16 January 2009

"Do you get it, really..."

"Do you get it, really?  Or did you ask for her forgiveness before you really 'got it?'"
These words sought their target with absolute precision.  After two days of preparation, God made His point and broke my heart in one of it's hardest places.

I'm not a very smart person apart from Christ.
Shelli and I had been struggling with some pretty serious (albeit familiar) themes in our marriage for several days.  She had this painful sense that I didn't love her and my passive lack of pursuit wasn't helping.   In typical fashion, her insistence to get some answers ran into my insecurity.  That's when I position my defense for full avoidance.  In these situations, I'm desperate for an end to the conversation and, yet in 15 years, avoidance has never achieved it.  So after making matters worse through avoidance, I moved to my prevent defense.  This brilliant scheme consists of beating Shelli to the punch by conceding that I'm the worst person in the planet.  It is a criticism race to the bottom.  I never lose.  It might be noble if, with godly sorrow, I actually believed it and truly repented but... I don't. 

Somewhere in western Nebraska, after a long trip, we came to the conclusion that I needed to seek out some advice about this pattern.  Do we both just seek too much from each other?  Are our expectations unreasonable?  Is any of this pathology normal?  Thirty minutes from home, I called a friend to schedule some time together.  Which, in the interest of full disclosure, I had agreed to do a month ago (I know, I'm the worst person on the planet).  

I wasn't really sure what to expect but it didn't take long.  
My friend and got together a few days later.  After shaking hands, I grabbed some coffee, sat down and we started to catch up.  Eventually, we got down to the business of day; the Majeski marriage.

Shelli and I don't have a pretty history.  Our relationship began in College with this story line: "engineering student infatuated with swim team captain sends flower and anonymous note." We were strangers at ISU (cue Sinatra) with complementary neediness.  I was looking for the girl that would establish my manhood and she was desperately seeking someone who would cherish her heart.  In the flurry of it all, we each were convinced that fate had given us our hearts' desire.  It wasn't long until our relationship became physical and messy.  
At this point in the story, my friend (who has been married for over 25 years) seemed to tune out to the rest of the details (the near divorce after two years, the consistent patterns, etc.).  When I finally took a breath, he jumped at the opportunity and went back to our dating/engagement.  Certainly he was barking up the wrong tree.  I knew all of that was wrong and I had asked for Shelli's forgiveness.  Mr. Pastor-for-seven-years had all this figured out, I had even taught others our life lessons from this era.  Really, aren't we past this stuff?  That was 16 years ago.  
"So if you were physical with her before you were married, did you really love her?  I mean, maybe her feeling unloved isn't rooted in some hormonal spike but in some reality."
It felt a little like jumping into Lake Superior in December.  Did I truly love Shelli in those first years?  What would I say today to a young man acting the same way with his "love?" Quite simply it wasn't love, not biblical love, and the implications of that are enormous.

Did I get it?
I was starting to get it and, just in case there was a tiny piece of dismissal in my soul, my friend returned to a few precise, pride-seeking words to smash it.  
"Did you have an abortion in those pre-marriage months?"


"Really, how do you know that you didn't conceive a child that was miscarried?  You see the problem with adultery is not that it is 'evil' in that worldly, delightful sense but evil in the sense that it is murder.  The wages of sin is death.  That's your sin.  That's where you led her.  That's why you can't call it love and that's why she's not crazy or hormonal or wrong."
If his first words were a dip in Superior, these were a trip into "Condition 1" in the Antarctic.  I was dizzy with conviction.  

And I prayed for it.
Just two hours prior, I was discussing Genesis 3 with Maclean.  We talked about fig leaves, nakedness and shame.  We had this exchange: 
Me: "How did God cover Adam and Eve's nakedness?" 
Mac: "With animal skins."

Me: "Yeah, buddy - where did he get those?"

Mac: "From an animal...did God kill an animal dad?"

Me: "Yeah buddy, remember the wages of sin..."

Mac: "...is death."

Me: "God killed that animal to cover their nakedness.  Someone had to shed blood and die for their sin."

Mac: "Dad, I think it was a baby goat."
Right there we stopped and prayed together that God would show us that our sin is serious.  Two hours before my meeting and two days after I read this at the beginning of The Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson
"He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of papers about holiness by make some plain statements about sin.

The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are 'words and names' which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when he makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner."
-from "Holiness" by J.C. Ryle
God, in His kind answer to prayer (Romans 2:4), had revealed the weight of my 16 year-old sin.  He did it because my lack of understanding stood in the way of "building high" and it stood in the way of properly loving my wife.  I needed to repent not for "fooling around" but for dragging her into something as defiling as murder and not loving her.  The weight of my sin forced me to look not at the speck in her eye that I cannot control, but the log in my eye that I can.

More Providence
The next day I read the following verses as a confirmation to God's activity in the last week (funny that I would need that).  
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image."
Genesis 9:6

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Luke 5:8-9

And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31-32
Jesus is a physician to the sick and repentant.  He brings the healing salve of Gospel truth (his substitutionary death) resulting in Gospel joy (in forgiveness and communion with God) but we must be truly repentant.  We cannot love God sufficiently (Matthew 22:37-38), glory in the gospel (Ephesians 1:6) and love our neighbor (Luke 7:47) without first understanding the real weight of our sin.  

That is why I am indebted to my friend.  He courageously pursued my joy in seeking my true repentance for SIN.  Not many friends will do that.   

Thanks buddy for helping me "get it."

And thanks, Beautiful, for all the grace and all the tenacity. I cherish you as my most precious earthly means of God's abundant grace.  

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Wow. What an amazing thing that God would use your friend to mercifully cut you to the quick like that so that you could see that sin.... Do you feel closer to God? You should. Wow.