From time to time, I’ve said on this blog that “I feel messy”. The phrase came about when Leah and I were still dating and were trying to find the right words to describe the sensation we had when something wasn’t right. The closest thing I can ascribe to it, is when you need to find something you haven’t seen in a while, and the whole house is a mess. It’s frustration and confusion and just a whole bevy of negative emotions. Historically, as I’ve used it on the blog, it’s been in reference to various life situations. I’d love to tell which ones, but part of the process of making yourself feel unmessy is figuring out exactly what’s out of order.
If any of the things I can do could ever be superpowers, the one thing I have down pretty well is recognizing when that “messy” feeling has infected my relationship with Leah. It’s pretty much instantaneous. Even when we were first dating, the very moment I said or did something dumb, I was shockingly, keenly, aware of exactly what had just transpired.
I don’t want you to blow the causes of this feeling out of proportion. I would say ninety-nine percent of the time, if not more, it’s because I said or did something thoughtless. Not mean, not angry (although sure, sometimes), but just… Reacting without thinking in the moment. When that moment passes I’m left with an awful feeling in my gut that won’t allow me to think about anything else or do anything productive until I apologize and I know she sees that I mean it.
As you might have guessed, this has happened recently. Earlier today, to be exact. Nothing scandalous, nothing major… She asked me to do something for her that interrupted the schedule I had decided on in my head. (As in, she had no way of knowing I had arbitrarily decided what I’d be doing this evening.) But she knew I had a blog to write tonight! I was busy! I had things to do! I was firm in my convictions and I was righteous. But, mama didn’t raise no fool so I agreed…but I made it pretty clear by the tone of my voice that I wanted to do nothing less.
She had decided that discretion was the better part of valor and chose not to push the issue, so we were still more or less okay at that point. Then I kept talking.
I started making demands of things she needed to do so that the one job she asked me to do required as little effort on my part as possible. And that was when she let me have it, “Parenthood” style. Instead of responding in kind, instead of allowing the situation to escalate, she provided an answer that so completely defused my dumb frustration that it yanked me out of the warm spotlight of my own self-centeredness and into the cold light of reality.
She said, “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. I’ll do it. Work on your blog, take all the time you need.”
That was the moment I saw exactly how I had been behaving, and realized that I had totally missed the mark. I began apologizing profusely and offering with sincere intent to do the thing she asked me to, (Like I should have been willing to do from the beginning) but she assured me it was fine.
So why am I telling you this? Why provide you with this little glimpse into our life of domestic bliss? Because, as I pondered on all of this today, I realized that my relationship with Leah mirrors my relationship with God.
I’ve never blatantly come out and said this on the blog before, but my understanding of sin and forgiveness and being right with God has undergone a major transformation in recent years. Growing up, I was given the typical Evangelical line… Sin is bad, if you sin it makes God angry/upset/sad so don’t and he’ll be really nice or do and he’ll beat you to death. It’s a rigid formula… If this, then that.
As a kid, I rode the cycle many of us are familiar with… Pray and Read your Bible. Do good. Sin, feel guilty. Fall into hopelessness. Binge-sin. Snap out of it, ask for forgiveness, vow to do better. Pray, and Read your Bible. Do good. Sin… on and on and on it went. That was what my relationship with God consisted of.
This may not be canon, but… I think God knows we’re all going to screw up. I don’t think our sin surprises him. So what if the problem isn’t the sin, but rather the break down in communication it causes between us and God? I’m not sure that God’s intent was to force humanity to feel guilty for being humans all the time.
If you read the blog at all regularly, you’ve probably seen the word “Shalom” pop up a few times. It’s an old word that means “The way God intended it to be”. These days, I find myself wondering what I can do to make my life look more the way God intended it to, rather than worrying about the dumb thing I just did.
My understanding of God mirrors my understanding of Leah. I do my very best every day to be the best husband I can. But when I screw up, I know that she’s not going to leave me. I know that she’s not going to stab me in my sleep or even weep or yell. We’ll talk about it. Then we’ll hug and forget that it happened but remember the lesson. Then we move forward, headlong into new adventures.