In January of 1996 Ann and I went to the Lake of the Ozarks for some time of rest and celebration. Our marriage was going to survive. Beyond surviving we began our move towards thriving. We stayed in a very nice small vacation home just up from the water. It was one of the sweetest weekends I've ever had with my wife.
During the weekend we kept the TV off and mostly focused on being together and enjoying one another. We also read. My chaplain in the reserves, Steve Smallwood, who was instrumental in our marriage healing, had recommended I read Inside Out by Larry Crabb. It rocked my world. For the first time in my Christian Life I felt free to be who I was, whatever state I was in without the pressure of having to put on a smiley face.
In a series of posts I want to share some of what impacted me in the book because I believe deep honesty is essential to a thriving marriage. Larry helped me go further into being more deeply honest with myself and others. It's a journey that will last a lifetime but reading Inside Out was a big leap in the process. Many pages of the book have * after * down the margins of the pages. So I can't share all of the ways in which I was touched but I'll share what feels most important.
In the second paragraph of the introduction he said,
...the point of living the Christian life has shifted from knowing and serving Christ till He returns to soothing, or at least learning to ignore, the ache in our soul.
As a counselor I often battle this dilemma. People come to see me because they want to feel better. Usually, my goal, at least initially is to help them feel worse as the ache in their soul they've been ignoring is brought to the surface. I think in honestly encountering that ache we encounter God and experience a freedom and rest that is new. We don't have to 'juggle all the balls' to keep life going. We're now free to say this is where I am at like it or not.
An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity but of realism.
It isn't a sin to groan when life hurts. Life hurts often. We have much to be grateful for, but our gratitude exists alongside our groaning not in place of it. God has blessed us with the freedom to hurt and grieve. He hurts and grieves and it is an essential aspect of his character.
So, a failure to grieve, a failure to face the groan (I wanted to say own the groan but it justed sounded...yeah) is underneath many affairs. It was underneath my emotional affair and underneath Ann's affair. There were other aspects to be certain, but the honesty that comes with raw, open grief permeates and transforms a relationship.
Ann and I can now share our individual losses with one another. It is ok to be sad. Somehow we connect deeply with God and each other during those times. On the flip side this frees us up to share deeper joy with one another. Unexpressed sorrow isn't blocking the path to the depths of our hearts. We accept one another and experience the fullness of the other as God created us with a full gamut of emotions.