Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Tag: Dealing with anger in Marriage

The Double Drown

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Phillipians 1:3-10

I’ve been trying to get some writing done. Trying to write out a love story about two young kids who fell in love, threw it all down before they knew what it would cost. Then, she got really, really sick. And I think God gave them an incredible love to survive so much. To be married, still. To survive years that felt like stretched-out midnights. Years they felt forgotten. Years they didn’t know where that God they cast their lots for went. Years when they wondered if He even cared.

I can’t say there aren’t hollow places I’m still finding. Angers and griefs and blank spots that I stifled just to survive. Now, between picking out kitchen cabinets and finishing up this one truly crazy love story, we find ourselves in our bedroom closet screaming at each other. At each other.

Because who else could understand? Who else stands here and is willing to be yelled at or take any blame? Who else was here? Just me and that rugged, unshaven face through all the midnights of terror and loneliness, through all the days we looked at each other and couldn’t recognize that war-beaten partner of ours for the bride and the groom we were so many lifetimes ago.

There is so much we can’t blame each other for. And yet, when the waves of grief come, we still fail to be anything other than human. No matter how much Jesus, no matter how many prayers and devotions, when the tidal comes, we are both just desperately trying to stay alive. And if you have ever struggled not to drown, you’ll agree with me that there is a force so deep within a human being, so powerful and so unyielding, that it will fight for my own survival above all else. If my Love drowns alongside of me, my instinct will fight to use him as a buoy: to use his body to keep mine alive.

And maybe this is the ugly truth about why so many marriages die when the unimaginable happens. No one wants to own it: how ugly this being human and drowning alongside another really is. No one wants to admit their marriage is a double-drown. And, yes, we both contribute to the other’s ultimate submersion. It’s the nastiest perversion of this love we treasure. And when we finally wash up on shore, we look at each others’ torn bodies. We look at the gashes and claw marks from the other. And where should the anger be pointed? And how do we get rid of it?

I thought it was all going to get better one day, and we’d learn how to manage the double-drown. But now I don’t know, because there are mornings on my knees when I am begging for relief, begging for a different perspective and an easier breathe, that I still beg for healing for a marriage that keeps disappearing under tidal.

We couples who bury our own flesh, who look at a child every day and wonder how long?, we live a high stakes reality (and I know there are others of you out there, fighting different demons, who find yourselves at a high-stakes table, as well). It makes our worlds small and our marriages so very important. It makes us surviving our double-drownings so very necessary, so impossibly crucial. The stakes stack so high on one connection, and we wonder why we break at the pressure points?

We know there is no where else where anyone could ever bleed as we two bleed in that bedroom closet. Screaming in there at that face is the closest intimacy I’ve ever known: the hide I crave, the unraveled no one else would forgive. Beyond the struggle of the drown, past the crumbled dreams and the disillusioned life we’re trying so hard to fill back up with hope, we are a couple in a closet. We’re screaming at each other just to be heard, and loved, and ultimately chosen again.

Sometimes it takes a while to find our way back to each other. The shreds need to stitch back up into whole pieces again. The bleeding needs to stop. There are prayers said, and salve applied.

Life goes on, and love somehow persists. Maybe because there’s one thing I still believe with all my heart:

I’d rather go crazy,
be drowning in debt,
live in an unfinished house,
bury a baby,
and fight tooth and nail for two more,
all alongside this man
than have a perfect life with any other.

I retrieve our wedding vows way back from that golden day. Again, I whisper them to myself:
How naturally it is I should feel this way about him, for together we have shared the blessings of God. He is sealed in my heart with permanent betrothal. I will go where he goes, live where he lives. His people are my people and His God is my God. Philippians 1, Ruth 1

Say them again, friend, the next time you two find yourselves washed up on shore. Bind the wounds; lick them for a couple of days if you have to. Then say the vows again until you mean them.

These are the real rules for marriage: Wash, Bind, Vow. Repeat.
Amen.

To the most mysterious work of loving in all my life,

Taylor

Broken Together by Casting Crowns

#2 Nitty-Gritty Faith Friday Post of 2014

There is a theme emerging among the “Best of 2014” Posts: Marriage. We will spend all of February (Lord-willing) on this oh-so important and personal of topics. Until then, here was your second favorite post of the year:

Refining My Role as Wife (Lessons from the Time Warp Wife’s new book)

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
1 Peter 3:1-6

Wives, sisters, can we have a talk today? Go grab a cup of coffee and sit down with me for ten minutes. (How I wish we all could do that!)

A couple of weeks ago, I was perusing my emails when I came across an invitation from Darlene Schacht, the famous “Time Warp Wife,” to apply to be a part of her blogging group for her new book, Messy Beautiful Love. I was a little nervous, honestly, because I didn’t know if I would like the book, or if it would be just a bunch of Christianese urging all wives who love the Lord to give up their places in the workplace, church, and community to be barefoot, pregnant, and wholly beholden to their man.

Within the first three pages of the book, Darlene so humbles herself that I literally had to put the book down and take a break. I was shaking, tears in my eyes, blown away by her honesty. Okay, Darlene,I thought, you’ve got my attention.

From a place of complete humility, from a place of “see all of the mistakes I made; Now please listen so you don’t have to travel down that path,” Darlene lays out a beautiful blue print for living the life of a Christ-filled, loving wife. And, let me tell you sisters, you know I don’t do it all right. I’ve laid my mistakes and sins upon these pages time and time again. But secretly? I thought I was doing pretty good in the wife department. That is, until Jesus and Darlene started rifling through the dark corners of my heart: through the sin, through the justifications, through the fear and the envy and the plain old ugliness. So, please, as I continue, understand I am on my knees as I write this, praying for forgiveness and the will to change. Because I’ve been this way for fifteen years of marriage. I have deep-rooted beliefs that need to change, glacier-sized attitudes that only God can melt, justifications for my sin that are soooo convincing. Darlene insists that is what her book is about: “Exchanging God’s ideas for ours.”

Darlene addresses the truths of 1 Corinthians 13 in such a brand new way that I was able to stand in awe over one of the most over-used, over-quoted passages in Scripture, as if I had never heard St. Paul’s words before. I got stuck on one line I know by heart, but have not yet incorporated into my ministry as a wife:

“Love . . . does not envy.” How I have struggled with this since Jack and I were in high school! It’s so strange because I really am not an envious person, except when it comes to the Love of my life. Weird, huh? And it’s always been over gender issues, always because there were fifty girls to choose from and only 2 or 3 boys for every ministry opportunity in high school. I was so upset by the inequities I suffered that I applied to several girls’ colleges in an attempt to get out from under “Jack’s shadow.”

It’s funny how ironic that idea seems to me after reading Messy Beautiful Love, when I consider that a husband is supposed to love his wife as God loves His people. Part of God loving us is His shielding us and protecting us. In Psalm 91–the very first psalm I memorized as a child–this metaphor is depicted beautifully:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Will say to The Lord, “My Refuge and my fortress;
My God in whom I trust.”

My husband is supposed to protect and shelter me…I was made to enjoy his shadow. Sadly, I have railed against this truth.

When we got to college, it was his grades and his classes that we worried about because he wanted to be a doctor. All the while I supported him, working more hours, cleaning the house, I was jealous. Jealous! Now, the funny thing is is that it was supposed to be our dream, our future I was working toward. And eventually he would make a great living that I would get to enjoy. But, as a young wife, I fostered jealousy. I hid envy in my heart and let it grow. And all along, I think it was really a rebellion inside of me at the very idea that I wasn’t the focus, the smartest, the One. I wanted to be the hot-shot. After all, I was just as smart as he was.

Becoming a stay at home mom didn’t help the j-monster growing in my heart. I was covered in barf and breast milk wearing yoga pants and t-shirts because that’s what made sense for me to wear at the time. We were buying Jack suits and he was flying all over the world, from Switzerland to Chile to Ontario. We both played the parts we needed to play to keep our family going.

From the moment Sam was diagnosed with his heart condition in utero, I was grounded. I couldn’t travel anywhere further than a half an hour from the hospital. And I was angry. I was angry for being left behind, for being diminished to this very limited, unstimulating life, occasionally getting so upset I would scream at my husband, “I am a waste of an education!”

And that was the thing: I did feel like a waste. Like God had forgotten me, given me talents and a mind and an education that was languishing, and guess what? I was angry. I took all of that anger and I wrapped it up in a venomous ball of hurt and hurled it at the one who “got to leave” when I was pregnant with Sam, who “got to escape” and go work in a private room at the hospital so he could keep his job and our livelihood, who “didn’t have to be there” in the ultra sound room when Caleb died.

And when I write it all out, I know how ludicrous it seems. Jack works hard and has done well for our family, and I got to be a stay at home mom because of that. I got to spend every morning with my babies, every feeding, every play date. But, I was angry. I am angry. I am angry that Caleb died, and I am angry that Sam has a heart condition. And in this world, there aren’t many people I can scream at who will stick around afterwards. So, I turn all of this anger and blame on the only person who won’t turn and leave me when I’m freaking out: my husband.

But this is what I’m learning about envy: it is about my pride, and it is about me not caring for myself sufficiently. I have to stop this assumption that I deserve to be top dog, because that’s not how God made it to be. I also have to start realizing that I am not a robot and I do have needs, no matter how dire our family situation is. I need to start addressing those needs so that I am not constantly running on empty, starving for rest and community and a little bit of fun.

Finally, I need to realize how necessary my role in our family is. I am not just a brood mare, dairy cow, and carpool driver; I am made to be Jack’s help meet, which Darlene explains means “ezer kenegdo,” or “sustainer beside him.” She continues to explain that “Ezer” is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe “God as our helper,” and that in “nearly every reference . . . God is coming to the rescue as He protects His people and defeats the enemy . . . Kenegdo means “alongside or opposite to, a counterpart.” She also includes that a “better translation of ezer would be ‘life-saver.'”

When I consider the significance of this translation, when I consider that my job as a wife is to stand beside my husband to sustain, defend, and literally save his life, it is hard to feel like a waste. It is difficult to feel small when he needs me that much, when I am his life-sustainer. It is also obvious why I must care for myself, fill my own cup, so that I might have the strength to fulfill my unique function.

So why do I resist this beautiful role? It’s embarrassing as I sit here and write these words: I am filled with pride! I keep thinking about Genesis 3:16 when God curses Eve,

To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

That word desire appears three times (Gen 3:16, 4:7, Song of Songs 7:10), and has often been dismissed as a simple sexual desire. But, when taken in the context of how the word is used in Gen 4:7, the understanding of the term desire refers to a woman’s desire to enslave her husband, to possess or control him, but he must rule over her (to see an entire, very helpful article on this subject, visit Practical Theology for Women.)

I confess that desire lurks deep in my heart: to be in power, to be in control, to buck the system God fashioned to make my husband and I compliment each other perfectly. It’s my sinful heart that cannot rest in the role of life-sustainer. This sin has wounded my best friend, my partner, the love of my life.

I am ready to give up my struggle for power, and start a new way of giving thanks and giving way to the role God intended for me. I am scared and nervous to begin, but today I pray for a heart that does not envy my husband, but instead exults in the place beside him.

Humbly,
Taylor

Throw the pans, Save the marriage!

someecards.com - Life is short and there will always be dirty dishes, so let's dance.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:1-4

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry . . .
Ephesians 4:25-27

Anger is an under-rated, highly suspect emotion we like to avoid at all costs. It’s not nice or predictable. Sometimes it seems to come from nowhere; other times, it builds slowly like a cancer. But why can’t we move through this “negative” emotion the same way we move through happiness? Why can’t we find a means for expressing our anger and move on with our lives?

Anger can be a good thing. Anger is energy.It can move us from a state of paralysis or fear or depression into a state of action. Anger inspires political and social movements. Anger clarifies our focus. But it has to be addressed, or it turns to poison. It can poison our spirits, our bodies, and our foxholes.

Foxhole living requires getting a handle on anger. When you’re in the foxhole and shells are flying, there is no where else to go. Even if you’re angry at the enemy shelling you–trying to kill you–you’re stuck looking at just one face, dealing with one person’s annoying noises and habits. Anybody with me?

The funny thing about anger is that it is so easily transferable: boss gave the promotion to someone else, girlfriend made a snarky remark, I come home and transfer that anger to the way my spouse is making a mess on the stove while she cooks dinner or how he didn’t close the kitchen cabinets or how he chews too loudly or how she forgot to recycle again or . . . Pretty soon a lovely night at home after a hard day at work becomes a hard night at home after a hard day at work. Hmm.

I know that when life gets difficult (is that the right word? How about horrendous, push-you-to-your-crazy-point, horrifying, unfair and cruel?), it is so easy to throw your partner under the bus. I’ve done it: I’ve taken all of my anger and hurled it at him and watched him double over. But what I have learned is that if I’m hurling meanness at the one person who’s promised not to leave when things get tough, what’s going to be left of him? What kind of partner can I expect to have if every time I need him, I tear him down?

Then, a lightning bolt—or, I think, the Holy Spirit—slapped me upside the head with some serious insight. I was pregnant for the first time and very depressed. One Monday morning suffering a severe migraine for the majority of the weekend, I felt well enough to go down stairs. There, on the dirty stove, sat the dirty frying pans from the meals Jack had cooked for me over the weekend.

Why couldn’t he just clean the pans? Why, while I lay up in bed in excruciating, immobilizing pain, couldn’t he just clean the damn pans?

I wasn’t thinking about each and every thing he had done for me over the weekend: bringing me every meal, providing every dose of Tylenol and glass of water, calling my doctor on my behalf, folding laundry, canceling plans, staying home to keep an eye on me. His many acts of love escaped my mind; only the dirty, stinking pans remained in focus.

As I stared at the dirty pans on the dirty stove–he hadn’t cleaned the stove either–rage almost knocked me over. I wanted to run up the stairs, charge into his office, and scream at him for everything. It wouldn’t be the first time. I searched within myself for a handle–anything–to keep me from drowning in this anger. I knew that the dirty pans were just the tipping point. I was angry for so many reasons; little could be pinned on my husband who had lovingly taken care of me . . . but there is always something to get angry at him for if I look closely enough.

So I did something crazy. I took those pans and I hucked them as hard as I could into the back yard. Yup. I took all of my anger out on those pans, and the grass, and I left Jack alone. I sat down on the couch as the anger dissipated. Damn pans.

And, even though he was seriously concerned about my mental state when he noticed all of our cookware in the back yard, all I could think was but I left you in tact.

I have used my marriage as a giant, recyclable coffee filter for the problems of my life. Everything that is wrong, hard, unfair, unexplainable, everything that incites anger, everything outside that I can’t control is thrust into this filter. Then I pour the gushing emotions teeming from my out of control heart through that filter. And I wonder why our marriage blows up sometimes? I wonder why the pressure is too great? Why there are little bits of my anger and splinters of each of us in every bitter cup we drink?

The harder life gets, the more I need to be mindful about how I am treating my partner. Anger and sadness and frustration are real and need to be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean they need to be hurled in the direction of my teammate. I need to take my anger and hurl it out the back door (frying pans don’t have feelings, after all!), and focus all of my energy on loving my partner. After all, the more I love him, the more I build him up, the better partner I’ll have. After all, loving him is loving myself, as we are supposed to be on the same team.

When I started to understand this, my marriage changed. Life has been hard, certainly. But some of our best moments have been in the foxhole together. We both make mistakes, but it’s funny how trivial an overdraft fee, a lost check, or a dirty kitchen seems now. I remind myself, whenever I want to sling mud in Jack’s direction, that even if I’m right, and he deserves a big dressing down, what do I deserve? Much more of the same.

God bless you all in your foxholes.

And, throw the pans!!!

Taylor

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