Saturday, June 24, 2017

Breaking the Bad

I've been married for just a little over sixteen years now, and the longer I am married, the longer Joey and I have chosen to stick it out through the hard, the ugly, and the dirty of each other, the more in love with him I fall.

I have a theory that in every relationship there is one person that is better at it than the other because I think God puts us together that way.  Because every relationship goes through what Joey and I like to refer to as the downward, spiraling cycle. If you've been in any kind of relationship for any amount of time, you probably know what I'm referring to--those times when you're hurting and they're hurting, or you're both frustrated, disappointed, angry at life for whatever reasons, could be simple reasons like you both just had a long, hard frustrating day.

It's in these negative, downward spiraling cycles that we often lash out at the people closest to us. We look to them for strength or comfort or help, and since they're in the same place as you, they have nothing to offer either.  It's in this spin cycle that marriages, I believe, begin to crack, separate, and eventually break and disintegrate when the dust settles. Because these cycles start small, but can spin for days, weeks, months, years, growing in size and intensity, until someone finds a way to be the better person, the bigger person, the more humble, Christ-like person and do something to break the bad cycle.

My husband always finds a way to do this.  He can be just as tired, just as disappointed, just as irritated as me because of our life circumstances. So we start to jab and barb at each other.  Small looks, silly comments, silent treatments, ignoring actions and holding our tongues, when all the while the pressure is building underneath.  Someone is going to blow.  It's usually me.

But if one of us can remember Jesus, can humble ourselves enough for just a few moments to breath peace, to remember our war is not against each other, to offer an olive branch in a small or grand gesture, I'm always amazed at how the storm cycle brewing, suddenly vanishes.

We had a horrendous day yesterday of travel. Long flights dotted with the irritability of constant technology malfunctions, delays experienced in the terminal and sitting on the runway, disappointed, tired children, time zone jacking with your eating schedules, Joey losing his beach hat, and just a long list of tiny, irritating, life things that can happen when you travel coast to coast with two children.

Add in the stress I've put myself under all week just trying to pack our family for this week long vacation while making sure the kids are enjoying their mom and their summer, and Joey trying to rap up loose ends at work during a very busy planning season, our spin cycle was already churning before the irritating day of travel began yesterday.

But somehow, my husband wakes up this morning, and it's a new day for him. He's managed to forgive me for all my tongue-in-cheek comments and saucy attitudes (which he had his fair share of contributing, but maybe not as much as myself), and he takes our two restless kids to grocery shop at Walmart for our vacation while I sit here in a quiet hotel room and marvel at how I ended up with a man that is SO good to me, which ultimately brings me back to the thought that I have a man who loves Jesus more than he loves me. Somehow, Joey is better at humbling himself and letting go of his pride and righ- to-be-right than I am.  He's able to brush things off his shoulders and not take them personally WAY better than I am.

And there's one part of me that wants to feel shame over this. Guilt knocks on my heart and begs to enter and play the poor-terrible-me tune.  Jesus shuts the door on that and reminds me there is no condemnation allowed in my relationship with Him. He forgives me, but He does want me to get a grip and fall in line with my fine husband's example, with Jesus' example, of forgive and live and love anyway. His mercies are new every morning.

And so I'll take the gift that Joey and Jesus have offered--this silent, clean hotel room, and I'll give credit where credit is due. I'll be grateful, deeply grateful for a man of God who loves Jesus first, me second, and our children third.  Be grateful for a husband who shoulders the hard work of stepping in and stepping up when my emotions and state-of-mind have got the better of me.  Be thankful that he's capable and willing to take both my kids to the grocery store AND do the shopping for me. 

He's very good at breaking the bad cycle in our marriage, but I'm also very aware of what it costs him to do so. Jesus is excellent at breaking the bad cycles in my life, and in these moments I'm keenly aware of what it cost Him to do so as well.

So I'll be grateful, deeply grateful that my Jesus makes Himself known to me in my marriage through my husband's humble sacrifices of self.  Be grateful for a God who shouldered the hard work of the cross, who stepped in and stepped up when my useless works and bad attitudes and sins were getting the better of me. Be thankful that my Jesus is more than capable of renewing and refreshing my heart and attitude if I will just take the time to let Him.

Joey will undoubtedly be back soon. Kids excited, ready to see their cousins, sun shining and all of us ready to feel warm Florida waves running between our toes. But my husband's willingness to sacrificially, love me, even in this small way--And I KNOW it was a sacrifice for him too, I know he's tired too--now makes my hard, defensive, exterior toward life soften. It makes my bad, selfish, what-about-me attitude dissipate.  His one act of selflessness helps me move past me. It makes me want to be selfless for him in return.

So the question always is, in any relationship, who gives first? Who's going to reset the spin cycle by choosing to be selfless enough to do the hard work of loving the other person even when they don't deserve to be loved? Even when you're not guaranteed to get anything in return? The person who humbles themself first, to the world, appears to be the weak one, the one who always accommodates, gives in, gives up, at least those are the lies I battle when I know I should break the cycle first.  So it's pride that really keeps my back turned most of the time. Pride that insists on "winning" this fight, this argument, this situation. Pride that requires an apology, an admittance of wrong before I will consider softening, letting my guard down, serving, loving the offender.

Yet every time, after the fact, I know it's the one who humbles themself to "lose" the argument or do something to soften and show compassion in the middle of the situation, who gives undeserved grace when every bone in your body is screaming you don't want to--I know that person is the real winner because they are more Christ-like, and they are showing true love.

Sigh. Why can't I be that person more often? I pray to be that person. I think God's grown me in this area with others outside my family, but it's hard work treating those closest to you with this same grace.  We expect so much from the ones who know us best, when really, they're just sinful humans like the rest of the world we somehow so easily forgive at times.

"Lord, thank you for my marriage. Thank you that it truly is the deepest and best picture of how You love us. Thank you for a husband who loves me well, who humbles himself to bear the weight of hard choices and hard situations, who breaks the bad cycles in our marriage with his servant's heart. Teach me to be more humble. I know that real love expects nothing in return, ever. Teach me to really love him, Lord. Forgive me for my hard, entitled heart. No one owes me anything, Lord, but I owe everything to You."

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