Tearing Down High Places- Part 1

My mother-in-law died last year, just before Christmas. This year, we’ve walked through the one year anniversary of her promotion to glory. In some ways, it feels surreal. After all, it wasn’t our first time to celebrate the Savior’s birth without her presence. As missionaries serving far from our families, that is actually the norm. But we couldn’t call… or video Skype… and just knowing that Dad was facing a second Christmas without her? …it made my heart ache. It also reminds me of a heart-aching lesson the Lord taught me in that season, a lesson about the cost of gifting sacrificial love.

When we returned to our place of service in July, 2010, we knew my husband’s mother’s health was fragile; we never dreamed she’d see her Savior face to face before that Christmas. Thankfully, Tim was able to make a whirlwind trip back to the States for that Thanksgiving, spending it with his parents, and having the opportunity to say a final earthly goodbye to his mama. I know that time, while heartbreaking for the rest of us who couldn’t go and be with Mom/Grandma, was a treasured and precious time for both my husband and his parents.

While he was gone, I started scheming. Our 16th wedding anniversary was coming up shortly after his return… We hadn’t gone away together, just the two of us, for over 8 years… A friend volunteered to take our kids for the weekend, to let us get away to a lovely-for-West-Africa little resort literally just minutes away from our house for the weekend… Offers like that don’t grow on trees! What’s more? We actually had a bit of surplus in the budget and could afford to retreat, together…

As I said, I started scheming… dreaming… anticipating time… just the two of us… after some very long, difficult and stressful weeks apart. I was excited; friends were excited for me – for us. Raising eight children – the youngest of which was just winding up nursing – busy lives, and a limited budget? That meant that those sorts of opportunities truly were few and far between. Then factor in the reality that even thinking about all the prep work required to leave this family often discourages any desire to do so. But this time? I was more than ready. One night, while chatting on-line, I quietly typed these dreamy ideas to Tim as our littlest one slept on my lap, sweet little hands cupping my face. He seemed as excited about this little get-away as I was… and I couldn’t wait for him to be home.

Literally, just days after he left the States and returned to Niger, his mother’s situation turned critical.  It was not long before the decision was made to remove one of the gentlest, sweetest women I’ve ever known from life support. Tim was devastated… we all were… There’d been unexpected moments of hope- talk of transplants and even some plans for the future. So, while not unexpected, reality still seized us by surprise, accosting our already aching hearts.  We couldn’t afford another trip home that quickly for him to attend her funeral. As Tim grieved, he started talking about wanting to just get away from the city, away from all of the people asking him how he was doing and the well-meaning but sorrowful, sympathetic looks directed his way. He wanted to take our older children to a wild game park/reserve and just camp out for 2 or 3 days, accomplishing in his mind two things: 1) escape and time alone with his big kids who are much better than his wife at living in, enjoying… the present moment and 2) scoping the place out and seeing if it might be a place we could vacation as a family.

If he took this camping trip, however, our just-the-two-of-us-get-away simply wouldn’t… couldn’t… happen. He decided – and it wasn’t the decision I wanted.

I was hurt. Hurt soon turned to anger.

I sullenly nursed anger and wounded pride (After all, what would I say to all those friends with husbands who would never choose something over a weekend away with their gal?) until a still small voice gently confronted me, stopping me in my internal foot-stomping tracks and prolific self-pity party. The Holy Spirit pointed out that my hurt-turned-angry feelings sprang from jealousy more than anything else. I had wanted to be the one Tim turned to in his grief. I wanted him to need me above all else, to choose me as the one upon whom he’d lean. In reality, he was telling me he needed time alone and away with THE Comforter. That truth should have delighted my heart… but it didn’t.

So what do we wives do when the Lord shows us that we’ve tried to set ourselves up as our husband’s idol, expecting our man to have needs met by us when he should be running first to God? In the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to tear down and destroy high places tempting idol worship. (Deuteronomy 12:1-5 is an example.) The word translated tear down is, in other places, also translated “utterly destroy,” “obliterate,” “make perish completely…”  I see no other choice than to choose to die to self and free my husband from this subtly insidious expectation that he worship, adore and run to me first and foremost. To love well, I must obliterate that idolatrous construction of my expectations for what our marriage and our friendship… our relationship… will look like.

It is one thing to recognize that you have “high places” – areas that tempt you to worship someone or something other than God. It is another to realize, as you examine your life, that the Holy Spirit is gently pointing out high places I have constructed for my husband… my children… my friends, etc.?  

Might He be showing you one or two?

If so, how do we go about tearing down those places?

(Post by: Richelle)

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3 Responses to “Tearing Down High Places- Part 1”


  1. 1 Ashley L April 8, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart and encouraging us to think and pray through this, Richelle! After I had already read your post and had been praying through it it to see what God might reveal, a situation that I deal with time to time came up that very much relates, though not having to do with a person (other than myself). Saturday is our Sabbath day, which is also our family day. As a mom of little kids, it is can be a challenge to figure out how to rest on a day that actually ends up being more “work” for me in many ways (more dishes, larger meals, more physical exertion if we all go somewhere, more emotional exertion if we decide to stay in and try to keep everyone peaceful and happy without other distractions, more messes…). When I have the right perspective, God helps me truly delight in the special time together with my family, and the extra work is joyfully done because it is so worth it. But yesterday my husband had planned to take the kids somewhere, meaning I would have a rare quiet Saturday morning to myself, but at the last minute the plans fell through. I wish I had dealt with it better, but I got grumpy and had a hard time recalibrating my expectations and embracing the day. I had idolized the prospect of peace and quiet and it took quite awhile for me to actually be able to accept with any sort of grace that God had other plans for my rest. I struggle at times with my desires for what a Sabbath should be and what it really is at this stage of life. When I don’t pray and approach these days with intentionality, the bitter thought can creep in of “Why does everyone else get to have more fun and less work on our day off, but my work load increases?” Ironically, my day of rest often requires the most help from God for me to experience as he would desire. I find it much easier to work by the power of the Holy Spirit because I expect it to be a challenge, but resting by the power of His Spirit takes effort that still surprises me!

  2. 2 Laura at Pruning Princesses April 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Thank you sharing your heart. Learning about the struggle of another encourages me to go before the Lord because I have high places and if, in your situation, I am not not sure I would have recognized them. I might have let bitterness take root.

  3. 3 richelle April 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks, Ashley and Laura, for kind words. Laura, I’ve been to your website a few times now and I really appreciate it!

    I really appreciated what you said, Ashley, about how “resting by the power of His Spirit takes effort that still surprises…” it aways surprises me b/c I’m more likely to work in my own strength and then collapse exhausted rather than setting a boundary and keeping it – by His strength and grace. I often end up feeling guilty when I rest… and frankly, like you… rest days for everyone else aren’t so much so for me. I actually take Thurs as my Sabbath…


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