While deciding whether to resuscitate our blog, which has lain comatose and on life-support for the last year and a half, we had many soul-searching (“end-of-life” ?) discussions. Do we give it intensive rehab and then bring it back to the land of the living, or do we pull the digital plug and let it go quietly into the night? We went back and forth on the subject (all summer) until Paul finally just told me to “put on my judgy pants” and start writing about something! (As an aside, you might not ever want us to be making end-of-life decisions for you : ).
His directive gave me the kick I needed to get started on the rehab process, but it also reminded me of a worry that had been growing in the back of my mind. During a recent conversation with some close friends, they not-quite-but-pretty-much hinted that sometimes Paul and I can come across a little impersonal and, well, judgy. That when we listen, we evaluate more than commiserate. Paul is perhaps thinking of dozens of pertinent scripture passages to use and I am trying to find a way to describe your “best life now” or show you “God’s great plan for you life.” They never said it, but I think that, had we been in junior high, we would have been called know-it-alls. (Paul says that guys would just call them jerks.)
Ah, junior high. When we said what we thought and let the chips fall where they would. Sometimes that was easier.
Proverbs describes a true friend as someone who listens, sympathizes, but at the end of the day, speaks the sometimes difficult-to-hear truth (Proverb 27: 5-6, Proverb 27:9). And while Paul and I need some pointers on being a little more sympathetic and less analytical (aka, “judgy”) when listening, our goal for this blog and our relationships in general is to be the proverbial friend. The easiest way for us to do this is by sharing what God has done in our own lives. It’s true that Paul has alot of advanced theological degrees and that I am in the process of (slowly) working on a counseling degree, but that education is not why we write this blog or teach, or counsel etc. We do these things because over the last twelve years God has used the school of life to break us apart and put us back together resulting in a greater understanding of him and ourselves. As author Rachel Jankovic writes,
“I remember a time when I used to be much godlier. It was sometime in junior high school, and my room was clean. It must have been beautiful weather outside because the lighting was very nice in my room where I was reading my Bible every day and feeling really good. … The truth is my Christian life then was like a rock being refined by a slow river in a quiet place. …But God took me out of that life and threw me into the rock tumbler. Here, it is not so easy to feel godly, because we spend our days crashing into each other and actually getting our problem addressed.”
When Paul and I got married, you couldn’t really find two people more opposite…except for being stubborn. On that score, we ranked about even. And really, it has been our stubborn refusal to not just live, but to doggedly figure out life, that has brought us to this point. That, and that little thing called God’s grace.
In retrospect, I believe we started out our married life with a significant dose of know-it-allism. But about four months into marriage confirmed that I was in no way prepared for married life with Paul. Instead of joy, I had dread, fear and something like despair. My stubborn nature said that I had to do something, but out of embarrassment I didn’t want to talk to anyone (b/c on the outside we looked “so happy!”) and I really didn’t know where to look for answers! With this frame of mind, I went to my college library’s “relationship” section and asked God to show me, SHOW ME SOMETHING, that would help. As I scanned the spines of all the books on the shelf, most of which were aging and looked like they had been relevant in the 1950’s, I noticed one bright green spine. I pulled out the book and read the title and byline, “Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than to Make Us Happy.“
Reading that book with Paul saved our marriage. We determined that we would pursue holiness in our marriage, even if it meant slogging through a *lot*of unpleasantness. So truthfully, that is what we have been doing over the past eleven years. Our marriage has faced grad school, infertility, job loss, Postpartum Depression, re-loctation, the betrayal of friends, loneliness, distance, toddlerhood, ingrained sin, anger issues, deceit, depression, and crazy hormones that make a woman cry at the drop of a hat one moment and fly into a rage in the next. That’s a lot of slogging : ) But as we slogged, we learned. We took graduate classes. We sought out faithful advisers who gave us good counsel and helped us change the way we thought. We read books, lots and lots and lots of books.
But mostly, we talked. And our conversations ranged from screaming matches that didn’t accomplish anything except establish that, yes, there was definitely a problem to hours long discussions over a table at a restaurant where our waiter started foaming at the mouth, waiting for us to leave : ). I love the grace that allows us to do more of the latter now than the former. We’ve gone from two stubborn people against each other to two stubborn people together against the world.
Marriage has been the crucible where Paul and I have had the gold of our spirits melted down so that God could systematically expose the crud and help us yank it out. (Job 23:10)
SO. This brings us back to the know-it-all perception. We certainly don’t know everything about every problem (or even everything about one problem). But we have learned some things about some problems and what we do know, we want to share with our friends and family. If we hear you talking about a problem that you are facing, we’ll want to give you some ideas of how to deal with it! If we don’t understand the problem, we’ll probably start studying the issue in order to figure out what we’d do in a similar situation. In general, if you sound distressed, our knee-jerk reaction will be jump in with both feet and start sussing out the issues in order to find solutions. Think of it as a 2 Corinthians 1:4 response…only maybe we aren’t too warm and cuddly in our comforting. But it’s what we’ve done in our own lives for eleven years. Paul never lets me just vent without trying to aid me in finding a biblical answer. It can be irritating. But if Paul is sliding towards depression I generally start yanking him back with lot of spiritual truth and in-your-face assertions. He doesn’t appreciate the intervention it at the time.
I know, I know, just think of our poor children. Sigh. If you ever want us to just listen, you should probably give us a heads up : )
In any case, this blog is part of our attempt to share our methods, thoughts, and lessons learned with all of you. Each year brings new revelations of limitations and personal battles. But each year we learn more and more about God’s great love and our standing in Christ. The struggles of life don’t fade but we feel our souls resting in Jesus more. We both love this song by Keith and Kristin Getty is because it describes what we have learned to be true.
Anyway, this is the plan. We hope that you will come along for the ride.