Two women came from the States, separately—to visit me during the months after my terrifying expulsion from the one man’s ministry—with many intentions crammed into their agendas. The one that hit me was the fact they both felt strongly called to sit me down and tell me to let go of Dan.
One said, “You’re so tied up in Dan you can’t move forward.”
“I am not!” I hotly denied.
“Suit yourself,” she shrugged. “But you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. You need to let go.”
The other said, “Maggie, your lack of finances is a result of holding onto Dan.”
I said, “You’re the second one in two weeks to tell me I am holding on to Dan. I don’t get it. How can I be? He’s buried in the hills of Tennessee, and I’m buried in the hills of France.”
“You know yourself,” she said, “sin causes finances to dissipate. You stayed too long in your marriage to Dan, and that caused your finances to be affected by him. Now you’re not letting go, you have this death grip on him, and your finances continue to dwindle because of it.”
My friends, Donna and Alex, who live in Aix-en-Provence had been sheltering me through my passage of being catapulted out on my own. Welcoming in their home whenever I needed it, I ran up to see them. I explained what these two women had sensed and asked what they thought.
“Well, describe your relationship with Dan. What is it right now?” asked Donna, a veteran divorcee, having had two previous husbands.
“Well, we email maybe once a month. When I’m in the States, he calls me on Fridays, and sometimes he calls on other days of the week, too, when he has to pay for it. He’s on my mailing list and receives my newsletter, and he sends me an offering every month.”
Alex said, “That doesn’t seem like too much contact to me.”
Donna nodded her agreement and asked, “How do you feel about him?”
Reflecting, I said, “I think I have forgiven him completely because I don’t want any revenge, and I don’t feel angry. I just feel friendly toward him. Look at it this way, if I suddenly got a windfall, say I inherited a million dollars, I would want to bless Dan with some of it.”
Donna and Alex nodded at each other. “That sounds normal, a friend blessing a friend. Go on.”
I said, “If I were traveling near Tennessee, I would try to stop by and see him, but I wouldn’t expressly design a trip to Tennessee.”
“That sounds normal too, a friend visiting a friend. And….”
I said, “And if I had a boyfriend, and I took him to my daughter’s house for Christmas, and found Dan to be there too, I would feel uncomfortable.”
“Stop!” Donna said.
“Why?” asked Alex, having never been married before. “She’s just being sensitive to Dan’s feelings.”
But Donna said, “No, she’s not! She’s hiding her emotions. That’s not normal.” She got right up in my face. “You’re still hooked up with him emotionally.”
We prayed together, asking God to help me let go, and I heard Him say, “Go on a fast.”
Since that’s not what I wanted to hear, I didn’t share it with my friends. On the way home, passing through lush vineyards—the harvest having just begun—I mulled these things over. Inside I felt the Lord urging me to go on an extended fast, one that would pull me away from the world and put me at His feet.
The vineyards flashed by, representing natural abundance, pulling my eyes from the road. My “family” in the village consisted of food people, a skilled chef and a celebrated baker; not even three days went by without our being united around a table. How could I possibly fast? Wouldn’t they pull me off the path of fasting? My mind raged against the idea. But because I wanted clarity, not only about Dan, but how to finish the disaster of my first year ending on the ash head and how to start over, I sucked in my breath and committed to a forty day fast.
I have fasted before. Normally, my fasts are two or three days. Once I even made it to ten days, taking water only. One time I tried a fast with no food and no water. I’ll never do that again! I lasted twelve hours and nearly died! Plus, the older I get the more light-headed I become while fasting. So, I committed to forty days of consuming liquids only, the one exception being that I took communion every morning; therefore, my little piece of bread had to be included.
I chose a day that followed two social events I didn’t want to miss, and then I started. Things went amazingly well. From the beginning, I suffered no hunger pangs. For the first ten days, bouillon and a chicory coffee drink satisfied me. Then I had an emotional setback by feeling sorry for myself.
Having attended an outing with my village “family,” I rebelled against the fact that I am alone. I was the only single person there. Everyone I associate with are a couples, so with the logic of swirling self-pity I added noodles and eggs to my bouillon, into which I dipped my communion bread, which I had spread with peanut butter! Knowing it to be a childish measure, defiant, rebellious, self-pitying, I still could not keep myself from doing it.
I knew what I was battling—the fear of being unwanted. My rebellion reared against the lie that nobody wanted me. The sheer stupidity is that even if no human being does want me, the truth is the Creator of the whole universe wants me. Compared to that, anyone else’s desire pales. Resolved this spirit would no longer rule in my life, I rebuked the thing and continued on my fast.
The devil came along and said, “Ha! You’ve ruined your fast! What’s the use? Just quit.”
But a determination rose up and declared, “No, I just discovered one of your agents, and I rousted him. I’m not quitting now, not because I lost a battle. This is one war I am going to win!”
About the twelfth day, my village family took notice and started making soups for me when we got together, so I added soup to my repertoire. After about twenty days I became light-headed, and the Lord told me to eat a tin of sardines when that happened, so it was no longer a liquids only fast. I probably had a tin of fish every other day after that.
Fasts have a progression. Like turning over a rock, the first thing you encounter is your dark side, your hidden self whom you’ve normally fed. Therefore, the first item clarified in this fast was my own sinfulness. It wasn’t easy looking at the filth in my soul, but I was determined to have break-through in my life. Right away I saw my ingratitude. So much good happens in my life, and so much of it comes out of the bad. For instance, the rejection I experienced this year in France, God turned it into good; so why waste my time licking my wounds when I should be grateful these folks rejected me? Otherwise, I would have missed what God really has for me.
I emailed the director of the school and thanked him. I said, “I want to thank you for the way things turned out. God makes all things work together for good. I am busy writing a book which I would not have done were I still preparing lessons, my stories are on the radio, and I am doing what the Lord always asked me to do, which is write. If only for that purpose, I believe the Lord allowed the break. I hope you will forgive me for having offended you as I only meant to be helpful. My purpose was not to harm but to bless. My prayers and love are with you, Maggie.
He emailed back. “France is filled with women like you. The Lord called you to pray for France and to send money, but instead you come here and hinder the work of God. There is no anointing for you to be here. We’re busy fighting devils and getting on with the work of God.”
“Gosh,” I thought in my best Laurel and Hardy attitude, “Another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into.” But I determined to be grateful.
I wouldn’t allow myself to speak about that email to anyone, except my son. J.J.—my sounding board and ever the encourager—said, “Gosh, Mom, you must be a real threat to that guy!”
As my fast continued, I ran into my doubt and unbelief. I found I even read the Bible in doubt and unbelief sometimes, convinced it doesn’t apply to me. My internal dialogue can be atrocious. “Sure, God did it for them, but it’s not going to happen for me. I’m believing it’ll happen, but what if it doesn’t? I’d better be prepared for plan B. If I make a mess, what will I do to get out of it?” Going on and on reaching infinitude.
Even worse, I saw my prayer life filled with doubt and unbelief. I pray the prayers because I know prayers are necessary, but quite often I don’t believe what I’m saying. “Lord, bless me in every way. (But I know You won’t.) Enlarge my borders. (But You’re going to keep me in a small territory.) Give favor to my family. But I’m really worried about them.”
I have the audacity to get bored in the Presence of God. My mind wanders. I am the one who sets aside time to be with Him, and then I fritter away the interview. There are times I have no feeling and no faith, and then I grouse that I am not being blessed by God like I want to be. I come to my prayer time almost with haughtiness. “I’m here, but where is He?”
The sinfulness and weakness of my character floored me during the first days of my fast. I saw that I am not disciplined, structured, or focused. I don’t have a routine that covers my life. I don’t eat to live. I don’t keep my thought life regulated. I don’t hold back enough words. My things are not perfectly organized. I am lazy. I don’t exercise.
My flesh is strong and doesn’t like to be bridled. For instance, if I want to stay up late and watch movies, I do it, no matter what is happening in the morning. I have failed to deny myself. I’m very proud of certain things, like being an American, for example. Instead of being content with what I have, I am often envious, like of certain women’s doting husbands.
And I saw no hope in being able to correct any of this by using my own power. That’s why I hid them under my rock and pretended I wasn’t like that. It frightened me until, feeble soul that I am, I realized I had only one recourse of action. I put myself at the feet of Jesus and said, “Sinful as I am, I submit myself to You and to Your cleansing blood. Forgive me. Help me to become all that I can be, all that You made me to be.”
The Lord had been waiting for me to humble myself. Not that He wanted me to confess my unworthiness. He wanted me to stop hiding and covering my weaknesses with false pride. Only when I admit my weaknesses can He be strong for me. It’s as if He came and lifted me to my feet, like a dashing hero in a romance novel. From that point on, I began having revelation, mostly coming at me at night, on very personal levels.
Since Dan’s announcement some twenty years ago, I have had a roller-coaster weight problem. I weigh more now than ever. My biggest problem is eating before going to bed, and the Lord told me that Satan triggers that desire because he wants my flesh occupied during the night, and therefore, have more control than my spirit. However, when I go to bed with an empty stomach, my flesh is quiet, and I can more readily hear my Master speak. The Lord likes to speak at night because there are no distractions to occupy my mind. He seems to have a penchant for four in the morning.
I woke up one night with a rotating ball suspended in my mind made up of strings and wires all turning around and around inside itself. The Lord said, “Man is made up of a ball of thoughts, emotions, desires, and plans, loose and turbulent, spinning and turning, and into that I insert My Light.”
His Light is the Holy Spirit, and I could see that if a believer focuses on the Light, all the thoughts, emotions, desires, and plans are put into order and manifest themselves into the physical world. But if a believer tries to make it all work himself, or fears the plans won’t work, or has doubts, then nothing gets manifested. I thought the Lord was going to speak something lofty into my mind like, “Concentrate on the Light!” But what He said next surprised me. He asked, “Do you know what the Holy Spirit’s name is?
I waited because I knew He knew I didn’t know. He said, “It is Christ.” Suddenly, I knew what He meant. The word Christ means “the Anointed One” or “the Anointing.” He is the power and the creative ability. That is who the Holy Spirit is, but I never thought of it as His name.
I breathed “Christ” out loud and squirmed in discomfort for the times I had used that name in vain. How I must have grieved the Lord by not reverencing His name. I also had a hard time shaking the memory of Dan using that name as a swear word! I said, “Christ” again and again, letting worship roll out of my mouth each time I spoke. Suddenly, I saw that shaft of light in me blazing, no longer benign, but a lively flame as if spurred by roiling gases. The Bible says, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” I told the Lord I wanted to be consumed by that Light. He said one word to me, “Surrender.” Surrender. What a charged word. Giving up everything for Christ!
One night He woke me up and said, “Marry Me.”
I reacted by saying, “I am married to You.”
He said, “I am your Husband. I want you to be My wife.”
It reminded me of a time when a certain man hit on me when I was young. I retorted, “But you’re a married man!”
He grinned and said, “My wife’s married, but I’m not.”
I analyzed myself again. Fasting can get tedious for this very reason! It exposes all the flesh! Did I want Jesus to be more married to me than I was to Him? I’ve heard a definition of marriage that said the purpose for marriage is when you have so much joy inside, it must spill over onto another person, and so you choose a spouse you can love with joy. I had to be honest. I wanted more from Jesus than I wanted to give to Him. It became very clear He was married—I was not.
I said, “I marry You, Jesus. I dedicate myself to loving You as much as You love me. Help me do it, Lord.” Such desire for Him flooded my being that I felt swept away by His love. His joy, His honor.
Another night the Lord woke me and told me to write a letter to Dan. The request seemed innocuous, but there was certitude about it, and having the sense we had reached the purpose of my fast, I did it. I don’t know if my letter is exactly what the Lord wanted, but when I finished writing it and signed it, I burst into tears. It really was the end. And then the Lord rushed in on me and comforted me. He said, “Dan has been in My way in your heart. He has occupied a spot reserved for Me. Now I can fill you with Myself.”
I realized my longing for Dan, my unrequited love, had been like an idol, standing like a statue in my soul. I wanted something so badly, and I couldn’t have it. I wanted something so badly that I placed that desire above all else. I was desperate to win him, but it was an unwinnable war. I wanted Dan. He wanted someone else. And now it was over.
I wrote the letter, and then I sat on it for a month to be sure I could do it. Letting go is an unexplainable phenomenon. I have heard it said that the light in me connects to the light in someone else, and to disconnect takes a breaking of the connection. That’s what it felt like. A switch had been flipped. I had pulled a giant lever. I disconnected from Dan and surrendered to God. I wrote: Dear Dan, It’s raining, one of those drizzling, annoying days where there’s no good thunder storm to shake you down and no sunshine to cheer you up, just monotonous fine droplets falling straight, not even enough wind to push the rain onto your window. I must trudge out into the damp to take a French lesson in an hour, and I’ll drop this in the mail on the way. We have been good friends for a long, long time, and I hope that friendship continues forever. We have many good memories together, and the longer we are apart the bad ones seem to be fading for me, and I like it like that. When I drove you to the airport after Noelle’s graduation, I asked you to “Make it right.” And you said you would. I saw something, however, that can’t be made right because it never happened in the first place. And that is “Falling in Love.” You married me for convenience, and even though you grew to love me, you never fell in love with me. I don’t think it is possible for someone harboring the particular spirits you had to actually fall in love. I fell in love with you after we were married, on our honeymoon, in fact. That’s why I could stay so long in our relationship. You have made so much progress that it would not surprise me if the next step wouldn’t be to fall in love. I would love to see you helplessly ga-ga over a woman who was also in love with you. I can’t imagine being jealous because I never received that from you, so I have no memories to be damaged by watching it. And for me, I’d like to have somebody fall in love with me, someone that I also fell in love with, of course, but I’d like the experience of having someone think I am a treasure, a special woman they cannot live without. God made us that way. He created the phenomenon of falling in love; we’re not just here for maintenance. You have done nothing or said nothing to make me think that you want me now, but I left it hanging at the airport that day, and I want to draw the line. You are my dear friend, and I never want that to stop, but I don’t want the relationship to change, either. I want to keep right on going as old friends to the end. If you fall in love with a lovely lady, I will be the first to cheer! And if I fall in love with a lovely gentleman, who falls in love with me, I hope you will be the first to cheer! I want new life for both of us.
Well, about a month has gone by since I wrote the above. Instead of raining it has snowed in La Garde de la Croix and remained on the ground an amazing two days! The old timers say they have never seen snow in November. It’s pretty, but the hills are slick, so I am holed up watching the world from my window. My heating system is fairly good; if I close one door and contain the heat in that room, I can stay somewhat toasty. Occasionally, I have to lie down on the heater to get my nose and fingertips defrosted. Fortunately, Veronique gave me a duvet that roasts me at night.
I will miss being home for Christmas, especially now that the girls need some special attention. I guess Noelle has told you about a neighbor’s child blurting out to the girls that their grandfather is gay, and Bridget indignantly denying it, and Noelle bursting into tears. It is very good that you are going home for Christmas to give them reassurance. Forgiveness and love will maintain the day. Well, I guess I better sign off before this becomes another book. Sometimes I wish you were here because you are the only human being who can share with me what I am experiencing as we lived through similar things together. So, I share them with the Lord. He makes a fabulous husband! The best! I want to be totally available for His use. Your description of the leaves falling off the trees was quite poetic and oh, so true. An empty vessel…. Love, Maggie.
Dan emailed me with his response. “Maggie, thank you for your candid letter about us. You’re right. The only person I have ever been in love with is myself. We are friends and will always be so. Love, Dan. I wondered if someone else had not written that reply as it was too succinct for Dan, but I don’t want to waste any more energy being wounded. Nor do I want my family to waste their energy being wounded.
When my granddaughters learned about their grandfather’s homosexuality, I understood what the Bible meant about the father’s sin being visited on the children until the fourth generation. It’s not that the sin must be paid for by other generations, only Jesus paid for sins. It’s not even that the sin is repeated, although it can be from learned behavior through observation or experience. What it does mean is that the sin affects the lives of those coming after the perpetrator. All of us, every generation living at the same time as Dan, will have to deal with and overcome the shame of what he has done. When someone learns that an ancestor they never knew was a murderer, or a homosexual, or an adulterer, or whatever, the matter can be laughed about. But not when the person is known, then it becomes an embarrassment. My granddaughters will have to learn to live with this information. It won’t change how they feel about Dan, but it will cause them difficult moments in life. The other kids will tease and mock and my sweet girls will have no defense. It will take years before their understanding will be mature enough to handle the information being thrown at them. Dan’s sin will “visit” them. I wish it could be some other way.
My little girls will make it. They are made of sterner stuff than marshmallows that melt at the first heat. They have a loving Lord whose arms are open wide to guide them into great things for their own lives. The past is just that—the past.
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.