Real and honest relationships are messy. Marriage is at the top of that difficulty list. If you take the chance to be known and get hurt it is easy to build a wall. If you take another chance and get the same result the temptation is to build an impenetrable fortress around your heart. And that is tragic. I see that happening with too many people around me.
Sara Groves is a powerful lyricist with a great voice. That’s a very appealing combo plate. Her song entitled “It’s Me” is amazing. She captures the insecurities, old stories about our past and selfishness that leads to relationship meltdowns. And those moments seem to come out of nowhere.
weather came and caught us off our guard
we were just laughing and feelin’ alright
had such a great time just last night
we walked into a minefield undetected
you took a tone and I took offense
anger replacing all common sense
oh run for you life
all tenderness is gone
in the blink of an eye
all good will has withdrawn
I am sobered by the imagery of the minefield. Hidden among the beautiful flowers and lush grass are deadly relationship mines. A misstep here and you explode my insecurity. Step over there and you detonate all of those old hurts and shame from my past. Step here and you get wounded from the shrapnel of my selfishness. And all it takes is a tone or not meeting a poorly communicated need to blow up all tenderness.
God designed us to travel this journey in community. You mature as a Christian when you trust God and others with what is true about you. That means taking off the masks and shining light in the dark places. That has always been scary for me because I imagine I am uniquely sinful. That others have it more together than me. But as I have begun to trust others with me and they with me I am convinced there are no together people. You find out we are all messed up. That is why we need the daily and moment by moment grace of the Gospel. Sara Groves writes about the sad pattern that most of us follow when we hurt or get hurt.
incomprehensible layers of isolation
now your the man with a heart of stone
making me pay here by being alone
seemingly justified righteous indignation
now I’m the woman who holds all her pain
looking for somebody else to blame
It makes me sad to hear those lyrics because I have been there. My default for too many years to being hurt was isolation and hiddenness. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have read and struggled with words from Paul that says we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Sure. And then I will go win the US Open Golf Tournament. Same chance. But maybe it is not as daunting as we think. I enjoy reading The Message especially for passages I have read dozens if not hundreds of times. It often gives me a fresh perspective. Here is that verse from The Message.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. (Ephesians 5, The Message)
A love marked by giving. Maybe that is possible. A love that extends grace that is unmerited. Just like I received from Christ. A love that refuses to stay hidden even when that feels like the safest place to be. A love that expresses needs as a sign of strength and not weakness. My friend Bill Thrall says that the phrase “I don’t need you is the mantra of the wounded.” I do need my bride’s affirmation and love. I do need friends who know me and still love me. I do need a Savior who patiently molds me without condemnation. Yet I walk through a minefield of lies and past hurts and self-doubt every day. But that is not who I am anymore and I am trusting this truth.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5, NLT)
So when I step on a mine and get wounded I call out to Jesus. “It’s me. Your child. I need you to love me so I can love others out of your amazing love and grace.” With Christ I can summon the courage to be known by others because Jesus knows me and loves me without fail. On that foundation I can build healthy relationships. Ruth Graham said that a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. There is so much truth in that. But first you have to accept and recognize how much you have been forgiven. And live out of what is now true about you..