Memphis Belle

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Excerpts from the Way of Agape
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Excerpts from The Way of Agape

This book is written by Chuck and Nancy Missler (mostly Nancy). It is a book about achieving personal spiritual growth. It can be ordered online at: click on "visit our store" and type in "Way of Agape" in the search box, click "Go!" and order the textbook for $10.36. We are now the temple of the Holy Spirit as Paul said. This book in its entirety shows just exactly how. The excerpts show just exactly how you can transform your life spiritually, showing you how to let God's love flow freely through you.]

Everything seemed to come to a head in 1975, the year we moved to the San Francisco area. The boys were in a high school that they loved, but had to give up because of the move. It was a very difficult year for them. So they began to look elsewhere for answers to their questions, trying to fill the emptiness they were experiencing inside.

In addition to the boys' problems, our last baby, Michelle was born allergic to the "entire" cow. If she drank any milk or ate meat, cheese, jello, whey, casein--anything from the cow--she would vomit uncontrollably and have diarrhea for days.

Also when Michelle was 18 months old, we discovered she was hyperactive. We then began an incredible period of about four years where we tried desperately to find a suitable diet that wouldn't hype her up. She was forbidden to eat anything containing artificial colorings, flavorings or preservatives. We even had to withdraw apples, peaches, grapes and other fruit from her diet because they, too, contained the natural chemicals that cause hyperactivity. This left us with a diet consisting of papayas, bananas, fish, lima beans, squash, spinach and rice cakes. Try cooking for a two year old with that diet!

If that weren't enough, at the age of two Michelle began to limp. One day she just started dragging her leg. The doctors told us she had "a disease of the bone marrow" and if we ever wanted her to walk again, we had to permanently keep her off her feet and in bed for an indefinite period of time. Have you ever tried to keep a two year old in bed for any length of time? Imagine trying to keep a hyperactive, two year old in bed for any length of time!

Excruciatingly Painful Time

This time in my life was excruciatingly painful, with our marriage breaking up, our financial roller coaster ride, the boys' problems, our continual moving and Michelle's trauma.

Many times I would go to God and ask, "Where, Lord, is this Abundant Life I'm supposed to have as a Christian? You say in John 10:10 that You have come so that I might have life and that I might have it more abundantly. Oh God, where is this life? Where is the Love You promise us in Your Word? If You are the Answer, then why is my life so empty and so unfulfilled? Why God, am I so miserable?"

Sometimes my feelings of unhappiness over our situation--or Chuck's comments--would consume me and almost suffocate me. I remember in 1975 locking myself in a darkened room and crying and crying until I thought I would "die."

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever kept on crying until you thought your heart was going to burst?

That's exactly how I felt. However, since I didn't know any other solution to my overwhelming hurts, I'd push all those emotions deep down in my heart, lock them up tightly, force a smile on my face, and come out to begin all over again. I thought that by "burying my real feelings" and putting on a smile, I'd get rid of the pain and no one would ever know the difference.

I'm convinced the world functions this way because they have no other choice! I'm certain that without Jesus in our lives to take away our hurts, we are all walking time bombs, ready to explode!

The truth is, when we bury our real feelings, we never really get rid of them; we only program them down deeper and, even though we don't realize it at the time, those hurts eventually begin to motivate all our actions. This is exactly what happened to me...

Example: Cold as Ice

Often Chuck would call from the office around 7pm, after I had already prepared a nice dinner, and say, "I'm sorry, Honey, but I have to work late tonight. I'll probably be home around 10 or 11pm."

Immediately the buried feelings of rejection and bitterness that I had never dealt with would be triggered and my composure would fall apart. I couldn't seem to control how I reacted. Those buried feelings were always right there--ready to explode.

Rather than act lovingly, as I really wanted to, my voice automatically became "cold as ice." Even on the phone, Chuck could feel my attitude change. He would say, "Is everything all right, Honey? Is anything wrong?"

"No," I'd respond icily, "I'm fine!" Then, I'd furiously bang the phone down. Anger and frustration and hurt would totally consume me. I didn't know (at that time) that my anger was just a symptom of a much deeper cause. Underneath my icy exterior lay unvented rejection and hurt that I had never properly dealt with before.

All evening long, then, rather than catch the negative thoughts as they came into my mind (and give them to God), I continually "mulled" them over and over. Constantly I entertained angry thoughts about what Chuck had done. And this was the atmosphere my poor Chuck came home to later that night. Looking back, it's a wonder he even bothered to come home at all.

Proverbs 14:1 says, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: But, the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." That's exactly what I was doing, brick by brick.

I Hated Being a Phony

I knew the Bible was Truth. And over and over again in the Bible it says we are "to love"; we are to love God, and then we are to love others. Yet I didn't know how to do this without being a phony. To me, a phony is one who says one thing on the outside but feels another way on the inside. That's exactly what I felt I was being forced into doing...

God's Love Growing Cold

Matthew 24:12 is a perfect Scripture to explain what was happening to us, and to so many couples I see today. It says, in the end times, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

The Greek word for "love" in this Scripture is Agape--God's Love. The passage is talking about people who have God's Love in their hearts (i.e. Christians). This Scripture is saying that in the end times (which is now), "because sin shall abound, the Love of Christians will grow cold." Romans 14:23 tells us that any choice we make that is "not of faith" is sin and will cause God's Spirit to be quenched. Thus, God's Love in our hearts will be blocked from coming forth into our lives.

I had no conception, at this time, that God's Love was supernatural and totally different from my own human love. I didn't realize that God's Love could only flow through me if my heart and life were cleansed.

I thought God's Love was poured into my heart when I first accepted Christ, and that all I had to do was claim it and use it. I had no idea that Agape was God Himself working through me. And the only way He could do that was for me to give Him a cleansed and unclogged vessel to use.

A Hopeless Situation

So without God intervening and doing something pretty radical at this point in our lives--breaking the total deadlock (the wall, the barrier, the pride) in one of our hearts--it was a totally hopeless situation.

I felt like I had tried every way I knew of to change our marriage--books, marriage counselors, seminars and other classes. Yet nothing had worked. Neither Chuck nor I saw any other way out of our hurts and our problems but to escape and run away--divorce.

I ended up making arrangements to leave Chuck...Right in the middle of the conversation, in response to something Chuck had said, I blurted out, "But don't you ever want to hear what God wants to say to you?" (I meant if he would just listen to God, God would show him how messed up his priorities were.)

Chuck's reply was something I will never forget. Four little words that are burned into my memory forever. He simply said, "Won't you let Him!" (Meaning, "I" was the one in the way of hearing God!)

Well, I was completely stunned at his remark and I sat back, speechless. I had always felt that I was the one who was "spiritual." After all, I was the one continually in Bible studies and prayer groups. And I was the one who had all my friends praying for Chuck. [I feel like Chuck!]

Chuck must have sensed that he struck a sensitive cord in me, because he began--for the first time--to tell me what he really wanted in a wife (and I quote):

"Someone who is easy and comfortable to be with. Someone I can just be myself with and not on guard or defensive. Someone who makes the atmosphere one of love and acceptance, not one of tension and judgment. Someone I can turn to for constant companionship and support, a team mate. Someone who would love me for myself, not for what she wanted to make me into..."

Chuck went on to say that he had always desired a family and a home because he never really had one growing up. But, he said, with my constant bickering and griping, I had eroded that desire. Then I had turned around and blamed him for putting his business before his family.

The Real Problem

So the real problem was with me, not Chuck! The problem was my holding on to and burying hurts, negative thoughts and emotions (justified or not) and not recognizing that those things quenched God's Spirit in me and stopped His Love. It was "sin" because I kept those things, entertained them, and mulled them over rather than immediately giving them over to God.

Having the original negative thought is not sin. It's what we choose to do with that thought that makes it sin or not. We have three options: We can vent that negative thought; we can bury it; or we can give it to God.

If we can recognize the negative junk when it first comes in and immediately give it over to God, we have not sinned. We are still a cleansed vessel. However, if we choose to hold on to those negative things by either venting them or mulling them over and eventually burying them, they will become sin and cover our hearts.

God had been in my heart all along; however, I was the one preventing Him from coming forth and manifesting His Life and His Love through me, because I insisted upon holding on to my own "justified" hurt feelings. These negative things then acted like a wall or a barrier over my heart.

So the first thing I needed to learn was "how" to release and give these buried hurts and emotions to God. In other words: 1) How to confess them as sin (i.e. how to acknowledge that I "owned" them and that they had separated me from Him.); 2) How to repent of them (i.e. how to change my mind about following them) and, 3) How to literally give them over to God. We will cover these steps in Chapter 14...

Example: Burnt Roast

Remember that incident I told you about earlier in this chapter when Chuck was late for dinner? About a year later, a similar situation occurred.

Chuck called around 6pm and said, "Hey, Honey, I have a free night. I'll be home around 7pm. Why don't you call the boys and invite them over for dinner and we'll have a great evening together."

"Terrific," I said. I quickly put in a leg of lamb, called the boys at their apartments and told them, "Come on over! Dad's coming home early and we'll have an evening together." We rarely had dinner together as a family because Chuck traveled so much.

Seven o'clock came and went, and no Chuck! 7:30, 8, 8:30, 9, and still no Chuck. Finally, at 9:30pm, he walked in the door--genuinely sorry. He had met some "important" businessman as he was walking out of his office, and they had decided to go out to dinner to talk over some business matters. He was genuinely sorry, but he had just forgotten to call us.

Now, my "natural" emotional reaction was still the same as it had been the year before. Remember something very important: Self life (our own thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to God's) does not improve with age! No matter how long we have been Christians, our "self life" will be just as ugly today as it was the first day we believed.

My natural reaction was "to tell Chuck off": My roast was burnt to a crisp; the boys and I had wasted a whole evening just waiting around doing nothing; and the girls had finally given up and gone to bed. I would have certainly been justified (by the world's standards) to be angry and upset. But God had begun to show me a better way; a "more excellent way" to respond and to love.

All night long as I was waiting for Chuck, instead of being consumed in anger and frustration, I kept choosing, as best as I could, to give these things to God so I could stay an open and cleansed vessel for His Love. I didn't bury my real feelings like I once did or pretend they weren't there. I just kept recognizing them as they came up and verbally handing then over to God, thus allowing His Love, which was already in my heart, to come forth.

Let me tell you it's hard work, constantly choosing not to go by your own feelings. But how excited and thrilled I was when at 9:30pm it was God's genuine, supernatural, unconditional Love that met Chuck at the door and not my normal human responses. I really felt no bitterness or anger or frustration over what had happened, because God had literally taken them all away. Chuck and I were able to sit down and talk freely and openly about what he had done. [Note: There definitely is a time to "take a stand" and tell the other person how you are feeling. But we should only do this when we are clean vessels. Otherwise, we end up deeper in the pits than when we started. When we are cleansed vessels, the encounter will be done in God's Love. Then not only will the "lover" be freed from presumptions and expectations, but also the "one being loved" will respond from his heart and not his defenses.]...

There is so much freedom in this way of loving. I am no longer responsible for how Chuck thinks, what he says, or what he chooses to do. I am totally aware of those areas that need changing, and I will continue to pray earnestly about them and will share them with Chuck as God leads. But my responsibility is not to try to control and fix those areas, but only to be that conduit for God's Love and love Chuck as he is (the whole package). However, the minute I stop looking to the Lord to meet my needs and stop being an open channel for His Love, it never fails--I grab hold of Chuck, and once again, we both sink.

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content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
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