In this podcast episode, Dave and Deb dig into compassion and digress to the Great British Baking Show and Survivor — the longest running American reality TV show.
Restoring a sense of purpose will help a recovering addict stay sober. They need to find where they fit, how they can contribute, and be able to participate in society.
Sometimes, when your love has endured through terrible things, you are amazed to find that you could ever bicker over something as trivial as pancakes.
But suddenly, there you are irrationally irritated, both of you. And off you go to the bedroom to “discuss” in loud whispers behind closed doors, leaving the kids in buttery, syrupy wonderment.
Soon a “you always” and a “you never” and a “you are” invade the conversation and someone just needs to end it, because it’s heading to absurdity, so when a boy knocks to ask about chores, you do. No resolution, just full stop.
But the mood is set. And so, she scrubs the shower with the guilty determination of Lady Macbeth, and he cuts down every offensive overgrown shock of grass, and the boys snap-to without complaint because none of them wants that directed at them, and it’s not til much later that you realize the why of it.
The why? She had too much coffee — maybe — before eating anything of substance, consumed by a story and a wish to see the world again. He started the day too early, to watch a soccer game with his boy who is spending a season on the sidelines, broken, and as much as they love to watch together it’s not the same as watching him, and disappointment permeates as his team loses just the very minute she is pouring the pancakes. And so, a simple, “Is this egg for me?” receives a sharp “I just made them. They’re not for anyone in particular.” And he wonders aloud at her rather than quietly conversing in vague metaphors. Things must be sorted out, hashed out, resolved — now.
But the why remains dormant as the flurry of words takes on tone and expectation and below the flurry lies an unseen, unsaid ache.
These troublesome talking overs and unders and not hearing, knowing, loving perfectly, these are bits of rock and weed that surface no matter how many rocks, weeds you sift from your soil. No matter how well you till your garden, no matter how many rocks have been removed. Remnants of a curse. By the sweat of your brow. Two who are one and yet not — and at times it feels like the ground is opening between you.
But knocking has pulled you away from the abyss. And the work is gift. Here is something that can be made right. Soap scum is no mystery, grass does not ask to be understood.
And yet, there is romance. Even in a Saturday morning spat. Because your love has weathered so much more than pancakes and eggs. Rocks, weeds and thorns are momentary light afflictions, and you will laugh soon — later, over lunch — surprised how sometimes a game and a book can stir sensitive souls. And you know your longing for perfect understanding, perfect peace is merely deep desire to re-enter The Garden where she was once bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh, she, once so perfectly known he had no need for words.
We have laughter. And we have smart, sharp children who interrupt the absurd and are beautiful and daily reminders that our faults, our many grievous faults, can somehow be redeemed and blessed. And we know the silly, selfish spats will come again because we are not in The Garden. We are he and she in imperfection. And she drives the car til the tank is empty, and he breaks a sweat when it dips below half. And he likes to be there early, and she wishes people still determined time by the sun. She’ll snap, he’ll be too lenient, she’ll spend too much, he’ll punish the wrong kid, she’ll be needlessly strict because he suddenly seems to have no boundaries, she’ll swear, and he may even put a hole in the wall. Or she will.
And the truth, the romance, is that we are always learning to make allowance for each other’s faults…and it is glorious to overlook them.
“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — til next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”
The Irrational Season
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
Make allowance for each other’s faults… Colossians 3:13a
It’s good to remember what you were rescued from so that you never return to slavery. It’s good to remember who cared for you when you couldn’t take care of yourself.
One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners.
Spring is trying hard this year to be my friend . . . but it’s failing miserably.
From hermetically-sealed enclosed spaces, I stare out at blue sky and sunshine. We’ve had a lovely Northwest spring tease. But so very, very polleny.
Someday, I will remember I get allergies every spring when the trees begin to blossom and start taking allergy meds the moment I see the tiniest bit of green.
Which reminds me . . . I forgot to plant sweet peas. Again. Actually, I’ve forgotten to plant anything. Because one day it’s winter and the next day it’s spring and there really is no difference between the two because below 40 might as well be 40 below to me.
So here I sit, head full of allergies, exhausted from binge catching up on to-do lists of things that must be done NOW. I always wait till the last minute, and then I bury myself until its done.
Oh, and I also forgot I have a bookshelf style greenhouse. I got it for my birthday last year, and I forgot about it — of course — because it sits on the back porch and is entirely visible through my kitchen window. I think I even told the kids to set it there because otherwise, I’d forget.
Once upon a time, I had gardens. We even planted seeds — in the ground in California, indoors in little soil pods in Washington.
34-year-old me, frustrated with trying to grow tomatoes in Tacoma, is jealous of 44 year-old me in Poulsbo. And she’s slightly mad because she would have had all sorts of seedlings in that green house right now, ready to put in the dirt.
Well, she has one more night to be jealous of 44 year old me. Then she gets to be jealous of 45. And she is desperately jealous. Believe me, I know. She wrote her life in journals. And I’ve been reading them again, writing our story.
If 34 year old me had known it would be ten years before she was flooded and amazed with the realization of how much her life had changed, she wouldn’t have been able to put one foot in front of the other. Ten years is terribly long, long time went you’re waiting for things to be better.
Twelve years ago, we moved to Washington for Dave to go to seminary to become a pastor . . . which happened this year, on January 1.
Two devastating job losses, two stints in rehab, six major relapses, food stamps, homelessness and six years of painstakingly rebuilding life from messy ruins is what 34 year old me has to look forward to.
Best to let her have her garden . . . a tiny piece of serenity in a world spinning violently out of control. 44 year old me does not envy her.
* * * * *
44-year-old-for-one-more-day me has been waking up this week full of gratitude for a husband who takes such good care of me, even when I’m a miserable chore of a hacking crone . . . which sums up how I sound and look today.
Most mornings now, I wake up to fresh coffee and the rattle of keys . . . Dave, going to drive our oldest boy into town for zero hour. When he returns, we talk about the day and he makes himself eggs for breakfast, makes himself lunch, irons his own clothes (he’s always done that), and prays over me and for all our life and loves before he walks out the door, early — as usual — for work.
After work, he does more driving kids when I can’t — and sometimes even when I can, but he’s just very kind — and an hour at the Y (his only “me” time as far as I can tell). His reward in all this is a great relationship with his daughter and three sons, 45 pounds lost, and the love and trust of his wife.
None of this happened overnight. For six years and five months, he’s taken one step at a time in the right direction — rebuilding our home brick by brick. Faithful in little to faithful in much. And he loves people and often says and does things that are hard but right to say and do, and I am startled at how he is the man 34 year old me wanted so, so badly for him to be.
Oh, and he leaves the boys chore lists.
So I don’t have to think about cleaning today. So I can write.
* * * * *
And so I write hope today instead of being mad at myself for who I was supposed to be when I woke up tomorrow: 20 pounds lighter and at least last year’s “Do it all in
2012 2013″ to-do list-of-things-that-should-have-been-done-a-decade-ago done.
I write this hope for 45 year old me who can take a step each day in the right direction, too.
Envy is hardest when all is wrong. When all the world has spring and you have winter. Endless, endless winter.
Patience is a word we toss at small things.
Waiting for dinner, for traffic to move, for the phone call, for the slow walker, slow talker, slow thinker. . .
A commonplace patience. Spoken in just a minutes. Implying an end to the wait . . .
I wonder whether there is anything that requires more patience than waiting for someone to become . . . Patience seems inadequate for that sort of waiting. Sometimes, the old words are better.
Love suffers long . . .
a. to not lose heart, to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes
b. to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others
This word? This word is a love story.
Long-suffering is a covenant. The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . .
Long-suffering allows time. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity . . .
Long-suffering is generous mercy on the sinner begging forgiveness of foolish debts: Lord have patience with me and I will pay thee all . . .
Compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness intertwined, woven through God’s long-suffering sort of love over and over and over through laws, through lifetimes, through generations, through priests, through kings, through prophets, through Jesus, through the pen of St. Paul: love suffers long.
This is God’s love. The love a parent has for a precious child. The love that waits an eternity for us to catch up. The long-suffering love that outlasts our foolishness.
Oh friend, this is a hard kind of love to do.
I quantified waiting in days, weeks, months — not years, not lifetimes.
I measured forgiveness in chances.
I made threats, ultimatums, behavior checklists, demands.
I expected too much too soon . . . the perfect dad and husband should emerge from the years chained to addiction.
I didn’t want to wait for God to work His wonderful long-suffering ways. I wanted Dave to be the person he was supposed to be today.
God, you are too slow . . .
I don’t know when a Dave clean and sober for real finally became enough for me. When I realized this honesty was laying a strong foundation for an entirely new way to live.
Love is patient.
Maybe, then, patience is a prayer. A sacrifice. A letting go. Not my timing, but God’s.
Patient while layers of deception are peeled away.
Patient while demons are exposed and destroyed.
Patient while life is relearned.
Patience must be a forgiving grace. A grace that works both ways.
There came a time when Dave had to learn to be patient with me.
Patient while a tightly wound knot of pain is picked apart til undone.
Trust is not rebuilt overnight, even by the most earnest and true. Too many lies, too many promises, too many words, too many times, too many years.
Patient . . .
while I grilled mercilessly
while I ranted angrily
while I hurled wild, wounding accusations
while I hid
while I let go of defenses
while I healed in places addiction leaves ugly scars
while I learn how to deal with myself after so many years of blaming my faults on him.
Maybe that’s it — the key to patient love — realizing there might be a tiny bit of suffering long involved in being married to me.
* * * * *
Sometimes, no matter how imperfect I know I am, I forget my flaws.
But God is patient with the impatient.
His love suffers long, waiting for me, without a list of demands, without unreasonable expectations.
He rewrites in His own hand what I have smashed in anger.
He dispenses endless forgiveness when I’d rather pout on a hillside under a plant.
And His kindness leads me to repentance.
Just as it does with Dave.
* * * * * * * * * *
*Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
1 Corinthians 13:4