My wife and I are always hoping to find that rarity, a Saturday morning free of obligations or appointments. We can stay in bed and luxuriate in some cuddling and catch-up talking. We even engage in the quiet communication of holding hands while we watch the brightening of the day. We treasure these all-too-seldom moments.
One such morning as we watched the sun begin its appearance—and as I pondered whether to make pancakes for breakfast—my wife broke the companionable silence.
“You know,” said Phyllis, “it's been several years since we had a weed-pulling session with a counselor.”
“Oh, no!” I thought to myself. But I caught myself before saying it aloud. I do have some sense of self-preservation after all. I replied instead, “You know, I think you're right.”
And then with some trepidation I asked, “Why do you mention it?”
In the April 2013 I STILL DO blog I wrote of the lesson my wife and I had learned about marital preventive maintenance. I'll quote from that blog to bring you up to speed:
Both of us were carrying plenty of scars from our childhoods and past relationships, so we recognized the need to catch problems before the little sprouts turned into big spiky weeds. For the first two years we visited a competent therapist once a month. The next two years we saw her quarterly. By the fifth year we were down to twice a year. By the tenth year we went only as-needed.
Sometimes while on the way to our appointment my wife would say to me -- or the other way around—“You know, I'm not sure we have anything to talk about this time.”
We soon learned, that was when the weeds had grown the highest. The therapist could see it; we could not. But by the end of the session, these weeds had been pulled . . . and our marriage was stronger.
My wife responded in a way I didn't expect. “Well, it's not that I've got a problem with you or the marriage. We seem to be doing pretty well.” She went on. “You know, I find myself wondering if we've gotten lazy or too easy-going about building the marriage. Are we missing something that needs healed or fixed, in order for us to be doing even better as husband and wife?”
She reminded me of previous times, when we had found tall weeds.
So we went. We found a small weed in our relationship which we gladly pulled and we planted a small bed of flowers and a fruit tree in its place. Phyllis and I have been diligently tending to that part of our marriage and the flowers and fruit are testimony to our success.
Then this January Phyllis and I had another session. It was good we had gone. We uncovered an underground low-level unease we each had about being truly close to the other. Each of us has been (on a non-conscious level) holding somewhat apart from our partner, the result of heretofore invisible scar tissue from injuries inflicted on each of us when we were toddlers. As a direct result of this damage, Phyllis and I now realize that we have had to work extra hard to create the quality marriage we have.
We have chosen to put effort into healing our pasts, now that this damage has shown itself. The effort is worth it. Phyllis and I are already beginning to experience new closeness and more opportunities for happy companionship.
What is the lesson in this?
Phyllis and I became complacent. We neglected one aspect that is required for a quality marriage—that of seeking new opportunities for insight and growth together. And by doing so, we have achieved greater closeness only now, when we could have begun enjoying it several years ago.
Contributed by Pastor Brian Eastman
Lead Pastor Revelation Spiritual Church
Founder, LIIFT healing process
Ah yes, the cookie-cutter stuff
Jamie came barging in after school today all in a panic.
“How am I supposed to do this? It was assigned today and it’s due in two days!”
“Whoa there, Jamie. Get yourself a glass of milk and there are fresh peanut butter cookies on the counter. Oh, and please give me a coffee refill. Then we can talk.”
Jamie is a (fictional) high school student who drops by occasionally for help with his writing and literature assignments.
A glass of milk and five cookies later, Jamie was more calm, and I decided to ask the question.
“So what has caused such a disturbance in the force?”
“A research paper for English class.”
“A high school occupational hazard,” I said with a smile. “But knowing you, it’s something to be attacked rather than dealt with.”
“But this needs to be attacked. It’s ridiculous. Look at this outline requirement.”
Jamie pushed a single sheet of paper across the table to me. The way he handled the paper gave me pause. Was this a white-hot missive from the devil’s workshop?
I looked the paper over before touching it, and was relieved to see that it was merely a cold directive from a false god named Required Curriculum Project.
“And this is what has you coming unraveled around the edges?”
“Well, yeah. I mean this is positively deadening.”
“Yup. And you’ve dealt with this before, quite creatively, as I recall.”
“And suffered the consequences. But that was junior high and it was kind of fun to challenge the system. This is about a grade that is going on the transcript that the colleges I apply to are going to be looking at.”
“True enough. So what are you going to do?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Let’s have a look. I see that you have been allowed to select your own topic.”
“Yeah, but as they say, the devil is in the details. Look at the outline I have to follow. I’m going to end up writing about stuff I don’t care about, just so I can get a grade.”
“Jamie, you know what this is. It’s the cookie-cutter approach to learning. I see from your sketchy notes that you want to do something with the novels of the Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini.”
“Yes, but this outline is going to kill what I want to do.”
“And you’re going to just let that happen?”
“What choice do I have?”
“What is it that you want to say about Hosseini’s work?”
“His novels are stories of hope and the courage to endure in the midst of terror and destruction.”
“So what are you waiting for?”
“But this outline that I have to hand in…”
“… is getting in the way. Write your own outline.”
“I’ve got to think about that. May I see you tomorrow afternoon?”
“Indeed. Oatmeal-raisin cookies tomorrow. And bring some words with you when you come.”
Next: Jamie’s faith in himself.
An invitation from Pastor Eastman