Next month will be the 12th anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law.
Today, my husband felt the pain of missing his dad as though it were only a week ago.
It's times like this that I don't know what to do. I haven't lost a parent. I haven't felt that heart wrenching hurt for the longing of a parent. The mere thought of losing one of my parents brings me to tears.
The night my father-in-law passed was incredibly tragic and it's haunted my husband ever since. My mother-in-law found him, laying on their bed, after suffering a heart attack. She called our home and we raced up the street. The entire way to their house I was begging God to keep him alive. My husband made it up the stairs in what seemed like only 2 steps. He immediately climbed on the bed, yelling at his dad, and ran back out to get help from the neighbors. I don't remember how, but somehow, I ended up alone in the room with my father-in-law and I was holding the phone with the 911 operator on the line.
I could barely get out a whisper.
"I need you to walk to the patient, ma'am, I need you to tell me where he is, I need you...."
I don't remember anything else the operator said. All I remember is holding the phone to my ear as I climbed onto the bed and stared at his face, his empty stare, his grey color.
I was shaking as I whispered into the phone, "he's already, it's too late, he's, he's, it's too late..."
The next thing I knew, my husband and another man were running into the bedroom, lifting my father-in-law off the bed to place him on the floor. And then, I watched as my husband began to administer CPR on his own father. I don't know how long it went on. I don't remember when the paramedics got there. I don't remember how long they were there. I don't remember many other details.
I do remember sitting in front of my husband at the hospital, knowing that our lives would never be the same. But I wasn't ready and I didn't know that my husband would never be the same.
We had been married just under 2 years. I was only 22 years old. I didn't know how to handle his hurt. I assumed he'd be able to move on. I pridefully didn't seek advice. I expected him to just be normal. And I didn't know that now we had a new "normal."
Let me sum up the next several years with one word: hell. He began to drink, we added a baby to the mix, I left God, I left church, overspending, another baby, pre-foreclosure, and then, separation. Divorce lawyers, split time with the kids, a new relationship, heartache.
There were many factors that led to those years of hell. But the one thing I wish I could've changed: seeking advice. What was I thinking? Why didn't I seek advice? Why did I let myself assume that everything would be ok? Another single word: pride.
"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise." Proverbs 19:20
Huh, how about that. "Advice" and "wise" are in the same sentence. Pretty sure that's not a typo. Looking back (isn't hindsight always the best sight?), had I just asked for advice...maybe I could've handled his persecution better on bad days. Maybe my behavior would've brought out his heart, not his anger. Maybe I wouldn't have left God. Maybe I wouldn't have walked away. Maybe... I could go on and on.
There is a reason God talks about seeking advice. Because our prideful nature tells us we don't need to. Our prideful nature says, "you don't need any advice, you know how to handle this. Nobody knows your husband better than you do, so there's no need to ask for advice. Besides, too many opinions will confuse you and make things worse." Another thing our prideful nature tells us, "don't ask for advice, it's ridiculous that you even think you need help, you're a big girl, figure it out. They're going to think you're weak. It's embarrassing. Don't ask."
"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15
Hmm, I'm pretty sure God included this scripture in the bible just for me (thank you, God). Now, there are plenty of people out there who want to not only offer, but want to shove their advice down your throat. There are people who will wait for you to approach them and there are people who can see you need help and won't wait for you to ask (I love those people, by the way). I know what you're thinking: "Jenn! In your last post you just mentioned that opening up to many people can send mixed signals as far as what to do!" This is true. That's why when you are seeking advice, make sure you're seeking Godly advice, from someone you know has your best interest and salvation in mind.
During my years of hell, I relied heavily on my two best friends. And they are some awesome women. And they were my biggest fans on Team Jenn. They gave me great advice...great worldly advice. Which I took and ran with because I myself had left God and was of the world. They kept my secrets, they rooted for my leaving, they bashed my husband with me, they fed me what I wanted to hear. They never told me I was wrong. You know who I didn't call? My two best friends that I had in the church. They had no idea what was going on...and partially because I didn't want their advice. Why? Because I knew they'd be right. And I didn't want to be wrong.
So, about that Godly advice...
1) God strongly recommends it
Ok imagine you're about to launch your brand new, super trendy, designer shoe line Heavenly Heels. You're nervous and you want to make sure you do well. You don't want to put all your heart, time and money into something just to have have it fail right? Right. So you start contacting other designers, stores, accountants, advertisers, consumers, all the people who know this area of business because they will lead you in the right direction. You wouldn't dream of seeking business advice from a company whose line of light-up socks went down the tube, right? You'd go straight to the successors. The ones who have "been there and done that" and obviously made it work.
Your marriage is your designer shoe line. You have women in the church who have been right where you are. Your marriage problems aren't new, nobody is going to be surprised. Don't be embarrassed. You want to succeed and you know what? God wants you to succeed even more. Seek advice from the Godly women who hold your best interest and salvation in their own hearts. Don't turn to the light-up socks.
Ohhhhh. This is the fun step. It's one thing to ask for the Godly advice, it's another thing to listen to it. Example: today. My husband had come home late last night from fighting a fire up north, he was exhausted and he was in a delightful state of mind (can you sense the sarcasm?); he spouted off hurtful words, I spouted off hurtful words (remember a few posts back when I described what a gem I am? Yeah, I sparkled today); I was in tears, he was frustrated...what an awesome morning together. In the midst, I sent a text to one of my best friends, "what do I do? Send him back to work!" In the snap of a finger, she was responding to me with Godly advice, along with scripture and even a photo of a daily devotional she is reading. She said to me, "God has a lesson for you in this. Trust Him, but really believe He can do anything." I prayed. I trusted. I did my best to believe. And later today I sent her this text:
"My lesson today: compassion. Jesus and God have the ability to know what's in our hearts. We don't. We don't know why someone acts the way they do. Treat them always with compassion. My husband opened up to me in tears, apologizing for the morning, because he misses his dad more than he can stand. He's so brokenhearted. There was my lesson: compassion."
Had I not gone to my girlfriend for advice, I could've stayed mad at him all day, in fact, it's my nature to do so. But going to her for advice wasn't the only thing I had to do...I had to listen. Once I did that, hours later God revealed to me the reason for my husband's sour disposition in the morning. Suddenly my heart of stone turned to soft compassion, I apologized for my behavior, and I cried with my husband and the hurt he was feeling.
Seeking Godly advice takes great humility. But when I think about my years of hell, all I can do is think, "why didn't you just ask for advice?" Simple. I was prideful. I already knew what they were going to say and I didn't want to hear it. Because I knew I wouldn't listen to it.
Don't let pride get in the way of making wise choices. Don't be the fool that God says we are if we think we know what we are doing (Proverbs 28:26).
God tells us that we are wise to seek Godly advice...and even more wise to listen to it.
Hang in there, sister...let's be wise owls together! Hoot! Hoot! xoxo