Before I bite my nails and dive into a part of my story so very near to my understanding of who God is (but so very personal), let me tell you that not one of these posts goes up without Nate’s eyes first reading them.
And this post below, especially, I might as well call *our* post, not just mine. I wrote the words, but we both are living them. I chose to be discreet about any specifics here because what may seem like “big” sin to me, in my world, could be very small in yours or vice versa. Comparison doesn’t help anyone to understand what God has for them. This story isn’t about what we’re not, it’s about who He is.
The dirt floor of the inn got all gritty in my fingernails at twenty-three.
Before then, I didn’t have much patience for mess. In fact, what I knew of mess I avoided so that I wouldn’t need to have patience for it. Christianity — for me — was slick, at least then. It was a tight list and firm boundaries and success of the pious kind. Sunday-shined shoes. It wasn’t just about appearances, though. When the shades were pulled I lived in fear of how one false move might leave my heart destitute.
I was my own keeper.
I expected marriage to be a mere extension of this way of life. The fence was now widened to fit two of us. As long as we both were careful not to make a misstep, our trajectory was good.
But it didn’t quite work that way.
Now Nate’s story is his own to tell. But because of his story, I have a story.
In short, he would fall down. Like the rest of us do daily and hourly — he fell.
The problem is he married a wife who’d patterned her life around not falling and did her best to only fall in secret. There were certain types of stumblings that were within the category of acceptable for her — an occasional bout with pride or a terse word or a judgmental thought — and others that just weren’t. His was of the latter kind.
This girl of his, she unraveled. What’s a girl to do with a man who does what he does not want to do and needs more than just a stern admonishment to get back on the path?
So he fell down and I caved. I judged. I feared. I raged on the inside. All while he broke.
I spent weeks (into months that rolled over into years) consumed with what he wasn’t, lost in the noise that comes when someone you share covers with fails. I started believing the lies he believed about himself — that inevitably led him to that fall.
And while I was distracted, he started a new habit.
He started getting up.
You see, falling for us humans is rarely a one-time thing. When we’ve lived believing a set of lies about ourselves and about God, one fall can quickly lead to another. And another. And another. All of the same exact kind. Until the mark of our life becomes that fall.
I locked into seeing Nate, primarily, as one who fell. I chronicled him this way. I talked to him as one who falls and responded to him as the man whose falls busted me open. His fall was the loudest part of his story and mine. All the while, something else — something bigger — was happening within him.
His wife had made him small — in her limited perspective of God, of herself, and of him — but God was enlarging him.
for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again Proverbs 24:16
I was resenting Nate for his sin, but God was bringing this man — who’d so obviously been leveled — deeper into His heart. I was busy keeping my outsides clean while Nate was falling in love with the God who saw his dirt and loved him still. My scorn and others was cracking open his exterior (the one I wanted so desperately to stay in-tact) so that he might receive the love of the Father that would, one day, keep him standing.
His insides were being strengthened when no one was looking, not even his wife.
The crisp, gritty earth on which he fell was the same earth that fielded his knees, pressed deep, as he got up. That grit then turned to gold on my husband’s insides. The greatest part of his story became his getting up — the getting up that could only happen under the crazy-unconventional love of the Father whose love radiates on the fallen.
The getting up that can only happen in a man who’s been weak enough to climb into His Daddy’s lap.
Here I was casting a critical eye on the fall — the one that God then used to awaken my man’s heart to hunger and to His love.
Dear church — pastors, leaders, wives, and friends:
Your pews are filled with the fallen. Those like Nate. And those like me.
He cracked and I masked. We both fell. I got accolades for braving my husband’s failure, when the true glory was seeping out of his outwardly-damaged story.
But the mark of men like Nate doesn’t have to be their fall, because to mark a man by his fall reveals that we really believe the chief end of man is mere manhood.
A man is truly made in the getting up and glory comes from what only God can do with that man’s failings.
Though it’s tempting to hide those who have failed us as if their stain may bleed all over us, He’s made them our opportunity.
It’s time to stop being afraid of them and their sin, pushing them deeper into shame. It’s time to see the fallen for what God can do in them.
I started to believe the love of the Father for me when He gave me a glimpse of His unnatural love for Nate. Our hearts were both harder than we’d assessed. Nate’s was softened with those knees, pressed against the pavement in his getting up. And mine was tenderized when I saw the power of God to call my husband righteous by his getting up and not scorn him for his fall.
The ones in our fold who fall in the ways we don’t usually speak about from pulpits may very well become the ones who lead us in love, as Nate did for me.
So, pastors, wives, friends, might you be the one to peer behind the closed door, in on the one who has fallen, and tell him he has a story waiting for him that only God can write? Some sharing a table with you today may be falling in secret because no one has told them that life in Him is found in the getting up.
Might you be the one to tell them that instead of being disqualified, they are candidates for an uncommon love that marks a man by how many times he’s gotten up, not by how many times he has fallen?
And if you find those words are hard to say to the one to whom you rub elbows with wrapped in an ugly tangle of sin — if you find you’re afraid that words like this might endorse, even encourage sin — then take that as your opportunity to ask yourself: do I know Him as He really is?
The love of the Father doesn’t sit with sin — that’s what the world calls tolerance — it doesn’t look past sin or dismiss it. God is not afraid of sin or threatened by us when we sin. The love of the Father knows, well, the stains on our story and yet, still, assures us when we repent that we haven’t been disqualified. The love of the Father eliminates the need for any secrets because exposure, before Him — true repentance, true turning — gives life and promise and hope.
The Father came for the fallen.
And to you who’s landed, face to the pavement, your fall is not the final mark of your story. In fact, in a way that only God can do, it may just be the beginning of the most beautiful part of it.
He isn’t counting the number of times you’ve fallen, like you are.
He’s waiting to name you by your getting up.
A man is made in the getting up.
For Your Continued Pursuit (search it out, don’t just take my word on it): Proverbs 24:16 | Romans 2:4 | Romans 4:17 | Lamentations 3:22-23 | Romans 7:15-24 | 2 Corinthians 12:9 | 1 Timothy 1:15-17
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.