I have a friend who is seeing a marriage counselor because her marriage is hard.
She shared recently with me what she considered a “really small incident” that represents a ton of others. One morning she rose early, made her husband’s lunch for him (usually he made it himself because he leaves really early in the morning and she is usually still asleep) and sat down to read her Bible.
When he was ready to leave for work, she said, “I made lunch for you today.”
He said, “Can you put it in the container so I can carry it?”
She noticed he didn’t thank her and instead sounded irritated.
“Sure, where is it?” she replied.
“On top of the frig,” he answered.
She got up and put his lunch in the carrier and then sat back down.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Zucchini bread, vegetables and manicotti,” she replied.
“Oh,” he said.
A few moments later, he finally said, “Thanks.”
She felt sad. They hadn’t been physically intimate for weeks, and interactions like these were common – you know, the ones where she does something for him, hoping that he’ll be pleased and instead she’s met with criticism or suggestions or questions about how to make it better.
She told me she sat at the table for a long while after he went to work, crying because she felt so lonely, and ashamed at her neediness.
She then said, “It was my own fault.”
I thought, “Huh?” I mean, I know her husband. He works hard, shows up for things with their kids, but he’s a hard guy, not really friendly, generally kind of grumpy.
“My therapist told me that I need to stop expecting my husband to act like anyone but my husband. I keep thinking, hoping, praying, whatever, that he’s going to act differently than he does. That he’s going to act like Carol’s husband or Joann’s. He isn’t going to. He’s not them. He can’t. He is going to be the way he is. I need to stop wanting him to be something he is not. I also should have said something 20 years ago when he first started acting like this, right after we got married. He wasn’t like this at first, and I just put up with it, made excuses for his rude behavior, and now here we are and I feel alone in my marriage,” she said. She also remembered that he never asked her to do this for him – and found out later that he liked making his own lunch. So what she did in an attempt to be loving, was actually having the opposite effect.
Genesis 1:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
When I read that this morning, my friend’s story came to mind. I realized that there was a brief moment in the garden when Adam and Eve were like naked 3 year olds together, oblivious to their nakedness, totally comfortable with each other. Yesterday while doing research with a friend, I read in one of my commentaries that God made man and woman subject to the sin of pride – that it rules over us – and I longed for a marriage for my friend and myself and you where shame had no presence.
Shame is the result of the fall, and pride is the root of all of our sin. Without pride, there is no shame. We often hide our true selves from the people we live with because we are thinking about how they are going to treat us in response and we are dwelling on past hurts. We often fail to have healthy expectations of the sinners we live with. We expect them to behave differently than a sinner. We forget we are also sinners. This is different than being wise in not trusting our emotions – a lack of self-control and wisdom will damage our relationships if we act on our emotions instead of checking them with God. We destroy the intimacy in our marriages even further when we unplug from God, letting our emotions rule us, having thoughts about our hurts and disappointments that we don’t work through with Him. He always has an answer, a suggestion, and will help us deal with our emotions in a healthy, holy way if we will but let Him.
Yes, people should be appreciative and loving toward us, but we cannot control another person’s behavior – and when we do something for them for the response, we are trying to make a purchase, not serve God. Often times we need to recognize that we are dealing with people who are on their own journey, usually in a different place than we are, and while not making excuses for them, do what God wants us to do for them, instead of what WE think we should do. In that, we often will not have our pride attached to an expected response, because we will sense His pleasure with what we have done. We will also not be wrapping our identity up in the responses of other people – another pride/shame based response.
It’s a fine line – often with the outward behavior looking the same, but with the internal confidence that comes from being in alignment with God’s will, and in deep relationship with Him.
I’m not sure I have done a good job communicating this today. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, one that I struggled through for years, and still have issues with, especially when I wander away from God, as we are all prone to do at times.
At any rate, today, I dare you to ask God how pride and shame have crept into your marriage, separating you from the Father and your husband. Dare you to pray for him to reveal these things and change us all.
Love to you,
What do you think? Where are you in the journey?