Manasseh, the thief on the cross... and me Robin Weidner, September 2009 “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” - Psalm 30:10-12
One Sunday morning just a few weeks ago, our living room was packed with worshippers.We had planned to meet outdoors under our pergola on the back patio.But when a rainstorm washed through ten minutes before folks were due to arrive, we made a last minute move inside into our living room. With twenty-some people in a relatively small space, the singing was spirited and the communion meaningful.But what really touched my heart came at the very end of my husband’s sermon on humility.
Dave’s words were simple… “Maybe Manasseh and the thief on the cross will sing a duet in Heaven.” Then pausing, he mused, “Or maybe Manasseh, the thief on the cross and me will sing a trio!”
Suddenly, my eyes were full of tears.If there hadn’t been a room full of people, I could have wept—not out of sadness, but out of recognition of God’s mercy, my husband’s heart, my own commitment to a surrendered life. A pulling together of what God had been patiently teaching me through a variety of experiences. A watershed moment.
Dividing the Water
“He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall.”Psalm 78:13
According to the dictionary, a watershed is “ an important point of division or transition between two phases.”A watershed moment is a critical turning point.We gain even more insight by translating the word into German. Wasserscheide originates from wasser, water and scheide, divide or parting.To part or divide the water.
Although etymology gives the words German origin, I tend to tend to think that its true origin stretches all the way back to the book of Genesis, to a day God delivered the Israelites by parting the waters of the Red Sea so that they walked across on dry ground.
In this watershed moment, a status change happened.Before God parted the water, the Israelites were still slaves being pursued by cruel taskmasters.Afterwards, they walked along singing a sweet song of victory, completely free.
The spiritual change would take more time. A simple browse through the Old Testament shows us that they still struggled, still questioned God, and still often acted more like slaves than conquerors. Yet the stage was set for a completely new view of themselves.
My Personal Watershed
So how did Dave’s words part the waters for me?To understand, we have to go back to the week before that Sunday service. On that Friday, Dave had left to speak at a Campus Ministers Conference in Virginia Beach on sexual purity.That afternoon, I went out on bike to pray.I felt stuck spiritually, kind of flat and hard-hearted and I didn’t know why. I asked God to search and examine me.
As I pedaled along, I thought back over some of my and Dave’s recent conversations about purity ministry. How I questioned whether we should pay out of our own pocket for his expenses. How my heart still resisted when he asked me to be a full participant in planning and preparing for upcoming events and projects.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in purity ministry.I’ve always said that I believe men and women who fight for their purity are heroes.But when it came to our ministry, to God using us, I still discounted it in my heart.
As I began talking to God, pain came rushing over me. I suddenly knew why I was holding back. Purity ministry exposed still-existing pockets of shame and pain from our past struggles. (Perhaps that’s why very few sexual addiction experts—often past sexual addicts—have wives who choose to work alongside speaking and teaching.)
Still pedaling, I began weeping in deep repentance, surrendering the pain of purity ministry to God. I not only felt conviction, but I also felt God’s compassion—his understanding and grace addressing my fears and heartaches.By the time I arrived home, it felt like shackles had fallen off of my heart. I felt free!
The next day, I went out with Mojo at the exact time Dave was speaking and prayed him through the hour, for the first time in years.I had taken a step forward in being the partner Dave needs and desires in purity ministry.
A Quartet of Sinners
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.”James 4:10
During his Sunday lesson, Dave had two simple points: It is our role to humble ourselves. It is God’s role to lift us up.To show how God lifts the humble, Dave turned to the story of Manasseh, King of Judah, who prostituted himself and his nation—filling the land with blood and burning his own children in the arms of idols. (2 Chronicles 22:1-9).
Even though God warned him, Manasseh refused to listen. And since, he wouldn’t humble himself, God humbled him.Later with a ring in his nose, being led into captivity, the Bible tells us that Manasseh “greatly humbled himself” (22:12-13).God heard his cry, and forgave him, even lifting him up to leadership in the country.
Dave then talked about his own battle with sexual addiction and his turning point some seven years ago. And how God gave him the courage to humble himself, allowing our story to be told in Secure in Heart. Dave went on to say that if God would redeem Manasseh’s life, he would also redeem our most shameful battles if we would only humble ourselves.
And now, how in spite of the depths to which his battles went, Dave shared how God was now lifting him up. Giving him and me the privilege of ministering to others. Allowing us to speak in amazing places and help change lives.
As Dave spoke, I saw a man who now undoubtedly leads me spiritually. I saw a miracle of what God had done in Dave’s life and his example of humble leadership. I also saw God’s grace and mercy in a new light.I thought about how proud I was to stand beside my husband in this ministry and how much glory could come to God.
In fact, when Dave said he’d like to sing a trio with Manasseh and the thief of the cross in Heaven, moved (and knowing my own years of battles with love addiction, codependency and more), I raised my hand and volunteered to be the female voice in the quartet. Dave smiled and announced to everyone, “And Robin will sing alto!”
The Ultimate Watershed
In reality, what God did for Moses and the Israelites, what he did for Manasseh, what Jesus did for the thief on the cross (read Luke 23:39-43), and what God and Jesus did in redeeming Dave and me—all revolve around the biggest watershed moment of all time…Jesus death on the cross.
His death, the water and the blood that came from his side, means that every small change, every way we suffer, every event that moves us towards a deeper reality of the calling of God, it all matters!It all has a significance that so far exceeds our understanding.
And here’s the beautiful thing.Just like the Israelites, God patiently divides the waters for us again and again.He gives us freedom, not just in spiritual status, but also works to free us from the mental and emotional chains of our present and past sin.
Do you think you are qualified to join the quartet?I have to believe that in Heaven there will be a whole choir of all those who regard themselves as the greatest sinners of all, voices lifted up to the only one who can bring beauty out of chaos.
All I can say is Hallelujah! All praise to the God of watershed moments.
“Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.”
- Psalm 30:10-12
2 Chronicles 33:1-13, Luke 22:39-43, I Timothy 1:14-16, Philippians 2:5-11
What calling is God giving you today that you struggle with accepting? How might that tap into past pain, sin, or disappointments? What do I need to repent of or surrender in order to accept God’s calling?
Listen to God’s voice:
“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9
Start watching for watershed moments in your life. Start a “watershed moment journal” and keep track of moments when God:
• Takes you back to the cross of Jesus.
• Uses your past sin or heartaches to make a difference in other’s lives.
• Teaches you something new that changes your perspective.
• Lifts you up after you’ve humbled yourself.
• Calls you to take on a new ministry or reach out to new people.
Imagine all of the “worst” sinners in the Bible gathered together in Heaven, including Manasseh, the thief on the cross, Paul and others. What might their conversation sound like? Now imagine joining them to sing praises to God. What song would you want to sing? Are you proud to be in their company?