My sweet Brittani knelt on the floor, face buried in my old blue jeans. Her non-waterproof-mascara-tears blackening two swirling circles on my legs, she sobbed, “Lord, why won’t you change my husband’s heart? Please! I beg you to go to him and touch his heart. Bring him back…” I stroked her hair and cried with her as I mixed my prayers with hers. She was broken. Crushed really. She and I prayed while her heart desperately grasped at her only hope—that God would turn her husband’s heart home.
She has a perfect little girl. Chubby cheeks and blue eyes under a mop of strawberry blonde hair. That little gem calls me Grandma. No matter that her mama is my niece. I love her as my own. In our community all the older, wiser women are Grandma. It’s an earned position we share as we love all our children, no matter who is directly up the blood line. Further, we love each other as family in all ways. We are a tight knit and inclusive bunch. If you join us you join all of us and you get all that means—and believe me when I say—it means much.
Truth be told, it’s the older women who stand on the bedrock of this group, determind to do whatever it takes to build a godly community. We will come to you when you are sick. We will clean your house and bring you soup. We will take care of your babies when you work overtime or, as parents, show up at the door with that ‘I am going to kill this child if I don’t get a break’ expression on your face. We will come to school awards and birthdays and all the holidays. We will be there when the time comes to replace your floor because, yes, we can handle that saw. We will do what you need, be where you are and find a way to get you back when you are gone, for we love you and love requires hands and feet as well as hugs and kisses.
We will speak tender words when you are hurting. We will hold you and pray with you and help you access the wound and cry it out, held in our loving arms. We will mingle our tears with yours as your pain seeps into our hearts. We will share your disappointment and, when the hurt has run its course, we will help you stand up, let go, and move on.
We will also speak hard truth when you need it. We have lived long enough to know that what people want in life may not line up with God’s best. Thus, we are committed to God’s best for you even when you don’t have a clue what that best is. We will not compromise our commitment, even if it makes you angry; because you wanting something less for yourself is not okay with us.
We have faced the angst of our loved ones when we will not budge, and we have loved them through it. We love them fiercely, and we refuse to stop no matter where they are or what they are doing. Above all we will defend them, spiritually and practically, with a vehement terror few will cross. We, quite literally would take a person, a demon, or an idea down if need be, without regret, to keep our loved ones safe.
Loving, determined, do whatever it takes and fierce. That’s who we are. It’s an earned position. Age doesn’t deserve it, though it is a requirement. Experience, love and commitment earn it. We don’t share it easily, but we do share it when we should. You see, we have been in the places our loved ones go, and we have already done the mistakes and the sin and the confession and the recovery. We have faced the evil in ourselves and in others and we have done the work involved in the labor of forgiveness, repentance and restoration. We can see where they are going because we have walked those roads and suffered those consequences. We have also made the difficult turns required for righteousness and found the great blessings waiting at the end. We share, even when it is not wanted. We speak to dull ears. We tell the truth and love and hope that they will remember those words when the road they are on brings pain. We pray. We pray and pray and pray until our hearts, ripped with love, are sore and bleeding with the desire that God will intervein in lives and turn them toward his way. We refuse to give up on any of our people. We won’t, for they are ours, and that means commitment.
You see that’s the thing with community. Sharing it. But that truth is for another day of writing.
My sweet girl had come to share her shattered heart with me. I know what a privilege it is to have her do so. She is trusting me to love and help and bring truth. She also knows I am the older woman who is nearest her pain. She knows there is love and acceptance and wisdom here. She knows there is a path to find and follow in her brokenness. She knows I know. She knows because just a few months ago, she watched me walk the road she is now being forced to trod.
My tears dripped from my chin, for I knew how much she is going to endure over the healing process. I know the disappointment, the shock, the rejection and the abandonment she is feeling. I know that she has hope that her husband will suddenly wake up to the pain he has inflicted upon her. I know she is blaming herself and her own sins for some of his actions. I know she wants him to come back, to try again, to forgive and learn and grow into healthy relationship, for that is what we do in our community.
I know. Oh, how I know.
That man came into my life as a pretender, full of false care and concern for family and spirituality. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, he lied repeatedly to not only me but my community. He craftily built a façade of holiness, pretending to care about the God we so fervently serve. He made promise after promise of manly, godly care for those in our world. He feigned love and promised commitment through all things. Most disturbingly, he wormed his way into the hearts of our little ones, convincing them he loved them like a good papa would. Everyone believed him. I, especially, believed him. However, all of his words were grandiose lies, built on the desire to rub his own ego, to make himself feel powerful, as he fooled us all without a single intent to carry out anything he promised.
God though, knows all truth. He is fully aware of the schemes of the devil, and when one of the devil’s tools infiltrates a community he loves, he will rise up. And rise up he did. In one fell swoop he ripped the sheepskin from the wolf, revealing the truth of snarling fangs dripping with black hatefulness, deception and unjust judgements. Before those canines could clamp down on our hearts, biting and destroying, God ripped him out of our lives. In one day, he was thrown out of his position of influence with us, as I was delivered safely home….yes, God raised an arm of power to protect us.
Sometimes, though, protection is painful. The shock and horror of what we discovered ripped our hearts and left us bloody. Offers of grace and restoration were only met with more deception and excuses that bordered on sounding mentally ill; along with a twisted form of scripture that excused his heinous behavior. We realized he was a wolf and let him go. He moved on, forgetting the wreck he made of our life as one would forget yesterday’s tossed trash. He gave no apology. He voiced no regrets for his deception or his other evils. No, he just moved to his next victim.
It took weeks to recover from God’s severe, protecting mercy. The loss was horrific; a realization that love, though quite real for me, was nothing more than a destructive tool for him. The tears I cried filled the ocean. The process of forgiveness difficult to complete. It took not only my prayers, but the prayers of a community as deeply committed to me as I am them. There were days I wanted to give up. There were days I wanted heaven more than earth. There were days I forced myself to breathe. But, as it always does, time began its healing work. I accepted that I had been completely fooled, used and an attempt at destruction had taken place in my world. I worked through the anger, hurt and disappointment. I forgave. I forgave and forgave and forgave, sometimes minute by minute, until my shattered heart was soldered back together by the God who mends, and I could move forward.
Our Brittani will have to do the same. She will hurt and cry her own ocean. I will pray with her, over her and for her until her process is complete. One day, she will smile a real smile again. She will dance and sing and laugh. She will sit with the women who sit around our porch. Her world will once again settle and though immensely changed, will be beautiful again. How do I know? Because I have been there. I have done that. I have survived and so will she. The matriarchs will see to it. We will hold her and speak gently to her pain. We will also insist on truth and holiness. We will dig into the process with her and get her through it, even if we must carry her. She is ours. We have no other way but this one.
I don’t know what God will do with Brittani’s soon to be ex-husband, Jon. He is in need of great truth and a heart that bends the knee. Without it he is going to have to be put out, just as the wolf is out. Wolves are not allowed to sleep with sheep. They may pretend to be kind, but eventually they will snarl and kill and destroy. No, without the ways of God, those men do not belong. The wolf chose darkness. I don’t know what Jon will choose. However, as is our way, the matriarchs are on our knees asking God to do as he does for us. Have your way, we pray, O God, have your way.
Our Brittani dried her eyes and we chatted a long time. Hurt was beginning to run its course. She is in for a long journey to recovery. When the tears came back, I wrapped her up and helped her breathe until she could stand on her own and take the next step.
Oddly, Brittani was the one who watched me survive my own unveiling of the wolf. She stood by me as we faced it together. She cried with me much just as I am now doing for her. She has walked the steps in much the same way. The one good thing that came out of my relationship with the wolf in sheep’s clothing is that I was forced to set an example of grieving a lying man for my girl. That example is what makes me love her so much at this horrendous time.
I have been there. I have done that. I know.