Thursday, November 10, 2011

Part 1; What marriage has taught me: The strength of my weaknesses

My wife brings out the worst in me. She exposes all my flaws for what they are. More accurately, I have learned to embrace my weaknesses within our marriage. Yesterday was our five year anniversary. The fact that we made it this far is nothing short of a miracle. More than half of our marriage we faced some of the most hellish attacks and trials. In addition to the struggles of blending our family and excess baggage from our previous marriage, we faced and dealt with parental alienation with our children from both of our ex-spouses, custody battles, my bipolar with alcoholism and anorexia along with the progress of my Parkinson's, jail time, hospitalizations and suicide attempts.

The attacks from our ex-spouses brought out the worst in me. Better yet, the weaknesses within me surfaced. The baggage I carried from my previous marriage showed their presence and dominated both my emotions and behaviors. Many times they became too heavy to bear.

Of all the things for a spouse to bring out of us, the last things we want them to be are our weaknesses. They are painful. They are embarrassing. They are our faults and the last things we want exposed let alone face and deal with.

Paul wrote, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base of the world and the despised God has chosen..." 1 Cor. 1:27-28

Today I am able to relate to Paul. He was not afraid to admit and face his weaknesses. As a matter of fact he boasted of them. He embraced them. He knew the true meaning of them.

I've been foolish. I've spent much of my life trying to protect myself. Hiding behind  walls and shutting others out.

I've been bitter and embraced resentment. After all, I've felt the sting of infidelity and abandonment.

I've been despised. My inflictions do not fit the idea of a "normal" person to some. I am too unpredictable and without fault I can hurt you.

I've been weak. I couldn't fend off my attackers, particularly when they outnumbered me. Their punches got the best of me. I seem to succumb to the powers of my emotions giving them the power to dictate every move I make.

I've never recounted any of my misfortunes in hopes of anyone feeling sorry for me. I loathe pity. Quite the contrary, today I rejoice in my weaknesses. We can turn towards one of the opposing poles of how we deal with our weaknesses. Either we try to run and hide attempting to ignore them and look stronger presenting a false identity, or we can acknowledge them and let God use them.

Marriage has forced me to acknowledge and face my weaknesses. Think about it...

Who knows me better than anyone else?

Who has seen me at my absolute worst?

Who knows my darkest secrets?

Who knows my worst character traits?

Who do I want a hug or a touch of the hand from when I'm feeling down?

Who has the greatest power to help me heal from emotional, relational and even spiritual struggles?

Even in the worst of relational times, we long to be understood and accepted by one person--our spouse. It's in our marriage that we should be able to let our guards down. When the chips are down, we want encouragement from one person--our spouse. When we feel the most insecure, we want healing counsel from one person--our spouse. There's just one catch. We have to admit and face our weaknesses.

No wait, there are more catches. Isn't our spouse the one person on Earth we're most likely to argue with than anyone else? Yes. Aren't they the one we may feel the most unsafe with because of times of intense conflict? Yes, again. And isn't our spouse the person with whom we often want to share our darkest secrets with? Sometimes, yes.

Isn't it an irony that the one person we have the most conflict with we crave their attention the most? We need their approval and security. In spite of it, and perhaps even because of those difficulties, our spouse is THE person God has given us to be a helpmate. More than any other person on this planet, my wife has the potential to bring healing to me and my relationship with her.

Marriage is my place to be transparent. A place to put down the heavy weight of any facade. No persona of trying to be more than I am. Within marriage is the opportunity to be fully known, understood and accepted, and these are powerfully healing.

Marriage is my place where I can be vulnerable. Here, with the person who knows me better than anyone else, I can share my worst fears, deepest insecurities and most challenging struggles. It took some time to get here, but here is where I want to be. Where my wife accepts me. Weaknesses and all. Marriage, when functioning as God intended, is the safest place to share your most vulnerable self--and this is powerfully healing.

Marriage is the place I can share my most fragile dreams. Within the safety and security of marriage, I can share my deepest desires. Those embryonic ideas, hopes and wishes, knowing they will be held with the greatest care until they can stand on their own. Dreaming out loud is one of the most powerful antidotes to discouragement and depression.

Marriage is my place I can work on my weakest character traits. Romans 15:1 encourages us to bear one another's weaknesses and there is no better place to do this than in marriage. Our spouse is the one we desire to lean on. Friendships can offer a unique and critical component for healthy living, but marriage is where our faults and personality issues are exposed. No one knows what we need to work on like our spouse, and they are in a unique place to be a powerful instrument of healing for those weaknesses.

Going back to his thoughts on weaknesses, Paul knew the power of viewing weaknesses as strength. They had become vehicles to God's presence. He wrote, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Paul wrote his letters to the churches in early Hellenistic Greek. He never used the term weakness as we use it in modern English today. It's Greek counterpart in English is defined as, the state or quality of being weak; a deficiency or failing, as in a person's character; a flaw or weak point; powerlessness revealed by an inability to act. Its synonyms: frailty, feebleness, decrepitude, vulnerability, cowardliness. I could go on but you get the point. These are not what Paul boasted of.

He spoke of σθνεια which transliterates to astheneia. It's true meaning is, the want of strength; of the body, of the soul; want of strength and capacity, to understand a thing, to do things great and glorious, to restrain corrupt desires, to bear trials and troubles. A far cry from what we think of weakness today.

Weakness is the very epitome of strength. God is unable to use us in our weaknesses if we lack the desire to acknowledge our flaws and seek strength. Without the desire for strength there is no power. He refuses to force Himself upon us if we wallow in self-pity and hide. One of His solutions....our helpmate. The one we have become one with.

Marriage has taught me that my flaws, no matter the depths of them, are my strengths when I let my guards down. I'm not Humpty Dumpty. My broken pieces can be put back together. That out of any brokenness I can receive His power.

God uses my marriage, my wife to fulfill the want of strength to show I am not powerless with her strength.

Look forward to my next post titled. Part 2; What marriage has taught me: My marriage and family are my first ministry

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing! This is beautiful.



Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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