I learned so many lessons from being married for thirty-seven years to Hank Adams and raising our daughter and twin sons. By far the biggest lesson I learned was to not take anything personally. Early in our marriage, when Hank was mad at me, I took it personally. It was my fault; he was angry at who I was. That was the lens through which I saw everything. Whatever made anyone else mad at me was all about me. But over the years, as I got to know and to love Hank better and better, I began to realize that when he was angry—I might have triggered his anger or pushed one of his buttons, but that it wasn’t about me so much as about him and some distant issue from his childhood that had jumped into the present. It wasn’t about me at all! What a relief! It really wasn’t my fault!
And he learned the same thing about me. It wasn’t his fault if I was angry; he had just managed to push my old buttons again. I began to be able to predict exactly how he would respond in a given situation and then sit back and watch it unfold, and smiling, enjoying knowing him so well that I was right. This ability to see beyond the upset and not feel blamed really changed our relationship. We no longer dueled over our buttons being pushed. They weren’t even relevant to our relationship any more. A new kind of peace descended on our household.
And you might imagine the spill-over to the rest of my life: I no longer take anything personally. I just see the person who is angry at me as triggered, but I am not responsible. One of the greatest challenges of this new knowledge about myself—that I am not the bad guy, has been to apply this lesson to all that life sends me, all that God asks of me. What I am able to see now that I couldn’t see before is this: I am not being punished by what happens to me. Lately, I’ve gone through four months of not knowing what I am to do with myself, once I had finished the book about the poor and needy. Or I am not being punished by the sore foot that I’ve had for the last few weeks. Both of these issues have been necessary to my growth, even if it isn’t yet clear to me why or what the lesson is that I am to learn from them.
With the rough waters last summer of not seeing a new direction for my life I have to admit that I was experiencing a lot of sadness with what seem like early childhood issues. I felt that God was reaming out some old, old stuff especially the self-doubt that was laid on me by my childhood church, a hell-fire-and-damnation one. Or issues I have had with my mother. Finally, one Saturday in September I heard clearly that the poor and needy book was to be incorporated into a book about whether we are believers in Jesus or followers of Him. It was with great joy that I received this direction from God. I love being productive and energized by a book like this to be written. I organize my whole life around it. Even the most mundane chores of research and the many edits get done because I am dedicated to the task.
As to the foot problems, I got to thinking about feet having do with the ground I stand on. And for me, I think I was still depending too much on my own abilities—it’s all about me!—than on God. And I got a nod from Him that this was true. So I set an intention with God to look only to Him for direction. It’s just the next step in my journey of transformation to living in Christ’s mind, not a punishment for what I did or who I am. And finally, I was able to see that my new shoes were part of the problem, too!
Can you see how this lesson in my marriage has spilled over into the rest of my life, especially into my relationship with God? It is so freeing not to be the center of every problem, to see whatever happens to me as something I need to go through, to not taking anything personally. I no longer need to carry these burdens. Amen! Whether my foot is healed or not is not the issue. It is how I deal with it that matters. In whatever happens I’ll be looking for what I am to do about this, what I am to learn and to being in God’s will, no matter what.
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I learned this lesson about myself? Have I been able to see that I am not “the problem?” Am I able to see what is real and true about me and embrace all that has happened to me in my life? Or do I expect punishment and abuse for who I am and what I have done? Can I accept God’s love and forgiveness as absolutely true for me? Am I able to learn from what has happened to me? Can I love all that I am? (just pick the ones that resonate for you in some way.)
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can see the truth about ourselves, who no longer expect to be punished or berated for who we are or what we have done. May we take in God’s love and forgiveness and adopt them as our own way of relating to ourselves. May we be whole and complete people in Christ!
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I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, but if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.