Bob Dylan and Birkenstocks- when you love someone else.

I remember sitting in the therapists’ office that early August afternoon biting my nails. I think it was the one with the dying plant on the basement office window that smelled like wet towels. The therapist looked like Napoleon Dynamite or someone who really needed a good haircut. I recall sitting there on the burnt orange couch thinking I cannot believe I am here telling my life story to someone who literally looks like he  just graduated high school. He was our fourth therapist if you were not counting priests. The fourth one in five years of marital bliss. It wasn’t the best track record and I was sure that this one was going to tell us what I wanted to hear.

God forbid I hear the truth.

My truth was the layers of bitterness that held my husband at arm’s length.

I was in love with someone else. I had been for years. I loved someone that was not in my life anymore. Yet he was in my every thought. There was not a day that went by that I did not think of him. I would replay the last time we had seen each other and beg God for us to meet again .He was a English major who played Bob Dylan on his guitar with curly dark hair and my hippie heart had fallen head over Birkenstocks in love with him.

And here I was married. Sitting on another therapists couch and carrying this secret inside.

Except it really wasn’t a secret.

Every silent moment. Every slammed door. Every night my body said no. Every tear stained pillow. Every blaming word. Every layer of resentment was always through this deceitful filter I carried around.

And I painfully made it clear that I would never be in love again.

The therapist that August afternoon told us to get a divorce. He told us it would be less painful for our children if we just walked away now.

If we drew the line in the sand.

 

Instead I did what any irrational stubborn Catholic school girl would do.

I decided that I would change who I had married into who I loved.

I would put the filter of who I needed him to be and judge every word and action through it. If he did not meet that expectation I would throw the D word back in his face.

This may have not been the healthiest thing to do for our marriage.

He in turn would shut down and refuse to speak to me or include me in any family decision.

While I was tearing our little family apart he was trying make sure I didn’t  do anymore collateral damage.

 

That was over twelve years ago.

This past weekend I had the privilege in the most tragic way, to witness again why I walked down the aisle to the one I share this marriage with.

I sat in the middle of the crowded somber church on Sunday afternoon and listened while my husband gave a eulogy for one of his beloved students. I listened as he tenderly told story after story of a life that ended too soon. I watched as he shuffled the papers in his hand and tried to hold back the tears of grief and confusion.

As tears filled my eyes I thought, how can this be the same man?

How can God still let me be married to him?

For so many years I had put an unattainable filtered expectation on him and yet he stayed.

God had seen fit from the beginning that he would refine us and continually mold us into one.

Even though we had both walked down the aisle with years of dysfunctional baggage he unpacked it all.

The truth is so much ugliness still comes out. My heart still finds itself putting filters on my marriage. On my kids. On my friends. I expect that they will meet my desires instead of letting God shape them into his.

As I watched my husband this past week deal with the grief of losing a child loved. I saw him rise to who I never knew I needed. To hear others say what they love about him as a teacher, as a leader, as a man I was humbled and embarrassed.

Embarrassed because this was the first time I was seeing clearly who these children and parents and community had seen all along.

They saw a man who was true to his word. A man who adored the work he does.  A man who knows his students and will do anything for them. A man whose heart is genuine and gentle. They saw a man who could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. A man who believes his faith holds him together and isn’t afraid to talk about it. A man who got to see that the work he does matters.

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we treat each other that way. If we treat each other without filters of fear. Filters of manufactured regret. Filters of jealousy. Filters of expectation.

What would happen if when we talk to each other? When we pray for each other. When we fight with each other. What if we were just brave enough to set those down? Brave enough to say that who they are is enough.

Brave enough to believe that God will make them and transform us into exactly who we are meant to be.

I want to go back to that therapist’s office today. I want to go back and tell him he got it all wrong. The parts where he said to walk away. The parts where he said we could never make this work.

I want to show him the line in the sand.

The line in the sand where Jesus says watch how I will reconcile it all.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, owe are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Corinthians 5:18-21

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Comments

  1. This is excellent. Thank you.

  2. This is such a powerful testimony to hope, Sheli, and to both your and your husband’s courageous covenantal love which has kept keeping on keeping on. I am so sorry for the loss your community has suffered, but rejoice with you for the filter-removal it allowed you to see the one your heart loves now: head over Birkenstocks.

  3. Kate James says:

    I concur with Bronwyn on this one. Thanks Sheli – quite a story of God’s love here.

  4. I echo Bronwyn as well! Beautiful. Thank you.

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