Joel wrote his post. And you might not ever hear from him here again to be honest. For him to write that post was not fun at all. And it might surprise you to know that it was not because of the subject matter…but because it involved writing. Ha. He hates to write. It’s not his thing. It takes him forever and as he says, “he’s not the wordsmith of the family.” Writing for him is like pulling his own teeth. Kind of like making up fictional bedtime stories is for me. I am seriously horrible at that. Ugh. I hate it. lol. But he’s great at that. So guess what? He’s the storyteller in the family. I’m the writer.
We all have our things…our own set of limitations. And, our own set of gifts and talents. But, I just wanted to let you know that even though Joel might not appear here and might not write himself (and is hardly ever present on any social media ever…just not his thing), he reads everything I write, we discuss it, and he agrees and approves before I ever publish anything. Just thought I’d throw that in here to reassure you that this isn’t just a ‘me’ series, even though it’s mostly me doing the actual writing. What I’m writing about is our experience…our actions and thoughts and ideas and beliefs…mine and Joel’s.
My last post struck quite the chord (it also provides links to all parts of this series). So many people can relate to struggles in life…and even more specifically, marital struggles in particular. I mean, of course it’s hard to live with another person who was raised in another family and with other ways of thinking about things and doing things, etc. So…that’s every marriage. Then there are the marriages where something major has happened. Some kind of major upheaval. Some kind of major shift. Some kind of trauma…or a series of seemingly never-ending traumas. Even abuse in some cases. Those are the marriages like ours. In fact, we’ve experienced all four of those in the past 3 years…major upheaval, major shift, the never-ending traumas, and, yes…let’s just say it…abuse.
The abuse I’m speaking of is not physical. And it wasn’t even necessarily intentionally done, but was deemed correct based on a set of beliefs. But...the abuse that occurred was very real and was a result of a belief system that puts one person in power…and leaves the other with none.
That might seem quite extreme for us to say. Some of you might feel very uncomfortable with that sort of language being assigned to what happened. Some of you might think, ‘Now that’s just taking it a little too far. Get a grip. Get over yourself.’
I can tell you very honestly and with all past events in my life proving my case that…I am absolutely not a person who makes mountains out of molehills. I’m the one who tries to do the opposite…making molehills out of mountains. So, when I say these things, I am not exaggerating. You will learn this as we move forward in our story, the extent of which will depend on what specifics I choose to divulge. But, I am not making more of it than should be made, I promise. I am being honest.
So…many of you can relate…to at least some of these specific things…and definitely to just struggles in marriage in general.
I heard from many of you…many of you sending very sweet encouraging words of how God has done a miracle in your own marriage. Some of you who are still holding on. Some of you focusing on another subject…the specific subject brought up in the last post...the subject of others…the subject of the church at large in times like these.
One friend sent a very stirring message that I completely related to. She also happens to be a fellow missionary. And has sadly experienced these things she speaks of firsthand recently. Some of the things she said were just so very true…
"It's so upsetting to be so disappointed with those you call your good friends or wise counsel.”
"As if people aren't already going through enough to then have insensitive others making more issues.”
"...it feels worse when those people you chose to trust don't help things. And for some people this makes them want to keep everything more private for longer.”
And that's what I want to talk more about today. I agree wholeheartedly with these things she said…and I have no anger. But, I do have just a real and sobering realization of what people are really like, what the church is really like, how the world really works.
But…the TRUTH is that we’re supposed to bear each other’s burdens. Is that not the case? Yet, I don’t see that really happening in the church at large. People (and surprisingly, oftentimes the people closest to you) get very uncomfortable with people with problems. People get very uncomfortable with people who have struggles…esp. for a long extended period of time. Or, in some cases, they just get impatient. It’s hard for the church (that is, the people of the church…your brothers and sisters) to hang in there with those people sometimes…even though all that is needed is an email every now and then to say, ‘hey…we see you, we are praying for you, we don’t want to come off as nosy, but we want you to know that we always care…please feel free to talk to me about anything anytime…no matter what it is, i won’t be judge-y…if you don’t want to talk, i understand…but know that i’m fighting for and with you in prayer.’
One of the things I’ve heard as an explanation as to why people don’t reach out to others is that they are so overwhelmed with their own junk. They are, themselves, going through a very hard time…and they don’t feel like they can help anyone else. They don’t feel like they have anything to give.
To that I say again…’bear each other’s burdens.’ Bear each other’s burdens. That’s what it says. It doesn’t say, ‘Be sure to wait until you don’t have any burdens…then you can help to bear someone else’s burdens.’ That is a lie our culture has bought into. And that has to stop.
I didn’t share anything with anybody for over a year that this was all going on. Because I thought sure there would, in the end, be nothing ongoing to share. I thought sure that Joel just wasn’t ‘getting it’ (how he was prioritizing everything else over me…how he was using his ‘power’ to oppress, etc.) and that one day soon it would just click and all make sense for him. And it would stop. And we'd move forward...and share about the craziness that had happened, but not be too damaged by it. It would just be a big bump in the road that caused us to be slowed down a bit, but not the huge cavern that it actually did turn into that caused us to completely halt. I thought that one day soon it would click for him and it'd be over and we'd move on. But, that one day soon never came. So, after over a year had passed (a year and a half actually), I began to open up to some of the people who had reached out to me. Four people in fact…and only these four. This was before we had even sent out our newsletter that told everyone that we were having struggles and in marriage counseling (we sent that out in Aug. 2013).
Of these four who had reached out to me and who I confided in…three of them had ‘been there’ in one way or another.
One in particular was (and is) still in the thick of it...and has been for longer than me. Yet, she reached out.
I get not feeling like you can reach out to someone you hardly know when you are overwhelmed with your own problems. You don’t quite have the energy to be dealing with your own junk and get to know someone completely new to try to help and encourage them too. Getting to know someone new can take a lot of energy. Sometimes God might call you to do that…but, that’s not what I’m talking about here.
To hear that someone you have an already deep and profound relationship with…a real heart friendship…someone you have a real history with...to hear that they are having trouble and not reach out (in a non-judgey, helpful way)? How can that be?
You might be walking through the most damaging circumstances of your life, the hardest of times, the most confusing and horrible that you could ever imagine. But...you are still called to love (that is, show love, be love). You are still called to reach out to your friends. You are still called to bear each other’s burdens.
And not only for others’ sake…for yours too.
There have been countless times during these three long years that I reached out to someone, a friend, who I heard was hurting. Why? Yes, because we’re to bear each other’s burdens. And yes, because that’s the way this whole ‘family of God’ thing is supposed to work. And yes, because that’s what friendship means. But also...because it helps me.
Almost all of us are hurting and disappointed and damaged/being damaged in one way or another. Bearing each other’s burdens makes us stronger. We can build each other up. We can help each other with what we may have learned in our ongoing process…we can get help from someone further down the road than us.
I’m not talking about a whinefest…at ALL. I’m just talking about sharing our stories with one another…maybe not the whole world wide web like we’re doing. But bearing each other’s burdens with a close friend…hearing of someone who is hurting and meeting them, no matter what is going on in your own life. ‘Misery loves company’…that’s often a phrase used in a negative way. But, it’s true…and can be seen in a positive light. Again, not in order to moan and complain and have pity parties. But, to encourage each other, to build each other up, to spur each other on towards good things and help and hope.
And just to clarify…bearing each other’s burdens does not at all look like what Job’s friends did. Not at all. And we’ll talk about the subject of passing judgment very soon. Because, for many, just as my friend said…it keeps them silent, so bearing each other’s burdens is not a possibility for them. We’ll talk more about that soon though.
But...let’s do better at this ‘bearing each other’s burdens’ thing, shall we? The church needs definite reform in that area. We know better. Let's do better.