Anger, Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, God's Power, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering, Waiting on God

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

It’s not always easy to recall the two years I spent running from the Lord, because those memories seem so distant and foreign to me. But, I share stories from that time because I know for so many standers recounting my path to restoration is helpful in order to better understand the heart and mind of a prodigal. My desire isn’t to rehash past events that bring about guilt and shame, but to paint a picture of how far God has brought me is such a short period of time. Thankfully, Thanksgiving of 2015 is one holiday experience I can retell but never have to relive.

Let’s take a glimpse back at November of 2015. Tommy and I had been separated for nearly eight months and were living in two households. I went to great lengths to distance myself from him, only communicating about matters that directly involved our children. Earlier in the month he appeared at one of our divorce hearings and pleaded with the judge for an extension in our case. The extension was granted and my desire to be permanently estranged from my husband was foiled. Needless to say, I was angry! I was angry at the judge for taking pity on him. I was angry at my lawyer for not convincing the judge otherwise. I was angry at Tommy for delaying the inevitable. But, most of all, I was angry that I wasn’t getting my way. My pride and rebellion was at an all-time peak, and anything that stood in the way of promoting my sinful lifestyle infuriated me.

I know Tommy felt the wrath behind my anger, even though he never openly communicated that to me. I intentionally ignored his messages and when I did respond, I kept the texts short. As Thanksgiving was approaching, the messages and phone calls between us increased. With every interaction, I could feel the tension mounting. We were met with making decisions about things we had never had to face in previous years and this was new territory for both of us. It was especially challenging because we did not have the same expectations regarding the holidays. 

Tommy wanted nothing other than to celebrate with me and the boys. He longed to take part in the Thanksgiving traditions we had created together over the past ten years. I would have probably been open to the idea of a joint holiday had Tommy been willing to go along with my wicked plans and not attempted to delay our divorce proceedings. But, my schemes went awry and I intended to punish him for his lack of cooperation. I was so blinded by my anger towards him that I couldn’t see his desires were genuine and good for our entire family. All I could see what that he was standing in the way of what I wanted, which was a declaration to end our marriage. Despite his request for togetherness, I chose to host Thanksgiving for family and friends in our home without him.

That year Thanksgiving was different. After the feast was over and my guests had left, a deep loneliness set in and the reality of my choices started to hit home. I was living life entirely on my own and it was solely based on my poor decisions. The company of my friends and family could not fill the void that I had hoped it would. In reality, Tommy could not fill that void either, but turning back to my marriage would have been a step in the right direction. I had fallen so far out of the will of God that I had tunnel vision. I was consumed with my will instead of God’s will and I was seeking the happiness that I felt I deserved. I was willing to do anything to please my selfish desires, and oftentimes in ways that were damaging and sinful.

Praise the Lord, God gave Tommy clarity to see right through the devil’s schemes. That Thanksgiving, Tommy continued to respond to me in love. I knew I had hurt him deeply, which was my intent, but he did not retaliate or respond to my sin with sin. The Father provided him comfort and love as well as great restraint, which didn’t go unnoticed. Tommy could have easily faltered in his stand due to the cirumstances, but his foundation for standing was grounded in the love of Christ. His absence from our family dinner wouldn’t deter his fight for our marriage. He knew that the Lord had more work to do in my heart, so he thanked God for the process and prayed for me that holiday weekend, as he did every weekend. Tommy’s spirit of gratitude wasn’t based around a day, but it was a lifestyle choice that he chose daily. 

The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first holiday as a restored family. I still get emotional as I reflect on the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit renewed my mind and set my feet back on the path to righteousness. The Father took our dead marriage and restored it back to life in a miraculous way that only He was capable of doing. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4-5

Dear friends, I know many of you may find yourselves in desperate family situations. Some of you may even question what you have to be thankful for in the midst of your crisis. I want to remind you of the Father’s may provisions, the greatest of all, a Savior. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to take our place and bear our burdens on the cross. Let’s never forget to be grateful for the gift of the cross! We can also come to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing we serve a Master that is actively working and fully capable of performing God-sized miracles in our marriages. Despite the longsuffering, let’s be thankful for the process of transformation taking place in our lives, and let us continue to pray for our prodigals to make their way home to Him!

Anger, Christian Walk, Couseling, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Judging, Marriage

Humble Yourself

When I made the decision to file for divorce, I was full of self-righteous anger. I deserved so much more out of my marriage and from my husband. Perceiving Tommy’s flaws worse than my own, I felt superior. In reality, I had such backwards thinking. I lacked mercy towards him and was constantly finding Tommy at fault. I didn’t have time to scrutinize myself because I was too busy keeping a record of his wrongs. And, every chance I got, I took the opportunity to point out his offenses towards me. Rehashing past failures never offered solutions to our martial problems, rather, it led to further bitterness, resentment and anger in his heart and in mine.

The years of turmoil took a toll on our marriage. It strained our relationship to the point where I felt completely defeated. Instead of turning to God with my hurt and pain, I allowed the devil a foothold in my marriage. The enemy slowly drove a wedge deeper and deeper between me and my beloved. Over time, my attitude towards Tommy changed as well as my patterns of thinking. The dangers of not taking every thought captive soon spiraled out of control. Thoughts I would have easily dismissed in the past were now stirring around in my mind daily. I had completely given myself over to the lies of the enemy and was no longer guarding my heart. Inevitably, separation and divorce quickly followed.

Self-righteousness is terribly destructive, and sneaks into the heart and mind making it nearly impossible to show genuine love towards others. Is there any characteristic more deceptive? We hate to see self-righteousness in others, yet we will defend it in our own lives. The bible makes it clear that God despises pride, which is at the root of self- righteousness. We see this in the parable Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The Pharisee elevated himself above everyone else looking down on others, whereas the tax collector recognized he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:14

At the point in my brokenness, where I became more repulsed by my sin than that of Tommy’s, the tide began to turn. The Holy Spirit revealed the depravity of my own heart and redirected my anger inward. I had to face reality, my sin was equal to his in the eyes of the Lord. Ultimately, I realized the best way to change my husband was to humble myself.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalms 51:17

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Christian Walk, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Waiting on God

Come to Your Senses

Before we started our ministry nearly two years ago, Tommy and I spent time intentionally praying and discussing how we would share our story and the life lessons we learned through our restoration process. One aspect we both felt strongly about was a desire to be genuine, to speak from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. In doing so, we never imagined God would use us to touch the lives of so many broken, desperately hurting couples that mirror our past. We are honored the Lord has provided opportunities for us to share our valley experiences in order to encourage other couples amidst their marriage struggles!

Sharing my personal testimony, as once a prodigal, has especially been humbling. When I look back and realize how patient God was with me, I’m often reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:9-10.

For I am the least of the apostles unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain.

Praise God, He did not leave me where I was. Our loving Father pursued me, chastened me and showed immeasurable amounts of grace along the way. He also used Tommy to demonstrate love for me as he continually stood for our marriage even when there seemed to be little to no hope. The more I share the heart transformation that took place in my life, the deeper the gratitude I feel towards God for providing my husband the strength to continue his stand.

Tommy’s primary motivation behind standing for our marriage was based on his desire to see God grant us both repentance and bring us back into alignment with God’s will. Part of that painful journey meant he had to patiently endure evil, evil from the one he vowed to love forever, in good times and in bad. I did not come to the knowledge of truth by Tommy pointing out my indiscretions and focusing on my sinful behavior. I came to the understanding of truth by the prayers Tommy and others cried out on my behalf. God heard their pleas and He also looked inwardly to the motivation of my husband’s heart.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

The closer Tommy walked with the Lord, the more he relinquished control over our situation placing his faith in God to perform a miracle in our marriage. I couldn’t help but notice his full submission to the Lord. Tommy’s gentleness with me turned away my wrath allowing me to be vulnerable to the idea of restoration. I escaped the snare of the devil and I came to the knowledge of the UGLY truth. I had been used by the enemy to do his will! When that devastating reality set in, there was no more finger pointing, no more blame shifting. I came to my senses with a deep sadness which brought me to my knees before the Lord. There were tears of anguish and hurt as the veil was lifted and I understood I had been a participant in doing the devil’s bidding.

Dear friend, it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to prick your prodigal’s heart. The pain you are experiencing may be unrelenting and the natural response is to revile in return. But, keep in mind, your spouse has been captured by the enemy to do his will. Your prodigal will have to come to this realization on their own, in God’s perfect timing. Pray fervently and look to Christ as your example while you wait.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

In Christ,
Amy Larson