2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
I was exhausted. Fed up. Done.
Wounded, angry, and frustrated.
I had run out of hope.
And I was both fearful and timid, afraid of irreparable damage to our family if I took initiative to break up our marriage.
Finally, about six and a half years ago, I expressed some of this to Dave, after feeling it deeply for at least twice that long. I had been raised to believe that if I had problems, they were my fault, and my own responsibility to fix. Especially when the context was a marriage in which we were both dedicated to caring for other people, not for ourselves.
There were two big issues: caring for Karis intensively for almost thirty years without much support (especially emotional support) from Dave. And secondly, the reason he was not stepping up as a husband even when he did so as a father: his true love, his idolatry of his ministry. I had long since concluded that I couldn’t compete and was no longer going to try. Though Dave taught the “right” order of priorities (marriage and family before ministry), his way of living it did not make me feel valued or loved. He admitted that when he traveled to Pittsburgh from Brazil, his entire focus was Karis. It never crossed his radar that I might have needs. (Yes. I told even myself she was all that mattered.)
I’m writing this today, Valentine’s Day, to publicly give credit to Dave for his response to what I told him six and a half years ago. As passionately as he always did anything, he committed himself to do what he could to save our marriage. I was skeptical, but he was determined. And he followed through, taking our counselor’s direction seriously, giving the time, energy, and attention we needed to repair what had been broken between us for a long time. It was not a simple fix—it took years. During that time Karis died, and I started struggling with PTSD, and what our counselor described as “complex grief.” No, there was nothing simple about our challenges. But Dave stuck it out and saw it through.
We’ve come to recognize clearly our faults and weaknesses, and how they dovetail to create what Dave calls the “perfect storm.” We’ve blown our strategies, made mistakes, fallen on our faces more times than we can count. But now we know what to do next when those things happen. Dave faces into the storm, rather than running away. I gather my courage to say what’s going on with me. We admit our faults and wrongdoing. We are learning what forgiveness means for us. Both of us open our hearts to confess our fear and timidity (yes—that was a big surprise: learning that Dave was fearful and timid too, in relation to me, of all things!) and receive the power, love and self-discipline God offers us.
Our counselor used to say, “Love is offering who you are, and receiving the gift of who the other person is. It requires taking off your masks, even the sweet “Christian” ones you think please God, and telling it like it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because God loves the real, messy us, not what we try to make ourselves into. No pretending!”
This morning, this Valentine’s Day, I woke up feeling grateful to God for this man beside me. A man with many faults, as he would be the first to tell you. Married to a woman with many faults, as I have learned at the expense of my pride over these last six and a half years. But we’ve made the choice to love each other as we are. And we’ve been rewarded by steady growth in God’s grace. It’s humbling. But incredibly freeing. Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart.