We have been married almost 17 years, almost half of my lifetime.
Although our relationship began on a foundation of communication, the years that should have made us fluent in each other's language of love have done the opposite. In time, the differences carved a wider and deeper space between us leaving us struggling to regain that space.
That space hurts.
That hurt builds invisible walls.
Rather than to protect, the walls create more hurt, defensiveness, sharp edges...
Like many parents whose time is torn between work, children and other responsibilities, we all too often put our marriage last. We have been deceived into thinking that always putting the children first is best, but how can it be best when what's best for them is to have the living example of two parents who are one with each other, in love, and in tune to each other's hearts?
In an effort to strengthen our relationship and tear down walls, we have begun dating again.
Dating each other, that is.
Last night, rather than head straight home, we called the children and gave them instructions on preparing their supper, and let them know that their parents would not be joining them for this meal. We were going on a date night. We have traditions of daddy-daughter-date-day, we each spend one-on-one time with our children but this time, we were spending time with each other. Not as parents, but as a couple, as lovers, as companions, as best friends.
I wasn't sure what to expect. We have less in common than we had when we first met, making it hard to feel heard and to connect. This gives me the instinct to withdraw and not share, because my experiences have been that what's often worse than not sharing is sharing without being heard. When the paths have been traveled the same way for so many years, the ruts grow deeper and deeper as satan whispers to us that this road we're on isn't worth changing...
A wise man once said that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results... he was right.
The responsibility to change this is mine -- even if I am not heard, it is up to me lead with change, to move my heart closer to His, so that He'll move my heart closer to his... and in the process, moving his to mine.
I must share my heart if I'm to have hope that he'll re-capture it.
I must hold the walls at arm's length and pull him closer.
At first, we made small talk... his work day, mine, the kids... then, I dipped my foot tentatively in the water in an effort to keep my wall from standing in the gap. I shared that I had received a letter from Suwanna, our Compassion child in Thailand.
He was listening... his attentiveness chipping away a little more of the wall.
I continued by sharing that she had written a simple statement of gratitude: although she did not have any crayons at home, she loved using the crayons at the Compassion Center.
Not expecting him to take much notice in this, I was touched when he asked if there was any way that we could provide her with crayons to have at home. That was when I felt it, the rumble of walls breaking apart and beginning to crumble. I explained that when I learned about Suwanna not having crayons, especially considering how intricately she draws in her letters to us, I felt moved to contact Compassion and take care of this need for her. I explained how they make this possible. Listening closely, he was pleased and was appreciative that we could help in some small way.
He had stumbled upon the secret key to my heart; caring tenderly for God's precious lambs had me coming undone, weak at the knees, the door to love bursting wide open with a longing for more.That would have been enough, but God likes to do immeasurably more than we anticipate. I listened as my husband turned the discussion to gratitude, the contrasts between these children from developing countries and children in North America, his experiences as a child and how his needs/wants were provided, as well as how our own children's needs/wants are provided. It overwhelmed me to witness how much God had changed his heart closer to His over time, and in the process, closer to mine.
These were precious glimpses of hope, sweet moments that may seem ordinary to the world, but when you've experienced the opposite, they are nothing short of miracles.
One discussion led to the next.
Needs vs. wants.
Expectations of entertainment, boredom, simplicity of the "old days".
The contrasts between our society and that of our Compassion childrens' societies.
My mission trip to Africa.
Our Compassion son from Ghana and his dreams of becoming an architectural engineer, following in my husband's footsteps.
His willingness to write to our Compassion son to encourage him to pursue this field and work hard in his studies.
Our date proceeded from the restaurant to the video store, where we carefully looked over all the selections in the hopes of finding something that would meet in the middle of my tastes and his. He was patient and sensitive to my convictions not to watch movies I didn't feel at peace about watching. It was so evident that he was putting himself aside and trying hard to find a happy medium. God provided a solution, a movie with a perfect mix of what we enjoyed, and we went home to continue our date night in the comfort of our own home.
After spending a few minutes taking care of the kids and getting settled, we met in the living room and tuned out the rest of the world as we spend time side by side watching a movie. Although I don't usually enjoy watching movies or TV, I was pleasantly surprised not to have been restless and distracted. I found myself getting settled comfortably by his side to watch it with him. Without walls between us, I too could share in his world.
All too soon, date night ended... but this time, the walls have not returned.
Who would have ever imagined that God could use something so simple as crayons to help erase the walls between us?