when you don’t know what to do, try love
“A friend of ours, Hugh Bishop of Mirfield, says in one of his books:
‘Love is not an emotion. It is a policy.’
Those words have often helped me when all my feelings were unlovely.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
There were other reasons I stayed through addiction:
- Sheer stubbornness and pride. We were not going to fail.
- I wasn’t going to let some future woman reap the benefit of my struggles. I suppose that’s jealousy.
- If anyone was going to leave, it was going to be him. I would not be the bad guy.
Not exactly pure motives.
But determination only gets so far in the day in day out. And romantic stubbornness turns cold.
It’s in the hard places of weighing stay or go, of what’s best for me, best for the kids, of even what’s best for him, of what is faith and what is fear . . . of listening, hard . . .of straining to hear the voice of God more than anything, of pleading for the heavens to open and send down a Gabriel to say: Rise and take your children to California, stay there for two years until David gets his act together.
But answers were not delivered to me by angel, by fleece, by burning bush.
A decade ago, there wasn’t much out in the world to tell you what to do when you have a spouse who was a non-abusive, high-functioning, repentant-when-caught, migraine suffering, prescription drug addict . . . chronic pain complicates things.
I needed words.
We had made a sacred vow: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, so help me God . . .
. . . I wonder how many nights I sat up late, unable to sleep, praying to God, begging Him to speak words to me. Just wanting to do the right thing. The thing that would make it all turn out for good.
But my responses to Dave were harsh and angry more often than not — justifiably, much of the time . . . But rage accomplished nothing. Except to produce more pain.
Now and then, there were good days. Arms around our children, reading stories, playing games, digging gardens. Soothed by routine, lulled by exhaustion. Encouraged to persevere just because four children (who were not completely oblivious to their mother’s broken heart) needed me to do so.
So, I turned to the only place where I knew I could find God’s voice.
And I found words . . . forgive, compassion, mercy, grace, restore . . .
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. — I John 4:11
This sort of love — a love that is not so propelled by what’s best for me — is not a thing that is do-able in our own strength . . . but it is the mark of Christ on our life. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)
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I have never been very good at this love.
But in the end, I think it won. In spite of me, in spite of my failings. Because this love is a plan. Every word an action. Something to do: believe, hope, endure . . . And when I finally, mostly quit trying to fix Dave and began to at least really try to love him way God loves me, everything changed. And answers came. Hard ones. The leading out of bondage is not pleasant. And even when it begins, you don’t really know it’s begun because it began just that way in so many times past. You know only waiting, watching, praying. Minutes. Hours. Weeks. Months. Years.
And so, this love begins with a word for waiting . . .
Love is patient . . .
I Corinthians 13:4
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