‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ (Psalm 23)
‘I know your deepest desires. I am working in ways you do not understand. I am working all the time. Slowly, the darkness in you is crumbling. You asked me to remove your pride; this I am doing. That is a part of the darkness that is crumbling away. You will work for Me, I will work through you….You have had to go through these struggles; you have had to go through failure. It is all part of the process of cleansing…..’
‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ (Luke 18 v. 14)
‘My Word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat. So also will be the Word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.’ (Isaiah 55 v. 10-11)
May 2010. One morning I was sitting at my dining table having my quiet time, and my daily reading came from 1 Peter 2. But I decided to read on. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the first verse of 1 Peter 3!
‘Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.’
This kind of submission is the kind Jesus had. Not being a ‘doormat’, but an inner beauty, that of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. The reason I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that was that the day before the words ‘Won over without words’ had been in my mind.
I had noticed a change in me for a while. I didn’t react like I used to. I was calmer. Things didn’t hurt like they did. God was doing something wonderful in me. I had realised that without God I could do nothing, that my old self had died and I was a new creation because of what Jesus did on the cross. I wanted to live as Jesus did, holding on to His grace and mercy.
That morning I went for my usual walk with Megan, our dog. As I was getting ready it started raining. I looked out of the bedroom window and the trees were blowing in the wind and the sky was grey and overcast. I asked God to stop the rain but it continued. Still, I decided, I was just going to wrap up and go! I put my raincoat and wellies on and went. When I went out it was still raining but there was no wind and it felt warm. It was bright, and not long into the walk the sun came out and there was lots of blue sky! Just before that happened I said, “The rain is beautiful! Thank you God!” It was! It was gentle and soft and the sun shone through the raindrops. It was lovely! It really was a beautiful walk. Eventually, as I came back the rain stopped altogether and the sun shone brightly. It was lovely and warm, and the rain sparkled on the grass. Rain can be so beautiful.
13th May 2010. I had a strong conviction all day that something hidden was going to be revealed soon. It would be out in the open. I had no idea what it was, but I believed it was about Paul and I knew that God had been preparing me for it. He had been strengthening me inside and I was absolutely not afraid; I knew it would be alright, that God meant it all for good – for everyone. I asked God to prepare my response, that it would be for His glory.
Three days later, on the Sunday evening, I decided to go to church. We live seven miles from our church, so I don’t go in the evenings very often, but on this occasion, I really felt I should go. The whole sermon, based on chapter forty of Genesis, part of the story of Joseph, was as if it was aimed directly at me! After the service, I went up to our Pastor and told him. He prayed for me, and again, God really met with me in a wonderful way. The following day I was tired, but calm and at peace and I felt God say –
‘Heather, you don’t have to give me anything today. Just receive.’
The following day I didn’t feel so good. I felt that life was such a paradox! Paul was really awful that evening and I was standing at the oven, crying my eyes out when he walked into the kitchen, saw me crying, made himself a cup of tea without a word, and walked out again. I felt so scared and lonely and completely rejected. I just couldn’t understand what was happening.
‘He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.’ (From Psalm 23)
I so wanted to be like Jesus. I wanted to do what I saw Him doing and I wanted to never find myself enough, to draw on His strength and not my own. I wanted to always tremble at myself, my human nature, knowing what it was capable of and always relying on Jesus. I wanted to never get too ‘big’ but hide behind Him. I prayed that I would love my Heavenly Father so much that I would be willing to do ANYTHING for Him. I wanted all fear to be gone. We have this treasure in jars of clay and I felt free when I realised I really could do nothing without Him.
‘Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.’ (2 Corinthians 4 v. 1)
A few days later I was feeling irritable again (and it was only nine o’clock in the morning!). The verse from my reading was from Romans 6 about our sin being crucified with Jesus, and therefore not being slaves to it. I realised that whenever I felt like that I had a choice. Later thar morning, while I was out walking Megan, a praise song was in my mind. It lifted me and gave me the power to choose not to be irritable! I had the power in Jesus to choose LIFE!
18th June 2010. I had a heavy expectancy again that something that had been hidden for a long time would be exposed. I felt it would be painful, but it would also be a huge relief. It would open the way forward and bring me into freedom. God had been preparing and strengthening me and I really felt it was imminent. Again, I asked God to control my response to whatever this was and that it would be pleasing to Him. I knew He had it all in hand. I had no idea what the hidden thing was, but that didn’t matter, because God did.
1st July 2010.
“Lord, Paul’s arrogance, his cynicism, his neglect, his hostility, lay heavily on me like a massive weight.”
“Why are you wearing them?”
“I suppose I have been putting them on one by one for many years by bearing the results of them and by my resentment building up towards them. I have worn them by my reactions. His actions have been my reactions. I have reacted instead of responded.”
“What are you going to do with them?”
“I take it all and nail it to the cross. I crucify arrogance, pride, resentment, cynicism, neglect, hostility. I crucify them all.”
“What do you have left?”
“I see a small, lonely, anxious little boy.”
“Do you think you could love him?”
“Oh yes! I could love him. I could take him in my arms and comfort him. Yes, I could love him.”
“Heather, try to see that lonely, anxious little boy whenever you look at Paul. Look beyond that other rubbish, because I took all that on myself on the cross. I took it all, including the results of it.”
“I will try. Help me to remember.”
“Thank you, Lord. I love you.”
“I love you too, my precious child.”
9th July 2010. Four days before, my daily reading was about the silversmith who refines silver in the heart of the fire. It made me realise that is exactly how I had been feeling lately – that the fire had been hotting up, and the last few days and weeks I had hardly been able to stand it.
That morning, my daily reading asked, ‘Are you in the fire today?’ The Bible verse was, ‘No weapon forged against you will prosper’ from Isaiah 54. I read the whole chapter and it was as if God was speaking directly to me! The last words in my daily reading were, ‘Are you walking through a fiery trial today? If so, you are not alone – God is with you! Take courage! When He brings you out you will know Him better, trust Him more, and have something to say that will make others want to listen.’
October 2010. The hidden thing that God told me about a few months ago has been revealed…
It all started when a lovely neighbour of ours started chatting with me on our street one day. She was telling me about her life and spoke about her marriage of twenty-three years. It sounded so like mine! There had been so much frustration and misunderstanding. I had felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall, or talking to a deaf person.
My neighbour told me, as I related this, that she discovered, after twenty-three years of marriage, that her husband had aspergers syndrome. She said that she believed Paul had it too and she told me that the knowledge would revolutionise our marriage.
I started to do some research into aspergers syndrome, and as I read the traits of someone with the condition it was as if it was describing Paul. Aspergers is a neurological condition, a mild form of autism, which means that someone with aspergers has no concept of non-verbal communication. They can’t read peoples’ non-verbal signals. They can’t imagine how someone is feeling very well, and can’t put themselves into someone else’s shoes. They have obsessive interests and focus for abnormally long periods of time on one thing that interests them. It is a social dysfunction.
I started to read books written by women whose husbands have aspergers and it was like reading about my own marriage. Someone with aspergers is ‘in their own world’ and has very little concept of the thoughts and feelings of others. They think logically and if they say something that is inappropriate they cannot understand how it could hurt someone or make them feel uncomfortable. They don’t mean to be rude – they just say what comes into their head! They think intellectually and often have a higher intellect and IQ than normal.
As I read about aspergers it was like a light being switched on over our whole marriage. It explained absolutely everything! It also explained why my reactions had been so wrong and why Paul withdrew for hours on end every day and why I couldn’t get through to him when I tried to tell him how I felt. Any show of emotion or verbal attack overloads him and he easily gets sensory overload because there are so many thoughts going on in his head at any one time. An outburst like that can drive him to shut himself away and completely shut down, in order to re-charge.
Social situations for someone with aspergers are a nightmare. Even though they can talk at length about a special interest, social chit chat makes them anxious because they can’t read social ‘cues’, ie, when it is someone else’s turn to speak, body language or facial expressions. They also can’t explain easily how they feel.
Now I know, it has transformed how I respond to Paul. In this situation, knowledge and understanding are everything. It will be tough at times. Knowing he can’t easily give me the kind of emotional support I need or be able to empathise is hard, but he can learn from observing and I can teach him what I need and also learn his needs and how to respond to him. The books were a lifeline and opened my eyes.
It felt weird at first, because it was like being married to a stranger, but now that my eyes were opened, I could see the vulnerable, anxious little boy that God showed me back in July and I knew that I loved him and that it would be ok.
The reason God hinted at this all those months before was so that I would know that He was behind it all and that He was in control….