I turned my face into the pillow and cried...single drops of pain that were unseen and unnoticed by the other occupants of the car—my family.
We were on a road trip to California—a trip that we had all been looking forward to as a way to spend “quality” family time together—time we usually spent at our personal PCs, occasionally interrupting the clicking with a comment or question. Now we were all squashed between pillows and half-empty bags of snack food, counting the hours until the GPS would quit talking and we could investigate our next stopover.
I didn’t talk to my husband about this incident for a few days; the pain had built up and, rather than spew the garbage can of my emotions all over him, I wanted to wait until I was able to sort through the details of what it was that hurt, and why it hurt so much. That made it all the more difficult to pretend that everything was ok.
Once I got some time alone, I was able to identify anger as one emotion I was feeling, but the anger was a big cover-up for the fear that was festering underneath—fear of my husband not loving me anymore that caused the pain that caused the anger that caused me to push him away before he could hurt me even more. It was an old trick—one I had had to use many times in my childhood.
Now I had to choose how to tackle the problem. While my husband wasn’t being the kindest person in the world, my reaction to his body language and words were extreme: I was overbearing in front of the kids, and used cutting sentences to express my displeasure. The usual choice in a woman when she feels afraid is to exercise more control. It doesn’t work.
I decided to go with a technique we had learned at Retrouvaille* years previously:
1. Express the emotion—fear.
2. Give it a color—pale blue, like something losing its color in a store window.
3. Compare it to an animal—a lion cub alone in the African savannah, waiting for its mother to come back and protect it.
4. List the ways I have judged him to be—cold, rude, distant, unfeeling, uncaring, unloving.
5. List the ways I have not helped the situation (oh boy!)—rude, sarcastic, cold, judgmental, controlling, unresponsive.
6. List ways this problem could be fixed—apologize, ask if there was a reason he was treating me so coldly, listen to his response, tell him how it felt, suggest ways to be nice to each other in future.
Put that way, it didn’t seem quite so scary.
When we got home and the kids were zoning in bed, I got to finally express my fears to my husband. I cried, he was sad for me, he told me that he did love me, (which made me cry even more), and I even found out what it was that had made him withdraw from me in the first place—it was based on a comment I had made before the trip. All so petty, so silly; these tiny things had built up into literal tears on my pillow and emotional shut down.
A few weeks after our trip, I signed up for some healing prayer. During the session, I recognized the wall I had used to keep people out and I allowed the Lord to take it down so that he could be my protector instead of my imaginary shield. It feels good.
Despite cringing as I think back to those two weeks, I can also smile—smile because it is only through relationship, communication and prayer that we can grow in all of our roles as women. I can genuinely thank God for bringing up issues in me that needed to be dealt with and for helping me to be brave enough to address them in a loving way. God loves to be our healer. He loves to go deeper and deeper into our scratched, charred hearts and breathe his soothing, verdant life into them. He loves to bring joy to those who mourn.
I’m actually looking forward to the next time my emotions are stirred up, because I know that God is my faithful healer...as long as I am willing, during each instance, to have him mold my heart closer into the shape of his own.
*Retrouvaille is a Christian weekend retreat for marriages in difficulty. To learn more, visit http://www.retrouvaille.org/
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