Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Breaker of Bridges

I feel like I'm struggling to find my voice lately.  My heart screams contradictory accusations constantly, and it's overwhelming.  But tonight I feel like I owe some brutal honesty to my husband. Honesty about my heart and my failings and my struggles.

I can be really selfish.  Like most people I imagine myself to be benevolent, supportive, encouraging, loving, etc etc.  I feel that those were the things I have always tried to be.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably.  Often I fail miserably.  Eventually my gaze turns from being all of those great things for someone else to my own needs.  The things I believe I "deserve" and am "owed."  I am a largely confident and independent person, so I can go a decent amount of time in "selfless mode" and be ok.  For the most part I am able to meet my own needs, and I try to rely on Jesus to meet them.  But everyone has a breaking point.  Maybe the fault is my own.  Maybe I'm never really vulnerable enough from the get-go so it's easy to forget that I can be... maybe my difficulty lies in expressing my needs or the things I long for.  At least while they are manageable and before they lead to situations where I am bombarding my loved ones with very strongly spoken needs when I can no longer sustain myself without help, without tenderness from another, without someone taking care of me.  Bottled up, pent up, messed up feelings bubble over seemingly out of nowhere.  I'm sure it's overwhelming.

I've come to realize that my self sufficiency isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It's really just crappy pride. It's ok to need someone else and let them know they are needed.  It's not weakness.  But I still struggle with that.  It feels like weakness.

I hate being weak.

The problem is, and here's where it gets really muddy and confusing.  Trust me, I don't even understand myself.  I'm not just saying that...

I long for someone to invite me to be weak.

Confused yet?  Yep.  I imagine that my poor husband was too.

Let me try to break this down.  It's not going to make much sense.  Sorry.

I want to be able to be weak.

But I don't want to say it out loud to anyone.  It feels pathetic and shameful and for whatever reason, my damn pride wouldn't just let me say "I struggle with letting someone else be the strong one.  I feel like it always has to be me.  People tell me I'm "strong" often enough that it feels as if to be anything otherwise would somehow be wrong.  But it's so lonely and tiring to be "strong" all of the time.  All I've ever really wanted was for someone to look me in the eyes and tell me that I could rest with them.  That I could lay some of my burdens down and that they would gladly take them up when they started to feel too heavy.  That they wanted to be strong for me so that I didn't have to be.  Not all of the time.  That I could never be everything to everyone, and that's ok.  That I shouldn't feel that I have to be."

So when he couldn't read my mind, and my damn pride wouldn't let those words flow out of me, and I just got so tired, I retreated into myself.

I wish I hadn't done it.  It was lonely, and it made him feel lonely.  I see it now.  I just couldn't see it then.  Pride has a way of obscuring the truth.  Of making our sins and our brokenness and our weaknesses feel like something we have to hold onto for dear life.

The devil has really perfected that tactic.  Why didn't I see it?  (Now there I go again- that's my pride talking.  I didn't see it because in order to grow and to change and to mature you have to go through the fire.  I wasn't born all knowing?  Nope.  No, self, you were not.  Now stop it.)

I could go on and on and on about all of the ways I hate my pride.  The ways I hate pride in general. You could read for hours and I'm sure I would barely begin to scratch the surface of how awful and isolating and shattering pride is.

Let's look at it this way; if love is a bridge between two people, pride is the wind and the rain and the perpetual heavy-traffic and erosion.  At first it doesn't do structural damage to the bridge.  Maybe it's some cosmetic scratches and dings and dents, but you look at the bridge's supports and you know you're doing ok.  Maybe you patch the pot holes that start to pop up, maybe you just live with them as a consequence of time, a natural occurrence.  It is a bridge, after all.  It's going to get some wear and tear. Eventually you stop calling the engineers to inspect your bridge.  You're confident that this bridge was built to last.  This bridge can hold any weight.  Then one day it can't.  A giant semi barrels over this bridge that has been cracked and weather-beaten and fallen into disrepair, and the middle drops out.  The bridge has split into two, and there are only a few possible outcomes.

1. Both parties lay down their pride and don't engage in the futility of laying blame and rebuild that bridge because it's important.  It does important work.  It's harder to rebuild it than it would have been to do some simple repairs throughout the years, but it can be rebuilt.  And it can be built even stronger than it was before.

2.  One party blames the other for the destruction of the bridge.  They level at the other all of the evidence that they can find about how the offending party should have seen the damage that was being done to the bridge, but didn't.  Or they didn't care enough to fix it.  The party being blamed knows they played a part in the destruction of the bridge, but their pride rises up out of feelings of hurt and fear and confusion and no progress is made.  Impasse.  Again, this doesn't have to mean the total destruction of the bridge, simply that the work becomes two-fold.  The bridge must be repaired, but first so must the parties ability to work together for a positive outcome.

3.  Both parties shore up their pride and scream across the ever-growing divide at the other.  No one takes responsibility.  No one picks up the bricks and the stones in order to repair the bridge.  Instead they hurl them at one another until the expanse between them is so wide that it feels impossible that there was ever a bridge there to begin with.

I'm sure you see that there could be plenty of variations, but in the end it all boils down to pride. Freaking, selfish, pointless, death-blow-delivering pride.

Guys, it really doesn't matter who he is in these scenarios.  I can't control his behavior, and as much as I sometimes think I want to, I don't.  I want to be loved freely.  Forgiven freely.  Reached out to freely.  So all I can do is take responsibility for who I am in these scenarios.  And that has proven to be an incredibly difficult and painful task.  One which I have failed at pretty miserably.

I've attempted some rebuilding.  I really have.  It's what I want.  It's what my heart desires completely.  However, if I'm being honest with myself and all of you, I've done a whole lot of screaming and hurling and closing up.  Trying to overcome intense grief and fear and pain to be the person that quietly begins the process of rebuilding regardless of the actions of the other bested me.  I wish it hadn't, but it did.

So here I am, sitting alone at my desk, thinking about how things could have gone differently if I'd just let go of my pride and decided that doing what had to be done to save my marriage was worth more than my ego.  It's a crappy place to be.  And if you learn anything from me, learn this-

It isn't worth it.  Pride isn't worth it.  It never is, no matter how loudly it screams at you from the dark places of your heart.  Squash it.  Pray for the death of it.  Tell the devil where he can shove his contemptible sin.  Because love is worth everything.  I'm telling you this as someone mourning, deeply, the love she has lost.  Love is worth everything.  Be better than me.  Be more humble and gracious than me.  Maybe it won't solve your problems.  Maybe your bridge won't be repaired either. But at least you won't have to struggle with the regret that comes along with the destruction pride brings.

At least your heart won't harden and require reviving.

Of all the things I regret, of all the things I blame for the destruction of the one thing I held more dear than anything else, no matter how imperfectly, I regret letting pride get the better of me.  It has been a costly lesson.  The price is higher than I ever wanted to pay, and the regrets that will linger because of that will be pretty hard to get over.

Choose love, guys.  More than I did.  Choose humility and empathy and grace.  More than I did.  If all my messy brokenness helps one person find the strength to let Jesus flow through them in weakness and meekness and humility, then at least something good has come out of this.

Choose love.

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