(Please remember I am a woman of faith. This article reflects that. If such will offend you, please don’t feel obligated to read on.)
As I review last week’s article I realize the lessons I’ve shared thus far were realized by the first or second day we were in California. So much happened by this point and only 2 days were behind us. While the lessons I’m sharing are pretty tied into the order in which they were learned, the lesson I’ll begin with right now actually took place just this weekend. Today is the one-month anniversary of Tom’s death so emotions have been running high. Again, it’s just like life and/or business. There is always something going on that makes dealing with something else tougher. There is never a good time for an unpleasant surprise. Our encounter was that Lisa (Tom’s estranged spouse) has decided to sue us. Yes, you read that right. The person we held, prayed with, loved on, protected. She’s suing us for mental anguish. I am overcome with…. shock isn’t a big enough word. No, life isn’t fair. Things don’t always make sense and they don’t go as planned. John and I just look at each other right now and say, “We know we made each decision we made by the gauge of whether or not it was the right thing to do, on whether or not it would be the decision that honored God.” That’s the direction we chose to take with each choice we made. Yes, many said, “Why would you treat her so kindly? You have no obligation to love her like this.” We know, we know. We also know it was what our God would have us do. So, there’s your first lesson,
which is actually number 8 in the series.
8. WHAT’S RIGHT ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT’S POPULAR—DO WHAT’S RIGHT ANYWAY
And following closely behind this one is the next one.
9. MOTIVE MATTERS MOST, AND IF YOUR BEHAVIOR DOESN’T MATCH YOUR MOTIVE—YOUR MOTIVE DOESN’T MEAN A HILL OF BEANS
Please allow me to interpret my southern Indiana cliché. In life and in business you have no doubt been in circumstances where you were wronged and faced with the decision of treating someone in anger, forgiving them, loving them, judging them or holding a grudge. Maybe you just judged, labeled and held it against them. Maybe, in order to keep a job, keep an employee, keep a relationship intact you “put on a good front”. In other words you were looking for another job, planning on firing or leaving the person. I propose this kind of living leads to mental and emotional breakdown. If your behavior of love isn’t truly reflective of what’s in your heart it will catch you. It will. I said this to John on the way to California on the plane. “Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us. He never said it wasn’t going to sting like hell.” Our motive was to love Lisa, to show her God, nothing else. It wasn’t to ‘trick’ her into ‘thinking’ we were on her side. That would be nothing short of pure deception. If your heart is heavy and your life feels tough, check the motive behind your behavior, and then check to see if your behavior matches that motive. (You may want to ask someone who will be honest with you. We see our own behavior through very skewed glasses most of the time.)
10. DOING WHAT’S RIGHT DOESN’T COME WITH A GUANANTEE OF BEING LIKED
Too often our secret reason for doing what’s right is so that we can get ahead, be liked, play the martyr (“Woe always me, I’m such a good person because I sacrifice so much.”) or be seen as one who is righteous. And I do mean secret, for much of the time we don’t even know we have an ulterior motive until we face disappointment. It’s been said to us several times by family members and friends over the last several days. “See what you get for loving her! Now aren’t you sorry you did what you did?” Our answer comes back, “No!” We would do it all again. We would love her, and we do love her. We will continue to do what’s right. No, things don’t always turn out as we’d hope when God is in them, but they do always turn out working for good. Honoring God with our choices is the choice we make.
By the way, that’s lesson 11. Because of the close proximity of living conditions and the emotions running high, lots of talking took place during this time.
11. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE THE LORD AND ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE
For 17 years I’ve prayed, cried and anguished over our family (John’s kids with me and mine with him) not being a real family. Through this crisis closeness has been encountered that wasn’t there. Even in burden, there is blessing. Even now I am reminding myself of this.
Now back to the chain of events. Needless to say emotions were running high in everyone throughout the entire time we were in California dealing with this death. At several points we realized how so very much anger can get in the way of good communication, and most of the time the people engaged in the anger don’t even see it, they just know they’re not communicating well. The best way to describe one person’s behavior was overtly aggressive. She kept coming at us verbally. Now remember I said it’s important to realize that we all have our own reaction to crisis so we were able to keep this in mind. Her heart was breaking and since the core of her personality is anger, that’s how the pain was coming out. The sad affair is that she hasn’t realized the anger yet, so she was quite busy accusing everyone else of the behavior she was displaying.
The lesson here…
12. LISTEN… REALLY LISTEN SO YOU CAN BE REALLY CLOSE
You see, there were times of wonderful opportunities for communication. Now I don’t mean it was always ‘yippy skippy—pretty and perfectly happy’, for that’s not what real relationships are made of. These times brought with them tears, and laughter, heartbreak and hope. But, during these times of awesome communication we’d encounter one who would ask a question, We’d answer. They didn’t like the answer so they’d ask the question again. We’d answer again. Again, not liking the answer, they’d push the same point. After several repeats of the same question John very gently, yet firmly said, “This is just how we feel, we’ve made our decision.” The response was an explosive, “God, you are so combative!!!” He and I just looked at each other. There was only one demonstrating combative words and behavior, and it wasn’t us. They didn’t see it though, for anger and self- determination blinded them. I propose that in times of confusion, well actually in all times, that you work to listen— really listen. Set your own agenda aside and just watch miracles happen. You see peace and anger can’t live in the same house. If you’re not getting what you want during conversations it usually means you’re not listening and therefore giving the other person a chance to truly be heard. When two people honestly listen to each other communication isn’t the only result, a great relationship is.
13. THERE’S HOPE AND MERCY IS REAL
The most painful reality of this event is that Tom chose to end his life, he sot himself in the chest. The most wonderful reality of this event is that the day before he did this he gave his heart to the Lord. Now some would say—and have—how could he then have ended his own life? Well, he was hurting so badly that he saw no way out. He was such a new baby in faith that he didn’t realize the hope that is real in a true relationship with God. The bottom line though is that even in this kind of pain, and this kind of death, because he had accepted Christ as his savior, he’s spending eternity in heaven. It was also said to me, “YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING???? HE GETS TO LIVE THE LIFE HE LED, TREAT HIS FAMILY THE WAY HE DID, AND HE GETS TO GO TO HEAVEN AT THE LAST MINUTE??” The following words are the words I replied with. I know it would sometimes be our preference that one we believe has hurt us is spending eternity in hell, but the fact is that God’s love and mercy are bigger than we can comprehend. And it’s real. There was a thief that hung on a cross next to Jesus. No doubt he’d stolen, raped, maybe murdered and when he said, “Forgive me Lord,” that was all that was needed. Jesus told him they’d be together in paradise. As for the suicide question you may have regarding heaven, that will take a one-on-one conversation, it’s not for an article. If that’s on your heart, feel free to get in touch with me.
14. A FEW WORDS CAN MEAN THE WORLD
When someone you care about is hurting never assume they don’t need to hear your love and support through words of compassion. I must admit it was very lonely dealing with all of this with no one calling on me. I hesitated to share that today because it’s a very vulnerable statement, but I know there will be times that someone you know is going through a tough time and the Life Lessons I learn are there so your life can be better. I don’t want you to decide they don’t need you, or that you’d be bothering them, or that they’re too busy. In a case such as this one people many times don’t know what words to say. Just, “I’m here and I love you,” are fine. If you care about someone, show it. The worse that can happen is in their own pain they’ll say, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” You’ve still shown them the love you feel. They’ll remember that for the rest of their lives.