The following is a letter I received from a woman that goes by Hupomone when she comments. She listens regularly to our podcasts from overseas, and she also reads Istoria's Blog. The past year has been a difficult one for her. In an effort to process some of the things that transpired, she decided to write the equivalent of a "blog post." She doesn't have a blog and or even Facebook, so the letter was really initially intended for immediate family/friends. She's given me permission to publish it on Istoria. I believe it illustrates beautifully how principles of the Scripture are either applied - or not applied - in the lives of Christ's people.
"I remember my childhood home well. I grew up with my brother, sister and my parents. "My mom always tried to do such a great job making it feel like not just a house, but a home. She tried to decorate in a way that would be nice, but economical. Most vividly, I remember her hanging up pictures all over our upstairs hallway to cover the holes in the wall punched through by my father. It saddens me that those pictures stand out the most. You see, my dad didn’t just punch holes through the drywall in our family home; he managed to punch holes through our family itself.
I grew up knowing my parents didn’t have a perfect marriage. In fact, I often wondered if they even loved each other. I think they once did, a long time ago… but after three kids, full time jobs and “life” set in, their relationship devolved drastically. They both started to look outside each other for fulfillment. My mom poured everything into her kids. My dad took to another woman. It wasn’t just a fling, either. He told her he wasn’t married and she fell in love with him. He wanted a life different than what he had. He would eventually get that, just not in the way he would expect.
I am not sure why my mom took him back. She certainly never seemed happy with him since she found out about the affair. I remember countless threats of divorce, yelling, screaming, fighting… My dad even ended up in jail when my mom finally called the police after he hit her.
The thing is, my dad was one of the most outwardly professing Christians I knew. He spoke openly of his love for Christ and the forgiveness he knew through Him. He knew what to say and when to say it and it often left everyone feeling that if they disagreed with him, they were directly disagreeing with God. After all, how can a professing Christian argue with how forgiven another believer is?
My mom understood this dichotomy better than anyone. She lived with an outwardly professing Christian man who wanted very little to do with her. She could never understand the vast expanse between his words and his actions. I imagine that after a while, she felt like she was going a little out of her mind. The problems surrounding their marriage were placed on her shoulders: she hadn’t forgiven him completely, she didn’t understand him, she couldn’t get over the past, she… she… she.
I think time took its toll. As the years went by and her children grew up, her depression became even more evident. She sought professional help, tried various medications, and did her best on a human level to overcome the darkness that enveloped her.
Meanwhile, my father grew in his spirituality. He concentrated on daily devotions, blogging, even writing books and plays. His attention was anywhere but on my mother. And because his pursuits were “godly”, he was beyond reproach.
The breaking point came one August afternoon when my father called and said my mother was in the hospital. He told me that she had tried to kill herself with an overdose of pills. 911 was called and the ambulance took her to the emergency room. Doctors anticipated she would be able to “sleep it off”. Within 24 hours she was moved to the ICU and put on life support. I took the next flight out with my two young daughters in tow. By the time we arrived, she had coded blue twice and they were able to revive her, but it wasn’t looking good. She lived another 36 hours, never to wake out of her coma, and then passed away. An autopsy would later show she had over seven different medications in her system, all at high doses. She never really stood a chance.
She left a 3-page letter behind, as to why she did what she did. I am not exaggerating when I say that over 2/3 of this letter was an indictment of my father. She clearly communicated that his behavior and the way he treated her were what contributed to her decision to end her life. I have no doubt that she meant every word she wrote.
One of the many things that saddened me about this, was actually culminated in a blog I read two months prior to her death. A former pastor of mine, Wade Burleson, of Emmanuel, Enid, Oklahoma, wrote an article on his “Istoria Ministries” website about marriage. Specifically, he wrote about 15 words that can save a broken marriage: “You are neither the source nor the solution for the trouble or pain within me.”
I knew as soon as I read these words, that if my mom could grasp them and the power of Christ behind them, her life could change. If she could find her identity in Christ and what he did for her, instead of what my father does or does not do – then she could find peace. I prayed for her often and specifically in this regard. Clearly, despite my prayers, this was not the direction the Lord would lead her in. Her suicide did not surprise my Lord, and I know He remains sovereign despite the outcome.
The sovereignty of God was about to take another turn in my life. My mom died on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016. The very next day, Thursday, August 18th, while I was still reeling from everything that had happened, my dad called me downstairs. My daughters and I were staying at the house my parents had owned for the last 18 years. It was the only house my daughters ever knew of their grandparents. It was an important home to me, my siblings and all six grandchildren. So, my dad had asked that I come downstairs into the office. He seemed… excited. It was not an emotion I expected, so I was eager to see what he wanted to show me. He sat down in front of the computer and proceeded to show me the “Christian Mingle” dating profile he had just set up. He asked about his picture, how everything came across… I was suspended in disbelief. It had been less than 24 hours since my mom died and my dad had already set up a profile on a dating website? I had no idea how to respond.
The memorial and burial services came and went over that next week. Things with my dad were just…. strange. I tried to remind myself that often people aren’t aware of their actions when something like this happens. I tried to put myself in my dads’ position – If a suicide note blamed me for everything, how would I handle it? I really tried.
As I write this, just about 7 months have passed since my mom’s death. In that time, my father joined many online dating sites, started dating, found a girlfriend, and is now talking of marriage. He also sold his house, moved away from his 2 children and four grandchildren who lived within a ten-minute proximity and found a house on the other side of the country. He calls it “Sanctuary.”
The hardest part for me in all of this, is that from the day my mother died, my father has cloaked everything he has done with godly-sounding euphemisms. All I would hear is, “The Lord has given me a peace that surpasses all understanding…” or, “The Lord has clearly directed my steps in all these endeavors…” As someone who professes Christ, how can I argue with a “peace that surpasses understanding”? How can I dismiss the “sovereignty and will of God” as my dad made these snap decisions? He never even looked behind him, at the destruction left from this storm. He didn’t seem to care that my sister began cutting herself to abate the pain, or that my brother found his solace in the bottom of Vodka bottles. It was all about his “turn” to find happiness.
Here is the best of what I can surmise: I know that the heart is deceitful above all things. I know that people can hide behind a façade of Christ. I know that I am not to sit in judgment of my father, but to show him the same love and grace Christ has shown me. But I also look at his actions and see no sign of sacrifice. I see no evidence of him loving his family (or anyone else, for that matter) more than he loves himself. How can I reconcile these things? In many ways, it would be far easier for my mind to comprehend this situation if he was an atheist, or agnostic, or held a belief I knew was outside of biblical doctrine. But for him to justify the very actions that hurt others as “following where the Spirit leads...” is just impossible for me to resolve. Or at least, it was.
Pastor Burleson just this week, posted another blog on Istoria Ministries. As God in His providence would dictate, here is the last part of what that blog said:
“…it would be an appropriate time to remind us who follow Jesus that we are to be known for our love and truth - in that order. The Royal Commandment is love (see James 2:8). People will know I am a follower of Christ by my love, not my truth (see John 13:35). The love I show is more important than truth I know, because in reality my Truth is a Person, and He tells me to love you as He loves me.
Here's the good news about love. You can't fake it. You either have it or you don't (see I Corinthians 13:4-8).
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love is not proud.
Love does not dishonor others.
Love is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil.
Love rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects.
Love always trusts.
Love always hopes.
Love always perseveres.
Love never fails
I may tell you I love you, but if I don't show you I love you, then I'm faking love. The good news about true love is that fact checking it is easy for me. Before I condemn those who pass on Fake News as gospel truth, I ought to examine to see if I am attempting to hoodwink you with my fake love.
I think the latter is worse because it often involves self-delusion.
At least the Fake News purveyors know they are liars.”
So, it became quite evident to me that my family has been hoodwinked. I still am not sure what to do with this, but at least I am not trying to reconcile the truth my father purported with his actions. And in the end, it almost seems fitting: his actions were like his punching holes in drywall. His truth? Just pretty pictures he hung in front of the damage done."