Nicole C. Mullen on Multi-Faceted Faithfulness

Last month Nicole C. Mullen sang and signed “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” along with selections from her new album, “War Songs” (based on Psalm 91), at the EPA Christian media convention in Lexington. Afterward, she sat down to talk with me about longevity and the varied faces of faithfulness.

Mullen’s grandparents had “sixty-plus-year marriages on both sides of the family,” she said. Her grandfather on her dad’s side “pastored and worked for the phone company for thirty-six years.” Her parents were married for “fifty-four years, five months, and fourteen days” before the death of her father. The latter “also worked for same phone company for thirty-eight years.” And her mother worked with kids who had challenges for a quarter of a century. Mullen saw her parents and grandparents “be consistent in their faith and in their occupations, in their love, and even family habits. My parents would get us up at 5 AM to pray as a family. They were just consistent people. What they modeled was, ‘When it’s easy, you praise him. When it’s hard, you praise him.’”

Mullen saw in her family a persistent modeling of the truth that “your faith and your actions should not be swayed with the wind. In the good seasons, God is worthy of praise. In the bad seasons, he’s equally worthy of praise. When I understand him and when I don’t. When I agree, when I don’t, he is worthy of praise. He is always right.”

But long-term faithfulness to God sometimes looks different from what we might expect, she said. Longevity can be unhealthy. When Mullen was 24, after being abused for three years, she went through a divorce. But she recalls, “In those quits, it was not quitting my faith. Certain relationships had to come to an end—but under the protection and covering of godly men and women. Nothing impulsive.”  

Ten years ago, she divorced again after twenty-one years of marriage. “The last thing I wanted to do was to get a divorce,” she said. Because of her desire for longevity, she said, “I stayed for twenty-one years—which I don’t regret. God gave me the grace to endure, to write, to sing. Never did I feel I was singing something I didn’t believe. I meant it when I sang ‘I know that my redeemer lives.’ Things were falling apart, but God was still good. He was ever constant. After years of other pastors asking why I was still there, reminding me I had every biblical right, the Lord had not released me yet.”

But eventually, she says, “I submitted it to a fourth set of pastors. They laid hands on me. They blessed me. And they released me. Sometimes no matter the decision made, you’re going to bleed. I had to choose between being cut by the knife of the surgeon where healing was possible, or by a jagged edge that led to infection. I knew either way, it was going to hurt. It was a difficult time.” She shared her family’s valuing of faithfulness. And she added wistfully, “Had I seen hope for a change of learned behavior in the area of fidelity…but because we had walked in the same scenarios over and over, I had to, by faith, make a hard change for the betterment of my family, even though I knew initially the cut would hurt. It would cause bleeding. But that hurt and that cut, because it was with the knife of truth, was the healthier choice.”

Still, she knew that even if leaving was an option, forgiveness was not optional: “Whether you stay or leave, you still have to forgive. Forgiveness is expensive. If it weren’t, it would not be forgiveness. It was difficult. But at the same time, the Lord stepped into my night season, and he stepped into my pain and some shame, and he didn’t wag the finger saying, ‘You should have known better.’ He offered forgiveness and wholeness and reminded me, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you…yea, though you walk through the valley…I’ll be your shepherd, you shall not want…I’ll be your husband.’”  

Her conclusion? “Even if a marriage falls apart, it doesn’t mean you have to fall apart. Love didn’t fail. The marriage failed, but love didn’t. God’s love for me, his care for me, what he showed me through it…that was a testament to me. At the same time, that whole season taught me that it’s okay to feel the pain. But it’s not okay to stay there. As we mature, we might prize the title of ‘strong Christian woman.’ But it’s okay to be weak. Christ went through Samaria to be with the woman at the well. He went out of his way to love and show his kindness and patience toward the weak and the broken and the hurting and the rejected.” That reality, she adds, “is empowering in itself. ‘He gives grace to the humble.’”

Reflecting on stories that show Jesus’s care for women, she notes that one hurting woman he calls “Daughter.” In defense of another Jesus tells critics to “Leave her alone.”  “I think he has a soft spot for women,” Mullen said. “He can correct me on that when I get to heaven. He may treat us differently, but he loves us equally.”

As our time drew to an end, a staffer who travels with Mullen leaned in and spoke just above a whisper. “She’s the real deal. The same person in private that she is in public.”

Faithfulness has many faces, doesn’t it?

Mullen’s latest project is based on Psalm 91, an album called “War Songs.” You can preview it here:

Preview War Songs

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.

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