So, I took a break for a couple of months- not because I wanted to, but because of a lot of things. In order for me to reveal those things, I have to do the thing I dread most in life- be vulnerable. I despise being vulnerable. It seems weak to me. You see, in my family, I am the strong one. I’m the one who always has it together, always has a plan, and always has the wherewithal to accomplish my objectives. To be seen as needy or discouraged is out of the question! A couple of years ago, I was in a pretty bad car accident and was injured. Not seriously, but enough to scare my family to death. They all walked around me like they didn’t know what to do. I could tell that they wanted to help me, but I am the one who is the helper and tells everyone what to do in times like these, and to see me in that state seemed to throw everyone off. (My hubby, of course, took great care of me but that’s not what this story is about. Even he was terrified).
This has been a discouraging and disappointing year for me in a lot of ways. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to get disappointed or discouraged. I should know all the techniques for fighting depression and loneliness. I have a degree in Marriage and Family for heaven’s sake, so I should have the perfect marriage, especially if I’m going to give you advice on how to do it, right? And I should know how to cope with relationships gone awry because I have read every book I can fit into my Kindle about them. I should know all about how to manage two businesses, keep the perfect house, entertain guests, nurture my growing family, all the while not complaining because I am the most organized person I know. In my spare time, I should easily be able to find time to work on my PhD and have personal Bible study and time with the Lord. I’m disappointed and discouraged with myself because I really believe all these things and because I have not lived up to my expectations.
I’m going to expose myself in a way that might get me in trouble with some people and, frankly, that scares me. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I feel like I have given the impression that I’m perfect or that I think I am. And because I know that many of you, especially women, go through seasons of disappointment too, and I don’t want you to feel alone.
At the end of the year last year, something happened between my parents and me that has just thrown me into a tailspin. The details would bore you, I’m sure, but nevertheless it was devastating to me. The bottom line is that the message I received from my mom and especially my dad is that they don’t want me. They don’t approve of me, my husband or my children. Their reasoning is irrational to me- maybe not to them, but whatever it is that they have against me, their rejection of me, and everything important to me, has crushed my spirit. At 51 years of age, I feel like a big baby; I have cried until I think there are no more tears and then I cry some more. I don’t think we ever lose the desire for our mama or our daddy to love us and want us and to think we are great. This “thing” started my year off bad and I’ve been limping along trying to forget about it and put it out of my mind and move on. As most women do, I want to talk about it to get it off my chest, but my husband and children aren’t as closely tied to these horrible feelings I have and my siblings are obviously trying to remain neutral. So, I suffer in silence most of the time, wondering if it will ever be right. Now, I can just imagine what you are thinking: “But you are a counselor. Just do what you would tell a counselee to do.” Therein lies the rub. It’s much easier to see the bigger picture from the outside than from the inside, no matter how much knowledge you have.
My son has given me an incredible gift. Most people use that word incorrectly and too often, but I really mean incredible- as in inconceivable, far-fetched, absurd, simply not believable. He gave me a brand new, state-of-the-art, fabulous Viking kitchen! It was meant for him, but he chose to give it to me, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic or grateful. It is stunning- stainless steel appliances, beautiful cobalt blue gas range and hood, dishwasher, an island cook top with a huge overhead vent, and too many small appliances to count. Toaster, coffee maker, stand mixer, emersion blender, hand mixer, cookware, knives and more. You’re wondering, “How could this possibly relate to disappointment?” Well, along with the gift of the kitchen came a kitchen renovation. Do I really need to say more? My husband and I have argued over every conceivable thing that would need to be argued over and everything beyond that. It has taken a toll on our relationship like nothing has in a long, long time. It has been exhausting, as we have done most of the work ourselves. We usually thrive as a couple when we get involved in a shared project, but this one was really huge. The arguments have me at a loss. I’ve been sort of stumped.
But as always happens, God led me to my answer. I walked into Lifeway to get a card and glanced at the latest best sellers, and there was a book by John and Stasi Eldredge, Love and War. I have no idea why that caught my eye. We are not in a war (are we)? I picked it up and read a tiny bit and bought it. I highly recommend that you run out and get this book or download it on your e-reader immediately. He talked about where we allow our thoughts to go. And I have certainly let my thoughts run wild lately. My parents’ silence causes me to assume all kinds of things. And you know what they say happens when you assume? (You make an ass out of you and me). I learned that from Felix on The Odd Couple- but I digress. When Jay and I have unresolved issues and talking about them turns into arguing, my thoughts go like this: He will never understand me. He obviously doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t know me at all. He just doesn’t get it. All he ever thinks about is himself.
II Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (KJV).
The Eldredges break it down like this:
“Satan is a liar, ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44), so utterly convincing he deceived a glorious man and woman to betray God, whom they walked with every day. I think we tend to dismiss Adam and Eve as the idiots who got us into this mess in the first place. But they had not yet sinned; they had experienced no wounding; they were man and woman in their glory. And they were deceived. It ought to give us a healthy respect for what the enemy is capable of.
“Even the best of us can be taken in. Now what this father of lies does is put his ‘spin’ on a situation. It typically comes as a ‘thought’ or a ‘feeling.’ She doesn’t really love me. He’ll never change. She’s always doing that. (By the way, when the word ‘always’ is a part of the equation, you know you are well on your way into an agreement.)…What Satan is hoping to secure from us is an ‘agreement,’ a very subtle shift in us, where we believe the spin, we go with the feeling, and we accept as reality the deception he is presenting. (It always feels so true.) Just settle for what you’ve got. Don’t risk being hurt again. Once we buy into the lie and make the agreement, we come under the spell and come under the influence of that interpretation of events. Then it pretty much plays itself out; it becomes self-fulfilling. These agreements begin to define the relationship. They certainly color the way we experience one another. It can be devastating to just let this stuff roll on unchecked and unchallenged. Look what happened to Adam and Eve.”
Is this what has been happening in my life? I think so. Though Adam and Eve had no baggage or previous wounds or assumptions coming into their marriage, they still allowed the enemy to creep in and come between them. He convinced them. I know my husband loves me, but lately I haven’t felt it. My thoughts have gotten the best of me and overridden what I know to be true. I am certain that my parents love me, but this estrangement has birthed all kinds of thoughts. True or not, what I need to do is bring these thoughts into captivity, instead of allowing my thoughts to hold me captive. But this is difficult. How can it be done? The Eldredges suggest:
“The first thing we want you to do is recognize what is happening as the enemy presents an agreement, and give it no quarter. Fight it, resist it, and send it packing to the outer reaches of hell. Recognize what is at stake here. The kingdom teeters on the hundred small choices we make every day.
“Now, many of these agreements are already deeply rooted in our lives. Some of them are so historic and familiar we barely even recognize them. So, how do we acknowledge them?”
That’s the tough part, isn’t it? These authors recommend asking God to reveal them to you. Ask, “Lord, what are the agreements I have been making about my marriage?” And then ask him to help you break them. This makes so much sense to me. Especially when I have been blessed with the greatest man I know. I know he loves me, I know he cares for me, and I know he has my best interests at heart. He shows me in a thousand ways every day by working hard to provide for us, by being faithful, by being a good dad. Somehow, lately, I have let thoughts hold me captive and have felt like I am in a prison of loneliness, dwelling on those thoughts. Lord, show me where I have made agreements with the enemy so that I may break them and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.