It’s been 10 years since my divorce but I still remember the first Christmas like it was yesterday. My heart goes out to single parents, male and female who are facing this first holiday alone as well as those of you who may be suffering from a profound lost due to some unforeseen event that’s derailed your life. Kids or not, l loneliness and the holidays can be profound.
My twins (a boy and a girl), were 14 months old when I first moved out. So there I was like any parent without the rules book on taking care of the twins for a 4 out of 7 days a week. Feedings, diapers, and attentiveness to their needs was enough to wear me out! But as the holidays approached to the reality of being by myself and making something meaningful out of the meaning that supposedly behind Christmas seemed impossible. If I had a pair of scales to weigh what I did right as opposed to what I did wrong during these times, the wrong would certainly take priority. There’s something innately true about our inability to self-reflect after the demise of a relationship or profound loss; we’ re just numb, unable to focus and for me anyway the hope of a future and any type of happiness or peace for that matter was remote. This is the point where if you’re grieving reading this, I’m supposed to say how it all started to turn around, but I won’t. Not if I’m really going to represent an authentic faith and relationship with Christ and how I became profoundly transformed over time (mind you by slowly, grudgingly and reluctantly) listening to the voice inside of me that told me there was an alternative life. What eventually helped, looking back after all this time wasn’t “gaining information” about God or practicing the rituals of my faith. These things don’t help much during tragedy. I can share with you how God communicated with me and perhaps it will help you realize how he might have been trying to communicate with you as well.
God communicates through our spirit of course, and specifically what we consider our mind and thoughts. But it is recognizing the difference between our thoughts to ourselves and his communication that’s difficult. Most of us believe God wants and can communicate with us, whether we are churched or religious or not, the obstacle has always been to discern the difference between our mind and his.
How is done you might ask?
For me there were those times after the divorce when I was “self-aware” that there was something dreadfully wrong. I’m not referring to the practical difficulties associated with the divorce and the stress or the sadness, I’m referring to a presence that was inside of me communicating “It’s not meant to be this way.” It was that deep conviction that was separate from the distracting thoughts in my mind and the pulling emotions of what was happening in my life and in the world around me. It was a solid sober presence desiring my healing, that’s how God speaks, especially in times of extreme adversity because God’s desire is not for human beings to suffer although he’s quite aware they do profoundly. But as God was able to create each one of us in the form of individual beings with the dignity to exercise choice, that choice quite frankly which was meant as a gift often becomes our worst enemy. God will not violate free will.
One of the toughest things I had to face over the next few years would be to resist the temptation to blame the situation on others, or events without acknowledging how my own “free will choices” were more powerful than any other force in life that resulted in the legacy of a broken life. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Knowing that the path to healing removes the convenience of blame as an option from the table? Anyone reading this who’s gone through divorce or has observed a friend traversing the painful process, knows the ugly face of blame. it becomes the double edge sword of a being temporary comforter and our worst enemy.
I noticed that the voice, from God, which communicated there was the possibility of healing but it involved a different life, only became clearer (which is really a poor word because actually it was a becoming more present more than anything else) as I moved my perception to follow it.
Moving my perception wasn’t changing what I thought about, I need to be really clear about that, that rarely works. That would be similar to pushing a balloon that was tethered to the ground only to watch it re-position itself right above the anchor. It was the anchor that needed moving. Moving my perception meant seeking repeated communication and intimacy with the voice or you could call it an impression occurring within. By allowing my perception to acknowledge this, and communicating with what was there, God’s presence, then I could realize I was communicating with something separate from me and external as a “Being” that had penetrated my conscience. What identifies this experience or voice of God specifically, is the voice is unchanging in its nature whether our thoughts are reflecting on the present the past or the future. It’s the stable assurance of God’s presence. It is a clear spiritual impression. To allow God to then begin to work with you, (and he will uniquely) requires as a conscious act. I had to respond “yes I believe you, there is something better and yes I know the path the healing will mean following your lead.”
And that’s how the journey of a new legacy begins.
I suspect the sheer volume of emotionally connected intellectualism and thoughts that bombard us regularly diminish the presence of God to communicate with us, and over time through practiced dismissal of considering anything spiritual we lose the ability to respond to him. When we add the panic of emotional pain associated with divorce or some great loss or betrayal, we have to be very careful about what results as our “lens” for making conclusions about the past, decisions about the present, and plans for the future.
A quick point, I realize God also speaks to us through the mouths of others through literature through dreams through visions and definitely irrefutably through his word but were not focusing on that were painting a picture of his faithfulness that reaches out to all peoples in spite of our feeble efforts to reach each other.
Jesus had something to say about this.
And this profound truth is spoken of directly by Jesus in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John when Jesus refers to himself as the shepherd and to us as the sheep. And while we don’t have time to peel apart the whole chapter, but we can support what’s been stated about how God talks to us and our response, by looking at a short dialogue concerning Jesus. Jesus is arguing in John chapter 10 again with the religious rulers of his day as a result of him healing a man and the religious rulers questioning the authority and the authenticity of who Jesus is. It’s really important you get that. If you’re compelled to get the big picture, the event starts in John chapter 9 and carries through chapter 10.
Referring to himself as the “doorkeeper” to life eternal, Jesus makes the following statement “To Him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. When he puts forth all his own he goes ahead of them in the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
That voice is the intimacy and communication by which God reaches out to us “the sheep,” it’s important to notice the sheep have the capacity to hear the voice, but what’s more important is who initiates the contact, the Doorkeeper, or the Gate as Jesus refers to himself in the same passage, or the good Shepherd which he deliberately uses portraying his relationship between himself and the world and the people that he loves. But don’t miss the inferred as well; the sheep follow the lead of the shepherd it’s not the other way around.
When God tries to reach our hearts, and this takes place more often than we would wish or admit through adverse circumstances, it is in the voice and perspective of a good Shepherd, with our best intent. God’s heart breaks when he sees the brokenness of people as a result of our own poor choices and the choices of others who “derailed our lives.” Still God waits as a Good Shepherd. While it may be tempting to think during adversity and tragedy he doesn’t care, that’s quite opposite of what Jesus taught about how he continuously reaches out for the purpose of healing and restoration. God loves people tremendously more than we can ever imagine, and possibly more than we will ever contemplate. This same truth was made clear by Jesus again referring to himself as the s Shepherd in pursuit of the one seemingly insignificant sheep “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12).
Almost 11 years ago, God started a profound work in my life which required I pay attention to the voice. It’s never been easy. The result though, has been a transformed perspective and a new legacy. The legacy isn’t finalized it’s still unfolding. If you’re a new or seasoned single-parent, my prayer is over this Advent season you run a self-test on God. Ask God, if he does communicate to do so, and be authentic enough with him if you find it hard to believe in such things ask him to help you in your ability to believe. If you are the friend of someone facing single parenthood, consider asking God how you can participate in the work of being a Shepherd yourself? More than one single-parent is out there holding on by the skin of their teeth telling people there okay when from the heart perspective it’s quite the opposite. God may need you to seek his voice as a willing servant to align yourself in a time of need to help bring about God’s good intent in the life of someone who possibly doesn’t know him or presently is just another “wondering sheep.”J.P. Grier M.S. Counseling
J.P Grier is a writer and developer at SentinelforChrist com – Sentinel-For-Christ is a network of Christian men helping each other to press deeper in Christ.