Your gentleness has made me great.
Recently, my husband and I have been scouring through our marriage "garden" for weeds. Our marriage is fantastic; we've never argued and any disagreement has developed as an illuminating discussion, not a clash of wills. However, as we've read through Vertical Marriage by Dave and Ann Wilson, we've discovered a few weeds in our garden. They're not full-grown--we were barely aware of them--but we recognize their potential to take over our carefully-cultivated fruitfulness.
In the course of that weeding process, I have become intensely aware of my own selfishness.
It's funny how all of it appears so very benign at first. I really thought I was being a good wife and that my inconveniences to my husband were completely uncontrollable (especially when you're talking about my chronic illness). But deeper soul-searching, prayer, and discussion with Paul led me to realize that, at root, even those uncontrollable things are corrupted with wrong attitudes and motivation.
It was so humbling and--frankly--terrifying. This is how destructive forces begin in marriage, or in any part of life, for that matter: as tiny little seeds that fall unnoticed in fertile soil. At early stages, every seedling looks similar to another, so it's hard to tell a vegetable from a weed. But the wise and careful gardener notices.
And the Gardener of my Soul refuses to let me grow weeds in my heart and in my marriage.
A Husband's Quiet Rebuke
This came home to me recently when my husband asked, "Can I ask you something?"
"You're my husband. You can ask anything."
"Are there times you are afraid of me?"
What in the world?! But I pondered the question and I had to answer truthfully. "Yes."
"Because when I make a mistake, or fail in something, or just don't live up to the expectations I feel you may have for me, I'm afraid you'll be mad at me. You'll yell at me, or make me feel like a failure. Which doesn't make sense. You've always been so kind. You've never raised your voice. You've been so patient, even with my sins. But I'm still afraid."
"How does that affect you?"
"Well, sometimes it just makes me insecure. And sometimes it makes me almost defiant, because I know I shouldn't be afraid of you. Then I purposefully do things to face the fear, but sometimes they're things that don't show the best judgment."
"In other words, you adopt the mentality 'It's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission'?"
Cringing against him, I answered in a small voice, "Yes."
"Dearest," Paul said. "I don't want you to be afraid of me. I don't want your choices motivated by fear. You have my heart. You have my house, my car, my money, and all my possessions. Heck, you have my library! You have a right to all these things, because you are my wife, the prime minister of my kingdom. I know you will make mistakes. But I also know that you will grow. Do not be afraid of me, even when you fail. I still trust your judgment, and I will always love you."
I cried. I cry even writing these words now. He didn't tell me it was okay to be selfish, that I could do whatever I wanted, budget be darned. But he didn't invoke a dictatorial "husband's authority" to revoke my rights and privileges with money, or place me under a cloud of his displeasure until he felt I was sufficiently chastised. He just reminded me of his love and delight in me, and sent me back out into the domestic realm with undiminished support.
A Savior's Open Arms
I have drawn much strength from this passage recently:
No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The words from my Savior are so clear:
"I know your sins. I know your lapses in judgment and your selfishness and your failures. I know those moments when you petulantly defy the standards I have set in place for your own good."
"I faced the same temptations. I walked the same path. I know the counterfeit allure of it, and I know you are weak. I know you will fail. Yet where you fail, I did not. I refused the sin you crave, and in doing so, I became your perfect substitute."
"It is on the basis of this substitution that you can come before my Father's throne. You are a beneficiary of grace--favor that you did not earn--and therefore, you are not simply a purchased slave, but a queen in the household of Heaven. You do not come cringing before your Lord, keeping your distance, but you may stand confidently and come close, because you are always and forever accepted. You always have access to the Lover of your soul, who will help you to become the woman you need to be."
There it is. His gentleness has made me great. He has the right to be angry, but He put that anger on His Son so that He could embrace me. In His gentleness, His mercy, and His acceptance, I am called into greater purpose, greater responsibility, and greater privilege.
I fail, and He pushes me back into the battle.
I defy, and He reminds me that I defy the very love I most desire.
I cringe, and He reminds me that I have the right to be confident.
I am grateful for this love that refuses to let me grow weeds, but comes and gardens in my soul to make me most fruitful and beautiful. In my earthly husband, and in my Heavenly Husband, I find a garden that blossoms with life.
Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.