Continued from last week… (see 9/8/10 "Testimony, Part 4A - Longing for Love")
Last week I described how "ungodly soul ties" occur when people join themselves to one another outside of God's parameters for that relationship. “Soul ties” are strong mental, emotional, and/or spiritual bonds between two people that can be either positive or negative – some relationships involve both. Ungodly soul ties can operate like a “curse” where neither party is free to be the person God created them to be. A godly soul tie – like the Biblical example of friendship between David and Jonathan [I Samuel 20:17] – strengthens each person to walk in their God-given identity and establishes blessings which may continue even into future generations [2 Samuel 9].
Mario and I experienced a lot of torment and inability to let go of one another when we broke up in 1981. A few months after I moved to Denver, he called me in the middle of the night, crying (?! - unusual for him) because he’d been out with a woman who wasn’t me; I’d moved on and had no idea how to respond to that, so I said, “I’m sorry, goodbye” and quickly hung up the phone. Months later I tried to make amends for my part in our relationship, but by then he was pretending he’d never cared about me at all. Like many of us who don't know what to do with our pain, we gradually buried our hurts and closed our hearts to one another. Unfortunately, this kind of “human survival instinct” isn’t the same as real forgiveness, real freedom or real healing.
In a few weeks, we'll go back to September 1981 and pick up the story of how this painful breakup propelled me to seek real recovery and, eventually, a relationship with God. This week, let’s fast-forward to 2006, when God surprised me by revisiting this relationship and using “godly soul ties” and the power of His Love to restore our mixed-up human hearts.
Diamonds in the Dirt
When I gave my life to Christ in January 1982, I became a “new creation” [II Corinthians 5:17] – my past sins were forgiven and cleansed, and I had a fresh new start in life! Eventually I heard teaching on “soul ties” and prayed over previous relationships as outlined at the end of last week’s posting. After that, I never really thought about Mario any more – we both went on to marry other people, and I was no longer in bondage to him or to the past.
One day “out of the blue” in August 2006, I thought of Mario for the first time in 25 years. As I wondered ‘whatever happened to…’ - you guessed it, I googled him. A local Colorado newspaper reported that he’d just lost his job at the radio station in July – after 26 years, the college failed to renew his contract as station manager and let him go. In that interview, he mentioned that the job had lasted longer than his marriage, so I figured he was divorced – and, the fact that touched me most in that article, he’d had a stroke the previous December.
Most people who know me well are aware that I strongly believe “nothing is impossible with God” [Luke 1:37], so radical faith for salvation, healing and miracles comes very “naturally” to me (that’s part of my “new” spiritual nature in Christ!). There was no clear information on internet as to what level of disability or recovery had followed the stroke – I found some photos from a few years earlier that looked terribly unhappy and more overweight than ever, and I felt sad for him. I couldn’t imagine losing a job that had defined his identity for so many years – he’d built that radio station from a part-time volunteer student hobby to a major NPR presence in the region – and I felt very concerned about his health… and his spiritual condition.
I asked my pastor’s wife and two other friends to cover me in prayer – I had no intention of opening doors to the past and rekindling any old romantic flames. Based on his appearance in those photos, I didn’t think that would pose a problem! I wrote a short email to Mario’s successor at the radio station, saying I was an old friend who wanted to know how he was doing. My email was forwarded to Mario, who replied the day he received it, “Gina: it’s been a long time. I would be happy to hear how life treated you.” I responded with an update, he replied, and immediately we began a daily email correspondence that would continue for the next several months.
Of course, physical attractiveness never had anything to do with my affection for Mario – he’d always been overweight, although he took better care of himself in 1980-81 than he had since then. His ebullient personality, street-smart wit and (soon) his voice on the phone were all so familiar. Neither of us had really opened our hearts to anyone since our marriages had ended - Mario’s ex-wife had left him 6 years prior and was now remarried; my ex-husband had left in 1993 and died of alcoholism in 2004. The first Sunday after we reconnected by email, he called me on the phone and we talked for three hours! It was, in Mario’s words, “scary good.”
Interesting coincidence: in the first few weeks of our renewed communication, a little Sago palm tree in my office – normally about 18 to 24 inches in height and diameter – sprouted two new branches that grew in those few weeks to over 3 and 4 feet tall! Our regional plant buyer was so curious that she asked the vendor about it; the vendor said this kind of sudden growth was highly unusual but sometimes happens - I think it may have had something to do with my erratic watering, the poor plant was just so thirsty it shot up fast once it got a good drink?
Like that little potted palm, communication and emotional intimacy between Mario and I grew rapidly. Psychologists say this is fairly common for the first serious (“transitional”) relationship after divorce, no matter how many years have passed since the marriage ended. People who are just opening their hearts again after having been “shut down” by great pain and discouragement may be vulnerable to fantasy and lacking emotional balance. In addition, Mario and I both had family histories that included alcoholism, which can lead to “savior behavior” or wanting to rescue another person. Real factors, no doubt; but there truly seemed to be something more going on here.
It was as if the raw materials of our previous relationship had migrated underground and been transformed, by the passage of time and all that we’d each lived through during the quarter century in between, into something solid and lasting. As diamonds are created under the earth through eons of pressure and temperature changes, then brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions – I felt as if God was showing me there was real love in this relationship, forced to the surface by various crises in Mario’s life (job loss, health issues, etc). This “new” love was as different from what we’d experienced in 1980-81 as carbon is from diamonds; this was related to that, but it hadn’t existed as “real love” until now. As we swept aside the “dirt” of our past hurts, weaknesses and failures - something solid, clear and beautiful was revealed.
I'll explain further in future postings, but for now I just want to clarify that one of the primary reasons I asked my pastor’s wife to pray in advance is that the Bible warns against romantic attachments or soul ties between God’s people and unbelievers (for example, II Corinthians 6:14-7:1, I Kings 11:2, etc). When I came to Christ, I was “buried in baptism” (Romans 6) and resurrected into a whole new way of life. I had no desire to “go back” to anything from the past. But I couldn’t help the urgent sense of concern I felt for Mario; as a Christian full of God’s Holy Spirit - love and power - I believed there was something I should be able to do or pray for him.
These days, internet applications like Google and Facebook make all kinds of “reconnections” possible – and this can be a good thing, as long as we are led by God’s Spirit and following Him. God doesn’t want us to “go back” to the past or to a carnal, worldly identity - but sometimes there is restoration work that needs to be done before we can truly “go forward” with Him.
I believe God knew there were good things He’d created in me, and some of those were buried in the past. It’s a common religious error – when I turned away from past sins, I also shut the door on some things God wanted to restore. When the potter recreates his marred clay vessel in Jeremiah 18:1-6, he doesn’t discard the clay - he starts over again, using the original material. We aren’t “born again” to be faceless religious clones; God breaks the power of sin, gives us a fresh start and then works in our lives to restore true identity. We don’t put on some ill-fitting suit of religious clothing and pretend to be something we’re not; in Christ, we are set free to become who we truly are.
There is one important piece of information I deliberately did not include above when I described how we got back in touch, because I felt that most readers would not have been able to look beyond this circumstance the way Mario and I did when we first reconnected. It was a big factor that faded next to the brilliance of newly (re-)discovered love. Mario’s hope and my faith were so strong that we sailed past this information like a dirty little rest stop along the highway to a glorious new future:
On the very day we exchanged our first friendly words in 25 years – later that same afternoon - Mario included me on a second email to five of his closest friends, letting us know that the biopsy results he’d just received that morning showed that the tumor in his lung was malignant.
To be continued…
and I have learned to be free
And I have walked the shadowlands of Egypt
and I have learned to be free
And I have held the mane of untamed horses
and I have learned to be free
And I have walked on frozen lakes in my soul
and I have learned to be free
And I have known the price of love
And given all I have for a moment’s time with you
And I have died a thousand times
… and I have learned to be free.
“Price of Love” song by Heather Clark
To buy the song or Best of Heather Clark CD:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
[I Corinthians 13:13 NIV]