Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”
Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell. Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities, a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel. Both faculties, therefore, depend on plurality, on the presence and acting of others, for no one can forgive himself and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to himself; forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before one’s self. [emphasis mine]
Many people come to marriage having been seriously hurt by parents, lovers, or former spouses. I am not talking about parents who physically or sexually abuse their children. I’m talking of the more widespread experiences of cold and indifferent parents or of verbally abusive parents who know how to punish children emotionally. Then there are the dating relationships or former marriages in with the other party wrong and betrayed you. All of these experiences can make it extremely difficult to trust the other sex, while at the same time filling you with deep doubts about your judgment and character. “Woundedness” is compounded self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment.
I let myself be crippled by this for about seven years… my own voice compounded with the schizophrenic lies and distortions of she who sought, with great success for a time, to undermine every decent thing I’ve ever been or done.
…extremely difficult to trust the other sex, while at the same time filling you with deep doubts about your judgment and character…self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment.Even knowing the voice was one of psychosis and hatred, didn’t stop it from wounding me more deeply than I could have imagined, wounding ever deeper time and time again. I would be filled with those deep doubts about my judgment and character. I would despair of ever having a future, and I would allow axes of utter nonsense to fell my tree-of-self-awareness.
I am so very grateful, not just for the healing God has given me, but especially for the protection and reassurance against such attacks. I had thought to never again be subjected to such attacks until a letter arrived a couple of months ago. This new packet of hatred sought to go back to the utter beginning of our love affair, well before matrimony, and paint over great beauty with foul and rotted pigments of selfishness and wickedness. Instead of felling me for a time, it became one more reinforcing artifact to add to a pile of correspondence which my spiritual and psychological advisers agree show a descent into madness.
It produced deep sorrow, but sorrow is not at all the same bunny of which Tim speaks. You cannot desperately and deeply love someone, whatever the circumstances, and not ache for them and the pain, unhappiness, and poison of hatred they continue to imbibe.
I won’t say that I’ve grown completely immune, and to be honest I do not want to become so. Satan does find those very occasional lowest points to charge one of his tempters with whispering into my ears tired old lies and doubts. I am glad I am not entirely immune simply because the hubris of immunity would be an utter lack of humbleness and failure to see myself relationally as fallen man in need of Christ. If I became that, I might truly begin to be the monster she describes. I think Spurgeon said it best when he said, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” All the more reason to surround myself with friends and spiritual leaders who know me well and hold me ever accountable. Instead, I think it leaves me clear to see those issues with my character and judgment that still merit large allocations of prayer and effort.
God brings joy in the morning.
I’ve explored only of the wounding caused by adult relationships. So long since has God healed me from the first type of wounding Tim discusses, that I nearly forgot to touch on the subject. Learning some crucial truths resolved my fear of being married and of being a father to children such that they no longer seem justifiable concerns. I remain vigilant but no longer paralyzed.
I have learned to truly love, to affirm, to serve, to sacrifice, to place the prerogative of another above my own and to take joy in doing so. I am not my father. I will never visit upon a beloved wife or child the terrors visited upon me; the fear of which kept me from believing I had any right to love and be loved. I will have my own unique blindnesses and shortcomings, but never those and never lacking the love and humility that keeps me from realizing (yes, after prompting and time perhaps) that these blindnesses and shortcomings exist.
I likewise realized is that even were there some ‘demon’ holding license to lurk within me, a fear I once very much held [knowledge of which was used by another as impotent firey dart which fail to wound], I do not exist in a vacuum. I will never be separated from people who know me and who have been given leave to look deeply into my life and sift and seek and confront.
Most important of all considerations is that my deal-breaker-if-lacking criteria for a future beloved is a deep, abiding love of Jesus Christ combined with a sharp intellect, a heart of love and wisdom, and the courage to be bold. A marriage is not one person performing solo, but two persons acting in sweet and sacred concert with one another.
If one member begins to play off-piste and ignores the direction of the Conductor Almighty, the music quickly sours and the partner in error must correct if sweetness is to again be achieved.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLTFor God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God…
But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe… The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whale soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.
And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.
There seems to be a strange disconnect between our valuation and perception of Love and our valuation and perception of Respect. We’ve learned much about authentic love over the past couple of decades. Certain wisdom (God-based) on the subject has emerged and come to the fore in attempt counter certain world-dom that seems pervasive. So, now, we echo statements like “Love is a Choice” and ideas expressing that genuine love is unselfish and sacrificial, putting another first even though they may not seem, to some, to be worthy or deserving. Another way of looking at the “worthy or deserving statement” is to say that one holds expectations, which, realistic or otherwise are or are not being met. Part of “Love is a Choice” is choosing to realize that one’s expectations might be unreasonable, overly high, or, not to put too fine a point on it, unloving.
Respect, however, seems to be regarded very much differently by these same people. Really, when you get down to it, how can respect be any different? Respect is a choice. Respect is less dependent on the person one is or is not respecting, and more dependent on the barometers and expectations we impose upon others. How often has someone said, “I can love this person but I could never respect them.”? It sounds a little schizophrenic to me, and I’m certain that I’ve said the same on more than one occasion. Cognitive dissonant much? I need to take a good hard look at myself and see if I’m not talking nonsense.
Myself, I would be devastated to think of myself as an unloving and uncompassionate person. I would lose sleep over it and be distraught if I, or worse, others, failed to see me as loving and compassionate. In times past, I think I would have experienced very little discomfort were I accused of being possessing a heart of disrespect.
I would probably feel and maybe express that I am completely justified in depriving another of my respect because of some fault I perceive that person to hold. Well insulated by my justifications, I would probably never even stop to consider if my heart of disrespect might be sinful, disobedient, in need of repentance, and deserving of effort to change just as much as would an unloving heart.
I think that if I’m reluctant to self-examine in this area, it is because I’m willing to make a show of surrendering on the very easy; the unloving heart, provided I can use it as a justification to hold out on the very difficult; the heart of judgemental disrespect.
Should not I; should not anyone, be just as anxious to come-clean and work to correct one as we are the other?
Knowing I possessed an unloving heart would cause me to hurt, then reflect, then fret and ponder [hopefully stopping short of useless rumination], to seek the help of a counselor, to submit in accountability to those I trust to challenge me and disciple me to change. I would yearn to roadmap a solution and then persevere to completion.
I think my cognitive dissonance would maybe push me not to see a heart of disrespect as anything like the same kind of bunny.
We can just choose to keep the cold heart and mind that cannot [or refuses to] give to another a quantity of respect one minim greater than the other has ‘earned’ or ‘merited’. We can continue to wonder perplexedly why, despite our accumulation of gold foil stars for having loving and compassionate hearts, the kind of loving relationships with others we yearn for continue elude us.
I want to begin applying the same ἀγάπη love standard to my respect standard.
Grace is unmerited favor. Nothing more, and certainly, nothing less.
I want to be as grace-giving with respect as I seek to be with love.
I want to be as heartbroken by my possessing a disrespecting heart as I would be possessing an unloving heart.
I think back to my childhood and I see now clearly, that a parent may cover up a twisted heart of selfish abuse in their own minds by lavishing ‘love’ and proclaiming to all who will listen, what a loving parent they are… all the while, shredding their child’s heart with constant unrelenting meat-grinder scalpels of withheld respect or expressed contempt and disappointment.
My father may have been correct every time he contemptuously expressed how I failed to meet even the base expectations a child should meet, and how worthless I was. [ He was entirely incorrect. ] Even if he had been correct, his goal was never to make me a better boy, a better person, a better future man. That which I have accomplished in those areas, I have had to do entirely on my own under the hostile rain of his discouragement. This I have done in spite of knowing that I would never earn his favor. He believed himself justified in withholding respect. He is now beyond all capacity to give. Perhaps he always had been.
When I visited my father in Branson during my freshman year in high school, he even told me that he had been trying to parent me using Dobsonian “Tough Love” and that if he had gotten it wrong, it wasn’t for lack of trying. By his next words, he proved that lack of trying figured strongly into things. Had he truly read “Love Must be Tough” (The book in which Dr. Dobson coined the term “Tough Love” before giving it to the world as his lasting legacy to misquote and misuse), as he claimed to have done, he might have known that the book was written to help and encourage the husbands and wives of spouses who refuse to repent of and turn from sins such as verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and infidelity.
Imagine namedropping Dobson as scapegoat for all the pain one inflicts on another. Paul might well respond, “μη γενοιτο”. My father was certainly not alone in having made the attempt.
I think it is clear, going forward, that when we see these little tendencies in ourselves to inflict upon others, that which was inflicted upon us, our heart’s cry should be a desperation to do whatever must be done to remedy. Once brought to our awareness, the absolute very last thing we may allow ourselves is excuse and self-permission to continue living life in this manner. We must counter our hearts of non-respect as strongly as we must hearts of unlove.
To acknowledge and then make excuses or pass responsibility and not make desperate effort to change is additional retroactive abuse to the child we were, a visitation of the abuse we suffered as children upon our adult selves, and of course, abuse of those God has put into our lives for us to, serving as His proxy, shower with His love and His respect.
The best response I could have ever made to my father was not to fight him, not to hate him, not to resent him, and certainly not to try to show him that he was wrong and that he should repent. The best response is to instead to make certain that I become the healed and impenetrable wall through which his influence is never again permitted to visit hurt on another.
We are instruments capable of serving as proxy for another.
Do we allow ourselves to be used as the tools of those who have hurt us, or do we offer ourselves up to the Heavenly Father who loved and sacrificed all to save us?
This subject has been an ongoing ponder for approaching a year. To this point, I’ve not had the courage to say what it was that gelled ponder into a need to write this article.
Confession. Contrition. ὁμολογέω/homologéō.
Recently I have been in a situation where people I very much love and very much respect (as Emmerson Eggrichs would say, “People of basic good will”) have done some things I regard as needing remedy/redress. I try not to put people on pedestals anymore, but it’s more of a struggle with folks I very much do love and respect who are in a position of authority. I think that the fact of their being just as human as the next guy engenders in me feelings of betrayal, which is unfair and ridiculous on my part. Rather, I hurt for a goodly while refusing to remember that they are fallible persons of good will with their own fears and hangups and foibles. In my hurt, I hurt back and feel justified doing it.
I am responsible for not just what I do with such knowledge, feelings, situations, but how I do it.
Emmerson exclaimed in a verbal conflict with his wife Sarah, “You know you can be right, but you can be wrong at the top of your voice.. I’ve always had an inkling of what he meant, but I think I understand his meaning better now.
Sometimes it’s much less about feeling respect than treating another with respect.
A friend pointed out to me while I was doing it that I was clearly distraught and maybe should find another time, venue, and method.
I felt justified based on the other person’s action and my hurt, so I continued unheeding.
It’s difficult. My mind is still thinking up ways I could have better used the opportunity to devastate resistance and drive home what I perceived as reality.
Meanwhile, my heart is breaking, and all these thoughts on respect are crushing me down.
My heart is telling me that respect… true respect… would be to not speak from my hurt… would be to make effort and figure out how to accomplish what I feel is apocalyptically important, but in a way that did not give voice to a heart of disrespect. These folks are certainly worth it. I’m worth it. Christ is worthy of all and infinitely more.
I don’t know that I’m capable. It seems an entirely impossible task. It seems that by the time I figure out how to accomplish it, it may be too late for real-world events.
Respect means trying in spite of all that. Respect means turning to God to be strong where I am newborn blind-kitten weak.
When I make a promise, I bear witness that my future with you is not locked into a bionic beam by which I was stuck with the fateful combinations of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my parents’ genetic deck.
When I make a promise, I testify that I was not routed along some unalterable itinerary by the psychic conditioning visited on me by my slightly wacky parents.
When I make a promise I declare that my future with people who depend on me is not predetermined by the mixed-up culture of my tender years.
I am not fated, I am not determined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the contingent reinforcement and aversive conditioning of my past. I know as well as the next person that I cannot create my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to anyone I rise above all the conditioning that limits me.
“Controlling the Unpredictable – The Power of Promising“
Christianity Today Jan. 1983
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.“So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:
“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”
Blake’s “And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.” measures well against my top standard as it seems a phrase I would expect from C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or the lyric giftings of Andrew Peterson.
This particular serendipity occurred as I traveled to that lovely meal shared with friends. I was again listening to what I am certain is the absolute best book on understanding true covenantal and joyful marriage I’ve ever found, and I doubt the like of my ever finding one better. A recent discovery, I’m on my fourth listen and still finding little precious gems. My physical copy of “The Meaning of Marriage” by pastor Timothy Keller will join books by Lewis, Eggerichs, and Kreeft in a place of honor upon my bookshelf once I’m done filling it’s margins with annotations from the heart.
Keller throughout illustrates that the covenant of Marriage as prescribed by God; love through companionship, service, and self-sacrifice, bears precious little resemblance to the postmodern social-humanist me-centred marriage that is so pervasive today. One would expect that God need not check the box labeled, “Substitutions not permitted.” or “Dispense as prescribed.”
Truly, it seems that throughout history, mankind, even the Israelites, God’s Chosen People, have chosen designs that deviate greatly in critical respects and suffer greatly for the deviation. When Christ clarifies that the adultery of the Ten Commandments takes place in the heart, mind, and eyes as much as in the bedroom; when He rebukes the religious leaders arguing over divorce telling them that God granted divorce to them only due to the hardness of their hearts we doubt not that the curse on relationship that fell upon us through Adam and Eve was doing its painful work then amongst the Isrealites as terribly as it does for all of us today.
A fallen world produces only highly imperfect replicas of the archetype. Understanding the archetype helps to shore up weaknesses, correct transcription errors, and repair imperfections one pair of hearts at a time, and I think that is what Keller has done here in providing such understanding. He discusses and then sweeps away the world’s rubbish and then expounds upon and makes accessible and understandable… and most importantly, desirable God’s greatest gift and blessing to His children available, to us this side of heaven. He shines ray of bright light dazzling The Shadowlands. He teaches the only method capable of building a Heaven in Hell’s despair.
I am a clod. A joyful clod of clay in full awareness of God’s blessings, not a pebble lulled by the endless mindless tuneless music of the rill passing over me, bombarded by beauty, lessening appreciation until I value it not.
This view of marriage and ourselves is somewhat allegorical of God’s love for us. We clods of clay don’t merit a second glance.
- I am The Stone the Builders Rejected – Psalm 118:22
- I am the Lost Sheep that would have been far easier to abandon. – Luke 15:1–7
- I am the Prodigal Son rebellious yet beaten, all conceivable worth removed before being redeemed. – Luke 15:11–32
- I am the clay in the Potter’s hands – Jeremiah 18:1–6
- I am the Widow of no station, ostracized as a woman of foreign descent made valuable by my Kinsman Redeemer. – Ruth 1–4
- I am the Lost Coin. – Luke 15:8–10
This is an area in which we should exercise the most discernment, and yet, consistently for myself and others it seems to be the area where we practice discernment the least. We keep poor defenses against the enemy without and seemingly reserve no margin of safety from the supposed ally within.
An excellent Faithwalkers Seminar titled “All You Need is Love: The Simple Path to Marriage” planted some seeds that may only now four months later to be sprouting. They lured us in by promising us a methodology that counters the last 25 years of Christian dogma on dating and relationships. Something different, and something far less complex, onerous, and dictatorial. A breath of fresh air maybe, right?
Here’s the seminar description:
Thousands of books, seminars, and counseling sessions have been spent on trying to figure out exactly what you need to get married. I think the path to marriage is a lot simpler than it is often made out to be. Of course simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, but let’s get together and talk through the Biblical principles of love that provide a simple path to marriage.
Pastor Paul Johnson opened the seminar [LISTEN] by handing us a 20 item list of all the great chestnuts of rules and advice that we’ve all been told by youth leaders, pastors, and our Christian mentors about seeking relationship. They asked us to classify each one as either 1) a command, 2) a principle, or 3) a preference. I’ll list them here; a whole list of externally imposed [musts/shoulds].
- You must get counsel before pursuing a relationship
- Physical attraction should not factor into your interest in another person
- Only marry a Christian
- Don’t date until you’re ready to get married
- Don’t kiss until your wedding day
- Husbands must bring home the bacon
- Wives must stay home and take care of the kids
- You must be out of debt to get married
- You must be convinced that this is the person you’re going to marry if you want to date them
- You must be content to be single and not looking for a mate
- You must be sexually pure before marriage
- You must be a mature Christian before you get married
- You must be able to make and keep a budget before getting married
- You must “like” and evaluate a potential spouse for at least a year before talking to them about your feelings
- Men must pursue and women must wait
- You must be completely objective in your evaluation of a potential spouse
- Your life vision and direction needs to be identical for a potential relationship to work
- Men must talk to a woman’s father before asking her out on a date
- You must guard your heart from any attachment
- You must have convictions on birth control before dating
S’wha? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that last one. Perhaps they made it up to round out an even twenty items.
Two I think? Yes, two. Two of those are biblical commands. All of the rest fall into the categories of good principles (one may read Proverbs for that), and preferences. We have all experienced those who give advice and instruction (whether solicited or not) with the attitude of you [should/must]. They tend to be rather legalistic about it and they suffer no discussion or disagreement. Questions are shamed to silence by being called sinful. Unwillingness to let go of something is responded to with accusations that the something has become an idol. Principle becomes Command and well, Preference too in most cases.
An longstanding irritant to me has been the careless and thoughtless use of the admonition “Guard your heart?” or the challenge, “Are you guarding your heart?”. A helpful phrase turned mantra instead does harm. I sometimes have the hyperbolic image in my mind of a married youth pastor telling a young man on his first and ill-considered foray into love to “Guard your heart.” who, even though the young man has matured and has his eyes set on finding a Godly companion for the road of life, is thoughtlessly chastised each successive time to “Guard his heart.” Played out to the ridiculous end, the scenario changes venue to a nursing home where the no longer young man, bachelor his entire life, shows interest in a widow on the same ward, only to be told by sign language to up the volume on his hearing aid by his curmudgeon of a youth pastor so that he may hear his youth pastor’s admonishment to “Guard Your Heart.”
The seminar leader pointed out that the bible gives us a word for people like that who do those types of things: Pharisees. As bad as these outward Pharisees are, they often pale in comparison to the Pharisee many of us keep inside of ourselves.
I know that in my own life I impose ridiculous, sometimes impossible ‘shoulds’ on myself. My arrogant Pharisee also then decides for others that since I fail those standards others must be protected from me for their own good. They really must be allowed no say in the matter.
So how do we guard against the outward and inward Pharisee? I’m only the rudest novice in this new discipline, and as such, I only have a list of things I am testing out for possible inclusion in a personal how-to list.
- First determine if the source is external or internal.
- Question. Do not blindly accept.
- Respect leadership, but do not assume that they infallibly lead in all things.
- Pray. For guidance and wisdom. Pray for confirmation or invalidation.
- Test all against scripture.
- Avoid extremes. Seek to grow towards the ideals of paradigms, but never to achieve them entirely.
- Be on the lookout for statements made in the absolute.
- Be on guard against generalizations too vast in scope.
- Be highly self-skeptical of anything motivated and crafted internally; most especially if much internal thought and debate over a long period of time has led to unorthodox conclusions.
- Be wary of emotional states that lead to self-imposed ‘shoulds’.
- The more I am certain, the more uncertain I should probably be.
- Does a conclusion eliminate hope, condemn holy desire, or affirm helplessnes? If so, it’s doubtful it’s from God.
- Be alert to the reactions of others when I share my thinking and conclusions… if they start looking at me funny, I should weigh carefully all responses and not assume I’m right.
- If it’s a personal ‘should’ that I’d never suggest others adopt, Be afwaid. Be vewy afwaid! Is my double-standard born of arrogant pride and contempt for another’s ‘low standard’? Am I holding myself to an unreasonable impossible standard that greatly differs from the one I measure against others.
- Be willing to learn from someone less knowledgeable than myself.
- If I’m reluctant to solicit the opinions of others or to seek guidance then it’s an especially good time to take Elmer Fudd’s advice to heart. The greater the reluctance, the greater the likelihood that I NEED an external gut-check.
- Stop unilaterally deciding things for others. Stop stealing from them the right to make up their own mind, to take their own risks, to explore a possibility that excites or intrigues them! Acknowledge and respect their wisdom and honor their right to test and weigh and decide for themselves. Do not hold contempt if they reach conclusions dissimilar to mine. They may well be the wiser and have a better understanding. Be willing to let them make mistakes … This is perhaps one of the things for which my friends gave me greatest grace and patience, because I kept making these unilateral decisions and conclusions that I must not, or am supposed to not ever seek a new beloved for the rest of my days. This was the time period where my excellent Christian counselor Bradly Roark told me that “Perhaps you need to let someone who is less knowledgeable than you teach you about love.” I thought it profound at the time, but as usual, I failed to really grok his full meaning. That came with the fullness of time and more hard lessons. Far more profound than I originally kenned, and far far far more humbling. Learning that I can be a very well-educated idiot has been so very freeing.
- If I am self-denying myself some potential blessing due to some self-imposed rule or standard I can never achieve, and if it’s a standard or denial God might not be willing to back me up on and hasn’t been explicit about in scripture, I must remind myself that God is a loving non-dictatorial parent who loves our free-will, who gave us the bible not as a rulebook, but as a fence around a lush green pasture, keeping us in the good, and away from the bad.
- Do not take the bit in my mouth and run. Do not wear blinders. Do not stick fingers in my ears and yell out obscuring noise like a bratty child.
- Sunscreen good. No sunscreen bad. Rest of advice based on years of Jedi teaching experience, yes?
- I did mention ‘pray’, yes?
Over several years, and under the guidance of Chaplain and beloved friend Bart Larson, with some reinforcement from my pastor at church, I have tried in my communication to replace “you statements” with “I statements” and most importantly the “you should statements.” Likewise I have been trying not to use hyperbole like “always” and “never”. I’ve tried to put in check a tendency when excited to carelessly use superlatives, sweeping generalizations, and exaggeration. Needlessly to say, despite trying a million times, I always always fail and never ever succeed in efforts not to use the very most egregious exaggerations and worst hyperbole. Actually, it’s a process and I’ve made so much wonderful progress down that road. I still slip from time to time, or forget and grow careless. Success has been very rewarding as it has allowed friendships to go deeper and prevented much offence that leads to argument. I’m grateful to both of these men
Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
2008 was the year I desperately clung to Christmas while sobbing. This was the year I did all of our traditions alone, miserable but not knowing what else to do. Sobbing and holding the pups and telling them that their mommy would be back knowing I was trying to convince myself and failing to convince any of us. Feeling like a child who had something done to them, something they had no capacity to understand, unable to see anything other than the hurt and unable to believe such hurt was possible. Wondering if it would get worse, or easier, if it would ever stop, or if there had ever been a reality without the pain… All before, even the massive pain of Christmases in childhood seemed like a self-deluding fantasy made up to try to distract from the only thing I could ever, would ever, had ever known.
God was there. Through God, Bart Larson was there. Greg Cranston was there or soon would be.
It is 2016 and I have chosen for the first time to put up a Christmas tree. A gifted tree and many essential bits given by friends who love me, whom God had put there to make Christmas 2008 look like a dreadful long-ago nightmare, the David and Sarah Cranstons, the Colin and Barbara Smialeks, the Dwights, the Cindys, the Boltons, all the people of Valley View, The Berrys, the Elder Cranstons and me mum Kay who has been growing in wisdom and inner strength and become able to counsel back.
I will put up trees each year and will hang, like delicate heirloom glass ornaments, more names on each bough.
There will be a time when it’s not only my hands doing the hanging, but those with slender more delicate fingers than mine, and more delicate slender hands to join in years following. We will hang names until the boughs creak under the weight and I will feel only gratitude for the Christmas Tree of 2008 for making me know what else is possible so that I might never take for granted that which is.
At the top we will illuminate one name, bright, above all, encompassing all, making all possible. Like a brilliant star will sit the name of Jesus Christ.
I realized that while I have many Quotational Ponderings entries, the Personal Ponderings category has regrettably not seen much use. I attribute this to my internal conflict with the belief that other people have things of significance to relate and I have not. To remedy, here’s a ponder that I have been considering lately:
“In seeing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to wonder if a sensible woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m certain that it is possible, but is it improbable?”
I think the answer is a solid “it may be so”.
So, is that goofiness “who one is as a person”, or is it “how one chooses to be as a person”, and if the latter, should not one make the choice to be otherwise at some point? Is there some mysterious balance one needs must strike, and how can one possibly know that there is and what that balance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet somehow remain a unabashed fan of animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters Inc., Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and goofy goofy Doctor Who?
Further, when does eccentric cross the line into oddity; say, if one has possibly knitted a 16′ long scarf in emulation of Tom Brown’s fourth iteration of The Doctor, has a barrier been irretrievably breached?
C.S. Lewis warns against filling to our lives with habits, hobbies, interests, and luxuries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risking love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choosing those things over the possible joy and fulfillment of sharing one’s life, heart, and being with another? Are we men choosing to be a child and in so choosing to forgo the dream of ever raising a child (children)?
Moreover, are we making the same awful mistake in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ; with our loving Heavenly Father? What awesome and important thing is it that we are choosing to give up if such is so?
I have married friends who appear to have found and struck that balance and I look up to them as exemplars. They however, figured out that balance much earlier in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the consequences of one’s ill-considered choices.
Ponder, ponder ponder.
Zen Pencils has crafted a wonderful comic to illustrate what C.S. Lewis says on this subject of hearts, hobbies and luxuries. [Original here]
why the horror of the Crucifixion had to happen.
“He Gave Us Stories”, Reformation Bible College,
Go back to timecode 34:45 to hear his guiding idea behind writing The Wingfeather Saga. He had a vision of who the main character Janner Igiby was and who he was to become and that it could only be accomplished through conflict. “The only way for Janner Igiby to become that person was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adventure that would cause him pain. To strip him of everything that was familiar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And now, at the end of my story I keep thinking about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m trying to tell is to make the darkness seem so great that it’s insurmountable. To make it so that the main characters in my story are on the brink of giving up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was something stronger than all the darkness.”
College, 2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.
I too tear up throughout reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I struggle not to weep upon listening to him say these things as he describes my own dream for fatherhood. I rejoice that there are other men out there doing exactly that and fulfilling that selfsame dream. This only serves to revive all the same feelings I had upon first becoming acquainted with Andrew Peterson through the below video, Family Man. Not everyone has their dreams fulfilled. I am glad that some do. I am grateful that God gives comfort and contentment even to those who do not.
This morning, as I prayed asking God to bless Raina, fulfill her, give her happiness, heal if healing is needed, and seek her if seeking is needed, I realized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me thinking and I realized that I have been using this epithet for a couple of months now as God has granted much healing of heart.
I realized that I haven’t given up on God’s ability to restore my marriage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and whatever He decides to do will be the best and most fulfilling outcome, whether that means a restored marriage, a new marriage, or living out a remaining lifetime of singleness.
I believe I’ve finally decided to stop being crippled and broken. I’ve come to the point of casting off the crushing burden I’ve carried for so long.
Three years ago, nearly to the day, I composed a poem as part of the healing and dealing process:
That was a necessary step then to cope and function because I -was- crippled and broken and I was tripping and falling and injuring myself over and over.
I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was necessary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-opening was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the healing process. Now I realize that I wasn’t grieving as I had in the past, and I wasn’t tripping; I was saying farewell.
Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, broken promises (the ones I broke as well), lost happiness and broken dreams, all tied to her in connection, and around my neck as a millstone.
I’ve said farewell and I’ve found desperately sought after peace which I had never hoped to find. I didn’t believe it possible. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to forget what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most rewarding portion of my life.
I’m open now to new best and most rewarding portions.
My finger is now unadorned.
She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s loving grace. I don’t know what’s next, if anything, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much better than where I have been previously.
My own journey has been a little different and Nice has been a necessary step, but only because my starting place was Mean. My father*, manipulative, mean-hearted, controlling, and critical, raised me to be a carbon copy of himself in my thinking and attitudes. Until I was rescued from his control, my basic operating system was Mean, Condescending, and Hurtful.
Rescued at something like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my rescuers. My inkling was no stronger than knowing that there were some people in my life that I really liked and admired who were different from all I knew and I knew that they were different somehow in ways I could not comprehend.
It was not until I was in residential treatment at Charter Hospital my freshman year in high school that a group-therapy leader named Darrel finally got through to me. He was one of those different people and I think it took my first admiring him, for the crisis event that soon followed to have an impact on my arrogant, legalistic, selfish, condescending, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admiration for there to be a Crisis Event at all.
In a group therapy session, I was being my usual charming argumentative combative condescending-self when Darrel braked hard and brought the conversation to a screeching halt and said, “You know something Christian? I just realized. You really ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expected tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the crisis began and it left me broken and floored.
I thank God for putting Darrel, and another person who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past couple of decades, Bart Larson, Chaplain, Photographer and Artist and at the time Chaplain for the adolescent unit at Charter Hospital. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve likely seen his name on the pictures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Valley View.] He counseled me then. He rescued me from demonic spiritual attack. He counselled me after. He did our premarital counseling. He tag-teamed our wedding with Pastor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through miscarriage and pain and 6+ years of failing to re-conceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoimmune nightmares and celiac disease. He helped us as our marriage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from ending my life many times as I grieved and grieved. He even helped me fix things and professionally paint our marriage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All quietly and kindly and unassuming. He has never stopped helping me and pouring out to me God’s kindness (modeling it to me).
Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kindness, there was a necessary intermediary step, or rather whole long section of the path. Niceness. It started clumsily and ineptly and most especially, deliberately. I didn’t understand Kindness, I only knew the effects of kindness, upon me, from others. I had to make very conscious deliberate decisions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopilot had been ‘Be Mean’.
Good days. Bad days. Good encounters. Bad encounters. Starting with far more bad than good until finally the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoying the sunshine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usually very diligent.
Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intuitive understanding of the kindness of these people in my life, and through them, the kindness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feelings of success (and self-forgiveness/grace/acceptance) instead of self-loathing, and encouraged me to keep fighting to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my lifelong relationship with Christ from seeing Him from a legalistic and truth perspective to a relationship of recognizing His kindness and loving Him for it and learning to temper Truth with Grace (as is best exemplified in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Paradox”).
I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kindness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROM BIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instructions.
Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ’till you make It.” journey.
Much of the difference between Kind and Nice has been the journey from deliberate and forced to natural, heartfelt, and sincere.
* none of this can be separated from the lessons of Total Forgiveness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness parallels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total Forgiveness is a daily decision to forgive. That practice will continue daily for a lifetime unless God eventually heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have totally forgiven them.
One of the steps towards Total Forgiveness has been to realize that he would probably be completely bewildered and possibly very hurt that I see things this way. Realizing that has been one of the first steps towards extending him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sinful fallen lump than I am. We’re both ragamuffins, but only I’ve been given the blessing of realizing it.