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Monday, 29 June 2015

The Gospel in the Dumping Ground

Back in the day, I was dumped.

Not from a great height- it hadn't been a long relationship- but I was nonetheless devastated by it.

To make matters worse, when I scoured the internet for wisdom on dealing with it, the best I could find were articles such as How To Get Revenge on Your Ex or Getting Your Rebound Right or Get Fit and Get Over It.  These gems didn't quite articulate how I was feeling, and didn't offer godly advice- which made me feel worse. The Christian world did not seem to have much to say on this issue, which meant that not only was I dumped, but I was also a weirdo. The fact I didn't really know any other dumpees added to this complex.

So, if nothing else, this is a belated post plugging that gap; an assurance to Philippa of yesteryear that though being dumped is painful- it will lead you to know more of the kindness and goodness of God.

Thus, The Gospel in the Dumping Ground:

SHOCK
The break-up shattered my faulty doctrines of a) relationships and b) suffering ; I'd not even realised I'd held to it, but I had decided that if I was godly about it, if I did everything right, if I followed the advice of the Big Relationship Books, chose a Christian, prayed, stayed accountable- then things would work out: I'd marry my first boyfriend, we'd have four or five kids, I'd become an amazing baker and homemaker, and everything would be great. At this point, people were pairing off left, right and centre- and my unexpected trip to Dumpsville, aka my failure to "succeed" in this area (and the absolute absence of any Christians talking about it on the internet) added to my utter disbelief and shock. 

My thought that because I'd read the right books, tried to make the right decisions, and had got up at 6am to go to the Pure course I'd be guaranteed a smooth ride was legalism. My shock betrayed my incorrect belief that husbands were a gift for godliness: if I put in the right change, the vending machine would deliver.  The dumping was a wake up call: this life is tough, and bumpy, and at times the curse of the Fall is uneven . But the goodness experienced by the residents of Relationshipsville was not earned, but a gift, and the experience of having been dumped was not evidence of condemnation. In both of the 'hoods there is the fall, and there is redemption: and the steadfast love of the Lord will never cease; his mercies will never come to an end. 

REJECTION
After I removed my jaw from the floor, in flooded the feeling of shame and a huge weight of rejection. I felt bottom of the pile, unchosen, unloved. I hadn't been enough. And the future looked bleak. "Biblical womanhood" had often seemed painted in terms of marriage and children- but suddenly the years gaped open before me again. I'd have to be a missionary! I'd have to do some great deed! I'd have to get back on course to convert some ganglords! That's what it felt like the relationships seminars were saying- you're single: go be awesome!

But I was not awesome. I was shocked and afraid and confused.

But into the confusion came these words about Jesus: He is not ashamed to call us his. (Hebrews 2:11). I was overjoyed to remember that he defined me: that in Him I was justified, in Him I was chosen, in Him I was accepted, in Him I was dearly loved. In times of distress I was driven back to take refuge in the shadow of His wings, driven back to find my peace and my very self in Him.

ANXIETY
I spent a lot of time worrying about my ex. Partially, I was worried about what terrible thing could have happened to mean he'd changed his mind: I mean- dump me, really!?!

I've since realised that it's possible to not want to "do life with Philippa" and yet still have more than adequate mental health. Nonetheless I was genuinely worried about him. I was concerned, because that had been life for the preceding months. This was someone who had been my best friend and favourite companion. And who very suddenly, wasn't.

The shock of the road ending meant at times the sadness felt like grief. The lost person was still alive, though- but I couldn't know what was happening with him. I cared- but I could no longer be the one to help.

Time and again I had to face up to the fact that I was not my ex's Help. Time and again I took comfort in knowing that God was his refuge, his provision, his strength. My ex had a more faithful friend than me in Jesus, and this helped calm my worries.

DREAD
A huge part of dealing with "the break-up" was learning to trust God with a future I dreaded.

I was fearful, for a long time, of what was to come, and especially of what it might look like to see my ex move on. I felt it would be a nail in the coffin of my rejection, and at times I felt desperately afraid that I might have to see it happen before my very eyes.

I remember coming across these words for the first time, and praying desperately that God would help me hold on to them:

"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take- the clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head."

I scoured books for people who'd suffered- because at times it did feel pretty acute, and clung to their words. I read Spurgeon and held on to his testimony for dear life: "I am afraid that the grace I have got out of my happy times could almost lie on a penny, but the good that I have received from my trials and my griefs, is altogether incalculable."
I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable … - See more at: http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2012/03/16/how-spurgeon-saw-his-pain-and-depression/#sthash.42laOYMv.dpuf


As the future suddenly seemed full of such potential for pain, I was driven back to the declaration of the psalmist: surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6) The Lord was my guarantee of future hope, of certain goodness to come; the clouds were big with mercy.

ANGER
This isn't pretty.

But there were times in the months following "the end" when I raged at what felt like injustice. All the words of kindness and love that had been spoken to me felt like wounds now- reminders of what had been taken away from me.

I felt angry because of the shock, because of the shame, because I cared- but couldn't care, because a future that had seemed certain was now a horizon of threatening, heavy clouds.

I raged at God that my ex could be doing okay. I had felt hurt by his change of mind, and by what had been said before the change of mind, that made the end so much harder. So I raged-- how could he be happy when I felt so sad?  How could things work out for him when they seemed so hard for me?

I resented blessing in the life of my ex as though it was evidence God was indifferent to my pain.

I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable … - See more at: http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2012/03/16/how-spurgeon-saw-his-pain-and-depression/#sthash.42laOYMv.dpuf
FORGIVENESS 
The biggest battle was the battle to forgive. It was a long, and emotional battle- but there were two big breakthroughs.

Firstly, I saw my own sin nailed to the cross. I saw my utter failure in relationships- this one, and others. I read The Cross of Christ and was deeply humbled that God could forgive me for the way I'd behaved- towards my ex, towards others, towards His chosen King. As I saw afresh my debt ripped up, the foolishness of demanding payment for such a proportionately petty fee from someone else seemed absurd. 

And secondly, I saw God at the cross.

The death of Jesus showed me that God was not indifferent to sin. Whether it was deeds by me, or against me, the Father saw them. And he felt with intense righteousness in response to them. He felt anger, outrage, heartbreak.  He had a perfect and profoundly emotional response to it and he had given full vent to what justice required- and Jesus had absorbed it in our place.

I could not demand further payment for the wrongs I felt had been done; his judgment and anger had already fallen. If I wanted my ex to suffer, I was saying, "the cross wasn't enough!" But of course, the cross was a perfect, just punishment for all sin- intentional or not. Jesus had taken it, for both of us. And we had been forgiven. My ex received blessing because Jesus received the curse.

And that meant there was hope for me too.

The cross helped me process the shock: whatever else had happened, my Father had not condemned me in my dumping. Because of his grace I could know that the suffering wasn't his vengeance- but would be to achieve real and lasting good.  It helped ease the dread: as one united with Christ, forgiven and acquitted in Him, I had every reason to be hopeful about the future: it no longer contained judgment, but only the favour of my Father. It humbled my anger to silence, because the Messiah had suffered- silently, patiently, completely- so that I could go free. 

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD
I am so grateful for what God taught me in the year I was dumped.

Although many (many!) years have passed, God's faithfulness remains unchanging and strong. The struggles have changed shape, but the glories of the gospel, and of the God of the gospel, have not. 

As is so often the case, Spurgeon was right. The good I gained in the darkness, from the grief and from the trial, was altogether incalculable.

5 comments:

  1. God is awesome. Many thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wish I had read these words some time before (though by that time you were probably starting to learn your alphabet...). When I was dumped, when I wasn´t even taken. It would surely make an interesting post.

    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  3. this is very good, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love how much gospel sense you talk :) Thank you :)

    BW

    ReplyDelete
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