Archive for the ‘love’ Tag

Frictionless Marriage   3 comments

DSC01639By this afternoon the snow had mostly melted at our house, and it didn’t feel that cold, so I pulled on my tattered loafers sans socks and drove to the park with Mazie to walk.  The asphalt path was mostly free of snow, but by the time I reached the end, my toes were stinging.  When I turned onto the wooded dirt trail, I found half an inch of unmelted snow, and I started waddling with my feet splayed to keep from scooping snow into the gaping holes on the out-sides of my shoes.  As I walked, something strange happened–my toes began to warm.  I was surprised enough to pull out one foot and check that it wasn’t just going numb.  It was cool to the touch, but not icy, in spite of the snow that was clinging to the edge of the open splits.  Even on cold days my bare feet in loose shoes rub themselves warm against the leather as I walk, and now the broken trail made my feet slide around even more, increasing the friction.  There is an upside to friction… even in relationships.

Berly uses her lunch break to stretch her legs, and since I walk Mazie at the same time, we phone-walk together.  Today we chatted about yesterday’s blog post and how grace plays such a big role in our relationship.  My sketch was true in its broad strokes, but don’t suppose that Berly is always trusting and I am never selfish.  We screw up regularly.  But we make room for that in our relationship.  Our family values are framed by grace–we structure our lives to make space for one another’s weaknesses, fears, needs and the like.  Grace designs the principles by which we live but also the manner in which we live these principles, or rather fail to live these principles.  In other words, we give ourselves grace for failing to live by grace.

In my last post I said Berly trusts “that I am doing all that I can within the sphere of my emotional strength.”  But sometimes I shortchange Kimberly by doing less than I can, intentionally or not (that is, sometimes I am lazy and at other times I simply underestimate my own energy level).  We are deeply committed to one another, to mutual understanding, acceptance, and support and we live this consistently, but not perfectly.  We have expectations… our expectations are that we will fall short of our ideals on a fairly regular basis.  We trust one another not because we live flawlessly, but because we live in grace towards one another’s flaws.

In other words, we live with friction, and we think that’s good.  It’s possible to smooth over all interactions, but the cost of such a tightly controlled “peace” is shallow and inauthentic relationships.  Nothing is more lonely than a friendship where we cannot be ourselves.  If we are unique individuals with our own histories, views, personalities, and preferences, then doing real life together at any depth is going to bring tension.  Real life and growth comes from rubbing up against the rough grain of those we love and discovering that our flaws are the basis for our bonding.  It is not fixing faults but embracing grace that strengthens relationships and deepens trust.

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Posted January 23, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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Intimacy   3 comments

I have been encouraged a great deal in reading one of my favorite 17th century theologians, Thomas Traherne, and want to give you a taste of his thoughts on friendship, especially regarding friendship with God.  (I’ve modernized spelling and a couple words)

[Friendship is] kindness of behavior, a thorough and clear communication of souls, a secure reliance upon each others fidelity, a perfect discovery of all our thoughts, intentions, and [feelings], an ardent willingness to impart lives and estate for the benefit of our friend, the reposing of all our secrets in each others bosoms, to do all services, and suffer all afflictions, for each others sakes, to prefer the concerns of our friend upon all occasions above our own….

The greatest secret in its nature is, the mutual agreement of souls and spirits, the delight which either takes in the other, the honor and esteem they give and receive, the approbation and love of each others dispositions, the sense and admiration of each others virtues, the continual desire of being always together, peculiar ecstasy, which the beauty of either occasions in the other, when of all other treasures in the world their persons are the greatest to one another.  Either is the proper element and [consolation] of the others soul.  Their bosoms are the mutual receptacles and temples of each others accomplishments, whereinto they are received in all their desert, and have justice done to every degree and perfection in their nature; their hearts are thrones where they are exalted, and magnified, and live at ease, are honored [and extolled].

–though I often fall short, I want to dedicate these aspirations to Kimberly

friends

Posted September 9, 2013 by janathangrace in Reading

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Love Is Not Safe   Leave a comment

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” C. S. Lewis

Love

Posted June 19, 2013 by janathangrace in Reading

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Love Shaped Questions   2 comments

Forgiveness 4: Seeking Understanding

love question

When I get whacked by the blunt end of a relationship, I first need to assess the bruising and salve it with compassion.  From this haven of acceptance and support, I can draw enough grace to respond in a healthier way to the bruiser.  But before forgiveness is even an option, I need to piece the story together: why did he act that way?   Easy forgiveness brushes aside this opportunity of better understanding.  What are his heart sores and life hurdles?  How did he see and experience our social fumble?  We also need a better grasp of the relationship.  Every interpersonal dynamic is involved here: truth-seeking, communication, perception, relational history, roles, expectations, and a hundred other facets.  Forgiveness is only part of this complex relational feng shui, so if it is my only consideration, I turn a vivid social mosaic into a black/white toggle switch of blame.

blame block

shortcut

Quick forgiveness looks so gracious, and long discussion seems so dramatic.  Both of us may want a quick fix, and perhaps it’s the right choice for now, but we should remember that this tables the issue, it doesn’t resolve it.  The same conflict will pop up again and again until we sort it out.  Deferring until later may feel better in the short run, and may be a necessary strategic move, but it does not enrich our bond.  And slowly over time little resentments will build up like barnacles on a boat or relational callouses will form to deaden the pain and with it the vibrant connection.

So I begin to unfold the map of who he is.  I’m not looking for evidence to accuse him.  I simply want to understand him, see things from his perspective.  Since resolution requires mutuality, I share with him in turn my struggles, without implying fault.  Just as my own heart hides when I am gruff and suspicious with it, he cannot be honest and forthcoming about his genuine feelings and thoughts if I don’t invite him with gentleness and love.  I can accept him without approving of or excusing his behavior.  He is precious regardless of what he does or doesn’t do.  I want to know what he feels about our scrape and why he feels this way.  If he is dismissive or defensive as I probe, then he’s not at a safe place with me. He may not even feel safe with himself because of the shaming voices in his head.  When he closes the gate on this part of our relationship, I must honor it—I cannot force him to share.  In response, I may also need to stake down a boundary marker to protect my heart.  Perhaps a better time will come if I stay open and gracious.

DO YOU SPEAK RABBIT?

DO YOU SPEAK RABBIT?

If we can break through into deeper mutual insight, we will then want to reflect also on our relationship.  This will spark memories of past conflicts, a rich resource to ponder if we don’t use it as ammunition but as sutures.  Why do we react to one another in this way in these situations?   What are we feeling and thinking?  Do we respond to others in similar ways?  Why or why not?  What patterns does this reveal about our interactions?  Since honesty and openness depend on our sense of safety, the one issue we overlook at this point is blame.  It may be that neither of us is guilty or both are guilty or that the problem lies in a completely different direction.  But once we are sharing, the issue of fault and forgiveness often becomes moot.

Posted March 22, 2013 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Thanks for Hurting Me   Leave a comment

Forgiveness II: Other options

My friendships are sprinkled with boredom and surprise, tinged with ambivalence and enthusiasm, stuffed with doubts and hopes, fears and triumphs.  They wander through gardening and coffee and politics, with rants and laughs and confusion.  Relationships are so rich and complex and rewarding.  And they are painful.  That’s the part we’d like to cut out like a tumor.  We commonly assume that pain in friendship is a bad thing, a sign that something has gone wrong, a malignancy.  It certainly feels bad, and so we naturally want to avoid it or resolve it as quickly as possible.  I know I do.  Berly quietly mentions my lateness or messiness and it feels like a bee sting.  My emotions jump, swatting and dodging to protect the softer parts of my soul, sometimes with clenched words, sometimes in the silent safety of my mind, working out feverishly a plan to escape future critiques.

bee sting
In spite of my fears and doubts, I’ve come to realize that the hard patches in our togetherness are quite often the most vital for our well-being and richest for our relationship.  They uncover something important about me, about her, and about us.  They open the way to deeper understanding, connection, and love, greater trust and security with one another.  But this path requires the courage to face into the storm and work through the feelings together, not find ways to side-step the mess or slap up quick fixes.
Pain in relationships can come from so many sources–differences of perspective, personality, priorities, or preferences, unavoidable circumstances and pressures, misunderstandings, bad timing, sensitivity, stupidity.  Notice that none of these things are culpable offenses, not even stupidity, so forgiveness is not the answer.  Close neighbors to forgiveness come into play—patience, humility, acceptance, and benefit of the doubt when the behavior is irritating or problematic or inconvenient to us.  But I think forgiveness uniquely addresses the issue of wrongdoing.  There is a big difference between excusing or making room for someone’s behavior and forgiving them.

patience
Forgiveness is only relevant when someone is to blame, and such a turn must be taken with care since that exit for dealing with relational pain bypasses other options, perhaps better options.  For instance, if the major problem is miscommunication, we prefer seeking clarity rather than blame, at least in our calmer moments.
When one of us feels hurt, it’s best to slow down, breathe, get some emotional space, and try to sort through the feelings, seeking mutual understanding.  This is far easier if we can leave aside blame for the moment.  A rush to judgment sets one against the other, obscures the truth, and slows progress personally and relationally.  I know how hard it is for me to move in a healthy direction when I feel defensive.  In the end, if one of us needs to choose a better course of action (repent), why not start from a place of insight and love rather than coercion and shame?  In our marriage, when seeking understanding is the goal instead of deciding fault, we find that forgiveness plays a much smaller role.

couple

Posted March 11, 2013 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Tough Love   4 comments

Kimberly and I have had rough weather for the last few months, not only in our individual souls, but in the soul of our marriage.  We have wanted to sort it all out and have tried, but we’re still baffled, unable to do anything but cling to our seats as we ride out the turbulence.  In spite of the conflicts that keep popping up, I want her to know that she is precious to me, and sometimes words of appreciation ring truer when we overhear them, so let me share with my friends here the treasure she is to me.

She is gentle.  She is accepting.  She is courageous.  She is true and genuine.  She is self-reflective and in touch with her soul as few people are.  She is determined and tough in spite of setbacks.  She is vulnerable and open.  She naturally believes the best of others, and stands up for the underdog.  She is empathetic and understanding.  She is a great listener.  She is wise and insightful and talks for hours about deep things.  She is welcoming of the weak and broken and marginalized.  She is responsible and capable.  She calls out the best in others by being okay with their faults and foibles and valuing them for who they are, not what they do or fail to do.  She is a woman of grace, even when it hurts her.  She shares her true self with others even when they have crushed her spirit, but she is also good at keeping healthy boundaries.  She never gives up on herself or on others.

She accepts me as I am and makes room for my weaknesses, encouraging me to support myself even when it is hard on her.  She has an incredible commitment to personal growth and wholeness, and though she started out far behind others in her childhood environment, she has far surpassed most others in becoming her true self.  She welcomes all of who I am, even the broken parts, and loves me as I am, and so she has taught me to love myself.  In other words, she is for me the truest experience of the gospel with skin on.  When my insecurities and weaknesses break out against her, she does not retaliate, but hangs on through the tensions until we work it out.

She is not perfect, and I wouldn’t want her to be (how intimidating would that be!).  She has her own hangups, insecurities, and weaknesses.  But we have discovered that the deepest and truest bonds come through our frailties more than our strengths.  I’ve never met anyone like her, and we do life together in extraordinary fashion… even our stumbles seem to add something beautiful to the rhythm of the dance.  We’re still figuring out the steps to this new rumba, and we often as not step on each other’s feet, but we’ll keep swinging till we get it down.  It is in the hard times that love proves its character.  Ours is a tough love.

Posted February 14, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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The Gift of Life   6 comments

Kimberly woke me at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.  She felt uneasy, restless, and her heart was racing.  I couldn’t find the pulse at her wrist, so I tried her neck–boomboomboomboom–the staccato thumping of a quarter-mile sprinter, probably 200 beats a minute.  That scared me.  We were at her aunt’s home and I had no idea where the hospital was… I didn’t even know our address.  “Should we go to the ER?” I asked.  She said, “We can’t afford it, we don’t have insurance.”  I quickly answered, “That doesn’t matter.”  She responded, “I don’t want to sit there for hours in the waiting room.  By the time we see a doctor, I will have no symptoms to check.  Let’s look it up on the internet.”

WebMD called it “Supraventricular Tachycardia”– her heart’s electrical system was misfiring–and we should go to the emergency room if it “persisted”–how long is that?!  Her veins had been drumming for 10 minutes, but she had none of the listed signs of heart failure, so we kept reading.  It offered some home fixes–cough, gag, or shove her face in ice water to shock her pump steady.  She tried some dainty coughs, afraid of waking up others.  I told her to cough hard as I kept my finger on her jugular.  Within minutes the beating slowed.

So, tell me… what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Posted November 27, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal, Story

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