Learning

Over on Unsolicited Advice I've started a series of posts on religion. Specifically (so far) having a personal theology and sin. If I'm moving too slow, or even if you want a better discussion, I highly recommend Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It has to be one of the best books written on the subject of Christianity. It is basically Lewis taking a philosophical look at Christianity, religion and morals through the thoughts of this brilliant atheist turned brilliant Christian. The friend who he gives credit for showing him the light was none other than a fellow writer, J.R.R. Tolkein.

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my story, and to shed some light on my journey which up until now has been fairly solitary. I'm glad you are here, whoever you are.

As a HL person married to someone with a definite LL, I have learned a thing or two about relationships, rejection and disappointment. Arwyn has taught me quite a lot that I could not have learned with anyone else in any other way. Namely, I have come to a greater understanding of God. In the book of Hosea, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Hosea loves Gomer deeply, despite the fact that she bears two children that are not his, and leaves him for another lover. Through it all, Hosea continues to love Gomer until years later, she is standing on the auction block, her beauty and youth spent. He redeems her and loves her. Only now does she realize what it is she had. This is meant to symbolize the love that God has for us. Ever faithful, ever hopeful, ever persistent.

And so it is, that I've had to live just a bit in this manner although it was largely my doing that things have turned out the way that they have. I have been forced to hope, to hang on and stay with it. Not forced, so much as I have chosen to do this. Despite evil and heathen ways, God still hangs with us. He still reaches out to us. He could burn us all to cinders, but He wants us to love Him. He wants none to perish. But if folks are going to jump over the proverbial cliff like lemmings, He isn't going to use force to stop us either.

Several folks have all but suggested some sort of ultimatum, or leaving or giving up. The temptation to do so has been almost overwhelming at times. Others have suggested that I must like to be treated indifferently, since I seem to be tolerating it or don't seem to do much about it. Others grouse about my passive-aggressive ways. And most admit that they don't understand how anyone who professes to love another acts in this manner towards them. But in the spiritual sense, we do it all the time. Those who profess to be religious betray their religion, turn their backs on God and otherwise violate fundamental tenets of loving behavior all the time.

When Arwyn rejects my overtures, choosing to make other things greater priorities, that is akin to what we do to God all the time. There's a lot of you who read me that may profess to be Christians of one sort or another, and yet have not darkened the doors of a church in a long time. I don't care what excuses you offer, those are excuses. You have other priorities. Just like Arwyn chooses the children above me on a consistent basis, so it is that you all have worthy obligations and causes which crowd out time with God. It's true for me, too. There are other things I choose to do with whatever spare and free time that I have rather than reading the Bible or praying. Reading the Bible, you can see that God feels much the same way. He gets angry, He gets indignant, He feels the neglect and is offended. And hurt. I believe God is hurt by the way we treat Him, especially those of us who might claim to love him. Those of us who have professed faith in Him. We are made in God's image, and feeling sad and hurt are part and parcel to the love and anger that gets attributed to God. God can get jealous as well, even though He is the only proper God. Ever been jealous of a television, a computer, a sport or another activitity that takes over your partner's life? God feels the same way!

So when I reach out to Arwyn and she doesn't even see it, I get a much clearer picture of how God might feel about how we are acting. I also get a greater idea of the attempts God does make to reach out to us. If God raised His true voice at us, like a parent often does to an unruly child, it would either frighten us or make us even more rebellious. Which it often does anyway, even without hearing a voice louder than thunder. Ever been exposed in the middle of a thunderstorm? It is a terrifying, frightening experience knowing that a body could get zapped at any second and there really isn't a thing we could do about it.

Don't think that I haven't shaken my fist at the sky more than once and gotten angry at God. Oh, but I have. But at least we're communicating. At least when I'm shouting at the Almighty, I'm making some attempt to get my point across. Although I'd profit more if I listened and let God do the talking.

By far, the biggest obstacle to a meaningful relationship with either God or Arwyn is my own pride. That is a life long struggle for me to overcome the destructive mindset that everyone should toe whatever line I might happen to draw in the dirt. When it doesn't happen, I get indignant and angry. It frustrates me and depresses me. Clearly, the belief that things would run better if I were in charge of the universe is a false one. The belief that I should get whatever I want, whenever I want is a false one. I would not be better off. It is my irrational and false beliefs which leads to feelings which are self-destructive.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “Faith comes from hearing.” This is true, for good or ill. If my own inner voice says a thing long enough, I'm eventually going to believe it as truth. If I say that I am persecuted long enough, it becomes true. If I say that I am being neglected and abused long enough, it doesn't even matter how much of that statement is grounded in reality, I'm going to react as if it is true. I have cultivated some powerfully negative thoughts and beliefs about Arwyn, and she has done the same about me. We both act and react defensively because we perceive that the other is on the attack or has less than the others best interest at heart. Is it true? Can I know with 100% certainty that this is true? How does the thought that Arwyn is attacking me make me feel? Is the reverse, “Arwyn is NOT attacking me” or “I am attacking me” equally valid and true? This is how the rational emotive behavior therapy known as The Work can clarify things.

When discussing my personal theology and sin, the concept of redemption eventually has to come into it. A body can not simply remain in such a state of emotional limbo and be happy or productive. And I think this is where suffering comes in. Suffering seems to be the only vehicle through which pride can be wrung from us. I have a lot of pride of the destructive sort. If I am too prideful and unwilling to grab hold of the grace that God offers, the alternative seems to be attaching myself to be suffering through circumstances mostly of my own making. Jesus came into the world as a baby, which is what Christians around the world are celebrating during this season. He preached, taught, performed miracles and healed people. But that is not why He came. He came to take on our sins (mostly pride) and suffer for us. I'm still trying to get my mind wrapped around that concept. God came down here, on our little mudball called Earth, to become one of us and suffer for us. It is a concept most people struggle with. It seems very hard to understand how someone else's suffering can save us.

Again, Arwyn helps provide an object lesson. In many ways and certainly in a less holy or righteous sense, whatever legitimate suffering I have had to do is for the sake of the marriage and the relationship. Do I like it? No. I do get tired of it and vent my frustration here, to all of you. Maybe I should issue an ultimatum. Maybe I should smite her through divorce and separation. Maybe I should just leave. Maybe I should withhold affection and attention and find someone more worthy of my time and attention. Maybe I should give up. But I have developed a rudimentary understanding of God's faithfulness in my own case and have chosen to extend a small bit of that grace towards Arwyn. It isn't a lot. But it is something. In some ways the grace given to me and I try to extend to Arwyn are joined together. If I give up on her, will God give up on me? How much more deserving of abandonment am I, than Arwyn? Arwyn is not perfect, and I so much less so. God extends His grace to both of us. He suffered for both of us. He offers forgiveness for both of us. It would be unloving and uncharitable to accept such forgiveness without at least trying to extend that towards the person I vowed to love before God and everybody.

D.

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6 Responses to Learning

  1. FTN says:

    That’s the best post I’ve seen in quite some time. Now I feel like I need to be a lot more understanding of my wife, too.

    There are, of course, plenty of instances in the Bible where followers “shake their fists” at God. Many times in Psalms, David was crying out to God. And generally, by the end of a chapter, he had come to an understanding that all of the time he had been in need, God had been there with him through it all.

    Sometimes God can use drastic measures to get our attention. Sometimes he has to, or we just don’t pay attention at all.

  2. O272 says:

    Despite our differences on religion, I think it’s incredible that you’re sticking it out with your wife. I may not believe in God, but I do believe in marriage. I would do everything humanly possible to save my own marriage and would never give anyone any other advice.

  3. ArtfulDodger says:

    well said dig, well said. we could all learn alot from what you have to say.

  4. aphron says:

    God is big enough to have a fist shaken at him. He only gives us as much as we can handle. Unfortunately, we are living in a fallen world and must bear the pain of living in it. I have no doubt that your faith has kept you with Arwyn more than children or any vow. Without that faith, a vow is worthless. By keeping your eyes on Him and maintaining the course of your faith journey, you will have your prayers answered. God may answer them in a way different than what you expect.

  5. Square1 says:

    D. it was never my intention to imply you should give her an ultimatum… however there are times that though we are indifferent towards God… that he does allow things to happen that come as a bit of a wake up call… a face to face confrontation so to speak. For each of us the sort of a divine confrontation or intervention happens a bit differently. Some choose to face it, some choose to dismiss it. But throughout the Bible God is a very confrontational God. He has a tendency to stick the truth right under people’s noses. Jesus tended to shove it in the scribes and pharisees faces on a constant basis. no I don’t believe you should leave Arwyn. Ultimatums are useless unless you have the conviction to follow through on them… however confronting the problem is in order. Sometimes it needs to be done so in an act of contrition with humility… sometimes it requires having the voice to say that what is happening is unfair and unjust and must stop. Finding the balance between the two is not easy… especially when complicated by pride.
    God extends grace and forgiveness, but he also warns us that grace and forgiveness does not negate the consequences of our choices. We inevitably reap what we sow, despite how repentant we may be. You’re sowing a lot of good into your marriage… but there is one bad seed that’s spreading through your crops like a huge weed… and it’s called avoidance.

  6. Mia says:

    Near the bottom of your post, you pose the question “If I give up on her, will God give up on me?”

    Call me “Satan #2” or whatnot, but wouldn’t God want you to be happy? You’ve stood by her this entire time. You haven’t cheated on her. You don’t beat her. You don’t harass her. You don’t talk down to her. You don’t blackmail your wife. My opinion from reading your blog is that you are a decent, good man.

    Did you get that? You’re a GOOD MAN.

    Now, I am not a religious person – I’m more spiritual, but that’s besides the point. I’m having a difficult time understanding why you posed that question. If your God wanted you to be happy, and if he truly loved you, don’t you think that he would still love you if you ended your marriage because you are BOTH unhappy?

    I’m really proud of you for sticking with your faith throughout this whole thing, but I’d hate for you to still be in this same boat in 1 year, 5 years – even 10 to 20 years. If things stayed exactly the same, would you still stay with her and pin it on your faith?

    (My comment is not meant to be rude or sarcastic at all, btw. My comments and questions are completely genuine.)

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