier Installment, I did a very quick search and I found Installment 21, but that might not be the correct one. So if I wrote about it previously, I am going to discuss this event again, but if for some reason I didn’t cover it, it needs to be discussed. Either way here we go.

In my journal, I wrote:

When I was writing [Hilltop Visions, Part III], it occurred to me that the events from meeting the very first lady, to hearing “Do not be afraid to take her as your wife” to all the dreams and all the leading, to sensing the second lady at her Facebook post to all the letters, all of it began happening the Spring of 2012, the season immediately following the Winter season of December 2011, where Mary and I gave God our marriage. I, she, both of us, totally forgot about that, until this week.

One might ask: How could you have forgotten?

For me, I defend it this way: we all have made a statement to God that we have forgotten. Besides, when I told God that my marriage was his, I never, I mean never, ever, never, thought that something like what happened would happen.

Here’s some of the back story of December 2011. In that month, it had been one year since our return to Texas. I had been employed as a school bus driver. Mary had also secured work in the Transportation Industry. But we both didn’t know where we were supposed to go. Here’s what I mean.

In 2003, we had events unfold that suggested that Bible School would be our next step. We prayed. We had events unfold were I was accepted and then subsequently entered Bible School in 2004. During late 2004, all of 2005, and early 2006, I knew what I was doing – Bible School. After that though, what would I do?

We prayed. I took work out in a small west Texas town as their Pulpit Minister. I was there for the remainder of 2006, and through 2007. As 2007 ended, my tenure closed out with that congregation.

Again, we prayed. I took work in a small town in southern Indiana as their Pulpit Minister. I was there for 2008, 2009, and 2010. As 2010 ended, my tenure closed out with that congregation, and in December 2010, we moved back to Texas.

Again, we prayed. In 2011, I found work as a school bus driver, and Mary found work in the Transportation Industry.

As 2011 unfolded, we prayed, we looked for ministry work. Nothing.

As 2011 unfolded, we prayed, we moved forward with our lives.

As 2011 unfolded, I had put so much on the altar before God – my own life, my finances, everything. So I thought.

I acted in good faith. All my life, I had been taught “more of Thee, less of me”. So that’s what I kept doing. I didn’t know all the aspects of my surrendering, I simply was looking for God’s direction, and was guided by all the spiritual advice I had ever heard, pray, and surrender myself to the Divine’s will.

So December 2011 came around. We were at services. I had given, as far as I know, everything that I could think of to the Divine, except one thing – my marriage.

So on that December night in 2011, I surrendered my marriage to the Divine.

I didn’t think anything else about it. I was expecting my marriage with Mary to become closer, and it did, it has, it is, it will. Besides, I didn’t have any clue what it meant to surrender my marriage to God. I just did.

Later, I don’t know when, I just remember Mary telling me, that same night as I surrendered my marriage to the Divine, so did she.

If my memory recalls correctly, we did that independently of each other. We hadn’t even spoken of it before hand. Afterwards, each of us was surprised by the other, and that while we did it independently of each other, we were both pleased that we both put our marriage in the hands of the Divine.

As things unfolded in 2012 and 2013 and our interaction with the ladies, it seems natural to think that one of us would have remembered surrendering our marriage. But that would be a big negatory.

From my journal entry, it was years before she and I recalled that we had given our marriage to the Divine.

One might respond with some kind of exclamation of dismay.

One might respond with some kind of response that says that we should have been paying attention and looking for God’s leading.

Well, if I recall correctly, I think I probably had an exclamation of dismay as it all sank it. But then it all made sense.

Lesson: when one gives something to the Divine, the Divine will say “Thank you.” but also will then go “Hmmm. How can I use this? OH, I have an idea.” So watch out! The Divine doesn’t mind using what you offer, in any way the Divine wants.

Dear reader, if you’re a believer, believe it, the Divine will use what you dedicate.

Hannah dedicated Samuel, and Samuel served at the Temple.

Isaiah said, “Here am I send me” and God used Isaiah to declare terrible news to Israel.

Let’s not even throw into the discussion Jephthah’s “rash vow”. But here’s the deal, Jephthah dedicated. Jephthah carried through. That was the heartbreak. Could he and his daughter have done something differently? Maybe not. I don’t know. We would like to think that they could have.

But here’s the point. If you or I dedicate ourselves to the Divine, and we don’t carry through, we are unfaithful. The Divine is one who keeps promises. The Divine wants us to keep our promises, our word, our vows.

The religious world, at least in the United States, talks a great game about dedicating oneself to God and vowing to God, until something comes up that doesn’t meet our expectations or becomes too much of a burden.

But recall in my previous Installment, the Divine conveyed that I would learn to open my spiritual eyes and see. So on that August day 2015, when I recalled offering my marriage, I wrote in my journal:

Today, I was praying about me not remembering that important tidbit of information [about giving my marriage to the Divine], and [my spirit] heard, “It wasn’t the proper time.” I took that to mean that I was not supposed to recall that information until this week.

Were my spiritual eyes being opened? I am compelled to say, yes. So here’s what it means.

For me, I gave to God my everything, from my own self to my own marriage. Guess what? Everything seems to have changed, from my “occupation” to my marriage.

Therefore, should it have come as a surprise that the years following December 2011 put me into a spiritual blender? No. But I wasn’t awake to the spiritual reality. Then I was permitted to see.

Reader, I am encouraging you, because I assume my reader is a believer, to take into account that which you have offered to God. Itemize it. Look at your life. I am willing to claim that your life has moved according to what you have given the Divine.

Here’s the deal. That which you give, the Divine will utilize. Here’s what that means.

If one gives little, the Divine utilizes little. Therefore it should be no surprise that the Divine’s will in the life of the one who gives little, sees little from the Divine.

As one gives more and more, the Divine utilizes the more and more. Therefore it should be no surprise that the Divine’s will in the life of the one who gives more, sees more from the Divine.

No one is required to give all, none, not a single person. Give as one feels is appropriate.

However, if my reader is something similar to me, when we offer God more of us, we cannot become upset when the Divine expects more, nor can we refuse to be utilized in the greater capacity.

When we vow, we vow. When we promise, we promise. This question is: will we keep our word, because being faithful to our word proves our faithfulness.

I gave my self, my occupation, my finances, my marriage to the Divine.

Even though I still share the Scriptures, the Divine removed me from pulpit ministry.

The Divine led me away from external employment to sustain my family through serving them at the house.

The Divine led me away from depending on my own finances, to depending on others to help me meet the obligations of life.

The Divine led me to understand that my marriage would expand. I expect it to expand.

So let me make this as plain and simple as I can. When I was baptized, I became a disciple. I committed myself to learning the way.

But baptism is not giving one’s self to God. Baptism places one in the Covenant, Colossians 2.10ff. That passage is extensive, but the point is simple, the Apostle aligns baptism to the circumcision of the flesh (Genesis 17.1-14). Just as the circumcision put them into the Covenant God made with Abraham, baptism puts one into a Covenant with the Divine through Jesus.

Therefore, baptism is not placing one’s self onto God’s altar. Baptism is simply the beginning of a beautiful covenanted relationship with the Divine, something that few seem to understand, or teach.

In a varying application, praying that Jesus will rule your heart is not placing yourself at God’s altar. One is simply asking to have the leading of Jesus rule the direction of one’s heart. The issue is that one’s heart can choose not to follow the leading.

But when one vows -and the teachings in the “Old Testament” have plenty to say about being faithful to a vow- one has dedicated themselves in a unique way, and the Divine expects to see that carried out.

Isaiah said, here I am, send me. It is a beautiful statement. One that has been imbued into hymn. But no one, and I mean no one, taught me that if I was to tell the Creator of life, “here I am, send me” that I had better do exactly what the Divine told me.

Look at what the Divine told Isaiah to do (Isaiah 6.9-13).

Think about this for a minute. Not one angel volunteered. A human did.

A human who was zealous for the LORD, gave of himself, and didn’t have the sense enough to ask what the Divine was going to use him for, before he volunteered.

We could excuse Isaiah, “He’s a prophet. He has to do what he’s told.”

Back up from that. Isaiah VOLUNTEERED. Isaiah offered himself on God’s altar.

I did that. I volunteered my finances. I volunteered my occupation. I volunteered my marriage. I gave myself. They were mine to give, I gave.

With that in mind, let me share some of my prayer from August 22, 2015 (Month 6 Day 7), one day after I wrote the above into my journal about giving my marriage to God. I began my prayer: Father what will you share with me?

The Divine responded:

You finally figured it out. You needed help. But you did it.

I did need the help, which helped me finally figure out what was going on. But consider how the Divine continued:

It all goes back to you.

Want to know something? It does. It all went back to my prayer about my marriage. But it didn’t begin there. It began back when I was serving as a pulpit minister praying, asking for a life worth my efforts. Subsequently, item by item, I gave more of myself to the Divine, culminating in my marriage.

Guess what? Come April 1, 2012 I was surprised at the developments of my life. I thought it was a horrible April’s Fools joke. Well, the joke was on me. I gave of myself.

Back in December 2011, I gave the Divine my marriage. In 2012 and 2013, I was presented with opportunities of how my marriage would change.

But it wasn’t until August 2015 that I figured out that all the struggles about marriage could all be traced back to my decision to give the Divine my marriage.

In the prayer, when I realized that it all went back to that decision to give up my rights to my marriage, the Divine conveyed:

Your decision [about your marriage]. You were not wrong in making the decision. In fact, it is to your betterment, but struggled you have. Wow! Have you struggled.

Yeah, I struggled. I can’t tell you how many tears I shed. Arguments I had. Discussions I had. Prayers I offered. Or how many ways I considered how to alter the situation.

For my betterment, the Divine said. Yeah. It has been. I’m a better husband and father. But boy, it took a while.

So who am I?

I am a guy taught to be a Christian. I was baptized on my thirteenth birthday. I learned to serve in the Church. I found out I didn’t know much about the Bible, even though I had given lots of devotionals and taught lots of classes.

I went to Bible School to learn about the Bible. I went into Pulpit Ministry because I saw the need. In part, I left Pulpit Ministry because of dismay, but also because I needed God directly in my life, leading me to a purpose.

I gave of myself. I taught the Bible. I gave more of myself. I taught more Bible. Then I was smacked upside my spiritual head, waking me out my human-discipled slumber.

Then I wrestled to understand. I finally understood.

Who am I now?

A man who seeks the Creator more than the created. A man who has learned to stand on his commitments, and a commitment to the Creator is most valued.

For those who might ponder about the vows Mary and I gave each other on our wedding day. We were faithful to those vows. But in December 2011, we both vowed to give our marriage to the Divine and give the Divine more control to how our marriage unfolded.

We did not break our wedding day vows. We were faithful. And we were both faithful to give our marriage to the Divine.

We just never envisioned that in doing so we would go through those things that we have experienced.

Who am I now?

I am a man who understands his commitments, a man who will be faithful.

Will my commitment to my word be easy? Pfft! No.

But I am willing to give my efforts to things that are worthy and worthy does not always mean easy, to use an expression that was given me in my youth, “If it was easy, anybody could do it.”

A marriage with two wives is not easy, can’t be, there are lots of variables, lots of unknowns.

But I do know from my prayers that the Divine has led me to understand that my marriage is to have only two ladies. One is described as the Sun – one. The other is described as the Moon – one. Different, but together they make two. Not more.

There will be challenges. So be it. I am a man of my word.

I welcome the coming days.

Blessings and Shalom