Random Blog Clay Feet: November 26, 2009
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary. As I just wrote that it suddenly occurred to me that my Dad was married twice and both times he was married 32 years. Both marriages ended in the death of his wife, the second one on the day of their anniversary. But my wife just assured me that she has no plans of dying just because that happened to both of my mothers.

Because we were married on Thanksgiving weekend (to accommodate everyone else's travel plans coming to the wedding and because it was more likely to get them to come then instead of around Christmas), each year we are reminded to be thankful for our marriage in more ways than just our anniversary. And every so often, like this year, our anniversary and Thanksgiving day line up on the same day.

This year we are enjoying the privilege of spending this holiday with two of our daughters, one biologically and one by spiritual adoption. I just spent several hours this morning having the most open spiritual conversation with one of them that I have ever been able to have in our whole life. As you can imagine my heart hardly knows how to act after this blessing. I am thrilled to see her opening up to God, learning to listen to His voice to her personally and practicing how to relate properly to the messages she is now sensing from His Spirit.

We have had at times a very rocky relationship with each other over the years. Her biological parents had many of the same hangups that my parents had and that I also had in raising my own children. So the tension that has marked many of our interchanges is not unfamiliar to me but has been a source of great pain at times. I have longed to be able to share my heart with her and get her to understand that I really care for her heart. But most of the time we end up knocking heads instead of meshing gears.

My desire for my relationship with all of my children has been to be able to relate to them at a deeper level as an adult – like a best friend. I am very jealous of people who can honestly say that their parents are their best friends. I wish that was the case between my children and I, but in honesty I have to say that is not the case. I also have to accept most of the blame for this situation because I failed to love them and honor them and inspire them like a good parent should have done. I now realize that this happened because my own picture of God along with the modeling I received from my own upbringing was poor preparation for the job of parenting. I tended to resort to the methods and emotions that were used on me but that proved so damaging in my life. So it is no surprise that the relationship I have to a great degree is not much different than the tension I felt most of my life with my own Dad.

But God is much greater than all of our mistakes and faults. I have been seeking to know His heart for a number of years now as well as asking Him to repair the deep damage my modeling and treatment has had on my biological children. God has sent several other children into our life at various times with different effects and results along the way, but our family is still in process and learning how to relate to each other better as God leads us.

One of these children ended up dying a few years ago at a young age. This was very painful for us especially because it happened while we were estranged from her. Another adopted daughter is still estranged from us and I continue to pray for reconciliation and healing in this relationship. Nothing is impossible with God and only He can bring about the healing and restore the trust and confidence needed to have a positive relationship again. But the daughter with which we are staying right now is really listening and seeking God's heart in spite of all the baggage she received from her parents that was similar to what I experienced. In spite of her background and misconceptions about what God is like she is responding to His drawing love and is allowing Him to love her more and more. This is a source of great joy for me as I sense that she is moving into a stage of her experience where we can communicate about things that before she could not relate to me about without much discomfort.

I know that all of these relationships are very much in process. I know that there will be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, assumptions and all sorts of other bumps in the road ahead with all of my children. But my heart's desire above all is for each of them to somehow begin to see the real truth about God, about His inescapable love for them, His untainted feelings of affection for them that they failed to experience from me. I not only wish that for my children but for my wife and for me as well, to sense the unconditional love of our Father.

This is a day to remember a life of shared love, shared hardships, shared pain, shared experiences, shared memories that have united our hearts and minds for over 32 years together. It is a shared journey of seeking to discover how to relate to the God of our parents who often misrepresented Him to us while raising us as their children. It has been a life of many emotions as we at times felt that God was not listening or caring about us based on our desperate circumstances. But through it all we still have to say that God was and is faithful and that if there has been a problem believing that that it has always been in our perceptions and not because of His lack of abilities.

Our marriage has not been the high profile romance as portrayed by Hollywood and that is idealized in the movies. Our relationship has been a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. But one thing that has stabilized us through all of these years is the ironclad decision that we have always maintained and that I can remember my parents instilling deep into my thinking, the decision that divorce was never going to be an option for us no matter what happened. I cannot say that I have had too many reasons for even wanting to think in that direction, but the very fact that it simply was never an option that we would even allow into our thinking has led us to be serious about facing our differences and problems instead of running away from them.

I know that I am not the ideal husband. Many times when I see other people who are enjoying obvious marital bliss or when a husband is openly selfless and sweet to his wife that I at times feel very guilty and delinquent. I have way too many faults and have far too much selfishness to be the blessing to my wife that she deserves. This may not sound like the ideal anniversary tribute, but I feel that honesty is something that is remedial and important for my heart. I know I am learning and growing but that I have a great long way to go to be the loving, caring husband that God wants my wife to have.

But in 32 years of give and take and standoffs and reconciliations, through it all we have grown closer to each other at levels beneath what we can consciously perceive. I am so thankful that my wife has a heart to know God as I too want to experience. And though her journey to find God at a deeper level is usually very different than the way I do it, I am learning to respect her private journey and to encourage her uniqueness and expressions and struggles as she learns to respect mine.

I am not one easily given to flowery language and romantic expressions. Everyone who knows me much at all can tell you that. I am more of a pragmatist and what I think is a realist. But for me, to be real and face things like they really are is the first step toward being better able to then move toward a deeper relationship that is genuinely connected and has affections that are based on more than surface beauty or performance. We are learning, albeit very slowly at times, to know each others heart while also seeking to know the heart of our Creator and Father. I wish that romance was something I was better at, but I am the product of my past. And while the future does not have to equal the past, what I am in the present has always been all that I have to work with at the moment.

God led our lives together in very complex situations in both of our lives. We still wonder what some of the reasons were behind how God has led us over the years, but of course we will never know until He can explain it all better in heaven. But for now we are learning that God's heart can be trusted even when we may fail each other. God is love, and if God is not in the marriage it is impossible to know true love between a man and a woman. There may be emotions and excitement, but real love can only be found from the heart of the only One who is love.

Today we mark the milestone of 32 years of experimenting together, of learning how to love in the context of marriage. Have we learned anything yet? I believe we have. But I will be the first to say that there is far more to learn than what we have already grasped. And I pray for God to keep opening and softening my own heart so that I can be a better father and husband to the hearts of both my wife and all of my children so they can more clearly see what love should really look and act like in real life.