I was at a friend’s house last week and just as I was about to leave, I asked her to pray for me. To pray for Stephen and his healing, to pray for Shep and his tiny baby heart being protected and feeling loved, and for me. For me, just all of me.
My sweet friend, of course, said yes. And she told me she just wanted to cry for me. Like she felt the weight of my life right now, the heaviness in my heart, and out of a deep empathy, wanted to cry for me. Well, that was it, her saying that. That lifted the thin wall serving as a damn between my emotions, the reality of all the last month has been, and the outside world (self included). And there, in her kitchen while she held my sleeping baby, I ugly cried and she prayed.
A few days later we had some other friends over to grill and swim and hang out. I was in the kitchen cleaning up from dinner and Stephen was changing Shep on the couch. It had been a long day that was part of a long week in a too long month. Stephen did something I viewed as being ‘too rough’ with Shep and I snapped. I was mean and condescending and didn’t care that my friend was in the house too, listening.
Stephen immediately was hurt and angry, Shepherd wasn’t being put to sleep fast enough so he started to scream, and all the while my friend was watching. She took Shep back outside so Stephen and I could work it out.
Fast forward to yesterday. The details are of no value or importance. I just was mean. Again. I snapped. Again. My cheeks flushed red hot and my throat clenched up and tears started to sting behind my eyes. My too mean and too clenched throat shot out hurt and anger and resentment and pain and some things that resembled abandonment.
And it was like watching a rerun of a rerun.
I went upstairs to punish my husband by removing myself from whatever activity we were doing, after commanding him to take care of Shep and plan supper. I laid in bed and stewed.
This is all so valid. So valid. For 17 nights he was in the hospital and I had the baby. And somehow I managed to have clean clothes and keep the house and blog and make sure Shepherd didn’t die. I’m the one who has to mop the floor after an accident. I’m the one who has to pick him up out of a slump, encourage him, make plans with people to keep his spirits up. It’s all me. I even cleaned a house with Shep to help, as if what I’m doing isn’t already enough. This is valid. He doesn’t appreciate me or understand the sacrifices I’ve made for this family. This is all valid.
As this ranting was going on in my head, God gently showed me the fight we just had. And the one a few days ago. And the one a week ago. And then He showed me tomorrow, and another fight. And one a week from now. The same fight. The same words. The same toxic emotions clawing their way to the surface to spit and spew poison on whatever good there is within reach.
But these feelings are all valid, I weakly argue back to the visions.
And then slowly, other pictures and words and feelings crept up and joined me in bed. An image of me lying to Stephen while he cried. A fight outside a friend’s house years ago where I cursed him out. The three, yes three, times I threw my ring at him swearing I wouldn’t marry him. The first couple months of marriage where I picked any fight I could to test him, to see if he’d stay. Words that made him cry. Intentionally choosing to leave in the middle of a fight because I know that kills him. A time when I didn’t tell him the hard truth about something to ‘save’ him and it only ended up breaking both his trust and his heart.
You made a vow, Katie. Lots of vows. And you can choose how to live them out. You can be a victim, wronged and alone and unseen. Or you can move on. More will happen. You will hurt others way more and way harder things will happen. You can pick how to go through it. You can keep having the same fight, again and again, because of some allusion of entitlement, or you can just let it go. You haven’t been in the hospital, but you have demanded much of Stephen. This is it, hospital or not. This is life and marriage, and it’s hard sometimes. But there is always good or I wouldn’t allow it. And I always let you choose how to go through it.
As I was sitting there, looking around at the piles of past fights and old wounds and tip-toeing around God’s words, the garage door opened. Stephen and Shepherd were home. Stephen knew I wanted caprese salad with dinner, so while I pouted and tried to punish him, he shopped.
After the fight my friend witnessed last week, she sent me a text saying that even though things are hard and my heart is tired and patience is stretched thin, she thought I loved well.
Sitting there in my own pile of bitterness and resentment, I sure didn’t feel like I loved well. Knowing that Stephen left the house, not to leave me, but to serve me, well that certainly didn’t make me feel like I loved well.
I hurt him, I was mean to him, and he did something sweet for me while I sat in bed cursing him and coddling my acid feelings.
And then again, it was clear as day. It’s a choice. Yes, things have been hard. Yes, I’ve been working a ton and most of it goes unseen and unnoticed.
But I, and only I, am the one who chooses how to live. I can either sit and look for encouragement to be angry and hurt or I can keep repenting, asking for forgiveness time and time again, doing the laundry and making appointments and planning things and cooking supper and preparing for Thailand and doing everything I can to love my family.
And I can fight alongside my husband, not against him.
And I can ugly cry with friends and ask them to pray for me.
And for when I think I can’t, when I feel like I just can’t and I make the choice to look for anger and dig up bitterness and ammo against the good, then I simply must just go back and make another choice. I must go back, repent and try again.
As easy as it is to make the wrong choice, to give into working out my pain by being mean, it’s just as easy to ask for forgiveness and help and to make a new choice.
Because, as I have learned, more things will happen. Life will never stop until we’re dead. We will hurt and be hurt. Things will happen that we think shouldn’t and we will never have to go looking far for reasons to be hurt or angry or feel unseen and unappreciated. Justification for our lashing out will always be present.
But man, living that way sucks. And living that way, thankfully, is a choice.
Though most days I feel wildly and embarrassingly incapable of living the life I have, this is my life. And I’m learning that there’s more than enough grace for me. For when I just can’t anymore, there’s grace. Grace enough to teach me and gently take my hand and show me the way back.
Sometimes I just can’t. And that’s okay.