Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When the Should Hits the Fan

I've been trying to write a post about this for at least two weeks, and today, with the postal carrier coming soon, and my etsy orders not packed to go, I am really feeling the tension of my Lenten fast from not paying attention. But here goes....

Not every sermon my husband preaches really sinks in for me.  But some of them are so transformative and so powerful, I look back on them as moments that something really changed inside of me. Such was the case a couple of weeks ago. 

Blogging about the real life of a pastor's wife is a little tricky. I don't want to be a reality show. That's not healthy, which is why I hesitate to write about a private conversation...a private conflict between my husband and I. On the other hand, it was a really important moment that I don't want to let myself be oblivious to.

So, for a couple of months, I was really depressed which I've written a little bit about already. Depression makes me want to withdraw and post a sign for the World that reads, "Kindly leave me the hell alone."  Which is really a statement that means, "Please don't have an expectations of me.  Because I'm going to utterly fail you.  And I really can't absorb any more feelings of failure, pain or loss." 

I suppose that is why I found myself pulling away from the people I care about most deeply.  I have a friend whose sole mission in my life is to be someone I can talk to without judgement.  I found myself avoiding her.  And my husband..the one who has most closely journeyed with me through the last couple of months...I found myself holding at arm's length.  Which is one thing my long-suffering husband does not tolerate.  Somehow in a raw conversation, I confessed that though he in no way deserves it, I saw him as the connecting point of all that things that I was grieving and couldn't seem to get over. In short, I wanted to get away from him.  He was no way responsible for any of these things, and yet, he was the very symbol of them. I imagine on a grand scale,  that is the reason they say couples that lose a child have a high divorce rate. You would think they would be drawn together by their loss, but sometimes the spouse is a daily, visual reminder of the pain. 

My husband had every right to be hurt, to respond in anger at me.  He had every right to say that what I was doing to him was unforgivable considering how gentle he has been.  Do you know how exhausting it is to be married to someone who is depressed?  But he did not respond that way.  He sat down on the bed with his back to me and said sadly, "You can't break up with me. But I can give you space. You need a vacation. You need time away.  You need a break. Where do you want to go?  I will make it happen."

That was grace.  Undeserved love and gentleness. A kind, soft answer.  I didn't deserve that.  It broke down something inside of me that had been building for a long time.  He didn't quote Bible verses at me about how I should honor him, or remind me of my duty.  He didn't pray for me to get my act together.  He didn't remind me of what I ought to do and how I ought to act or how I ought to suck up whatever I was feeling because it was wrong because it was hurting him.

The next day, he preached from Romans 6. He talked about how we Christians believe so easily in grace for salvation, but when it comes to everyday life, we really believe that it is law that will change a person.  Read more Bible.  Pray more. Do more.  It's sounds so lame the way I am writing it.  Go to iTunes and listen to the Vintage Fellowship podcast from Romans 6:15 - 23 and hear Robb explain it.  Listen to that sermon knowing that this guy, the night before, after a long, exhausting day, stayed up as long as it took to show grace to his wife. And that it made all the difference for her.  She felt free for the first time in a long time.

I wonder if we miss this opportunity for real change to happen for ourselves and those around us because we are so busy telling people (or ourselves) what they should do or think or feel or believe. "You should read the Bible more. You should exercise. You should study more. You should stop swearing. You should be a better parent. You should be a more a more obedient child. You should handle your money better. You should memorize scripture to fix that sin problem. You should just get over it."

I have a friend that calls this "shoulding on."  Robb didn't "should on" me.  He showed me grace.  He gave me freedom.  It made all the difference.  At that moment, I got free of something that had held me down for weeks.

I'm not talking about enabling people. I'm not talking about bad boundaries. I'm not talking about removing consequences from people's bad choices.  Robb expressed his frustration with me for being distant.  He was honest about how it wasn't working for us.  But his answer for change wasn't to apply the law, but to give grace. To set me free.

I don't know what it would look like for you in your situation.  I don't have all the answers.  I just know that I believe in grace because it made a difference in my marriage in my heart and mind.  It's not the first time, and it won't be the last.

And as for that trip...well...I'm thinking somewhere with a beach....



Boo "shoulds"! Yay grace! Yay Vanessa! (And yay to beaches too!)

Candice said...

Oh the beach is a good one. Or the Redwoods...do I smell a road trip....?

Holly said...

I've been thinking about this ever since you shared it with me. And even though every bit of this is great, all I can really say is this is one of your most clever titles ever :)

Sara said...

I have been very depressed myself for a couple of weeks now. One weekend all I wanted to do was just stay in bed, I didn't want to get up, i didin't want to do anything. That was a really hard weekend because I kept those that I love the most so far from me when I think i really needed them.

During that time I too think my husband had all the right to give me the "You should just......" but instead of saying the shoulds he just said "Dear, what do you need today?" I think i broke down in tears it wasn't the reaction that I deserved or the question that I deserved but his grace to me gave me more strength than any of the shoulds could have. I am so thankful for him.

Grace really can make us take life one step and day at a time.

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