One of the great lessons I learned in 37 years of marriage was this: when Hank was mad at me, I had triggered some memory in him that caused him to react, but that I was not the source of his anger. Inadvertently I might have pushed his buttons, and on some days, maybe I deliberately pushed them. But that is all I did. He wasn’t mad at me. He was angry at something deep in his past that was unresolved. His anger came from old stuff in his life, early in his childhood which was very painful. Maybe you can imagine how freeing this was after years of arguing back and forth.
When I could see that I was the trigger but not the cause of his anger, I was able to step back from our arguments and not engage with him as I always had. And this knowledge was the first clue that I, too, had old stuff going on that Hank triggered, too, in me, but he was not the cause. I can tell you that after 15 or so years of marriage, our fights changed. It’s very hard to fight when there’s only one of you engaged.
But this is the best part: these revelations in our marriage set the stage for us each to be able to begin to own our old patterns and to begin to undo them. The spill-over for the spiritual life is huge, because we are asked to bring our whole selves to God. But we can’t do that if we’re unconscious of all these old patterns which are driving our behavior. We have to own all that we are and have been, all that was done to us, no fudging about or trying to cover up certain behaviors, no hiding all that we are and hoping God and others don’t see the faults, the areas of shame.
Once we’ve started owning all these guilt- and shame-ridden, anger- and fear-filled memories of things we did or that were done to us at an early age, then we’re really clear about who we are, the totality of who we are. It is a great lesson in humility to claim all that we are. Then we can bring our whole selves before God. God, who has known all about us all along, who has long-since loved and forgiven us, who welcomes us with open arms.
Now, owning all that we are, apologizing for nothing, hiding nothing, we just are who we are. This was the amazing place my husband reached three or four years before he died. He’d say that if others didn’t like him or what he said or didn’t take his advice, it was not about him. So he was clear, free of the constant burden of trying to prove that he belonged. And it helped me in my grief at his passing that he had completely healed his childhood pain. He wasn’t afraid to die; he only wanted to make sure that he had crossed every “t” and dotted every “i“ in trying to heal the cancer before facing death. He was secure in his God and how he would be received.
In the first of the Two Great Commandments Jesus calls us to love God with all of ourselves—heart, mind, soul and strength. And I would add that we’re to bring our whole selves to loving others, too. And to loving ourselves. God wants our maximum potential before him, ready to surrender to the healing and transformation of his Indwelling Spirit, the peeling away of the layers of culture and the world, so that he can bring forward in us our true selves, revealing who we were created by him to be.
And then he has a job for each of us to do in our unique way: to help him bring in the kingdom here on Earth, to make it visible, to make it a viable alternative to the world’s ways. Will you be one of a 1,000 or maybe even 10,000 followers of Jesus Christ who will help him bring in the kingdom here? How many do you think it would take? 10,000 or 100,000? With that many the kingdom of love would surely stand out in this fractured world.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I own who I am? Do I apologize for the mistakes I make, the hurt I cause? Am I at peace with all that I am? Warts and all? Am I able to take that whole self before God in love?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are comfortable with all that we have been and all that has been done to us. May we forgive those who have hurt us. May we forgive ourselves for all that we are. And then may we bring our whole selves before God in love.
Would you be willing to share your story? I am writing a book about the Exodus story being the template that God has left us for going from slavery to the world to the kingdom of God. I am looking for stories right now about what woke you up to God, to a fuller life, to leave the life you had led. It might be an inner call, it might be a dreadful or wonderful change in circumstances. In other words what called you out of “Egypt”? I would only use your initials or a pseudonym and I can’t even guarantee that I would use each one, but I hope to use many to illustrate what I am trying to say.
I have been so gratified by the response this week. If you haven’t yet sent in your story, please don’t hesitate. The stories are so compelling and interesting.
Throughout the writing of this book I’ll be asking for other responses as well. You can leave them in the comments if you’d like or as a message which is private. I know that I will be fascinated by the stories, and if you read my book, I think you will be, too. These are the stories that often don’t get shared and yet they are so inspirational. I’d like to thank you in advance for participating with me in sharing how God inspires us or how he uses even difficult circumstances to get our attention.
Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In faith and love, Pat