Is It Really Worth It?   3 comments

I have hinted at the positive direction that Kimberly and I are headed, but some might wonder if it is really worth all the pain and struggle.  Believe me, we asked ourselves the same question many times, and for the first year or two of marriage I regularly wondered in the middle of a conflict if we had made a mistake in getting married.  But we couldn’t help ourselves.  Neither of us felt there was much benefit in a shallow relationship, and the only alternative we knew was to keep going deeper in honest understanding, acceptance, and respect for ourselves and one another.

As we worked through the foundational issues in our conflicting worldviews, some pretty amazing things happened within each of us and in our relationship.  

UM... UH... SO ABOUT MY ISSUES.

Nothing has ever affected me so powerfully as being accepted for who I really am right now in all my brokenness (not for what I do, who I project I am, or who I one day will be). It did not come easy for either of us, but I cannot remember a single major conflict in the last two years and Kimberly has difficulty even remembering the hard times.  Of course we were on the fast track, often talking 3, 4, even 5 hours a day trying to understand our fear, pain and depression, and each of us had already spent many years working through our own issues.

I could say that it was the best thing to happen to me since I heard the good news of Christ, but that would make it sound like a different thing than the gospel, and Berly is just my clearest experience of the gospel.  I discovered God’s grace through her in ways I had never known it before.  I want to encourage you with snapshots of my personal healing and growth as a result of our relationship (the changes in Berly are her own story to tell).

You Did WHAT?!

Let me start with my anger.  I had been taught in youth that anger was either good (“righteous indignation”) or bad (“the wrath of man”).  The difference lay in whether or not the one who exasperated me was truly wrong or guilty.  If he was, then my anger was justified, if he was not, then my anger was aberrant.  When I got mad, it was someone’s fault–me for illegitimate vexation or him for illegitimate behavior.  The most important thing was to discover who was at fault and have them repent.  The matter was thus fixed and the relational conflict resolved.  If I thought he was at fault, and he refused to admit it, then I would forgive him.  To avoid condemnation, I worked hard at justifying my temper and blaming the other person.  I was good and he was bad.  Being “right” became  very important… it was the only way I could save myself from the shame of sinful anger.

Kimberly was afraid of my anger, and given my perspective, when she shared her discomfort, I only heard this as judgment of my anger and reacted defensively.  But she did not have my take on anger: She was not blaming me, wanting me to agree with her, or asking me to change.  She just wanted to share her feelings with me (which I could only hear as a demand for change).  Because she respected me, wanted to understand and accept me, she kept affirming my feelings, even though they scared her, and I gradually came to trust that she really did accept me when I was cross, that she thought my anger was always “legitimate” because it was revealing to me my heart, not the guilt of the other person.  As she accepted my defensive feelings in this way, she wanted to understand me better, so when she asked about my aggravation, it was not to correct me,  “fix” my rage, or gain ammunition for shaming me out of it.  She had compassion for me and my experience of anger.

In this harbor of safety where I slowly grew less defensive about my temper, with less need to use it to protect myself, learning to have compassion for myself, I started to discover what lay beneath my frown.  From what was my temper guarding me?  To hear these deeper throbs of my heart, I had to embrace my feelings with compassion .  If I had to protect myself, it meant that I was afraid.  With Kimberly’s help, I learned to have compassion for the fear behind my anger instead of shaming myself for it.  Only with this gentleness could I feel safe enough to explore my anxieties.  Berly always justified my fears, affirming that they always had a very good reason, I just had to uncover it.  Discovering the roots of my fear (which often was a long process) led me to find the substructure, the actual beliefs on which I lived my life, and often they conflicted in some way with my stated theology.

Again, Kimberly’s grace and acceptance gave me the support I needed not to shame myself for these faulty beliefs, but to see myself as the victim of these legalistic lies and to be led by grace into believing grace for myself, to discover that God’s grace was the healing for my fears.  My fears were not the enemy.  They were doors into grace: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved,” in the words of John Newton.  I had always thought this was a one time event brought about by the amazing grace of the gospel… as though I didn’t need the gospel of grace all through every day.  I think working through my fears is a life long process of growth in grace, applying the gospel to each wound as I need it, believing each day more fully that God loves me completely, always, and without any strings attached.

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Posted October 30, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal

Tagged with , , , ,

3 responses to “Is It Really Worth It?

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  1. Good post, brother, and full of wisdom and insight.

  2. thanks, anonymous!

  3. oops! I see you give an answer, somewhat, to my query addressed to a former posting 😦 Sorry! You can tell I’m very cyber challenged, but–hey–give me credit for trying! And please put up with me in the meantime…

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