This blog is a continuation in a series I am writing about my husband’s brain injury. If you wish to read the story in order, go back in my archives and find Begin at the Beginning…all the ones in the category brain injury tell my story. Some are longer than others…they come in chunks of time…sometimes quickly and others much slower. Thanks for taking the time to read and being patient as I walk through the one of the toughest parts of my life again with new eyes to see how God used the broken pieces to create something beautiful.
My grappling with God and subsequent limp came while I was in Tennessee. It was my place of wrestling. I tried to hide from him, but instead found myself face to face. I found that I neither knew God’s character nor my own. It was a place of training where I learned that in hardship if you don’t know the true character of God, you will drown. My training to that point had been built on the performance of God…based on my actions. Once I found this was not the case, I had to re-learn everything and I mean everything. In the midst of my spiritual reformation, I had to also re-learn everything about my relationship with my husband. It is not a coincidence that both of these things came at the same time. It was a very similar process…much like wiping the slate clean and starting over.
I found that I had a fear of abandonment that was based in Bill’s “leaving” me, losing the baby, my friends walking away, the church firing us, and God’s allowing all of it to happen. I shut out the world for the most part, and I think it was directly related to this idea that it is easier to shut people out than to allow them to hurt you. To allow someone in is a great risk. There were such deep wounds that I could not even see them. It took solitude in the middle of nowhere for my eyes to open to the hurt that lived within me. I felt betrayed and abandoned. I felt alone…much of this was my own choice, though at the time I didn’t see it that way. I had to make the decision to trust again instead of closing myself off. The first step in that process was to let Bill back in…I didn’t even realize I had shut him out. I had to develop a system of communication that allowed my heart to remain open, as much as was possible at that time, to my husband and to my God. I found it is quite hard to do that after your heart is broken to bits. Some of what I needed was piecing back together, and I came to see I had a choice to use grace or the cement of bitterness. I decided grace would hold me together far better in the long run.
Extending grace to those who had hurt me was my first lesson. That included Bill, God, the church, friends, doctors…really anyone who I perceived had wronged me. Forgiveness…offering it and receiving it. Sounds easy…trust me it is not however, it is a command. (Col. 3:13, Eph. 4:32, Matt. 6:13…plus about 1000 more.) I don’t think I will ever fully learn how to do this well, but I keep trying. Not holding onto hurts is hard enough…but not holding them when the perpetrator doesn’t even remember is really difficult. I wanted Bill to know how he hurt me, but he didn’t. My desire to be understood in my unforgiveness did not change the fact that I was refusing to do it. I learned that a willingness to forgive precedes the feeling of forgiveness…and that you don’t have to feel it to do it. Saying I choose to forgive, even though my heart did not feel like it was a good first step.
Asking Bill to be understanding of my hurt was difficult for him to grasp. Yet, in his childlike state, he trusted me enough to know I wasn’t making things up…that he had really done some significantly hurtful things. Our communication became real and very honest, as honest as it could for the mental state he was in. In the same way, I asked God to be gentle with my heart…which of course he always is. He held me close as I learned more about him. In hardship, the first thing that happens is the attack on God’s character. “Is this how he protects you?” “I thought God was good? Is this what you call good?” “After all you have done for him and this is your reward?” In the heat and hurt of the moment, all of these questions flood your mind and sow the seeds of doubt. They really bring up all the false things you have believed about God… and that the enemy wants you to believe about God. It forces you to either abandon your faith all together, or to dig deeper in order to re-frame it. I chose the latter because I knew I was incapable of doing things on my own.
The more and more I dug, the more I learned. I cannot tell you the freedom I found in figuring out that God didn’t care about my quiet time, my church attendance, or my tithe. He didn’t need any of that. He didn’t even expect it from me, and he loved me despite all of those things. The only requirement really, was and is that I give him my heart. The whole thing. And honestly, that alone is enough to keep me busy from now to eternity…because my heart is fragmented beyond what I can see. Even in giving each piece of it to him, he had to first show it to me. I was not and am not capable of seeing the depth of it. Any “good works” I do, or any rituals I keep are merely an overflow of my love for him. They are not for him as much as they are for me. The encouragement I find among his people…who are like me in their desire to worship their rescuer… causes me to draw closer, but my relationship with him is intact, no matter what. Even if I choose not to fellowship with him, it will not change my relationship to him.
Can you see how he used this? My relationship with Bill had not changed. I was his wife. My fellowship with him, however, was completely different. Until that point, and with good reason, I withheld my heart. There was a distance between us because of the painful actions caused by a brain out of control. Once I made the choice to remain his wife, I still had to renew our fellowship and he had to want that as much as I did. It was a rebuilding. Out with the old…in with the new. I had to trust his character was still good underneath. I had to forgive his wrongs against me. I had to partner with God to restore what had been broken in every sense. I had to lean on, receive, and swim in his grace. Grace is like gasoline…it powers life. It is the fuel. If you run out, nothing works as it should. You are stuck. It is miraculous really how you put gas in the tank and power flows. You simply have to pull up to the pump, and pour it into your vehicle. You do not have to understand how it all works. Grace is like that. It flows and keeps your life moving. It empowers. In my wrestling place, I found that my tank was overflowing and that God had poured every bit of Grace I would need into my tank.