Who is going to blink first?
I have seen it a lot (unfortunately). Marriage is hard......REALLY HARD. Whether it was my own marriage, my parent's marriage, siblings' marriages, friends' marriages or marriages being worked on in the therapeutic setting, someone always has to blink first. Why is this so hard? What keeps someone from laying down their sword, dying to self, in order to begin the process of reconciliation, redemption and healing in their marriage?
I'm not exactly sure I have the answer(s). One obvious reason is pride, always thinking I'm right and they are wrong and they should just wake up and see that!!! One of my favorite questions to ask when I hear that is "Is that actually working?" And I don't mean that flippantly, sarcastically or judgmentally. Seriously, DOES THAT ACTUALLY WORK? What happens when both people in the relationship are operating out of that space? Hurt, rejection, more hurt, criticism, even more hurt, yelling/screaming/degradation, more and more hurt, and the perpetual circle of hurt and distance continues. Pride doesn't work. Pride makes me stare, not blink. Not blinking to my pride perpetuates my need for being right over my need to love and to be in a healthy relationship.
Another reason someone might not blink in a relationship is because they have been burned either way too many times in the past, or bad enough once that they refuse to get hurt like that again. This is more understandable, yet unseen many times by the person it has happened to. I know I form many of my current thoughts and feelings out of my experiences from the past. I make judgments about people, without actually having any data to go along with it, based on people/situations that have hurt me before. Many times I do not see that I am doing this, but my past informs me of my present and, if I allow it, even my future, as well as influences my decision making in the present without me even knowing it. I SHOULD learn from past experiences. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me". That saying is forever burned in my memory. I need others in my life who know me and who I allow to speak the truth into my life (regardless of whether or not I want to hear it), so I can better see the spaces out of which I make decisions. I cannot (and should not) do this alone. I have to submit my relationships, marriage especially (if I were in one), to those I trust so I can make informed decisions and clear the fog of past experiences out of my head before I speak or act. That would be honoring of my past and present. That would honor the marriage.
I heard it said once, by a really good friend of mine that I do life with and trust implicitly, that "being in relationship is a dangerously beautiful and scary thing". He said "it is all about submission". Think of it like this. You and I both have a shield and sword. The shield represents all the ways I self-preserve, the healthy and unhealthy ways I protect myself from allowing anyone to hurt me. My sword represents all my crap. All the things and decisions in my life from the past that could hurt me if they were ever known. The things that if ANYONE knew about me, they might reject me, or try to ruin me, or even kill me. Being in relationship, healthy relationship, a healthy marriage, is me getting on my knees, looking up to, and handing her my shield, all my defenses, making myself truly vulnerable to her. Likewise, I need her to also hand me her sword, all the things she could use if she wanted to, to end me, hurt me, ruin me, kill me. Then and only then can the relationship even begin to become safe. When both people in the relationship are WILLING to take that posture of getting on their knees, and giving the other their shield and sword, then true intimacy and trust can be cultivated into something that I believe was intended by God since Adam and Eve.
I have failed miserably over the course of my life in this area. I have been prideful, I have used past experiences to hinder me in relationships, sometimes knowing exactly what I was doing, sometimes not. I have been stubborn, refusing to give up my shield and/or sword. I have been a testament as to what NOT to do. I don't say this in a self-deprecating way, I say it as a reminder to myself that if I ever want what God intended for a man to have with a woman in a marriage, then I need to remember the posture of getting on my knees and relinquishing my defenses and weapons to the other. I have to risk. I have to submit (a word most men DESPISE, myself included).
Another great and trusted friend said that "Marriage is dying to yourself on a daily basis." Gee, that sounds fun!! Sign me up for that!!! That scares the you know what out of me, because it's true. If someone wants to get everything that is good out of the relationship, then this must be done on some level throughout the marriage. If they don't, then they will keep their shield held tight, their sword sharp and they will start swinging it wildly. They are going need it, but only for a little while because their relationship will not last, nor will it be fulfilling on any level.
It just hit me, that I have to do this (submit in this same way) with God too. I even try to withhold these from God! And the ridiculous part is that He knows my failures and my pride, so He is holding my sword already! He already knows how to penetrate my shield, so why hold on so tight to it????? What good does it do me to even pretend that they are going to work? They just become a heavy burden that weighs me down more than being defenses that protect me. Why is it any different in marriages?
When one or both people refuse to blink, then where is the faith, trust and hope that there is something better waiting for them in the relationship? Healthy marriages, at least the few I have seen, look like two people who are both on their knees in submission to each other. Not a master/slave type of submission, but a submission of "I love you more than I love being right/prideful/protective of myself/etc."
Men, we are called to love a wife like Christ loved the church. We have to be WILLING to lay our life down for her. We have been commanded to love her in this way. I would contend that being WILLING to die for her means not only being willing to step in front of a bus for her, but being willing to die to yourself/your control issues/your pride/your need to be right/what you think you deserve, and the list goes on and on.
Love her well.