My former brother in law commented on my demeanor the other day, and it came as a total shock to me.
We had our kids play together, as we typically do, and his wife and I were chatting about the kids, life, everything. It is so wonderful to have a close relationship with this family I have come to love exponentially, both in spite of and because of my difficult relationship with my ex. They has had four kids under three in the last couple years, so we have similar "battles" at this point in our life. I just happen to handle them completely on my own. The boys were all playing together outside, and we were enjoying the little twin girls (yep, she had twins, too!) and the brand new little DARLING boy.
That's when the B.I.L. shocked me. "Erin, you seem SO happy lately. It's awesome."
He didn't ask me why, as I'm pretty sure he already knows the answer to that.
I took a bit of a double-take, mostly because he RARELY shares his candid thoughts. He's a reserved, cautious person when it comes to the "real" stuff, even though he's a joker to the core. This was how he felt, sincerely and simply.
I suppose THIS type of joy sneaks up on you and comes about when you're not looking. I mean, I realized that my life has taken a turn lately, but when I look back to what HE has seen, through HIS eyes, without the veneers, reasons, excuses for all the hurt... just the outward responses to the hurt... I found myself deeply encouraged.
I started to pray about this transformation, and what it means to be truly "happy".
The most lasting changes came when I least expected them. I think that was the true key - losing expectations about my circumstances. Expectations in life, love, day-to-day happenings, my children, my health, my housework, EVERYTHING. The biggest and most important thing on that list, though - were losing the expectations I had for God. Instead of resting in God's promises, I gave him a "To Do List".
When I really got down to the nuts and bolts of the situation, I realized that I felt like God owed me something.
When I married my husband, I envisioned a relationship for life, no matter what. Because I gave up so much to become a Christian, and because I made this covenant with my husband with God, I felt like He was the third part of the marriage. A guarantee. Then, when that fell apart, I felt it was God's job to return what I had lost. When that became impossible, I became angry, and even a little resentful and un-trusting. What had *I* done to deserve *this*?!?! I tried to sort out that question (unsuccessfully) for almost three years.
When I gradually let go of my death-grip focus on what I did wrong, or why I was in the circumstances I am in, I continue to experience a greater peace about the past and a lasting joy about my current circumstances, regardless of the challenges at hand, and with even more hope for a future of being quietly, patiently led by God.
Then, something miraculous began to happen. Over time, God revealed truth in my heart about the past.
1. I made the earthly covenant of marriage with my husband, BEFORE God. Not WITH Him. The relationship I have with God is unchanging and everlasting - we are given no guarantees that our human partners won't deceive, embarrass and leave us alone. It happens more often than not these days. It was not God's fault that he left the marriage.
2. I didn't *earn* the divorce, it was simply a result of sinful choices.
3. God doesn't owe me ANYTHING. He has already given me EVERYTHING!!! His love, His Word and his promise of eternal life are MORE than enough.
4. In spite of my challenges and burdens, He has taken care of and provided for my EVERY need. He has given me every TRUE desire of my heart without any strings attached. I can FEEL His love for me with every step I take. These realizations have produced a natural joy in me that oozes out of my pores EVERY day. HE is enough.
(For those of you still struggling with "romantic love", either with an ex, a current boyfriend who isn't what you hoped to find in a man, or with WISHING for one - remember this: Love has come from so many unexpected places. I feel like we under-value the love of ALL the people in our lives... those who TRULY care about us. Rather than chasing down a man, nurture your support system. Nurture your spirit. Then, when you feel that deep, lasting peace and joy AS YOU ARE, then open your eyes and see what opportunities arise.)
The most amazing kind of love, however, is the love we can expect ALL DAY EVERY DAY. God has PROMISED us this - and it's His love we can rely on when things get rough, AND when we're just going through the everyday motions of life, AND when we're jumping up and down with joy because of something amazing. We can share all of our thoughts with God, and build that lasting relationship, moment-to-moment, throughout our lives. When we seek love FIRST from the Father, everything else in our life just falls into place.