My husband eloquently shared with me last week that I can be “hard to deal with, sometimes.” I opened my mouth to respond with a sassy rebuttal, catching my tongue in mid-air and placing it back inside my closed mouth.
If anyone can speak bluntly to me and I relinquish defensive rights, it’s my husband. God gifted me a love and patient endurance for that man straight from heaven. I’m grateful I can to listen to harsh truth from him when he occasionally fills my ears with it, instead of the usual compliments, praises, and encouragements. Wise marriage advisors encourage for every negative comment you make towards your spouse, to make at least seven positive, affirming ones, first. Because my husband practices this with me, I can hold my tongue and let out a sigh of semi-humble acknowledgement at this point in my journey, instead of providing more evidence for his point. I, and I’m sure he, praise the Lord for this.
The truth is my husband and I haven’t lived together for almost 14 months, excluding one month last fall. We stopped living together around the time I started discipleship counseling and began surrounding myself with wise advice. Along with this came boundaries, tough love, and separation for everyone’s well-being. God’s grace stepped in and made ways for each of our family members to begin healing, learning, and growing, day by day, month by month. In these difficult months, my own growth and the growth of my husband, have become more and more obvious. However, he isn’t aware of the personal strides I’ve made in the arena of becoming softer, sweeter, and gentler since we last shared a home. His comment reflects an outdated version of myself, to a degree.
I praise the Lord for that! I don’t fault him for not knowing that degree of truth yet, either. When God places us in one household again, we will start functionally experiencing, enjoying, and living out our growth, as we navigate that season. We will undoubtedly be required to continue pressing into the Holy Spirit to invite greater spiritual, emotional, and relational blessing.
I struggled most of my life with feeling defensive, combative, and guarded. I was cynical and resentful. I kept my vulnerable parts locked away so nobody could prey on them. Eventually, I turned cold and mastered a poker face in emotional situations with everyone around me. The love of God began chipping away the layers of ice covering my heart the past year. Realizing I was a child of God gave me a second chance to consider myself as the vulnerable, innocent, precious creation that I am. I had the opportunity to rewrite who I was through the lenses of a Heavenly Father who showed me I was worth dying for, calling me “chosen, redeemed, set apart, fearfully and wonderfully made, blessed, and beloved.” The word of God came alive each time I read it, and I knew I had a Father in heaven who truly valued me, noticed me, listened to EVERY word I spoke or prayed, and deeply desired closeness with me!
My self-esteem grew with every ice chip broken off my heart. God gave me a heart of flesh, not of stone (Ezk. 35:26) and told me to “Get a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezk. 31) as I grew more and more in His love, wisdom, and grace. God doesn’t delight in death or misery, and He commanded me to “Turn and live!” (Ezk. 18:32) so that I didn’t live caged up any longer. He wanted liberty for my future, my marriage, and my children.
He gave me the “icebreaker” of loving my husband and daughter to propel me into loving another enough to die to myself. God uses humility and self-sacrifice as pathways to bring two people closer together. God replaces our stony hearts graciously, with hearts willing to yield to another, instead of struggling to maintain the upper hand. He removes the sass, argumentative demeanor, witty comebacks, and sarcastic callouses to reveal deep, tender emotions that when shared, result in intimacy with ourselves, our Creator, and our loved ones.
The enemy loses the hold on us that deceives us into believing we are unworthy of genuine connection and therefore must navigate relationships in a way that shows we are always thinking one step ahead, never caught with our hearts on our sleeves. We can become softer, sweeter, and gentler, allowing vulnerable emotions to be something we invite into our relationships, not something we try feverishly to deny. Authentic connection with ourselves, our God, and our families will not take place when we are buried beneath layers of icy resistance.
When we become humble, surrendered, and quick to listen, we become more like Jesus Christ. We make our Daddy smile. We lighten up in our souls; we relax a little in our hardcore approach to the world around us. We let the light shine in a little more. We find reason to smile, instead of sneer. We find reasons to believe instead of doubt. We look at the truth of God in His Word, and stand on it, even before we see it come to pass in the land of the living, instead of wagging it in God’s face, declaring His in-genuineness.
Inner peace, a calm spirit, and a soft demeanor are all possible, even for the most damaged of humanity. Are you allowing God to shine His light in and through you, today, child? Your family, your community, and your world is waiting.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”