Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Layer by Layer


Lately I’ve had a ton of ideas for posts and very little time to write.  Today I specifically planned to sit down and focus on blogging but something got in my way.  By the time I realized time to blog was getting away from me, I recognized that I couldn’t make my heart and mind switch gears and write about something totally unrelated to what’s really going on in my life. So I’ve decided that today’s happenings have become #1 on my list of things to write about. It’s one thing for me to rant and rave about ideas I’m reading about in class (I love doing that) but it’s another thing to share how those ideas— this Jesus, this gospel— is reading me:  challenging and transforming my very life.

Today Michael and I got in an argument. It was over something very silly (as it usually seems to be). And yet, in a very silly argument— over how much of the dishwasher was unloaded by whom (gag me!)— God is doing very serious, very life-changing work.  The main issue that ends up taking the cake in most of our arguments is my attitude. I can’t seem to talk calmly and respectfully even if I’m trying to acknowledge that he’s right and I’m sorry. Basically, I develop this thorny exterior the minute I feel threatened and it’s really hard for me to shake, even when I want to. My counselor has said “a pattern of relating is like your skin; it’s so natural to you, you don’t even see it most of the time.” Well this is a pattern that I want to change, and I’ve started to think of it as peeling off my skin— asking myself questions that seem to have no answer. “Why am I so angry all of a sudden? Why can’t I look him in the eye? Why do I have to be so condescending? What am I afraid of?”

The miracle in all this is his attitude. He somehow, miraculously, manages to keep an even tone when talking with me; to respond with kindness to my unreasonable comments; to suggest we take a break if I get too heated. That’s exactly what happened tonight— he suggested we take a few minutes for me to cool down— so I walked next door to do something else for a while. When I looked in the mirror, I heard old voices ringing loudly in my head with condemnation and insults. Old voices that taught me the very pattern of “attack and kill” anyone who appears threatening. I heard again all the destructive words that might have been hurled at me by others who taught me how to fight dirty, and I felt as much shame in that moment as if I were hearing those words in real time. Then I realized, “my husband’s voice is different. He doesn’t insult me when he’s upset with me. He does conflict graciously.”

This broke me. It breaks me every time I let this reality sink in; and very slowly, layer by layer, the thorny exterior of skin that I’ve wrapped around my heart in self-protection is coming off. It’s not a theory that’s freeing me, it’s not a little mantra I repeat to myself; it’s the person of Jesus Christ being displayed in and through my husband that is transforming my heart. The gospel alone makes it possible for me to walk away from a nasty way of doing life on my terms, and the gospel alone makes it possible for Michael to respond to a nasty wife with consistent and grueling grace. (I’m sure his side of the story would make for an equally specific Christ-honoring blog post!) In other words, it’s not even a great guy who is bringing about transformation. This is simply the context and the medium through which God has chosen to display His incarnational love and truth in my life in this season. 

How can this encourage you? Look to the gospel— the person of Jesus— to answer those unanswerable questions in your life. Expect Him to answer you creatively. He’s not a corporate giant, providing the same cookie-cutter presentation in each of our lives. He knows His lambs and He knows how to melt each of our hearts in a personal way. And, don’t be surprised if you’re an instrument through which Jesus is creatively revealing Himself in the life of another. 

1 comment:

stowe said...

this blog is a blessing to me. this post and especially the one about grieving. Thank you.