Undignified & Humiliated (what’s love got to do with it?)

I didn’t want to write this blog but I felt like I was going to suffocate if I didn’t.
This is about falling in love. Falling out of love. Falling apart. And finding your way back.
This is for the hurting.

***

Several years ago, I don’t even know when, there was a story about a woman in the Old Testament of the Bible that caught my attention. It was a story I felt like I was understanding wrong but I wasn’t sure why. Like it just nagged at me for no reason, and hasn’t left me alone. That woman and her story have just been sitting and stewing in my heart and mind for some years now, waiting to be understood. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, but I feel an affinity I can’t explain for her. Let me explain.

Michal was the first wife of David – before he was known as King or Psalmist or anything. Her dad, the actual King, Saul, was trying to get David killed by telling him that he could have his daughter Michal as wife, in exchange for 100 Philistine foreskins. So David went, and not only did he not die (damn him), he brought back 200 Philistine foreskins. Double the price that was set to marry her. The Bible says that Michal was in love with David. Imagine being a young girl, enamored with the hero of the people. A hero despised by your own father to the point that the price he sets for marriage is a suicide mission, but the hero takes it and he wins. I imagine she was pretty smitten. She had been fought for and won. Her hand and her heart were his. He was her champion.

It’s not really that big a stretch for many of us. Think back to the early days when you fell in love. He fought for you. He won your heart. He championed you.

And then.

And then after I don’t know how long, David had to flee from Saul and Michal helped him, deceiving and lying to her father to save the man she loved. Things go quiet between them after that – at least in the pages of Scripture. David was on the run and Michal was left behind. David marries a couple more times. There’s a lot more running around and fighting Philistines, and raising men, fleeing Saul, more fighting, etc. Eventually Saul kills himself and David becomes King. He marries several times and he’s got children. He’s still fighting the house of Saul to win his own kingdom, but he is winning. Eventually he demands to have his first wife returned to him. How many years had passed? I don’t even know. I’m sure the people who know the things about the Bible could tell you. In any case, by this time Saul has had her married again, and her new husband follows her on her way back to David, weeping until he’s ordered to go home. Without her. What choice does he have? He goes. So does she.

The next time we read about Michal, many more years have passed. This time, she’s watching from a window as her husband is dancing undignified before the Lord – and the people – as he’s bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. That’s the part the churched people are likely to know. About David defying his wife, whom we write off as hardened towards God (shame on her), and declaring that he’ll become even more undignified! So there! And she’s left barren till her dying day. Like a reverse curse of Eve in punishment. At least that’s how I’ve heard it told and how I read it.

Until I didn’t read it that way anymore. Until I was Michal, watching my husband sing and lead people in worship before the Lord, undignified. And I despised him for it in my heart.

Suddenly Michal’s story was not so unlike my own. Michal must have figured out that she was her father’s pawn and her husband’s prize. A mere token in a game of men. David leaves her to fight his battles and win a kingdom, and with it more wives. She believes herself forgotten. Her father remarries her. Then she’s forced out of the hands of a husband who seems to truly treasure her, back to the harem of the man who bought her first. It’s cheap. And she is embittered.

How many women today feel those same feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and bitterness? Me. I did. I remember the night my husband finally confessed all of the things I already knew. It was May 2009. He was an associate music pastor at our church. I knew something was wrong. The church knew something was wrong. He was given the summer off to sort himself out. But that wasn’t good enough for me. I was tired. We’d only been married almost 5 years then. Our 2 children were so young. And I just couldn’t keep being the token in whatever game my husband was playing with me and God and the church and himself.

I demanded answers and he gave them to me. He could have lied. He’d done it so many times before. But he couldn’t keep lying. He was tired too, and so he gave me the truth. I wondered if I was just a prize and a pawn in the facade of a life it seemed my husband wanted to build around himself. I felt like our marriage had been a cheap trick he’d pulled and I was bitter.

There was the porn. I’m not an idiot. We talked about porn before we were married. We kept on talking about it, except at some point along the way, he stopped telling the truth about it. I know some people don’t think porn is a big deal (as long as it’s the legal kind, which it was). We had decided together that it was a big deal for us. Even if we hadn’t, there’s this unspoken (and oft unchecked) assumption that porn is not part of the deal for pastors. Which we knew and agreed with. Or I thought we had.

There were other women. Chats. Phone sex. Friends who were not just friends. Webcams. All of it online. How do they even classify that kind of infidelity these days? I don’t know. But infidelity it was. And I knew it, somewhere, all along. I questioned all of the red flags and ended up being gaslighted about it to the point of near insanity. I hated him for it.

You’d think the truth would hurt, and it did. But it was a relief too. Because I wasn’t crazy after all. All of that time spent confused, wondering, questioning, doubting, and despising him – while I loved him still and felt the fool for doing so – it was just done. The truth was out and now I could despise him for real and know exactly why.

Or could I?

I wonder if Michal must have wondered about David, as she watched him from that window. How could he really be doing anything other than putting on a show for those people, and God? Another prize. Another show of strength. Another victory. And now he’s acting like a damned fool in the process. Israel were a people who revered the Lord. Was Michal any exception? Was she seeing a man undignified before the Lord or a man drunk on his own ego, jaded by her own experience of him? Maybe both. That’s what I saw. A husband on stage who loved the Lord, and the rest of the time a man who could be so stuck in his own head that I could scarcely reconcile both to the same person. How could it possibly be?

I was missing it. Michal missed it.

My husband had a constant and acute awareness of his own failure. And on that stage was the only place it went away. He wasn’t pretending. He wasn’t alone there. It wasn’t about the people. It was about the God who loved Him anyway. It’s the sick who need a doctor. He needed Jesus. It was no excuse. He knew that. Something had to break it all and I believe it was Jesus who did it. Jesus who took away the stage and the people and the show, and left him with only the God who loved Him anyway.

In that moment when my husband sat across from me and told me the whole truth, I was quiet. I wasn’t standing from afar like Michal, wondering who was this man anyway. Not anymore. There he was right in front of me. Undignified. Honest. Empty. Brave.

Us, then. (2009)

Us, then. (2009)

I had a choice. And eventually I would choose to become undignified and humiliated in my own eyes because I would choose to stay in this marriage that nobody believed in anymore. I would choose to keep letting this Jesus of mine tell me that love wins. I didn’t always believe it. But I kept choosing it because I saw in my husband the heart of a Psalmist. A man after God. A man willing to become wholly undignified before a Holy God. I would remember that Jesus bought me first and I belong to Him really.

Before that though, I sat in silence. I sat in silence until Glenn was done talking. When he was done confessing and done talking, I said nothing still. I just got up, kissed our boys goodnight and walked out the door.

***

*The story of Michal and David can be found in the following places in the Bible:
-1 Samuel 18, 19, & 25
-2 Samuel 3 & 6

*I am no Bible scholar. Feel free to comment letting me know all of the ways in which my theology and interpretation is wrong. I put on my big girl panties and everything, for just this occasion.

*This blog post was brought to you by the following songs playing on repeat as I wrote. Please note that none of these artists or churches or whoever they are, endorse this blog post or me or anything I’m saying. They just make good music:
-This Is Amazing Grace (Bethel Music & Jeremy Riddle // For The Sake of the World)
-Glorious Ruins (live) (Hillsong Live // Glorious Ruins (live) )
-Oceans (Where Feet May Fail (Hillsong UNITED // Oceans EP)
-More Than Ashes (Tim Reimherr // Let The Weak Speak)
-Cornerstone (Hillsong Live // Cornerstone (live) )
-I See Heaven (Brian & Katie Torwalt // Here On Earth)

***

copyright (c) 2014 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

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11 thoughts on “Undignified & Humiliated (what’s love got to do with it?)

  1. I enjoyed your take on the story of Michal. Temptation to evil is part of the human condition, and history has shown us that men of God are not exempt. That said, I would not expect my wife to stay in our marriage if I were unfaithful or involved with pornography. But who’s to say? I know one guy who has had some kind of sick love affair with pornography for years, and he’s still married. Everyone has their own level of tolerance and their own breaking point. As I often tell my 17 year old niece (whose baby we provide day care for), I have too many things going on to find time to judge. Besides, that’s the Lord’s job, so I don’t have to. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Why I Don’t Keep All Your Secrets~Marriage Monday | Once Upon a Prairie....

  3. I never knew. Your brave to share. Braver to stay engaged. Blessings to you both. Always hard to hear of people’s troubles that you’ve known for years. Who needs to watch drama TV we have enough drama in our own lives, don’t we! Glad your not feeling crazy anymore! Crazy is never good! I know!

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  4. It’s always striking when we see ourselves in unlikely places in the Bible, isn’t it? I remember the first time it occurred to me that WE are the pharisees. I had always thought they were OTHERS.
    This story of Michal has always broken my heart. She was so used. How could any woman hold up to that and not become even a little bitter? I wonder if she was barren after that because David never gave her a chance again. So sad.

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  5. eye-opening, moving, brave. again: thank you! i liked your ponderings on Michal. the women of the bible get their one or two sentences, but they are included for a reason. we are supposed to not just drive by, but stop and ponder: so thank you for sharing your story. and now, seeing his smiling face, can you just thank Glenn, too? from us? (i think i can speak for all of us readers)- for allowing you to tell your story in whole, which includes his vulnerability also. no easy task for anyone, let alone a man. virtual hugs to you both! (p.s. also: as well as having the willingness to share your story, for what it’s worth, i would like to add, you write it very well; you are a gifted storyteller! what a way to end this chapter! i’m gutted! it sounds greedy and callous to be so excited for the next, when it is your life story here, but seriously: can not wait for the next chapter!!)

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  6. At first, I wanted to let you know that I wholly appreciated your courage in telling this story. I wanted to thank you for being transparent so that others could find the same courage to be broken, to be rebuilt, and to be reborn. Now, I just want to hug you and let you rest for as long as you need to – and watch what comes next. I’m very proud of the journey you’ve deliberately taken. I will watch what comes next with special joy ♥.

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  7. Thanks for your honesty and humility. I had never looked at the story of Michal that way – having been taught it “the churchy way”, of course…. but now I see it clearly. God bless you both as you live, undone, before Him and walk a transparent life. xo

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