It was Christmas Eve ~ mid-‘70’s. My husband and I were separated and I was alone ~ very alone. My in-laws insisted I join the family for Christmas Eve festivities. With no small reservations, I drove to my sister-in-law’s house that evening. Although his family made every effort to make me feel welcome, my husband was less than pleased to see me. He was visually uncomfortable, distant and cold. Even so, when my husband learned I would be there, he made a last minute purchase at the drug store…a pretty little wooden musical jewelry box. I also had a gift for him. I do not remember what, but that pretty jewelry box still sits on my dresser ~ approximately 35 years later. It serves as a reminder that even in the worst of times, my husband loved me.
But ~ that is not my only memory of that sad Christmas Eve. There’s more….
My husband had other plans for Christmas Eve, so he left early. Right here, I want to say that I do not want anybody to judge my husband for what happened in the past because I certainly was not the “injured” party back then and I am completely blessed with him now. As my Mom always said, “It takes 2 to tango.” I was no more innocent than him – I just happened to be the one alone at that point in time. My husband was as wounded as I was and I might mention that both of our “wounds” were self-inflicted.
After my husband left the family party, I stayed only a short time longer. I don’t think I need to describe how I was feeling. I will just say ~ not good… Feeling lower than low, I did not want to go home to an empty house during this time that is most especially for families. I did not want to be alone ~ so I went to a bar. I was totally downcast; therefore, I really didn’t look around at the other patrons of the bar for a little while. I studied that scarred tabletop and wallowed in my pain until my drink arrived. All I wanted was some relief from the pain ~ my pain-reliever of choice back in the day was alcohol… After I took a few sips of my drink, I picked my sight up off of the scarred tabletop and took in my surroundings. The jukebox sat silent in the corner. As I looked around, I saw that no one was sitting with any another person and nobody was talking to anybody else. There were only about four or five other people in that bar – all older men who I knew had already drank themselves into ruin ~ men who had destroyed themselves, their jobs and their families with alcohol ~ every man having put distance between himself and the next man. Nor did it escape my attention that I was the only female in the place. Right then and there, I had an epiphany ~ I knew in an instant that I was seeing my future if I did not change my ways. I got up out of my chair at that very moment and walked out of that bar. It would be a couple more years before I really got myself together, but the peek into a bleak future was ever on the fringes of my mind… And it was unsettling to me ~ at a minimum. The revelation worked on my mind until Godly sorrow settled in ~ eventually ~ when I finally took my eyes off of the world and put them on God.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by a sad countenance
the heart is
When I read Ecclesiastes 7:2-6, I think of churches and bars. I’m pretty sure that most people who read this passage do not think about bars. The Lord speaks to us as is needed…and He will use our experiences to make His point. He will use our experiences to teach us and He will use our experiences to remind us. If we are willing ~ we listen ~ and we do not point our fingers at others who HEARD differently from our Lord ~ because God’s Word is between Him and you ~ for no man to judge…
Many people consider a bar to be a fun place. I do not… I remember too much. I remember the conversations of persons who thought they were really smart when they were drunk. They argued because each person thought he was smarter than the other ~ stupid conversations often lead to stupid arguments. I particularly hated to hear drunks argue about God and religion…It was profane in my ears ~ even then. I think about people drinking, dancing and laughing… I pause to remember the laughter… It was mindless, desperate laughter that I heard in bars…people laughing at ~ NOTHING ~ REALLY ~ no REAL joy ~ no REAL happiness ~ filling long, lonely spaces of time ~ WITH NOTHINGNESS ~ echoing with pain from bad choices. And they did not know it ~ SADLY ignorant of the joy that God wants to give us all. I think about the laughter when I read about the “crackling of thorns under a pot” (verse 6). I really don’t know what crackling of thorns sounds like, but I imagine that I would find it annoying ~ the same as I find an intoxicated person’s mouth and actions to be to me now.
Continuing down the path of my memory, I remember my old friends. Most did nothing about their life styles. Some of my friends moved from alcohol to drugs. Many died in and of their addictions. I tried to tell friends and loved ones of my “vision” of my future and the Grace of God that saved me from myself. They did not listen ~would not listen. They laughed and they told jokes about me. I was hopeful they would have their own epiphany at some point in their life. I became a joke to my former friends. They would not listen, so I shook the dust off my feet and left them in my past. I had to because the Lord was bringing me along and they were trying to hold me back. I understood the Grace of God because He showed me grace one sad Christmas Eve. I did not understand why no one else in my old crowd could see.
And, while reading the same passage, I think of churches. Church is the place where I took my sorrow. True sorrow is Godly sorrow. This is the sorrow that comes from sincere regret. You can tell if you have Godly sorrow by how you handle your regrets. Godly sorrow will lead to repentance and a changed life. Godly sorrow results in eternal salvation.
For godly sorrow produces repentance
leading to salvation, not to be
but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10
And, while I read, I think of that Christmas Eve revelation and repentance and eternal salvation. I thank God once again…. I thank Him that He caused Godly sorrow to sprout in my heart on a Christmas Eve so many years ago.
The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is
better than the proud in spirit.
This is just one example of the beauty of God’s Word. I know you all have heard that one of the ways God speaks to us is through His Word. Even though the Bible contains the same words for each reader, God will use the same passages to speak truths into different people’s hearts. If you read this passage and you don’t see a connection with churches and bars, I will not fault you because that is not the message God intends for you. God has His own message for you and you will hear from Him just by opening your heart to Him and letting Him speak to you through God’s own Word. Likewise, I ask that if you do not receive the same message, you do not fault me because of my obedience to Godly instruction.
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Sadly, I am seeing too much condemnation for one another within the Body of Christ for what scripture means to one, but not another. If you don’t agree with the message received by one from our Lord, you have permission to move on quietly without judgment and condemnation because the message was not for you, but I have faith that it was for SOMEONE and probably for someone who is a CHILD in Christ. And should you add dissention and condemnation to this blog, you may injure a child growing in faith. And I am pretty sure that Jesus would weep….