Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
Don't do as I did.
So much of the time we think once we're saved...well, then, life is a bowl of cherries and there are no pits. Well, that's just wrong.
God took my hand when I was six years old. I was practically born at church. Every time the doors were open, we were in church. One day I had had enough of church. Going to church made me feel raunchy and I just didn't want it anymore. I was 6 and I knew everything. I made the announcement to my Mom when we got home from Wednesday night service. This concerned her so much that she started asking questions and started talking to me all about it. Well, then I felt relieved because she helped me to understand what I was feeling--convicted. And how to make that feeling go away--accept Jesus. Which I did.
I basically did not live a whole day without Jesus so I don't have one of those dramatic testimonies with a noticeable 180 degree change. Except...
As I grew up in church and studied the Bible. I really studied the Bible. I bathed in it...but I didn't memorize it like I should have. Too many different translations, I guess. During my teen years, I wasn't a rebel...I didn't go off the deep end like so many of my generation did. I hated the “free lifestyle”... the open sex and the free love and the flower children. (I really hated the hip-hugger pants and the micro-mini skirts.) I led a very sheltered life and the only violence I knew was what I saw on TV.
At 19, I met a fellow that I just fell head over heels for. Oh sure, he had his faults...doesn't everybody? He didn't go to church until he met me. His folks started back to church after I started to seriously date him. Life was good. I didn't care about his little drinking habit. That would stop after we got married and started acting like grown-ups. I didn't care about his roommate that smoked pot. He'd leave after we got married and my intended swore to me that he'd only tried it to relax. After all, he was a Christian just like me. After we got married, it would all change. It didn't matter that he kept after me to have sex before marriage to prove my love for him. We were going to be married in a couple of months...it would be okay, right? He had a great job! Lots of money and stable and great benefits working for a chemical plant. It didn't matter that he rarely had more than $50 or $100 in the bank...he had money coming in regularly every two weeks and that would all change, right? After marriage you acted like a grown up and before marriage, it was okay to act like a rebellious teenager, even if you were 24, right?
Oh, there's lots more and a lot more sordid. I got drunken phone calls at 2 AM. I had to forgive him for sleeping with someone--they didn't do anything, she just took him home so he wouldn't drive drunk...right.
Everybody tried to tell me this guy was weak and no good for me...even his mother tried to get me to see reason. All to no avail. I was in love and this man needed me! I was his salvation!!
At 19, I was old enough to make my own decisions. At 19, I knew everything and didn't even have to ask God. Okay, I did ask God some things. I asked God, if this guy was ever going to stop drinking. God said, “No.” I asked God if this guy was for me. God said, “Yes.” Now, bear in mind, the way I asked God. I placed my hand on my Bible, asked the question then opened my Bible and looked for a “yes” or a “no” on the page--never even read what was on the page at all. Kinda makes me ill to even think that's how cavalier I treated God back then. I was getting married in about a month. Oh, but it was okay! He was my first and only and we were almost like married! We had made our commitments to each other...just like Joseph and Mary had... Oh, how we try to justify and reason out our sin, how we try to excuse it, and disguise it. Satan can weave a web of seduction so cleverly that we don't even know we are caught in the web until it is far too late. We blind ourselves to sin and that just makes Satan's job so much easier. I tried hard to make my decision a godly thing, when in fact it was not. I never saw that until nearly three decades later.
I pray you can see exactly how I had fallen hook, line and sinker for just about every lie Satan spews at Christians in this world. I knew better, but I was seduced. Oh, it gets much worse... but I'll spare you. I did have two very beautiful and wonderful daughters. I stayed with the man for 22 years before God said, “Enough is enough.” I even forgave him after my teen age daughters came home from school to find their father in bed with two paid consorts. Now, that was a dark day. I am, by no means, innocent in all of this. I chose to turn to alcohol to take a nightly vacation from all the horror in my life. I basically chose to let my daughters fight their own battles while I soaked mine.
But, God did say, “Enough is enough.” He told me to leave. This time, I wasn't searching for a “yes” or a “no”... I was on my knees with my Bible open. It wasn't just an afternoon, either. It was a process. Even after I had found an apartment, it was 3 years before I finally divorced him. I struggled with the question of divorce which God hates. How could God be telling me to act against what I'd been taught all my life and what I read in the Bible? It was a struggle until I really recognized what those words in Ephesians 5:22 and in Colossians 8:18 actually meant. “...submit...as fitting to the Lord.”
Absolutely, God was very much a part of my life during my whole marriage except for about a 2 year period when I was angry at God for something people did, not God. I went to church; I taught Sunday School; God was in my thoughts; I continued to have my quiet time with Him most of the time. And yet I still was in bondage. I was still trying to handle my problems by myself. I was desparate to be in control, when I was spinning out of control. I had been a hot cup of coffee and now I was a frozen solid chunk of brown ice.
So how did that happen? How did an on-fire-for-God Christian sink lower than the gutter with all the other rubbish?
1. I made extremely bad choices.
2. I wanted control of my life instead of surrendering complete control to Him.
3. I looked at the candy in the store, didn't care it was filled with poison and bought bag after bag of poison candy from the devil.
But, mostly, I was seduced by Satan and fell for the lies from the Father of Lies. I believed some things that were so not true.
Paul tells us this absolutely can happen! 2 Corinthians 11:3 I am fearful, lest that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds may be corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ. AMP
I forgot that Satan's utmost mission is to distort, taint, corrupt and steal, kill and destroy all he can. I did not recognize Satan's work at 19 (even though I read Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth ...that was in someone else's life, not mine). I did not think that a godly person and someone who had a relationship with the Lord could be seduced by the devil.
Another reason I fell so hard is that I didn't surround myself with caring, Christian friends. I had no one to hold me accountable for my actions all through my 22 years of marriage. I bought into the lie that as long as I had these other friends who at least talked about God, I was doing okay. Besides, no one at church was really all that interesting and I really didn't have anything in common with them... Oh, what a lie that was! Therefore, I did not benefit from Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if anybody be detected in any misconduct, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in a spirit of meekness. And let each of you keep watch over himself, lest he also fall into temptation.
I bought into the lie that as long as I read my Bible and prayed, God didn't need anything else from me. I taught Sunday School, for crying out loud! I prayed. I read my Bible. What else did I need? I had faith that God would protect me. I actually scoffed at the stiff-necked Israelites when all the time mine was as stiff as their's.
It took several years to heal. God gently lifted me onto His lap and began the process of healing me. Yet, I still had not learned the whole lesson God had been trying to teach me. (Hard-headed doesn't even come close to describing me--maybe something like an industrial diamond...sort of pointy?)
After my second husband threw me out saying in the soft but steely voice of his that he just didn't want to be married again, I had a 1500 mile trip across America from Arizona to Louisiana to rant, rave, scream, rage and rail all my frustrations. It's a wonder I still had teeth in my mouth after gritting them so hard during 24 hours of driving. I had begged and pleaded with God that He change me and my whole being into something that would be acceptable to my husband so I could stay in my marriage. What was wrong with me?
When I cried out that question, I was staring at the pristine snow covered mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The landscape was pure and clean. The air was crisp and sparkling. I felt as dirty as a used mop. That is when God spoke to me as if He were right in the car with me, “I'm really glad you finally asked. Gina, you are acceptable to Me. I am the only One in the universe you need to be concerned about pleasing. You are acceptable to Me because of My Son in your heart.” God had already told me this while I was languishing in a loveless marriage in Arizona which was only about seven months old. (Never ever confuse chemistry and romance with love. It is not even close.)
I'm not saying God spoke aloud in my car or that the world halted while those words were etched across the sky for me to read. Nothing so dramatic. However, those words were so clear in my heart. Oh, what a heavy weight those words lifted off my heart and shoulders when I finally heard those words, when what they meant finally infused the fibers of my soul.
I could not live the Christian life under my own power. I was not a failure for believing lies. I was gullible and needy and sick in my own unconfessed sin... but God loved me anyway. He was the only One I needed to focus on and all the other stuff would fall into place. I didn’t have to try so hard to please a man.
I've quit asking why it took me so long to learn that lesson. Instead, I rejoice that God loves me. I look for opportunities to minister and to give my support and to share what I've learned. By no means is God finished with me. He's still sifting me, and some uglies still fall out...but in seeking His face first, everything else falls into place. Oh, and I've quit worrying about things, too. After all, the worst that could possibly happen to me has happened already and I'm still nestled in the arms of my Beloved.
"The Way" from
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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