What really made me feel worse about myself than anything else during the low part of my marriage that I left off with in Part 1 was that here I was, preaching and teaching the good news - the gospel of grace and the power of the grace of God when we rest in Him and trust, rather than trying to produce godly fruit on our own, and yet in this important aspect of my life I felt like grace wasn't "working." If indeed Christ's love dwelled in me, then where was the love? Why was it so difficult to love when I had all this love and grace living in me?
Well, the last thing I wanted to do was to see a Christian counselor about all this. My reason was pretty simple: I didn't want more of the same. I didn't want more principles to try to follow. I didn't want someone telling me all the things I needed to do to show love to my wife. I knew ALL the do's. Throughout my Christian life, I'd heard it all. The church had not held back on teaching me do after do after do after do. And here I was, knowing all the do's and yet feeling lost when it came to living it out in my marriage.
But even though the thought of seeing a Christian counselor turned me off, I agreed to do it knowing that I would stop right away if it turned out like I thought it would. But thankfully it didn't turn out like I thought it would! God sent us to the right counselor. This man asked lots of questions and really dug in to get to the root of things, and he did so in a very graceful way. And as I talked things through with him one on one, there was one thing that he said to me that made the lights finally turn on in my head. It was really a "duh!" moment for me. As soon as he said it, I knew it was exactly what the problem was.
The essence of the problem was that rather than living out of my true Identity in Christ - the New Creation that I truly am - I was trying to be all the things that I thought I was supposed to be for my wife. Even though I knew the church was wrong with their treadmill approach to the Christian life that was based on a continuous cycle of living from principles for Christian living, and even though I was teaching about living by grace myself, and in most ways was truly appropriating it personally, I had yet been sucked into "trying to live the Christian life" when it came to the most important relationship in my life - my marriage. Again, the church was unknowingly trying to 'tame' me into being a good Christian husband and was in effect keeping me from being the true wild-at-heart person who I was created to be. I don't think anyone was intentionally trying to lead me or anyone else astray, but the focus on rules and principles to try to keep people close to Christ actually keeps people from a focus on Christ's pure and simple devotion to us that leads to our pure and simple devotion to Christ!
The key word the counselor used when he spoke with me was "identity." That's actually the word that made everything else fall into place and make sense. My identity is not "good Christian husband" (or "good Christian father" or "good Christian anything." My identity is who God made me to be, not only in regard to my union with Him that I have in common with all His other children, but also in the ways that He has uniquely wired me as an individual. See, I "got" the whole identity issue when it came to the biblical definitions of who we all are in Christ. But I wasn't seeing clearly how we are all uniquely built and shaped by God, and how that's such a huge part of living out the Christ-life.
My mind was stuck on generic (albeit really great and true) definitions of who we are in Christ and what it looks like when lived out. I also had this generic view of what a Christian husband was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do, and I sincerely wanted to be that man for my wife. But in trying to be that man, I found that I wasn't living up to it and I felt like such a fake and a phony - which is exactly what I was! Through the counselor, God woke me up to see that what my wife needed from me was not for me to strive to live according to so-called "biblical principles," but to be who He made me to be.
God has taken great care and put great work into the way He has wired me. The best gift I can give my wife (or anyone else) is to be the person He created me to be. Said another way, I am robbing her of what God has given her if I try to be something else! He has not fallen short in the way He has made me. He doesn't make junk. And so to try to live superficially from a set of rules or principles is to deny my wife of the gift that God has given her. That's not my ego talking. That's the Redskin in me talking - even crying out - who's been suffering beneath the white (see previous post) and is longing to live the rightful life that it was created to live, from my heart.
My wife and I are very different people. So I do want to say that as we've learned (and continued to learn) to be the unique individuals that God created us to be and to allow each other to be who God created them to be, there have been some fleshly clashes and there has been some friction! I don't always like who she is and she doesn't always like who I am. But more and more, as we let go of expectations of who the other is supposed to be, the grace and love of God in us allows us to see that it's absolutely fine - and a good, wonderful thing - for the other to be who they are. And there are indeed times when love will cause us to bend a little so as not to upset the other. I think that's legitimately what love will do. But overall, the days of walking on the eggshells of the expectations that come from a generic view of how we're "supposed" to be and behave have been replaced by days of true love and acceptance.
I didn't quite finish all my thoughts on this, so there will be a third and final part to this coming up.