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Life!

I always had as much fun as the kids did watching what happened. It was, of necessity, a springtime experiment because that was when the daffodils appeared to announce with yellow faces that winter was over and spring was on its way.

For the lesson, several of the kids would bring daffodils from their yard to class. (I think Glenn usually "found" one in the neighbor’s yard but I never scolded him or embarrassed him. He had a rough little life.) We would all get out our Gerber baby food jars and fill them with food coloring and water, using several different colors in the various jars to see which one we liked best. Then we would place a flower in each jar and watch enthralled as it "drank" the colored water and the elaborate map of its tiny veins began to show.

I didn’t occur to me at the time, but isn’t this a wonderful object lesson in teaching about Jesus being the vine and how we draw our strength from Him? I didn’t earn that lesson myself until years later.

Do you know what a "closet plant" is? (The botanical name escapes me—as if it was ever on the tip of my tongue!) But it is a very dramatic plant. Most plants, when they need water, will tell you with a tiny whisper or a gentle clearing of the throat. Not so with the closet plant. You go into the room where he lives one morning and every leaf is almost touching the ground. He doesn’t whisper! He shouts! "Help! I’m dying! I’m dying! I’m starving to death!" (Definitely overkill.) But, an amazing transformation takes place—almost before your very eyes—when you pour some life-giving water into that dirt where the poor little bedraggled plant is standing and let him wiggle his toes in the soft, wet mud!

The key word in the preceding paragraph is "life-giving." Without that drink, the closet plant would have drooped further and further and finally laid its leaves down and die. Some marriages are that way. Wilted. Drooping. Yelling for help. Dying daily.

A lifeless marriage.

With John and me there was nothing. We compromised and worked our way through a million crises, but after at least ten years of just sharing the same house, where even idle conversation ended in raw nerves, it just makes sense to call it quits!

I sat down and wrote, "What went wrong along the way" at the top of a piece of typing paper the day before the divorce was final. I wrote for 3 1/2 hours before I quit. It was a gradual twenty-year process. We were very happy when MY whole world revolved around him and his work.

He has grown tremendously in his acceptance of a woman and her rights as a human being. He’s pro ERA, etc. — but I believe the psyche of the middle-aged man still just isn’t convinced. Consciously he believes a woman should do her thing and not be just a clinging vine, but things changed when I had to take the reins and keep the household together during the time when he was an alcoholic. For a weak man that would have been the end. His pride was bent, but he pulled himself together and is a much better person for the experience.

And me? I found inner resources I didn’t know I had — and the talent to teach. I truly believe right now that I am doing meaningful and important work — work I would not have done if John had had financial and job stability, and my new life has come because of this divorce. But a man’s acceptance of his wife as a human being with talents other than making beds and leaving no ring-around-the-collar is a complex thing.

I think this has had a lot to do with John’s and my growing apart. It was a very subtle deep-down, hairline crack in the dike that widened. He withdrew and built a wall that was rarely opened to me. I shrugged it off and went out into my world of music and church-caring people and in quiet times I was lonely. That, of course, is only part of the problem, but it was a major part. Togetherness is so important, as you well know. John and I never did anything together. Most people didn’t even know I had a husband because I was always alone. And he was always alone when he went somewhere—which was seldom. So we were two lonely people who just lived together.

Oh, if only I could take those two people, stand them in a glass filled with Jesus, and let them see what happens when we draw our strength, our love, our patience, indeed every minute facet of our lives from Him—the Life! If I could pour some Life-giving water into their hearts and let them see for themselves the amazing transformation that comes.

John 15:5 says, "Without me, you can do nothing." How many years did I spend trying to prove to myself, to my watching world and to Him that I could do things by myself—that I didn’t need His Life-giving water, that I was strong? My thoughts were, Jesus? Of course He’s my Savior — the One who paved the road to Heaven for me with His lifeblood. But everyday? Oh, He’s for the weak, the weary, the lame, the inferior, those who are not strong enough to shape their own life—to conquer their world—and that just isn’t Anabel! (As the poet says, "My head was bloody but unbowed.")

How wrong I was! I was. There was no Life in my world. And my marriage was on its last "droop" with my leaves splayed out on the carpet of my bedroom floor, when I finally said, "I can’t do this, Lord. You’re going to have to do it for me." Very gently He replied, "Thank you, Anabel. I’ll do it all for you."

I’ve been holding tenaciously to those words ever since that night. (I use tenaciously often. It sounds like what it means: persistent, stubborn, firm. I’m saying that I refuse to let go.) His Life-giving water saved my life, my marriage, my family. And as I stand in Him, drawing my strength from Him moment by moment, I’m transformed, beautifully, into His likeness.

Do you remember such insignificant miracles as daffodils changing color? I can still see Glenn, huddled around the table with all the other little people, watching a flower drink colored water. They were amazed at the Creator’s ingenuity. He still does amazing things—but we have to keep our feet in the water.

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.