As it became apparent that my 25-year marriage was going to dissolve and there was nothing else I could do to stop it, I began to ask, “What now?” I didn’t have an answer. A friend asked me, “What was Plan B before you got married?” I was stumped; there wasn’t a Plan B. I’m not sure there was a Plan A. I had graduated high school, moved out (day after graduation) and gotten married three months later at the ripe old age of 18. I don’t think there was a lot of planning involved.
So there I was, a middle-aged, divorced, working, angrily single mom with three boys. “What now?!?” During the ensuing chaos, I remember asking the Lord for one thing, okay, honestly, I asked Him for a LOT more than one, but early and consistently I asked Him to keep me from becoming bitter. It was absolutely the ONE thing I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to become that bitter, old, divorced woman that everyone avoids because of the acidic fumes that float around her. Please Lord! Not that! But how do I keep that from happening? How do I avoid the bitterness when my life has turned upside down? My identity as a homeschool mom – gone! As a stay-at-home-mom – gone! As a wife, a helpmate – gone! And I had no choice in the matter. How do I keep the bitterness at bay when heartbreaking, gut-wrenching events washed over me again and again? And my emotions would swing from despair to sorrow to anguish to ready-to-slash-some-tires rage. And I just felt like I was swimming in this brackish water of bitterness. “What now, Lord?”
Ahhh…but God. He is faithful. He showed me something incredible. He gave me this image of a sponge and told me that if I soak that sponge in salty, briny water, that when it dries it would be hard and brittle. Even with no salt, when dried, the sponge would be hard and crusty. Okay, and…? That’s your heart right now, He told me. Every moment you spend rehashing the hurts, embracing the anger, justifying the ridiculing words, you’re bathing your heart in that rancid water. And your heart becomes hardened and bitter. He then encouraged me to trust His promise in Ezekiel 36, to allow Him to swap my stony, bitter heart for one that would be soft and responsive to Him. He showed me that if I take that same sponge of a heart and saturate it with oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) that it would stay soft and pliable, able to be molded and used for His purpose.
Did it happen overnight? No, because my circumstances didn’t improve overnight. But I learned my attitude became better the more saturated I stayed in His Word, in worship music, in people willing to speak positively in faith. It was easier to be kind, forgiving, and even compassionate. It was easier when I had anger (nothing wrong with it) to let it run its course and then be flushed out in the Holy Spirit bath. It didn’t linger long enough to grow roots and become bitterness.
There are still moments when I stop and ask, “What now?” But I don’t need a Plan B, C or D because HE knows the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and with this new heart, saturated with the Holy Spirit, I’m able to be responsive to His leading instead of stubbornly stuck on the side of the road of life with a bitter, stony heart.