It was a long time ago, over thirty years, I suppose—
You might say it was a lifetime ago when she abandoned her marriage, her children, and ultimately her Lord.
What was she thinking?
No one knows.
At first, she confided in other women, “My marriage is bad. My husband does not treat me as he should. He is impossible to live with. I cannot go on this way. He is a beast.” It was all his fault, or though, she said, but rarely in a marriage is any problem all the fault of one person. It can be of course, but usually we contribute to the demise of a problem, to the demise of our own undoing. We usually are our own worst enemy.
In her situation, it was his fault, or so she insisted. He had said nothing, but maybe he did not know what she was saying to others. Maybe he did not really realize what was happening before his very eyes, and behind his back.
The breakup was inevitable, bringing with it a hurtful divorce, and ultimately a startling revelation: there had been another man in her life, a man other than her husband. He had been lurking in the background all the time. Of course, she had never mentioned him to her friends, but in every protestation of innocence, in every cry of unbearable suffering, this other man had been silently present.
Some of her friends were shocked at the discovery, but others had suspected something awry. After all, when any marriage breaks apart, one of the spouses will be frantic, trying to do anything and everything to hold the marriage together. The other spouse, the one with ulterior motives, may act the part of a hurt and innocent party, but will do everything they can to see that the marriage is destroyed. Divorce may be complicated but telling who wants the divorce and who does not is easy.
Maybe that is why God hates divorce: “I detest divorce and cruelty to a wife” (Malachi 2.16). The deceit, the treachery, the abject cruelty all cut more deeply and more penetrating than any knife. The hurt seems to remain forever. Some people, in fact, never recover. You may see them years later— shoulders humped, the look of pain in their eyes, and a sense of shame and failure embossed across their face. If marriage is the making of a man and a woman, divorce is the undoing of the very soul.
She left her husband, went with the other man, and came to regret what she had done. When the regret came, though, it was years later, thirty years later. A lifetime had passed, and every year brought with it a fresh terror. At times she would break out in a cold sweat, afraid to pray, afraid not to pray. The most she could do was to plead with God that she not die in her shameful state, “Oh God, I cannot pray, but God do not let me die now. I beg you; I beg you.”
Her marriage gone, her children raised, she wanted to return to the Lord, but she could not. Sometimes she would get dressed and drive to church, but could only go to the parking lot, no further. “Oh God, help me, help me, help me.” Tears filled her heart for the shame she had caused her family, for the disgrace she had caused, for the wasted life she had lived. How can you turn back the years when the years have been wasted? How can you take today and turn it into a different yesterday? The past was dead, and her soul was nearing death as well. She was frozen and could not force herself to go inside. She could hear the hymns others were singing, hymns that she once knew and had sung herself. She knew what to do, but she could not do it. All was hopeless. All was past. All was beyond change.
The telephone rang. It was her daughter, “Mother, today I went to church. I returned to God. Others prayed with me and cried with me. I am at peace now, Mother. It has been years, and years since we were at worship. Mother, you must come back to God, too. It is time. It is time.”
She broke down and cried bitterly. Years of pent-up sorrow came from a heart where fountains of tears gushed forth unending. She sobbed in pain and grieved deeply. Like a bad dream, life seemed suspended. The woman who once had abandoned her family and had lived a life without God somehow found herself at the door of the church. Was this all a dream? Or was it real? Outside that door stood a friend of thirty years past, waiting for her. Her daughter had told people that her mother might come today. Her mother did indeed come. The prodigal had indeed returned home.
Isn’t it time that you returned home as well? How long has it been since you knelt in prayer with your God? Whatever the reason you had for leaving God, it was not a good reason.
You know that.
Will you come back to God?
The Lord is waiting for you.